Smarter building: Greener energy, safer roads and improved flood protection for the UK

Sam Chorlton of DAFNI

Protecting and improving the nation’s vital infrastructure – such as energy, transport and digital communications – is about to become easier, as the first successful results of a world-leading computing project are being showcased.

DAFNI – the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure – was created in 2017 to provide world-leading research capabilities to help improve the nation’s infrastructure systems, by making them more resilient and effective.

With an ever-increasing population, it is vital for the country’s growth to be sustainable. DAFNI can help ensure this by running highly-detailed simulations that show a range of scenarios and outcomes, which will allow important decisions to be made – such as where are the most appropriate places to build houses, how can everyone in the UK have access to the best mobile networks, and how do we protect the nation’s homes from flooding.

DAFNI is a national computational resource available to academia and industry, allowing this essential research to be undertaken to ensure stability for the UK’s long-term planning and investment in energy, transport, digital communications, water supply, flood protection, wastewater and solid waste collection, and waste treatment and disposal.

DAFNI is being designed and developed by STFC’s Scientific Computing Department, the UK facility that provides large scale high performance computing facilities, computing data services and infrastructure. After two years of development, the DAFNI team are ready to start making a difference to the resilience of UK infrastructure in the face of catastrophic events, with a host of successful pilot schemes already in place.

SCD’s Sam Chorlton, project lead for DAFNI, said: “DAFNI has come so far in the two years since its inception, and it is already having a huge impact in making the country’s infrastructure more resilient and sustainable – as we can see with the already successful pilot projects.

“DAFNI is the tool that the infrastructure industry has been waiting for and it has the power to make a real difference to people’s everyday lives. The team and I are looking forward to working with some of the country’s top planners and policy-makers to ensure we are getting the best systems in place for the future of the UK.”

One such recent project saw the DAFNI team working with economists at the Bank of England to discover how different external factors can affect the housing market and how DAFNI can help to test these scenarios before planning decisions are made, to help to bring stability to the economy and create sustainable housing growth.

DAFNI is also set to help with the hotly-anticipated rollout of 5G now launched in six UK cities, with a new set of tools for analysis, cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the 5G infrastructure. This will enable analysis of mobile and fixed line networks, help reduce telecoms infrastructure costs and promote energy efficiency. Another successful project working with a rail company looked at how to forecast the demand for a local rail station and identify the best location to build it.

The powerful computing resource will be able to simulate and plan for the infrastructure demand for services for every household in the UK, and will offer cutting-edge and unique software which will allow researchers across academia, UK Government and related industries to study complex infrastructure systems in cities and in the UK as a whole.

DAFNI is funded through an £8 million (€9 million) investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC).

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