Ease of use and intuitiveness determined choice of A&D software
Part of Scandinavian NCC Group, Optiplan is an overall planning agency for architectural, structural, HEPAC and electrical design in new buildings and renovation projects. Their branch office took a bold step to test a new analysis tool to design the structures of a tall office building that will be built in Keilaniemi, the Silicon Valley of Finland.
Tekla Structural Designer is an easy-to-use BIM-based analysis and design software tool for faster and more effective production of buildings.
“The first time I heard about this software was at Tekla User Days in Finland,” says Elmeri Kryssi, structural design team leader and regional manager for Optiplan in Turku. “At that point it was not yet in use in Finland. When it was launched on this market, we wanted to test it to analyze the structures and overall stability of an office building. Our decision was based on the fact that the conceptual model was fairly simple to import from Tekla Structures. It was also more practical to analyze various frame alternatives compared to the structural analysis tool that we normally use.”
“In fact, I only had a couple of days to test the new tool, but in that short time I was able to learn it and actually get some work done,” says structural designer and Tekla Structural Designer superuser Antti Metsälä of Optiplan. “I learned about the software for the first time in my role as the Tekla Structures superuser of Optiplan, but at that point Designer didn’t support Eurocodes.”
Metsälä considers usability and easy stability calculation the strengths of Tekla Structural Designer. Overall the software has provided a positive surprise.
“Analysis and design software must be easy and intuitive to use, because nobody in our office has time to make calculations daily, and therefore analysis is not a routine task,” Metsälä says. “A simple user interface is a definite advantage. In the conceptual phase, we must be able to analyze frame alternatives as fast as possible in order to immediately communicate a structure that isn’t feasible to the architect.”
Optiplan uses Tekla Structural Designer to analyze and design KN Next office complex’s structure
Optiplan currently holds two Tekla Structural Designer licenses. The geometry of the 11-storey KN Next office building to be built in Espoo, Finland, has been imported from Tekla Structures software to Tekla Structural Designer.
Elmeri Kryssi describes the project to be a fairly typically framed office building with asymmetrical geometry including ledges, which creates specific challenges in terms of analysis and design. The building features two underground and nine aboveground floors. Optiplan’s range of responsibility covers structural, HEPAC, electrical and environmental design. Architectural design is provided by SARC Architects and geotechnical design by ROCKPLAN. The foundations of the office building will be excavated into the bedrock about one meter below sea level. Structural designers utilize geotechnical designer’s IFC model. The client is NCC Property Development.
“At this stage, we only calculate stability, and for example facade and wind loads are modeled separately,” Kryssi explains. “In addition, we’re testing foundation calculation. During the testing, we’re learning to model in Tekla Structures so that analysis in Tekla Structural Designer is as fluent as possible.”
“The software meets the needs of basic structural engineering, and excluding too many details from the model is a good thing. The challenge with all analysis and design programs is how to connect the reference points even when a wall is geometrically one object,” Metsälä says. “At this point, the most practical way for us is to model the geometries in Tekla Structures and import them to Tekla Structural Designer for analysis.”
“This project includes plenty of openings, so we’re testing wall thickness and length as well as stairwell enclosures’ impact on bracing calculations,” Kryssi says. “Furthermore, the software provides us with rebar quantities for CIP concrete walls to help the client with preliminary cost estimation.”
“We created three different calculation models, each of which required the same modifications. The Copy from another model function would have been useful there,” Metsälä notes. “For the future, it’s important to develop the modeling capacity of the openings, and it’s very important to be able to read DWG reference files to the software."
Tekla Structural Designer can be trained in a couple of days
In learning to use Tekla Structural Designer, Antti Metsälä has utilized both the manual and user videos online.
“The manual is really clear, and I’m able to trust it more than the documentation of the software we normally use. The search phrases are functional when one knows what to look for, and the entries include Eurocode references as well as engineer-level explanations with illustrated examples. The problem with other software documentation and foreign user videos are the case examples that include different measuring norms for different countries,” Metsälä says.
“The need of training depends on whether the user has previously used any analysis software,” Metsälä continues. “If not, then using the software will require a more profound training course. If one has any understanding of FEM calculation, a couple of days’ training will enable using the software with some trial and error. I’ve used a couple of tools before, so it’s easier for me to figure out why some command doesn’t pass through or why an error occurs.”
Elmeri Kryssi would like to have common components included in the software, such as Delta beams.
“Most of the calculation errors could be avoided if the actual profiles or similar profiles with the same stiffening values were included in the software,” Kryssi says. “In addition to Delta beams, Finnish office projects use other composite structures and hollow-core slabs.”
“The more details are included in the reference model, the more challenging it is to analyze the structures,” Metsälä says. “It’s likely that a separate analysis model will be in use for many years. So far it’s more practical to create several functioning models instead of one heavy-duty combination model. In that sense simple BIM is an advantage.”
“It’s easier to use the software when all settings, reports and anything related to a structure can be found on one tab,” Metsälä says. “User experience remains good when settings are not spread in too many locations with too many navigation paths. This is my way of parsing a building, and someone else can have a different approach regarding the settings. The basic settings are easy to find in Tekla Structural Designer. Scrolling the model is not as fluent as in Tekla Structures, but using the two programs with the same logic in parallel improves work efficiency.”