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Horacio Martinez Michel
Project Mechanical Engineer
Project Mechanical Engineer

When it comes to industrial resilience planning, sometimes seeing is believing. Adopting digital solutions that allow teams to visit and analyze sites virtually can lead to more collaborative, engaging and effective resilience strategies.


I remember when I was first introduced to the world of flood risk mitigation, FEMA flood maps were the go-to source of information for planning. But there were times when even I found them fairly abstract and not so simple to follow. Not to mention, they provided base flood elevations for coastal surges only, other hazards like flooding from rainfall were not included. Communicating this information to clients meant slide after slide after slide of different scenarios and mitigation methods.

You could tell the stakeholders found it hard to relate a map and a flood elevation number to the risk of flooding their assets had. We started exploring how digital solutions could help tell clear stories around asset risks and how to protect against them. When working on your resilience strategy, consider how digital solutions could help you increase collaboration, clarity and buy-in around your plan.

Flythroughs: A free look from above

Low- to no-cost digital solutions might be a good way to get your feet wet. Something that has been powerful in client conversations are 3D flythroughs. By importing GIS files, 3D building models and flood scenario data, you can see the results of a hydraulic flood model in an area, particularly which buildings will be hit with inundation. It might not be the most detailed view available, but flythroughs can be useful in considering risks outside of the fence line and perhaps garner support for investing in digital.

Virtual tours: Visiting sites anywhere, anytime

360-degree photography and virtual tours of sites make it easier to show every stakeholder what flood inundation would do to their assets. It’s a marked difference from explaining everything through dense slide presentations. Instead of poring over maps and design sketches, stakeholders visit an area to see exactly which electrical panels, pumps and other critical assets are at risk in various scenarios. The improved accessibility means fewer site visits, increased coordination and greater buy-in for the mitigation strategy.

When we started using this technique, I was stitching together 360-degree photos for clients to click through. We stepped up our capabilities by partnering with HoloBuilder; their solutions allow us to build even more detailed tours for investigating scenarios – even traveling into the future – and planning accordingly.



100% BIM: Comprehensive and collaborative modeling

I recently worked on a resilience project that is 100% BIM, and it is such a game changer to design mitigation solutions in a digital, data-driven environment. Incorporating the entire spectrum of structural, architectural, civil, mechanical and electrical components in a 3D model allows you to clearly communicate a strategy, especially for people seeing it for the first time. Plus, you can incorporate conceptual elements like future construction plans. The enhanced accessibility and coordination expedite project approvals and accelerate permitting processes in areas where different authorities have jurisdiction.

Digital twins: Real-time, data-driven decisions

Digital twins are emerging as a way to monitor assets in real-time and use the rich data streams to enhance decision-making. Instead of a static model, you import relevant data and test the effects of potential changes. If you populate with information regarding a city sewage network, for example, you can embed a stormwater event and watch it unfold virtually. Instead of a bland chart or hard-to-grasp graphic, you see manholes overflowing, roads flooding and water backing up into basements. Simulations like this can be persuasive for funding opportunities. They can also help reveal interconnections on a community-wide scale, helping build true resilience instead of siloed plans for individual assets and buildings. Digital twins are not just for experimenting, either. The real-time monitoring ensures that teams can track and act on changing conditions in the real world such as a flood event.

Digital twins can even incorporate data outside of facilities to inform action plans. A connected twin, which brings systems together across a community, is still beyond the horizon in most places. But keeping that interoperability in mind when planning long-term resilience could be a monumental step forward for protecting against resilience shocks and stressors.

3 tenets of the digital journey

It’s exciting to imagine what advancements like Digital twins could mean for the future. However, if your organization is just beginning to adopt digital solutions in resilience planning, keep three things in mind:

  • Start small: Your organization’s first step can be as simple as digitizing your documents, processes and assets, then growing from there.

  • Be patient: You will have years of transformation ahead of you. Take it one step at a time and do not expect results overnight.

  • Keep learning: Part of being resilient means constantly evolving, so leave room to apply the lessons learned along your journey as you move from one phase to the next.

The last piece is critical. If you’d like to hear some of the lessons I’ve learned in adopting digital tools – and trust me, there are plenty – please get in touch.

This piece is part of an ongoing series on industrial resilience. For more insights, read Beyond the models: Assessing industrial resilience and water risks, The 5 facets of effective industrial resilience planning and What industry can learn from Hurricane Harvey.


Horacio Martinez Michel
Project Mechanical Engineer
Project Mechanical Engineer