GHD saves over 50% of its time with data-driven, automated workflows for Master Planning

by Darryl Store, Customer Success Manager and Heather Howe, Marketing Editor on April 09, 2019


As one of the world's leading professional services companies, GHD connects the knowledge, skills, and experience of its people with innovative practices, technical capabilities, and robust systems. With over 200 offices and more than 10,000 employees across five continents, this employee-owned company collaborates seamlessly to understand client objectives, solve problems, and bring imaginative solutions to life. Through these initiatives, the firm creates lasting community benefits in the global markets of water, energy and resources, environment, property and buildings, and transportation.

GHD is currently in its second EBA with Autodesk, renewing the relationship in early 2017. The company is keen to leverage model-based, data-driven, standardized workflows that unlock efficiency gains through automation and develop new ways of working that offer real benefits to its clients. With this initiative in mind, GHD identified opportunities in its Master Planning projects to overcome challenges associated with statistics, visualization, and collaboration. GHD was eager to improve workflows to make room for innovation. Together with Autodesk Consulting and Autodesk products, GHD saw incredible time savings in its Master Planning processes, allowing more time for creativity.



Numbers and statistics drive the Master Plans that are essentially numbers transformed into physical designs. The challenge around statistics which GHD faced was finding the most efficient and effective way to extract the numbers, aligning those outcomes with project expectations, and then creating a design. This informs successful development in the future.


It is now almost essential for firms like GHD to build smart 3D models — 2D models are no longer sufficient. The challenge is building these 3D models more efficiently and in a dynamic and flexible way, that is capable of adapting to changes throughout the project’s life cycle.


Every project requires sharing designs with all stakeholders, particularly with the client. The simple act of showing the design did not meet GHD’s goals of full collaboration. Working on designs together often proves to be difficult because of the disconnect between the design and the information used to generate it.

GHD was accustomed to intensive Master Planning and urban design projects that required creating multiple design options. In turn, each option generated many calculations and alternative design outputs—aspects that quickly increased as projects progressed. The escalation of options meant time spent changing or updating them also increased, a process that frequently resulted in weeks of rework. Every time something changed in the drawings, GHD did all the work manually in Autodesk® AutoCAD®, Excel, and other graphical software, to reflect this change. As the scale of projects increased, so too did the complexity of this task.

The unfortunate side effect of this workflow is an increased chance for errors in calculations or design output, particularly if the changes are not synced across the scheme. Data transfer was taking a long time and the process was prone to errors. Mistakes in calculations could potentially be costly and damage the overall design.


A series of workshops with Autodesk produced a high-level workflow that addressed the challenges identified and the inefficiencies of this disconnection. Autodesk Consulting and GHD collaborated to develop a Proof of Concept (PoC) using a data-driven, model-based approach. This approach allowed seamless calculations of the Master Planning development statistics, helped develop the visualization output from the models and automatically generated drawings and specification outputs.

The outcome involved Autodesk® Civil 3D®, Autodesk Infraworks®, and Autodesk® BIM 360® Docs software. With these solutions, generating models and data is a much more automated process. Together, the consulting team and GHD developed a new workflow that was more connected, efficient, and engaging for GHD’s clients. The solutions allow for more engaging visualization experiences, presenting multiple options in a single model, and review of the designs on tablets. The new workflow made it easy to update the design and make client changes, with a significantly reduced risk for error with the potential to develop VR models.


The new POC successfully reduced the time spent on traditional Master Planning workflows. The creation of Master Planning massing models saw a 50 percent time savings after adoption. Testing special arrangements saw a 70 percent time savings, and the creation of Master Planning graphical documentation saw 75 percent savings in time. Several segments of the workflow saw an even more dramatic time savings at 99 percent—including automating calculations, and the creation of “Right of Way” and corridor information. For large scale projects, GHD saw a 70 percent efficiency gain in the generation of plots.

This engagement was phase one of automation and data-driven workflows initiative. In phase two, GHD developed its own internal tools to further automate workflows and improve processes. The solution is beginning to be adopted by other teams across GHD, with further phases of work to be subsequently rolled out.

“This solution has been made possible thanks to the latest generation of design tools and our engagement with Autodesk under its enterprise business agreement. We have drawn on the support of Autodesk technical specialists to help share and reuse data between different products, such as Infraworks, Civil3D, and Dynamo, and this has enabled the new Master Planning workflows.

“Being able to automate these tasks is making a huge difference to efficiencies and timely delivery of projects. We can spend more time on what’s truly important: the design. This helps us meet client and community expectations, because we are able to create truly robust, designed solutions that are environmentally, socially, and economically viable.”

- Warwick Hatfull, Manager, Urban Planning and Design, GHD

To read more about this GHD engagement, click here.

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