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Into the hotel?

Digital simulation of a hotel access in the future World Cultural Heritage site


Ingenieurbüro Dierk Münster
Borsteler Chaussee 53
22453 Hamburg
Phone: 040 / 41 32 73-0
Fax: 040 / 41 32 73-50

More than ever before, engineer offices have to come to terms with the latest technological advances today. In addition to excellent quality engineering work, customers expect detailed information about the project and any possible options at an early stage. UDS supplies and trains in software that precisely meets these demands. The AMERON Hotel Speicherstadt project shows how large quantities of data are made usable with simple means to ensure the success of a project.


Digital simulation of a hotel access in the future World Cultural Heritage site

Structural interventions in a listed area are a delicate matter; how can functional requirements be fulfilled in such a way that structures worth protecting remain intact? The limits are set even more tightly if, as is the case with the warehouse district (Speicherstadt) in Hamburg, a whole area should become part of the World Cultural Heritage. Engineers and architects must show clients and authorities well in advance that their solutions are also sustainable from the point of view of preservation of sites of historical interest – and they do not threaten the basis for being awarded the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage title. In the conversion of an administrative building into a hotel, it was above all the design of the access that was challenging. UDS GmbH supported the engineering office concerned with an InfraWorks project that provided a surprisingly simple and effective visual display and traffic simulation.

The modern warehouse district

Of course the warehouse district, built at the end of the 19th century, already shows characteristics of a modern metropolis today. The Sandtorkai is a road that has been expanded to six lanes, where buildings of a more recent date are found among a row of former warehouses. The eight-storey No. 4 building came into being in the 1960s and was used as an administrative building. Now it belongs to the Ameron chain and is being converted into a hotel with 192 rooms. Its opening took place in summer 2014.

A challenge for engineers

The structural modifications do require a certain sensitivity, however, especially in the design of the access. The building has an underground car park, as there is hardly any room for parking at ground level. A sufficiently large access road needs to be created – for coaches, taxis, private cars and suppliers. Pedestrians and cyclists need to be able to pass the building safely and comfortably. The task of finding a functional and acceptable solution in urban planning terms has been allocated to the Dierk Muenster engineering office. The office needs to present its planning ideas early enough, so that even technical laypeople can decide whether the project is acceptable for World Cultural Heritage purposes. How can it work – simply, affordably, quickly and effectively?

A melting pot for data

The engineering office had already often worked together with UDS GmbH as a consulting office and system house, and UDS GmbH also found a solution to this challenge using Autodesk InfraWorks. This software can process data and models from various Autodesk products and simultaneously import GIS, grid, DGN and Sketch-up data. They create a shared data model out of this which can easily be displayed and altered. Above all it is possible to simulate situations. Fortunately there was plenty of data available. The building was planned with the aid of Autodesk Revit, the city supplied the digital city model in DXF format and the road design was prepared with Autodesk Civil 3D. Additionally there were photos of the hotel surroundings in JPG format and a draft plan of the access in Civil 3D. It was an easy task to visually display the future hotel including its access in its real environment from all this information. Roman Boernchen, qualified engineer and managing director of UDS GmbH, explained that “If you occupy yourself with the software for a whole day, this works almost intuitively.”

Visual display and simulation

You also don’t need to be a design specialist to understand the result, as any layperson will understand the situation shown. “We can change things already within the presentation and reveal alternative options to the client,” said Dierk Muenster with a smile. “How should the access road be paved? Where and how can stones of some age be extracted? What is to be done to ensure that the access road fits into its environment as harmoniously as possible?” And InfraWorks can do even more by showing the building throughout the day. The effect of daylight and artificial light can be observed from sunrise right through to the depths of night. If desired, you can see the hotel on gloriously sunny days or when it is overcast. And finally the observers and experience the access road in action, to see how heavy the traffic can get to allow 20 guests to arrive and depart by taxi or car within an hour. Will a coach block the road when an almost endless number of cyclists pass the hotel in the morning? Can the refuse truck turn into the access road if the grass verge variation is chosen? The Infrastructure Design Suite makes all the virtual road users available, and their frequency can easily be set on a slider bar. The planners delighted the client and the Hamburg authorities with this presentation. Even people involved in the project without any engineering knowledge could play a part and make suggestions. This way the engineers received valuable input for their further planning and the client’s trust had grown. For such a result the investment is worth it, no matter whether you decide to buy and master the software yourself or commission a service provider for the project. Roman Boernchen assesses the duration of such a presentation as two to three days.
“This already includes the procurement of data from external sources, however.”