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Tekla and offsite modular construction: a one-software-fits-all approach

screenshot of Orchard Village, created in Tekla 3D BIM software

Offsite and modular construction is a fast-growing market, with digitisation and innovation at the core of its success.  One company in the UK making the most of digital workflows, offering engineering and detailing services, is Design4Structures.

In this Q & A, our business development manager for Detailing & Manufacturing, Craig Johnson, reviews how they used our Tekla software to deliver two completely different offsite projects, which were recently entered in our Tekla BIM Awards.

First, we will look into Minden Court, a high-quality and affordable offsite residential development. Design4Structures (D4S) carried out the structural design of the modules using Tekla Structures, fully coordinated with the appointed architects Brewster Bye Architects and MEP consultant. D4S supplied information for both, site install and fabrication, of the module frames and SFS infill panels, which covered 60+ general arrangement drawings and 3000+ Fabrication drawings.

Screenshot of Minden Court, created in Tekla and shared using Trimble Connect

Q: Craig, how did the team at Design4Structures used Tekla software in this project? And how can the offsite and modular market learn from this example?

A: In this particular project, it was great to see different materials being used, such as timber, light metal framing, and hot rolled steel. The team at Design4Structures really played to Tekla’s strengths of having multi material manufacturing models and the ability to use all of that information to push through into manufacturing.

By utilising our different cloud services and platforms, such as Tekla Model Sharing and Trimble Connect, Design4Structures were able to have multiple people working on the project at the same time with a model that was continually kept up to date for everyone. They were also able to communicate effectively with each other in regards to comments and RFI’s through the to-do function within Trimble Connect, visualising any issues by having access to the 3D model in real-time. This also links back to the Tekla model so to-do’s can also be viewed live in the model.

Design4Structures are uniquely placed in the offsite and modular market as they can provide both engineering and detailing services. This means they can design a structure such as Minden Court with both the manufacturers’ capabilities and the detailers in mind, which makes the whole process much more streamlined with design intent and manufacturing requirements at the forefront of the engineering process.

Minden Court is also a great example of what the Tekla volumetric modular tool we developed could be used for, along with the framing tools that are also available, which makes for a great tool the offsite industry can use to speed up the modelling process for these types of projects.

Screenshot of the volumetric modular tool in Tekla Structures software

Q: Looking at the coordination between trades, D4S had to juggle the timely coordination and flow of data between its sister company, TDS, who had carried out the 3D Tekla models, the architects, and MEP consultant. What key role does BIM play, and Tekla’s software specifically, in making this a smooth experience for all?

A: TDS supplied information for both, site install and fabrication, of the module frames and SFS infill panels, which covered 60+ general arrangement drawings and 3000+ fabrication drawings.

BIM was a huge positive when D4S were working on this project, all coordination between different trades were done through Tekla 3D models, comments and changes were received by Design4Structures in the same format, and made the whole coordination stage of the project between different stakeholders much easier.

It’s great to see this type of coordinated approach from Design4Structures. Being able to visualise and overlay the other coordinated models from MEP for example in both, Tekla Structures and Trimble Connect, allows the design team and detailers to run clash detection and a heat map for clashes before they happen. Within Tekla Structures there is also the ability to overlay any updated or revised IFC’s to see what has been removed, added or stayed the same through a built-in IFC reviewer. By utilising these tools designers can reduce the need for any rework on site meaning what’s in the model is what lands on site, this is crucial for any construction projects but particularly so in these types of volumetric modular offsite projects.

3D model of Orchard Village, overlayed with the model built in Tekla software

Q: Now looking at the Orchard Village project, formerly known as the Mardyke Estate, how does it compare, in terms of complexity, to the Minden Court development?

A: Orchard Village was a project consisting of 326 volumetric modules combining to create four houses, four duplex apartments and 109 apartments. A modular plant room, bin store, stair cores, corridor cassettes and some parts of the roof structure were also being manufactured as part of the complete modular solution.

As we can see from the project snapshots, modular projects can come in all shapes and sizes and complexity,  this is where Tekla’s customisability comes into play. Being able to create your own custom components and macros to reduce repetitive tasks or details can really improve productivity. 

Design4Structures carried out all modelling, general arrangement drawings and manufacturing packages. They made great use of our new workflow tools such as Batch Editor which allows the user to update one detail on a single module and then replicate that through all similar objects in the model. Our updated drawing tools, such as Smart Create for drawings, lets you edit one drawing while the system recognises similar objects and uses that edited drawing as a template for all. D4S used this to reduce drawing editing times.

Volumetric offsite manufacture is a relatively new form of construction for large-scale housing schemes, so this was a pioneering project and one that inspired our development team to create our Tekla volumetric modular tool, launched in the 2022 version of Tekla Structures

Designed specifically for the offsite market, the new Volumetric modular tool is the next step in improving offsite construction, helping to make the BIM workflow even more efficient. It makes it possible for modular manufacturers to construct 3D modular units far quicker and easier, with automation at the tool’s core. 

Another great thing about this tool is that the parametric capabilities help to streamline the change management process, meaning that if you make a change to one assembly it will automatically make the same change to all connected parts.


Learn more about manufacturing efficiencies that reduce onsite build times.Banner image showing an image of Craig Johnson, Sales Account Manager, along with his contact details. Click the image to connect with him on Linkedin