WS1 – Project Management and Impact Delivery (Bham, Leeds)
Mapping the Underworld (MTU) had recognised that in order to maximise the impact of the research project, it was key to engage with industry and develop a roadmap to implementation of any research outcomes. This has been pivotal in shaping the research, effectively disseminating the outcomes and, crucially, being instrumental in creating the greater impact that the funders of research wish to see:
- facilitating multi-stakeholder engagement on the important topics surrounding the research
- driving forward standards to foster good practice
- establishing training courses and training centres
- providing a conduit to international activities stemming from research and the adoption of good practice overseas
- creating academic respectability in a subject area previously thought more empirical in nature
Now it would be wrong to lay sole claim to any or all of these activities (other than, perhaps, the latter) – indeed they would likely be ineffective if they were solely academe led – but MTU can lay claim to actively supporting, informing, guiding, co-ordinating, in some cases mediating and otherwise facilitating practitioner stakeholders in their attempt to bring about positive changes in street works. Mapping the Underworld is a brand that is respected in the UK and internationally.
With Assessing the Underworld, the aim is to produce a similar level of engagement and outreach to MTU, via its network activities to draw in further cohorts of stakeholders as its remit has grown, and thereby gain the maximum benefits from EPSRC funding. Because of the importance of this activity, and to make explicit the role of strong management, a dedicated work stream has been created.
WS2 – Vibro-acoustics (Southampton ISVR)
The aim of workstream 2 is to to develop novel vibro-acoustic methodologies to assess the condition of the buried utility service, geotechnical and transport infrastructures. Specific objectives are:
- To use a pipe vibration method to assess the condition of buried pipework
- To investigate a variety of ground excitation methods to interrogate both the ground and the buried infrastructure
- To explore a tree excitation method to determine the location of tree roots in order to identify areas of pipe network at risk of damage
- To develop vibro-acoustic methods to measure relevant wavespeeds (including variation with depth) in situ
The anticipated outcomes at the end of the project are:
- Determination of the effectiveness of pipe excitation methods for assessing the condition of buried pipes.
- Guidelines on the application and sensitivity of ground excitation techniques for assessing the condition and structure of the ground.
- Recommendations on the feasibility of locating tree roots using a vibro-acoustic method.
- Protocols for the measurement of near-surface wavespeeds in situ.
WS3 – Broadband Electromagnetics (Bath, Bham, Soton – all Elec Eng)
WS4a – Geotechnical Infrastructure (Bham, Newcastle, BGS)
The aim of WS4a is to produce greater understanding of the performance of the geotechnical infrastructure (i.e. the ground) and to investigate how near surface geophysics and associated technologies, both individually and in combination, can be used to assess its condition.
Geophysical techniques are to be used both in laboratory and in the field in order to measure/monitor the properties of soils that are undergoing deterioration processes. The deliverables from this work stream include further understanding of the fundamental relationships between geophysical and geotechnical soil properties, whether geophysical techniques can detect detrimental changes in soil properties, and further understanding of the processes that cause soil degradation. This information will be used to enhance the existing ground information model held by the British Geological Survey and will contribute to the development of the Decision Support System created in WS7.
WS4b – Road Infrastructure (Bham, URS Scott Wilson)
This work stream aims to produce assessment methods for the performance of road infrastructures, and assess how near surface geophysics and associated technologies can be used to evaluate their condition. This will utilise existing information and recent advances in road performance and deterioration assessment, to inform the ATU decision support system and an integrated assessment framework for intelligent streetworks, to characterise the condition of the three infrastructures.
Condition data for roads will be derived from collaborations between ATU work streams and key project partners, and the current state of the art established, while assessing the suitability of the developed ATU test kit to provide critical data for characterising road infrastructure conditions. This will delineate different road distress modes, assess their interactions or evolution, and integrate deterioration assessment tools to inform decision making and facilitate more intelligent streetworks.
WS5 – Buried Utility Infrastructure (Sheffield Civil Eng, Robotics)
The UK has over £250 billion invested in water infrastructure, with pipe networks being by far Water Companies’ greatest asset. This pipe infrastructure is an ageing and deteriorating asset base, despite escalating levels of investment. Extrapolation of increasing failure rates leads to the worst case scenario of a critical break point and a catastrophic ‘cliff’ of system failure. This can be avoided – vital to this is the development of asset condition assessment technology. Hence, the aim of this workstream is to deliver a novel framework for health monitoring of buried potable water infrastructure. To accomplish this aim we will develop a robotic system that can travel through live water distribution systems, simultaneously inspecting, assessing and mapping the pipe-work.
The objectives of the workstream are: (i) to develop sensor arrays, focusing on ultrasonic transceivers, and signal processing algorithms for inspecting/monitoring of pipes; (ii) to develop a small robotic platform capable of operating in a submerged, confined space, which can transport the sensor array through the pipelines; (iii) to develop algorithms to allow the robotic platform to simultaneously localise itself and map the pipe network during exploration; (iv) to fuse information from the mobile, in-situ, inspection device with ex-situ sensors to provide a comprehensive inspection framework for buried pipe infrastructure.
WS6 – Technology and Data Integration (Bham, Leeds)
To provide the necessary tools and support to integrate the technologies developed in WS2 and WS3 and to fuse the mixed confirmatory and contradictory data streams from WS2, 3, 4 and 5 with existing, albeit inaccurate and incomplete, infrastructure records on utility and surface transport infrastructure condition. There are two parts to the Work Stream: Technology Integration and Data Integration.
This part of the WS will extend the Bayesian Data Fusion system originally conceived in MTU-2 for utility mapping, to more complex environments, fully tested with multiple sensors, and taking into account object properties (materials, size) and non-linear objects (e.g. ‘wet patches’). This part of the WS is closely related to WS7, which aims to develop a Decision Support System (DSS), as the fused data directly feed into the DSS. The emphasis in WS6 is on interpreting the sensor data and background knowledge, whereas the emphasis in WS7 is on exploiting this knowledge to support decision-making in the context of particular tasks. The overall methodology in WS6 will follow the Bayesian data fusion approach from MTU, but extended with richer context from the more advanced sensors and low-level processing to be developed in ATU, and with new kinds of background knowledge (e.g. positions of trees, which give a prior indication of the location of root systems).
The intended outcome of this part of WS6 is a system for combining hypotheses concerning buried objects with background knowledge about expected objects to yield a map showing the most probable position and properties (i.e. condition) of underground objects and adjacent ground / road.
WS7 – Intelligent Decision Support System (Leeds, Bham, BGS)
Work Streams 2-5 are all concerned with producing data; WS6 has a focus on integrating data from multiple sources so as to produce a coherent and unified view of the data. The aim of WS7 is to design and prototype a proof-of-concept DSS to exploit the data and knowledge garnered from the earlier work packages, to facilitate the assessment of the underground by different classes of user.
WS7 has the following two principal objectives:
- to exploit the outcomes of WS2-6 by shaping the unified database to support end users who are required to assess the transport, buried utility and geotechnical infrastructures in some way.
- to build a Decision Support System (DSS) through which users can access the database in flexible ways and which provides intelligent support for a variety of user objectives.
WS is composed of five tasks to achieve these objectives:
1: DSS Specification. Since the DSS is to support users, the input of users into the specification and design of the DSS is crucial. The sandpit held during the writing of this proposal has already started this process, but a much more detailed specification is required. A further sandpit/workshop will be held at the start of WS7, drawing on the active participation promised by our very considerable cohort of project partners who are keen to shape the outcomes to their needs. This will be supplemented by questionnaires sent to additional relevant parties, identified during the sandpit by the full project team (i.e. academics and project partners combined), as well as site visits to key stakeholders for more detailed consultation. This follows the methodology adopted in the MTU1 and VISTA projects, which led to the eventual successful deployment of a system (VAULT) in Scotland112 based on the developed technology. Equally, BGS has much experience in delivering DSSs for stakeholders from national government136, local authorities and infrastructure owners (e.g. Environmental Information Systems for Sustainable Urban Planning, EISP137). The specification will include the formats required for the outputs and, in particular, the degree of visualization that the system should provide to enhance its impact.
2: Ontology Construction. In order to support interactions with a user of the DSS, the system must have an understanding of the vocabulary and concepts important to the user, including not only typical buried utility services – pipes, cables, etc. (an ontology of which has already been largely constructed in the VISTA/MTU1 projects113) – but also other kinds of underground and surface objects, as well as processes (various kinds of deterioration) and ‘faults’ (e.g. cracks).
3: Degradation Modelling. In order to be able to interpret sensor data, it is vital not only to know what the utility and other records state should lie beneath a particular street or wider transport corridor, but also to exploit models of asset degradation. Different kinds of buried and surface asset are subject to different kinds of ‘fault’, and the age of the asset and materials involved, as well as the soil (the intervening geotechnical infrastructure), all give prior indications of how to interpret the sensor data. This task therefore will integrate with WS2-5 in interrogating the literature and forming a sample representative library of degradation models (drawing on the research in WS4, on geotechnical and surface infrastructures, and WS5, on buried infrastructure). The library and the inference techniques which use it are to be constructed in such a way that new or improved models can easily be substituted as and when they become available.
4: System construction. In this task, the prototype DSS will be constructed to meet the highest priority requirements agreed by the end users when formulating the specifications in Task 1. Since the resources only permit a prototype DSS development (a comprehensive DSS would constitute a major project in itself), this task aims to demonstrate the feasibility of a comprehensive DSS to be constructed and thus, while we do not expect to be able to meet all user desiderata, we aim to create a usable tool of immediate utility that can be expanded to meet specific user needs. The degradation models, the ontology, the integrated data, and various kinds of background knowledge, including property data from the BGS and historical temperature data, may all form input to the DSS. In addition, the BGS’s expertise in handling large datasets and producing 3D ground models will be utilised in this WS, and in particular to investigate the potential of incorporating infrastructure (surface and shallow subsurface infrastructure) as well as associated deterioration / condition assessment information into these models (this links with WS4 Task 6, where the preliminary work on this is to be conducted).
The basic operations of the DSS are to determine the road structure, ground conditions and buried utility services in an area of interest, and to determine the condition parameters for the road, ground and pipelines or cables, and hence produce a combined assessment. ‘Values’ or ‘damage’ criteria for the road, ground and pipelines / cables related to various intervention options (trenching, trenchless methods, pipe repairs using small trial pits or vacuum excavation holes, etc.) may also be obtained. The final set of operations supported will depend on the specifications obtained from Task 1, and constraints imposed by data availability. In its simplest form, the DSS may simply operate as an intelligent browser / visualizer of the available data; a more complex query might involve questions related to planning an operation to renew infrastructure or to determine the extent of damage caused by tree roots in a particular location.
5: Evaluation. The DSS will be tested using both synthetic and actual data, as available. Initial evaluation will take place within the academic team, but will then extend to selected project partners from different stakeholder perspectives to improve the system.
WS8 – Sustainability Costing Model (Bham, Newcastle)
This work stream aims to develop a sustainability costing model, alongside an evaluation framework to inform sustainable streetworks. This will allow assessments of intervention / streetworks options to ensure sustainability in the long-term, assess the true costs (environmental + social + economic [direct and indirect]) and impacts, and support investment decisions. It will also look to define cost within the context of overall sustainability benefits / disbenefits for streetworks option, assess suitability of these options in terms of ‘Value vs Cost’, and evaluate sustainability in the long-term.
The work stream will build on previous resilience and sustainability projects including the ‘Urban Futures’ research, and link closely with ongoing affiliated research including ‘Liveable Cities Project’ and ‘Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery: i-BUILD’ to advance sustainable streetworks and infrastructure resilience. The outcomes of the work will be used in conjunction with the ATU decision support system to support intelligent and sustainable streetworks.