The Australian scaffolder won the Best Developer project category at Tekla Global BIM Awards 2022. The jury credited the ScaffPlan team for the complete and globally applicable solution.
ScaffPlan is a 3D software package for scaffolding design and engineering, built as a plug-in that leverages the powerful platform capabilities of Tekla Structures.
Developed by scaffolders for scaffolders, the software brings the benefits of Building Information Modeling to the global scaffolding industry – making projects quicker, safer and less costly.
“Scaffolding is a necessary means to an end,” says ScaffPlan Founder and Managing Director, Simon Boyes. “It’s a cost and time burden that nobody wants, but you often need to have it when you fix something old or build something new. If you do it wrong, then people can get injured – or worse. There’s a scaffolding collapse somewhere in the world almost every day.”
“We saw that the industry needed a way to quickly design and build scaffolding that’s safe to work from. This was our starting point for creating ScaffPlan as a 3D program on top of Tekla Structures,” he says.
Boyes grew up in Townsville in northeast Australia. It’s a major processing hub and the only city in the world that refines three different base metals: copper, nickel and zinc. Townsville is also an important defense location and home to Australia’s biggest military base.
With so much specialist infrastructure in the city, there’s high demand for expert scaffolders like Boyes. Starting out as a scaffold-yard laborer, he began doing his own projects on residential buildings in 2010, soon moving on to more complex work on Townsville’s bridges, refineries and 100-meter-high chimney stacks.
Boyes now runs crews of hundreds of scaffolders who work on some of the industry’s most complex and high-risk projects. Having performed almost every scaffolding task that exists, he has a deep understanding of the field’s challenges and where opportunities for improvement lie.
“In my original scaffolding business, a big part of what we do is design scaffold structures. Some years ago we started doing this with a set of BIM tools we built on top of Tekla Structures, using its open API,” says Boyes. “A lot of my contacts in the industry saw what we were doing and encouraged us to develop it into a business area of its own, as they wanted to buy the software from us. Around 2019 we started getting serious about it and set up ScaffPlan.”
Scaffolding design powered by Tekla
Boyes and his team contacted some 200 scaffolders around the world to ask what features they’d like to see in the ScaffPlan software. A specialist development team in Poland then built a proof-on-concept version that 12 scaffolding companies were invited to try out in a pilot program. Their feedback was critical to the development of the commercial software package that ScaffPlan launched in July 2022.
The team has put a lot of effort into making ScaffPlan easy to work with.
A user starts by importing a drawing of the building or other structure for which the scaffolding is being designed. This can also be modeled from scratch in Tekla Structures. The user then selects the type of scaffolding equipment they want to use, punches in some required parameters – i.e. number of people on the structure, material quantities, weight of loads, etc. – and clicks on all the corners of the building. From just this information the software automatically creates a color-coded 3D scaffolding plan that’s easy to understand.
“What makes ScaffPlan different is that we've combined the calculations with BIM from Tekla Structures. This means you can do both the design and the engineering for scaffolding in a single platform, with none of the data lost in import-export processes,” says Boyes.
Scaffolding is a fast-moving industry that people often pass through on their way to other roles within construction. Regulations around who can do the job differ from country to country, but in many places the bar for qualifications is low. It’s also a last-minute industry, with scaffolders often getting calls for jobs that need to be started the next day.
“There are a lot of people planning scaffolding without having any engineering qualifications or knowing how to build structures properly. Often they’re working under pressure,” says Boyes. “This is why we’ve built-in safety features and functionality that make it easy for someone to use ScaffPlan even if they’re not a scaffolding expert.”
“You can generate detailed reports that go into all the formulas if that’s what you want. But people without engineering knowledge won’t know what these mean, so we’ve created a simple scheme that color codes all the components in the scaffolding plan. If it’s green, it’s safe to build. If it’s red, then it’s not safe and you need to rethink some of your original parameters.”
Much more to come
ScaffPlan is already being used by scaffolders in 16 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Finland, the Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States. The company also runs a sign-up program for scaffolders who want to use the software in countries where it’s not yet supported. At the time of writing, subscribers to this program come from an additional 28 countries.
“Every day we’ve got people ringing up asking us when they’ll be able to start using ScaffPlan in their market,” says Boyes. “There are 36 major scaffolding systems used around the world, each of which has different engineering principles and capabilities. We’re adding support for them as fast as we can.”
ScaffPlan is continuing to develop its software with new features and tools, including functionality to cover the planning of other temporary-works projects, such as formwork and shoring.
“We’re committed to continually setting the benchmark for scaffolders around the world,” says Boyes.
“The tools in upcoming releases will save users up to 30% of the time it takes to create 3D models. We’re also adding Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality features that the scaffolding industry has never seen before.”