Building designs are becoming more complex, in part driven by software advances that shorten the time needed for planning work. This article explains how Tekla Structures helps engineers speed up the cycle.
From London to Dubai, and from Dallas to Shanghai, the skylines of the world’s cities tell a similar story about architectural complexity: buildings are getting higher, more intricate, and the materials used to construct them are advancing.
It was a different picture just a few decades ago. Back then, constructing an eight-story office block, for example, was a very linear process. All the floors were identical rectangles.
Today, driven by advances in software, architects are creating structures more complex than ever before. This puts a lot of pressure on civil engineers in terms of ensuring constructability and meeting safety standards. Fortunately, software advances are helping engineers too – most notably through the shift from 2D to 3D modelling.
“Previously, building designs had to be pretty boxy in order to stay within budget,” says Stuart Campbell, Business Development Manager at Trimble. “But now, when BIM software like Tekla Structures is doing a lot of the real number crunching, you can be pretty expressive with what structures and features you can have.”
“Civil engineering relies heavily on making calculated assumptions derived from historical projects. The ability to accurately make these calculations is what sits at the heart of Tekla Structures,” he says.
Architectural vision, engineered reality
In the past, a lot of architectural ideas never moved beyond the concept phase, as they would not have been commercially viable for engineering teams to build. This is largely a function of time: when an architect’s vision demands a lot of hours from a lot of people, it can quickly become infeasible.
3D software has changed this equation, as now engineers can model complex shapes in a fraction of the time needed in the past. The technology has pushed building design in new directions that often challenge the boundaries of constructability.
“The architect models a building as they see it, while the engineer wants to bring things into a mathematically perfect world where everything is aligned and hardly anything is offset,” says Campbell. “But you simply cannot measure and analyse everything, otherwise you’d be sitting at the planning table for 20 years trying to ensure complete accuracy. This is why engineers use BIM software like Tekla Structures.”
Identify discrepancies early on
One of the challenges engineers typically face is that architectural drawings may be created on a platform that does not show all the details needed on site. There also may be inaccuracies or discrepancies in the drawings that do not matter from the architectural perspective, but have massive implications in terms of constructability. This is why engineers typically create their own drawings.
With Tekla Structures, however, engineers do not necessarily need to start drawing from scratch. This is because the software allows existing drawings to be imported in a range of file types – .pdf, .dwg, IFC and more. Tekla Structures stacks all the available imported drawings on top of one another, which makes it easy for engineers to start identifying discrepancies and number crunching material quantities.
Efficiency means results
In a perfect world, the engineer and any subcontractors would be involved in the design of a building from its outset to avoid anything non-constructible from being planned. This is typically not how the process works though, as architecture firms hold the relationship with the end client and often guard it as a competitive advantage.
“The construction industry’s hierarchy and the subcontracting mechanism that governs it are not going to change,” says Campbell. “As engineers are seldom involved from the beginning, it’s in their best interests to make their part of the process as efficient as possible with BIM software like Tekla Structures.”