Skip to main content

Architecturally striking hydroelectric generation project delivered using Trimble's BIM software

Hydro Ness hydroelectric generation project constructible model

Featuring a striking canopy structure, the River Ness Hydroelectric generation project is both a geometrically complex build and also a key part of the local infrastructure. With a project as intricate as this requiring a high level of attention to detail, Trimble’s constructible BIM software was a key part of bringing the artistic vision to life.

Located on the banks of the River Ness in Scotland, the Hydro Ness is a hydroelectric generation project designed to generate a clean energy source for the Highland Council. The structure houses a 93 kW hydroelectric power twin turbine, which will generate an estimated 550,000 kWh every year.

To suit the location, an architecturally striking steel canopy structure was designed to house the generators, with the initial design concept created by local artist Claire Maclean, before being developed further by Inverness architect, Les Hutt. Working on behalf of the project developer and main contractor, Hydro NI - Bradley & Company JV, the canopy geometry definition, structural design, detailing, and fabrication model development was completed by Hasson Engineering Solutions.

The roof canopy design was inspired by the shape of a diving salmon, a fish commonly found in the River Ness. As such, some form of texture was needed to create the illusion of ‘scales.’ It was decided to achieve this through the use of thousands of circular perforations and polished swirls in the 386 faceted stainless steel cladding panels that made up the canopy structure.

Hydro Ness, showing the steel 'scale' design, created by perforating each panel of the canopy

Speaking about the project, Michael Hasson, Director at Hasson Engineering Solutions, said: The Hydro Ness project had a high architectural value, requiring an integrated approach to the structural and architectural design. Geometrically complex, the roof canopy structure is curved on different axes. For us, it was all about finding the balance between respecting Claire’s original design concept and delivering a high-impact look, worthy of its location beside the banks of the beautiful River Ness; all while being capable of safe and efficient fabrication and erection – quite the challenge!

At Hasson Engineering Solutions, we pride ourselves on providing high-quality results, and this wouldn’t be possible without Trimble’s 3D modeling Tekla software, which allows us to create and deliver these kinds of complex structures.

Michael Hasson, Director at Hasson Engineering Solutions

When it came to detailing each of the unique faceted cladding panels and the thousands of perforations that were required to achieve the design brief, it became clear that this would have been an extremely time-consuming process if done manually.

Michael explained further: As a result, we decided that it would be a more efficient use of our time and resources to create custom components within the Tekla Structures software, specifically written to automate the definition and execution of countless perforations in the cladding panels. This was a process of using a defined algorithm to consider, analyze and interrogate each facet and proportions with a rule set, allowing for the parametric definition of the perforations and full control of their size, number, and distribution within every panel.

"This unsurprisingly saved us a huge amount of time. The Tekla Structures software really is limitless in terms of its geometric capabilities – while it’s great for routine detailing jobs, the software is very powerful indeed when you need to go up a few gears."

Michael Hasson, Director at Hasson Engineering Solutions

Tekla Structures was also fundamental to the success of the detailing and fabrication of the steel frame and stainless steel cladding panels, with four major openings and the roof canopy’s curved form all having to be rationalized in Tekla Structures. The complex geometry was achieved by modeling the curved ‘ribs’ on a curved grid pattern, with each unique prism-shaped cladding panel then fixed to the primary roof structure. The ability to define blended circular and elliptical forms was absolutely essential, thanks to the geometric capabilities of the 3D modeling software.

Hydro Ness view in Trimble Connect Visualizer

Given the complexity of the Hydro Ness project, it was important that a high level of communication was maintained between all parties involved at all times. Trimble Connect, the cloud-based collaboration platform, was used extensively by Hasson Engineering Solutions.

Michael explained: Trimble Connect is a software tool that’s going from strength to strength and is ideal for facilitating effective coordination and collaboration, of which there was a lot on this project. No matter where everyone was, it was as if we were all in the same room together. More specifically, as an engineer and detailer, the transparency enabled by the software is especially powerful. It made it possible for me to easily and visually present all my reasoning and the decision-making process behind each choice, as well as showing a great level of detail – right down to the individual fixings and fabrication details.

This communication path also worked vice versa, with the client, Highland Council, architect, and fabricator also able to use Trimble Connect to provide feedback back to us as the engineer. In fact, this relationship between the structural engineer and steel fabricator is something that I view as being especially important and was key to the Hydro Ness project.

At the end of the day, someone has to fabricate the structure that we’ve designed and engineered, and so communicating and providing a clear design intent is critical. As engineers, we have to take and deliver true responsibility in giving fabricators a finished product. Tekla Structures enables you to create and deliver a fabrication-ready model; a model that the fabricator can then work off of with minimal further input or tweaking.

Michael Hasson, Director at Hasson Engineering Solutions

Michael concluded: When it comes to architecturally and geometrically complex projects, such as the Hydro Ness, BIM is essential. You are able to clearly express your design intent in a visual and highly detailed manner, as well as demonstrate the buildability of the structure. Not having to wrestle with 2D drawings to achieve such a complex 3D form, and making use of parametric capabilities and custom components, frees up more of your time and thinking for other things; being able to focus more on how to make the structure as easy as possible to fabricate and as safe as possible to erect on site.

The Hydro Ness is now completed and is generating clean energy for the Highland Council, as well as providing a striking architectural landmark for the region. The project has won numerous awards, including Small Project in the UK Tekla Awards, Small Project of the Year in the British Construction Industry Awards (BCIA 2022), Scottish Highlands & Islands Renewable Energy Award for Best Onshore Renewable Energy Project 2022, and was also commended with a Merit at the Structural Steel Design Awards 2022.

Discover how BIM and Digital Collaboration delivering nuclear quality at Hinkley Point C