Standing out from the crowd

Bentley's LEGION simulation software for predicting the movement of crowds and pedestrian flows through stations and airports is being used to plan socially distanced offices for the great, but limited, return to work

Managing large groups of people in all types of circumstances has not suddenly occurred overnight. For some years now organisations have used software solutions to plan station pedestrian movements, calculate the speed at which a football stadium can be filled or evacuated in an emergency, and to plot emergency exit routes from busy office complexes. One of the companies involved in providing the data and analytical models to cope with mass people movement is LEGION, which software provider Bentley Systems acquired roughly two years ago. Bentley acquired the company to supplement its infrastructure planning applications and renamed the software LEGION Simulator CONNECT Edition as part of their OpenBuildings brand.

LEGION has been around for some time. It was first used for the Sydney Olympic Games, and subsequently at all other Olympic events, including the London Olympics, where besides calculating the capacity of each of the stadia and the rate at which people could occupy them, it combined the analysis with schedules that were used to ensure that spectators leaving one arena at the close of a session weren't faced with the exodus of an adjacent stadium.

As a result of the global pandemic, LEGION is now being used to design office floor spaces by positioning desks and other features to accommodate the UK government's 2-meter guidelines. This includes creating pedestrian circulation guidelines and schedules so that the bulk of the staff won't rush off to the coffee room for the mid-morning break at the same time, and that the lifts are operated in a socially safe manner by limiting usage or creating a single directional flow system.

Creating a safe working environment also relies on balancing ventilation and installed air conditioning systems within a building. OpenBuildings can be used to model air flows throughout an office, providing the information required to effectively position and optimise the number of personal working spaces an office can accommodate. Office rents haven't been reduced, and a balance has to be drawn between the number of people able to come to work and be safe.

There are two methods of modelling pedestrian movement. As we saw in our last issue, Oasys' MassMotion endows a multitude of 'agents' with attributes and tasks and charges them with individually navigating a route through a 3D model of any area under analysis. Bentley's LEGION, on the other hand, has compiled a large library of different types of crowd and their behaviour patterns since its initial outing at the Sydney Olympics. It populates a scenario with one or a combination of such crowds in different numbers to simulate a range of activities.

Crowds come in all shapes and sizes. On a station concourse many of them would be pulling along cases or waiting for train information to be displayed before rushing to get a seat when the gate opens. Spectators leaving a sports stadium would emerge in condensed numbers at a fair pace, whilst shoppers in a mall would wander at leisure. one of the issues faced by the London Olympics was the large shopping mall located close to the main Olympic Stadium. In fact, LEGION has sufficient numbers and types of crowds to suit any location or event, and to simulate the behaviour of different crowds coming together.

The composition of groups can also be quite dissimilar and could depend on the characteristics of different nationalities. Southern Europeans, for instance, would probably feel comfortable with closer crowd densities than Northern Europeans. Males and females in large groups would react differently to certain events and people with reduced mobility would require special consideration - all of which can be built into any simulation.

Besides using LEGION Simulator to view predictive behaviour and to explore how pedestrians and crowds interact with infrastructure and within buildings, the software is a substantial contributor to Bentley's OpenBuildings solution stack, used to design, analyse, visualise and simulate stations and other infrastructure projects of any size and complexity. Pedestrian simulation scenarios are used to improve the quality of their design and the use of their facilities.

PLANNING London 2012
The UK's Olympics Delivery Authority (ODA) licensed LEGION to accommodate the requirements of some of the principal architects and consultancy firms involved in planning the event - the principal instigator being Atkins. Besides controlling the timing of events and the flow of huge volumes of spectators over the two weeks of the Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics games, it was useful in siting food carts, security checkpoints and associated venues. Following its acquisition by Bentley it has been used in planning pedestrian flows in major civil infrastructure projects. Bentley is also customising the software to accommodate the government's COVID-19 requirements with regard to the optimal usage of office space, which is proving to be well within the capabilities of the software.

Recognising that the ongoing social distancing requirements are presenting challenges for planning, design, and operations teams, Bentley is waiving subscription fees for OpenBuildings Station Designer and LEGION Simulator through November 30. The no-fee policy will support infrastructure, architecture, and engineering firms who are adapting existing projects or planning new safety and security strategies for public spaces such as shopping malls, schools and campuses, hospitals, train and metro stations, airports, and stadiums.