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Wed October 28 2020

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StormScape launches new era for construction IT

15 Oct 10 The first application of cloud-based computing in the construction industry is formally launched today by StormScape Ltd.

StormScape DDS drainage design software enables engineers to design complex storm and foul water drainage networks from any web-connected computer or laptop without having to install any software packages.

It helps planners, developers, contractors, local authorities, engineers and architects meet new obligations placed upon them in England and Wales by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.

By delivering the software via the web, which is the basis of the cloud computing revolution, StormScape is able to offer engineers cheaper and faster design tools and greater collaborative and mobile working than traditional locally installed products. It combines the very latest technology with the simplicity and ease-of-use that the construction industry demands.

Cloud Computing is seen by Microsoft and other industry leaders as the next wave in technology because it helps deliver cheaper, faster and easier-to-use software. However, until now there have been no applications in the construction and engineering sector. 

Benefits of cloud computing

By harnessing ‘cloud computing’, StormScape allows engineers to benefit from new features that are not available with any other existing engineering design packages. These include:

  • Mobile or remote working
    Because the software can be accessed from any computer, it is ideal for on site design. An engineer can visit the website from a laptop, log in and modify the design instantly from site. Engineers can work at home, on the train or from the site.  
  • Collaborative design
    The web access also allows collaborative working from different offices or from different locations. Engineers in another office or another location can log on and view or modify designs. Each version can be saved so the original design is not lost.  
  • Lower costs
    By using the web it is possible to deliver complex software far cheaper than through traditional server-based software licensing packages. There are no upfront licence fees. Instead, users subscribe for an annual fee.   
  • Free upgrades
    Web delivery means that upgrades are automatic, free of charge and happen seamlessly. All the hassle of installing new software is eliminated. This is an increasingly important feature as water regulations change, creating new challenges for engineers.  
  • Minimal training required
    Because the software was designed for the web, where products have to be intuitive to succeed, StormScape DDS provides experienced drainage engineers with the tools they require to start designing pipe networks, ponds or soakaways within minutes. From logging on to StormScape it takes a matter of minutes to calculate the greenfield run-off from a development site.

What StormScape DDS does

StormScape DDSis ideal for engineers, architects, landscape architects, highway authorities and local authority planners who design or check pipe/stormwater networks and SUDS features (ponds, swales, soakaways, semi-permeable paving) on developments up to 100 hectares. It also helps with quick and accurate greenfield run-off calculations for flood risk assessments. 

StormScape is a 2D package with an easy to use AutoCAD import/export feature that enables designs to be put into AutoCAD for 3D modelling if required.

The main StormScape DDS product includes the full range of pipe network design tools as well as a pond and swales, soakaway and greenfield run-off tools. Annual fee depends on package required but is no more than £1500. 

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Suddenly this means that design tools for pipe networks, SUDS and greenfield run-off are within the price range of independent engineering practices and cash-strapped local authorities.

For landscape architects or architects who do not need to design pipe networks, StormScape Tools offers all the SUDS products and the greenfield run-off calculators for only £500.

The design of sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) entered the political arena after the summer floods of 2007. Years of building on flood plains and urban developments with inadequate provision for surface water run-off have increased the risk of householders being exposed to flooding. A subsequent government review led by Sir Michael Pitt led to the revision of Planning Policy Statement 25 (PPS25) in 2009 and the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. 

The Flood and Water Management Act encourages the use of sustainable drainage in new developments and redevelopments. Coming into force after October 2011, the Act requires the design of drainage systems to be approved by the local authority, against a set of national standards, before building work begins as part of the planning application process. StormScape has a key role to play in helping all parties - local authorities, developers, planners, engineers, contractors and house-builders - meet their SUDS obligations.

While conventional design packages require updating as regulations change, as a "Software-as-a-Service" cloud-based system, StormScape DDS is guaranteed to be always up-to-date with government regulations and guidance, which are currently in a stage of transition. The new nationalstandards for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of SUDS will be published next year after industry consultation. Developers can use StormScape to demonstrate that their drainage design meets the required standards, while similarly local authorities or their agents can use the software to check submitted designs.

The democratisation of IT

The launch of StormScape represents just the first step in a revolution that is coming to construction IT, says StormScape managing director Trevor Read. 

“We believe that the introduction of StormScape DDS has huge implications. Contractors, consulting engineers, architects and planners do not need to be spending so much on hardware and software,” he says. “Massive savings can be made all round by simply using software from a remote server only when it is required. The growth of cloud computing is bound to lead to more use of information technology in the industry because it makes it both much cheaper and simpler to use. It represents the democratisation of IT.”

According to leading authority Bimal Kumar, Professor of IT in Design & Construction in the School of Built and Natural Environment at Glasgow Caledonian University, StormScape DDS appears to be the first commercial cloud-based application in this domain. 

A paper co-authored by Professor Kumar to the 2010 International Conference for Computing in Civil and Building Engineering (ICCCBE)1in July described the benefits offered by cloud computing and concluded that “...it may hold promises for solving some of the pressing needs of construction IT. In particular, it is thought that notwithstanding technical challenges, cloud computing may help accelerate the uptake of IT within the SMEs of construction mainly because of the pricing models it supports.” 

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