Draper Aden Associates counts the benefits of adopting InfoWorks


Courtesy of Innovyze

Consulting engineering firm Draper Aden Associates has recently begun using InfoWorks for hydraulic modeling and Project Manager Jim O’Dowd has already discovered many advantages of both the water supply and wastewater versions. “In the short time I have been using InfoWorks, I have identified a lot of invaluable ways in which it will prove useful to my clients,” he says. “Clients who had not yet used InfoWorks have been very receptive to finding out more when I have described its capabilities. I see a lot of potential for bringing added value to their utilities through the use of the software.”

Draper Aden Associates (DAA) has some 200 staff and operates in the Mid-Atlantic and South Eastern regions of the USA from offices in Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Hampton Roads and Richmond, Virginia. Wide-ranging services on offer include civil, environmental, geotechnical, structural and utility engineering. In particular, DAA has extensive experience in hydraulic modeling, which it has been carrying out for more than 20 years to enable its clients to meet their asset management, operational and regulatory requirements. The firm is expert in producing accurate, calibrated models that unify the experience of a client’s engineering, operational, billing and planning divisions.

Intelligent tools

“InfoWorks is a new world for me – and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve been finding tasks so much easier than I’ve been used to,” says Mr O’Dowd, a professional engineer who was educated in Ireland and is now registered to practice in multiple US states.

“As consultants we have various software packages in our toolbox,” he says. He has been using a range of modeling software for the past 12 years and has extensive experience in building water models across the USA. “I had accepted the limitations of the products I was using and had established workarounds to arrive at specific project goals. Since I’ve started working with InfoWorks, I’ve been pleased to find that Wallingford Software has included very intelligent tools as part of their basic software package.”

Smooth integration with GIS data, realistic leakage analysis and accurate inference of missing data are among the aspects that he has welcomed. “Others I’ve tried don’t have the same functionality as InfoWorks – and the software doesn’t relate to GIS like InfoWorks does,” says Mr O’Dowd. He is already exposing existing clients to the software by converting their models to InfoWorks and using its 3D view feature to view their models overlaid on a ground model with aerial images when discussing specific projects. “Within three minutes of starting my computer yesterday I had transferred - seamlessly I believe - one of my largest models from another package into InfoWorks WS. I want to show clients how easy it is to bring their model into InfoWorks and how we can view their model with land features and topography in a 3D view - something they have never seen before.” 

Easy transition

DAA’s initial impetus for investigating the Wallingford suite of software was the start of work on a new wastewater modeling project for a large local client that already used InfoWorks CS. Following a week’s worth of introductory and advanced InfoWorks CS training, the software was soon put to use on some smaller projects to help build familiarity, and they have now begun using InfoWorks WS for water distribution modeling.

“At first I was wary of the claims made by Wallingford Software’s sales department that InfoWorks was the most efficient package for building models. I tend to agree though, now that I’ve tried it and seen its capabilities,” says Mr O’Dowd.

He produced useful results right from the outset and has continued to be surprised by the scope of InfoWorks whenever he explores functions within the software. “I find there are a lot more options open to me, which will better serve my clients.” Wallingford Software’s week-long training session provided a very good overview of InfoWorks. “It gave me an understanding of the basic framework of the tools and how they can be implemented,” he says. The course also equipped him to explore further, thanks to Wallingford Software’s use of the same approaches across the suite of software. “In order to cover everything on a course, it would need to last for four weeks! I was happy to find that once you know how to use one tool then you can use the same methodology with other tools,” he says.

There have been occasional phone calls to Wallingford Software to check whether InfoWorks can perform a function that he had found useful in his old software. “The replies tend to be that, not only can InfoWorks do it, but it can also carry out several other related functions I was previously unaware of,” he says.

Smooth GIS interface

Mr O’Dowd has experience of competitor products that had claimed to work with GIS packages, but proved to have poor functionality. In contrast, he praises the depth of integration between InfoWorks and the GIS tools that DAA uses, finding that InfoWorks provides a more seamless and tighter integration than other modeling packages. “I’ve found that InfoWorks can run queries from utility network data, analysis results data and GIS background layers all at the same time. No other software can do this, even programs that run within the ESRI GIS platform. With others, the engineer has to gather information from modeling data and GIS data separately and put a spreadsheet together by hand. Wallingford’s product is a true database which makes for much quicker run times.”

A particular benefit comes in determining whether hospitals or other critical services would be interrupted by the closure of a section of the supply network. “The fact that you can do that within InfoWorks WS simply by running a query is wonderful,” he says. Unlike other packages, there is no need to look at the mapping and water models separately. Similarly, industries often require a particular minimum water pressure for their equipment to function properly. A query can be run in InfoWorks to test the effect of changes such as the installation of a pressure-reducing valve or pump in the industry’s pressure zone. “I regard the GIS query feature as one of the strongest in InfoWorks. It provides more value to the client than the other modeling software I have used,” says Mr O’Dowd.

“I like to know when I receive a product that it’s going to work, that I won’t be frustrated with it and that it won’t crash – those are the issues I have experienced with other packages,” he says. He recalls calibrating a particular model. “Changing the characteristics of one element in the model closed a pipe several zones away in an unrelated part of the system. I undid the change and repeated the step and the error occurred again which made me question the integrity of the entire package,” he adds.

Smart thinking

InfoWorks has efficient and practical tools, finds Mr O’Dowd. He is impressed by the thought that has gone into features such as pressure-correlated leakage. “Having a handle on unaccounted-for water in a system is very important to me as some of my clients experience water losses in excess of 40%. Thanks to the shrewd inclusion of pressure-correlated leakage, the rate of leakage increases incrementally with the pressure increases in the system. That is very useful. InfoWorks offers utility clients the ability to pinpoint leakage more accurately, which is very beneficial in their overall asset management programs.”

Mr O’Dowd also sees enormous benefits in the ability of InfoWorks CS to infer values for missing data such as manhole inverts. “I’ve found this to be valuable and it’s something one cannot do with other software,” he says. The process has proved to be very straightforward as the output highlights the missing data and the expected elevations so that these can be field surveyed on site if necessary. The ability to look at a 3D view also gives an instant visual check of errors in the imported data, clearly showing anomalous features.

Other benefits include custom-made templates to produce reports that display only the relevant data rather than hundreds of unnecessary pages. ’Making movies’ of a simulation is another useful feature, he finds, as it makes it easy to demonstrate to clients the results of different scenarios.

A powerful feature of InfoWorks WS that he finds particularly functional is the ability to save time through the automated input of ’customer points’ showing the properties that are provided with water service. A background GIS layer of all the houses in the service area can be used to create the customer points and an imported ground model quickly populates their elevations. Metered usage of each house is then assigned, and the customer points can be linked to the nearest supply pipe. He particularly welcomes a further step. “When you run the model, the software automatically shows the pressures at the customer points as well as the nodes on the pipe.,” he says. This is useful in situations for example where a pump is being replaced with a resultant increase in pressure. A simple query within InfoWorks can identify which homes will have pressure that is too high, so that individual pressure-reducing valves can be installed where required.

“You can’t do anything close to that with the other software that I have used. I have been used to either hand-calculating pressures at homes by determining their elevations from terrain maps followed by interpolation of the pressures in the line at sometimes distant nodes, or by setting nodes at homes which quickly increases the number of pipes in the model,” says Mr O’Dowd. “What’s attractive about InfoWorks is that one can perform many practical functions typically spread over several modeling and GIS type applications in a single modeling environment,” he says.

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