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Penn State goes virtual using Bentley’s ContextCapture


The University Park campus located in State College, Pennsylvania is Penn State University’s largest of 24 campuses, featuring almost 1,000 buildings and structures with numerous assets contained within each facility. To better enable facility managers to locate assets and more efficiently meet campus maintenance demands, the university initiated the Virtual Penn State Campus project and developed a reality model of the campus that integrates geospatial and asset work order data. The completed project produced a fully integrated virtual model that allows facility managers to visualize accurate locations of work orders, increase response time, and improve performance for more efficient asset maintenance and campus management.

I sat down with Dr. John Messner, professor of architectural engineering at Penn State, to get an update on the project and to discuss the benefits that the team saw when using Bentley’s applications for reality modeling.

Christine Byrne: Would you provide me with details on the Virtual Penn State Campus project and describe how you used Bentley’s ContextCapture to create a 3D model?

John Messner: We took some aerial imagery of the university, taking 2,400 aerial photos, and we used Bentley's ContextCapture to create a reality mesh from that data. But, more importantly, we then added a lot of information sources into that model, including our GIS information layers, as well as new building information and utility data. So, we really leveraged that model for a lot of visualization on the university and seeing what new buildings will look like, being able to really reference that data for our facility maintenance.


CB: Tell me about your use cases and what the top benefits were for leveraging reality modeling.

JM: I think we looked at and targeted a couple of use cases for our model. One of those cases is to just really leverage the visual characteristics of the model. So, for example, we have a new chemical and biological engineering building on campus. We were able to bring that building information model into the reality mesh and really get a good sense of what that building would look like when it's built. But, we've also used it for integrating with our asset management information system. And so, we've extracted information from that asset management system and completed visual queries. Now, we can look at all the buildings on campus that have certain types of work orders or other maintenance activities that need to take place. One of the top benefits is that ability to allow our planners to really look at not just the data, but the data in context with the information that's in the reality model.

CB: What were some of the challenges that you experienced with this project?

JM: The main challenge for this project was the size of Penn State’s campus. University Park is the largest of the 24 campuses, with 947 buildings, 65 percent of them over 25 years old, and 124 kilometers of sidewalk.

To combat this challenge, the project team used Bentley’s ContextCapture to create the 3D model of the campus after gathering over 2,400 images during a two-hour flight above the campus. ProjectWise provided web-based access to the model, improving information sharing among stakeholders. MicroStation allowed stakeholders to search through work order data, creating a single source of information.

The project was completed in April of 2017, and has been a great success in providing asset management, operation and maintenance, and visualization of the growing campus. The team showed the value and potential use cases for leveraging reality modeling to support planning and managing built environments on a community scale. Moving forward, the university wants to continue maintaining the reality mesh and monitory construction progress on future projects.

For more details, watch the Virtual Penn State Campus video presentation from The Year in Infrastructure 2017. Read more about Bentley’s 2017 Be Inspired Awards and projects.

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