On automated tunnel design

I had a big change of heart over the past year.I used to believe that it would be a long time before tunnel designs were automated. Designs would always be bespoke, every tunnel had some subtle difference from the rest that meant that a singular protocol could never be followed.

But over the last year I’ve come to a very much opposing view. Not only do I think that designs can be automated but in fact they should be, and the sooner they are the better and more consistent the designs produced by our industry will be.

Two things have changed my mind over the last year. The first is that I have been writing protocols for the design of various tunnel elements. These protocols are prescriptive and detailed descriptions of how to design a specific structural element. It is not essential that the designer follows the process in the protocol but if they do then there would be good consistency between the designs of one structure and the next.

The second thing I have realised is that in modern tunnel engineering speed is everything. Clients are requesting faster and faster turn around and yet due process, and the increasing complexity of design standards and requirements leads to friction in delivering fast turn arounds.

So imagine a world where you could enter details of what you would like a shaft to do, what are the constraints and then the shaft is automatically designed for you, the layout, the structural design and all the detailing. This sounds a long way off from where we are today but I’m going to try and explain over the course of a few posts about my strategy for how to achieve this sing current technology as well as serious implications for our industry if we were able to achieve this for all the major structures that we design.