Georgia Tech Teaches BIM for Future Construction Professionals

Tekla works with educational institutes worldwide to provide students with a firm foundation in the use of the most advanced software that helps guarantee integrated project delivery and their future in the construction industry.

IT skills are a vital component of what students need in the commercial marketplace and placing them on the fast-track to real-life productivity. In the end, the whole industry benefits: By learning the right software, students realize the importance of collaboration, the benefits of sharing project data and the value of truly constructable 3D modeling right from the start.

To ensure the best possible background for future construction professionals, Tekla has developed an affordable software license program for educational institutions. Within the program, students can carry out each stage of a design project, from conceptual design to erection and construction planning. Participating institutions include well-known establishments such as Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California in Berkeley, Stanford University, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Aalto University.

Georgia Tech, US

Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering has Tekla Structures software installed on dozens of classroom workstations for use in their course curriculum. Students use Tekla Structures software to study how BIM processes and workflows fit into all aspects of building projects, including design, detailing, fabrication, and construction.

During the fall semester 2008, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering jumpstarted their use of Tekla Structures by integrating the software into the civil engineering degree program. Students learned about several topics related to BIM, including detailed case studies of projects implementing design, detailing, fabrication, and site construction using the Tekla’s BIM platform; various team player perspectives on the benefits and barriers of utilizing BIM between design and construction; and hands-on, practical tools for creating, analyzing, and sharing data-rich information provided by BIMs among project stakeholders. Learning about real-world best practices in utilizing BIM and applying the practices in class offers a practical approach to educating future construction management professionals. 

 “Using the visualization tools of Tekla Structures BIM offered a great real-world experience in evaluating the constructability of building systems and monitoring project costs and schedule – tools that will be very useful in my career as an engineer,” says Ben Allread, Civil Engineering student at Georgia Tech. The future use of Tekla Structures in construction classes, as well in the school’s Real-Time Automated Project Information and Decision System (RAPIDS) laboratory, will offer several benefits to GT’s graduating seniors and soon-to-be construction management and structural engineering professionals.

“There is a need in our industry for construction professionals to have a balanced perspective in engineering, fabrication, and construction management. Learning the concept of a connected and intelligent construction process, which includes the use of BIM and other emerging technologies, makes our students very attractive in the job market and prepares them for career opportunities after graduation,” says Jochen Teizer, Assistant Professor and Director of the RAPIDS Laboratory at Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“A well-rounded knowledge of BIM technologies is no longer a plus in the marketplace, it’s a must,” says Andy Dickey, Business Manager for Tekla’s Cast in Place Concrete Unit. “Georgia Tech will be delivering a curriculum, including design, construction, detailing, and fabrication, on a technology platform that supports the work processes of each. Tekla is proud to have Georgia Tech as part of its education network, and we look forward to many more collaborative endeavors,” says Dickey.

School of Engineering, Jönköping University, Sweden

Tekla Sweden cooperates with Tekniska Högskolan, a school of engineering in the city of Jönköping in the south of Sweden. Tekla Structures software training is part of a course in construction where students learn to model a steel frame in Tekla Structures and then analyze the structure with another software tool.

“We’ve taken initiatives to cooperate with universities and polytechnics for several years now,” says Antonios Spinos, Senior Software Specialist at Tekla Sweden. “Cooperation with the School of Engineering in Jönköping University has been very positive, and we hope to be able to start several similar projects with other institutes in the future.”

The purpose of software training is to provide students with a basic knowledge and understanding of how Tekla Structures BIM software works. With this knowledge, students can then further develop their skills in implementing the BIM process. With several specialized configurations available, the use of Tekla Structures can make the design-to-construction workflow much more efficient.

Peter Johansson is a lecturer in civil engineering at the School of Engineering and the prime mover behind the cooperation with Tekla. He acts as the course coordinator and also lectures on the course. The remaining classes are held by Tekla and the analysis software representative StruSoft.

 “We’re working with future engineers, the ones who will be implementing BIM in the future,” says Johansson. “We are the third biggest technical college in Sweden, with a focus on applying commercial software tools like Tekla Structures in education. We are convinced that this will be of value to the students.”

The modeling course is divided into three parts: theory, software training, and practical work. The students have been very positive about the course, and some have been employed right after graduation thanks to taking it. Tekla Sweden is positive that these students will continue using the software during their professional careers.

University of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

University of Kuala Lumpur’s Malaysia France Institute (MFI) is an advanced technical training center in the field of engineering technology, specializing in automation, electrical, mechanical, and maintenance disciplines, which are fully supported by the Malaysian government. The institute’s aim is to be the premier entrepreneurial technical university in the country to produce enterprising global technopreneurs.

By mid-2009, the institute will have approximately 50 Tekla Structures software licenses for use in their new engineering laboratory. Tekla Structures is currently used as the training tool for engineering technology diploma programs that focus on the oil and gas industry, offshore and onshore heavy fabrication and structural architecture of plants and platforms including metal-fabrication technology and welding quality inspection.

"I would like to thank Tekla Malaysia for their support and the Tekla Structures installation completed recently,” said Azhar Mahmud, Head of the Fabrication & Joining Program section at MFI.

“I was very impressed with the knowledge of the engineers on site and of the recent technical advice the Tekla office has given. I would gladly recommend their services to anyone in the future."

“The program curriculum was developed in collaboration between MFI and our industrial partner SIRIM. It was tailored to produce plant level fabrication and welding engineering technologists who will be involved in the concept design and engineering of weldment and implementation of welding, fabrication and quality inspections. Students are exposed to the theoretical knowledge and ‘hands-on’ work in the areas of metal working, structural design, pressure vessel design, fabrication, welding, metallurgy and quality inspection.”

Aalto University, Finland

Aalto University (under their previous name Helsinki University of Technology) arranged their first BIM course in the fall 2008. Tekla software was chosen as the primary tool for the course. 

 “Our renewed advanced course in structural engineering gathered more than 40 participants who all seemed motivated; they completed both the practical work part and the final exam and gave us positive feedback,” says Jari Puttonen, Professor at Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, Aalto University.

”The course included a simulated real-life assignment, delivered this fall for the first time using BIM. The course will be arranged yearly. The next one will be held in the fall of 2009.”

“BIM-based design is a modern way of working that enables focusing on the essential,” Puttonen explains. “With the help of a building information model, it is easy to vary and compare frame and other structural alternatives, and a BIM can be used to produce preliminary data for cost estimation. We chose Tekla Structures software as the design tool for structural engineering because it fulfilled our educational objectives. Most students already knew it on a beginner level. We formed the practice groups so that each included at least one who knew the tool. I’d like to thank Tekla Finland for their dedicated technical support during the course.”

“Product modeling has been on its way to the construction industry since the 1990s but hasn’t really broken through. This is mainly due to a lack of IT proficiency,” notes Puttonen.

“In addition to IT skills, the challenge of a shared process is how to succeed in data exchange between different software, data security and responsibilities, as well as the ownership of models. My hope for the future lies in the youth who understand why and how it pays to use information technology. Introducing BIM as part of the curriculum for structural engineering is a significant step forward, and Aalto is pleased to be among the primary educators in Finland. We aim to start developing software skills in lower-level courses too, and to establish a professorship for IT later on. My wish is that more and more diploma work will focus on applying IT to building and construction,” he says.  

Already a long-term employee of Finnish engineering office Magnus Malmberg Oy, Eelon Lappalainen decided to attend the Aalto course to brush up on his design skills. “The best part of the course was modeling a real-life project, a 10-story office building, comparing precast and reinforced concrete composite frames. We used BIM to illustrate and compare alternatives and to extract cost estimates for the structural components.”

“My group consisted of three students who all knew Tekla Structures at some level. What was new to us was creating a comprehensive 3D model of the whole building, not just parts of it, and comparing and managing the structures already during the conceptual design phase,” says Lappalainen.

“It was really easy to do comparisons with the help of BIM because the geometry stayed the same and only the material changed. Tekla’s object libraries were a big help. We used AutoCAD only to exchange data with other libraries and could have done without it, too. The practice work project was delivered in three phases and will continue during spring 2009 in order to create learning material for the next course. Achieving savings and decreasing risks through comparing alternative cost estimates is what interests end-customers the most, so that’s what I think the course should concentrate on, as well as detailing and scheduling erection using the structural model. It would also be interesting to compare different software tools – I think that would only make Tekla look better than it already does.”

Better engineers in practice

The purpose of exposing young engineers and designers to the use of 3D modeling tools like Tekla Structures is to help them better understand the constructability of building systems at both a macro and micro level. Tekla Structures allows students to simulate what a real-life project workflow will be like and where they can make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes in a team setting. According to WSP, one of Tekla’s engineering office customers, the young design professionals coming out of school are able to accelerate their understanding of putting structural systems together by using Tekla Structures. The engineers that use Tekla Structures can learn in one year what typically would have taken 10 years in the past.