Autodesk > Case Studies > Streamlining Scandinavian Tunnel Design with VR Games: A Norconsult Case Study

Streamlining Scandinavian Tunnel Design with VR Games: A Norconsult Case Study

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Technology Category
  • Analytics & Modeling - Virtual & Augmented Reality Software
  • Wearables - Virtual Reality Glasses, Headsets & Controllers
Applicable Industries
  • Construction & Infrastructure
  • Railway & Metro
Applicable Functions
  • Maintenance
  • Product Research & Development
Use Cases
  • Construction Management
  • Virtual Reality
  • System Integration
  • Training
About The Customer
Norconsult is the largest multidisciplinary technical consultancy in Norway, with roots dating back to 1929. It applies its expertise to the design and construction of various infrastructure projects, including airports, public event arenas, oil fields, highways, hospitals, dams, bridges, railways, and tunnels. Based in Sandvika, near Norway’s capital city Oslo, Norconsult has nearly 3,300 employees across 88 global offices. Despite its large size, Norconsult cultivates the spirit of a startup through an internal team called the 'Bleeding Edge', which pushes the development of technology to make work practices more efficient and offer clients a better product.
The Challenge
Norconsult, a large multidisciplinary technical consultancy in Norway, was tasked with designing a new rail tunnel near Bergen, Norway. The project was to build a second Ulriken Tunnel parallel to the existing one to double capacity. The challenge was to create a new tunnel without disturbing the old one or disrupting rail service. The project also faced administrative hurdles, particularly getting regulatory approval of the sign and signaling system, which is paramount for railway safety. The signals are typically installed years before train operators can test them, making errors common. The project was scheduled for completion in 2022 and presented significant challenges for builders, who had to bore a new tunnel through Mount Ulriken while also upgrading the existing tunnel and associated rail stations—all without disrupting current railway traffic.
The Solution
To tackle the project’s complex design and construction challenges, Norconsult used Building Information Modeling (BIM) to coordinate across disciplines more efficiently. To address the administrative challenges around the signaling system, Norconsult conceived the idea of marrying the BIM models with virtual reality to create a game environment. This allowed train operators to 'drive' on the future tracks before they were built. The team animated the 3D models with 3ds Max and augmented them with laser scans of real-world data, such as the layout of the train cockpit, using ReCap. Within the game experience, train operators drove on the virtual train tracks under the supervision of civil engineers, who used their performance to evaluate the placement of signs and signals. Through an iterative design process, the engineers refined and optimized the signaling system.
Operational Impact
  • The use of VR gamification in the design process has not only streamlined the regulatory-review process but also fostered stronger stakeholder buy-in, as the game helped even nontechnical users visualize project plans. The VR game experience has also been used as a visual aid for emergency responders, allowing them to familiarize themselves with evacuation routes or simulate emergency scenarios. This innovative approach has set a new standard for streamlining design evaluation, validation, optimization, and approval. Based on its initial success with the Ulriken Tunnel, Norconsult has made VR gamification a standard operating procedure on all of its rail projects to support signaling design and approval.
Quantitative Benefit
  • Streamlined regulatory-review process that cut years off the standard approval time
  • Reduced costs, as mistakes could be mitigated before construction rather than corrected afterward
  • More trains will be able to transport more people and cargo between Arna and Bergen, at faster speeds, and at more frequent intervals once the new double-track railway is complete

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