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Saga Natatorium: The earthquake-resistant swim stadium

The Saga Natatorium is a competition swimming stadium under construction for Japan Games 2024. Its earthquake-resistant steel frame was designed by DAIZO Engineering using Tekla software, in a project so ambitious it topped the “Best Sports & Recreation” category in the 2020 Tekla Global BIM Awards.
Japan experiences some 1,500 earthquakes each year, so buildings need to be designed to withstand them. This is why steel is so common in Japanese construction, with more than five million tons used each year. Steel is a highly ductile material that can flex and stretch to dissipate the seismic energy of an earthquake. It is also relatively light in comparison to other building materials.
DAIZO Engineering specializes in steel modeling and detailing for the Japanese market. So when the region of Saga set out to build a swimming stadium for Tokyo’s upcoming Japan Games, DAIZO was approached to design the stadium’s reinforced steel frame. Due for completion in April 2021, the Saga Natatorium is a 1,300-ton structure with capacity for 1,800 people. 
“The steel design of the Saga Natatorium is quite complicated and there are only a few companies that can handle it,” says DAIZO’s Founder and Managing Director, Mr. Hongbin Li. “We were introduced to the project by an earlier client, as we have experience in dealing with this kind of complexity.”

Detecting clashes in Tekla

One of the stadium’s biggest design challenges lay in its ‘Y’ shaped exterior pillars. These were difficult for the steel manufacturer to produce, so the DAIZO team counted on Tekla’s software for constructibility – ensuring that the rebar would go through the inclined pillars without any clashes.
“There were lots of hidden collisions we picked up by doing the steel detailing in Tekla Structures,” says Li. “We used Tekla’s automatic connection functions to create the nodes and components in the model. We also used some parameter blocks and the Tekla API to develop some new nodes.”
“Tekla could easily deal with the complicated design of the pillars,” he says. “You can get the model to look exactly the same as the real construction, so you can avoid collision problems later.” 

Detailed and demanding design

Li moved from China to Japan in 2009 to study towards a Master’s Degree in Engineering from Kyushu University. After graduating, he began working for a structural design company in Nagasaki. This was when he started to use Tekla Structures to create steel designs.
Li set up DAIZO in 2015, first opening an office in China and then another in Japan. Today, the company employs 40 people in both countries, and has completed more than 100 projects in Japan – its main market – as well as some 30 projects in Canada and the United States. DAIZO uses Tekla Structures for modeling and detailing steel, and Trimble Connect for reviewing IFC files. Its designers have also used the Tekla API to create their own program for the automatic editing of drawings.
“Our customers are mainly from Japan, and we have successfully delivered a lot of detailing work there for power stations and swimming pools,” says Li. “I personally like the Japanese style of design and production of steel structures. It’s extremely detailed and very demanding compared to other styles, but this is the design challenge that makes our work so interesting. And it’s why we use Tekla Structures.”

“Tekla is very smart. No matter how complicated the design is, Tekla can handle it. Other software just cannot compete."

Mr. Hongbin Li, Founder and Managing Director, DAIZO Engineering 

“Tekla is very smart,” says Li. “No matter how complicated the design is, Tekla can handle it. Other software just cannot compete. Tekla has so many functions that improve the efficiency of our work. The company also listens to its customers and always tries to meet our needs.”


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