BIM News

When shutdown is not an option


October 2014 Published by

Engineers working on the refurbishment or redevelopment of urban brownfield sites have a lot to debate, usually involving the consideration of neighbouring areas and the impact on the surrounding environment. Rarely is it possible just to put hoardings up and get on with the job - construction has to be staged carefully to allow for the continuing use of the building or area, with both commercial and safety issues at stake.

This is never truer than at a transport hub; and two current projects on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both nearing completion, are illustrating the potential for advanced crowd analysis and pedestrian simulation to keep things moving. Both make use of Oasys MassMotion, the only 3D crowd simulation and modelling tool of its kind that imbues its agents or avatars with autonomy, delivering truly objective results that are as close to real life as possible.

MassMotion is unique. It thinks in 3D, it reports in 3D, and is built with gaming quality graphics, allowing high-level file transfer for future-proof BIM compatibility. However, the key advantage in project planning and staging is its ability to programme individual personalities with unique agendas from start to finish in their journey through the environment. It models pedestrian behavior, rather than simply animating and reporting on a user\'s preconceptions of how people will behave. Thus, it manages highly complex and dynamic environments with ease.

MassMotion simulations are based on industry standard data (originally developed by John Fruin) on how real people behave, coupled with local knowledge of how a building or department functions and where people are planning to go. Individuals and groups are represented as autonomous agents with their own preferred speed and ability to move. Users can programme individual or group behaviours to create crowds of any size - from hundreds to millions - and then import them into a 3D building model and set them free.

The software designers describe this analysis as non-deterministic and emergent. What this means in practice is that the individual agents in the simulation make their own choices about appropriate actions, based on the dynamics of their environment and how their actions affect other agents. For example, if a room has doors on all four sides, other pedestrian simulation tools require the user to input what percentage of the population of the room will use each door.

In a MassMotion simulation each agent decides which door to use based on what it knows about the distance to its goal and how long the queue is for each door. This means that no matter how complex an environment becomes, it is quick and easy to set up or modify the model and test new ideas and challenges.

Changes to the geometry of the building or departmental layout are automatically computed, once the model has been loaded initially, so it is possible to test, redesign and retest without the burden of lengthy remodelling or reprocessing cycles. And all of this can be achieved on an ordinary desktop PC.

"Exploring different scenarios is no longer an expensive or time-consuming luxury. MassMotion brings optimising the intended use of a building or space to the forefront of design, right where it belongs," says Erin Morrow, product director of, and the driving force behind, MassMotion.

A major benefit of the fundamentally 3D nature of the MassMotion models and result sets is the ability to clearly communicate issues to stakeholders through real-time 3D navigation and rendered movies. This ability to communicate very complex interactions between project schedules and transit operations was critical in achieving buy-in from all the stakeholders and project managers involved in a project.