Offsite and modular construction is a fast-growing market, with digitisation and innovation at the core of its success. One company leading the way in the offsite sector with its digital adoption and full RIBA workflow approach is Design4Structures, with Trimble’s coordinated and constructible Tekla software found throughout.
Based in London, The Midlands and Greece, Design4Structures is a creative and innovative structural engineering and design company, with delivery spanning across a range of sectors. Having been operating within the offsite space for over six years, the company has worked on a range of panelised, SFS and volumetric projects; from student accommodation, hotels and hospitals to high and low-rise residential.
Within Offsite Construction, Design4Structures has adopted a slightly different approach. With both an engineering and construction modelling division, Design4Structures commonly delivers the full RIBA workflow on its offsite and modular projects, taking responsibility from the design and engineering stages right through to fabrication.
Speaking about its approach, CEO, Daniel Leech, said:
All too often, we found ourselves becoming frustrated with the level of information that we were receiving from our supply chain partners; which is why we chose to bring together the structural engineering and construction modelling arms of the business. We’re proud to deliver RIBA Stages 0 (Strategic Design) to 5 (Manufacturing and Construction) under the one roof and this method has been met with a great response from our customers.
Not only does this give us a greater degree of control, but it also offers us (and our client) the assurances that the project data and information is up-to-date and correct. In many ways, there is a clear need for this style of working to be adopted more within both the offsite sector and wider construction industry. We all need to be taking collective responsibility and in-doing so essentially de-risking a project as far as possible, moving away from the ‘blame culture’ that can often be present.
A key part of this innovative service offering is digital technology, in particular Trimble’s range of Tekla constructible modelling software; including Tekla Structures, Tekla Structural Designer and Tekla Tedds.
John Breeze, Offsite Operations Manager at Design4Structures explained:
Everything that we deliver to a manufacturing-level of detail is coordinated and detailed in Tekla. While there’s many benefits of having a digitised and 3D-enabled workflow, perhaps the main value of BIM is the enhanced coordination and accuracy of what we can deliver. Coordination is key on any construction project but especially so with offsite, with a number of supply chain partners and factors to bring together successfully, including MEP services and structural openings.
It is this digital coordination, combined with the assurances of accuracy provided by BIM and the detailed 3D environment, that can help to protect against change management and design issues further down the line.
With Tekla, thanks to the customisability of the software, we’re also able to mould it to suit our needs as a company and those of our customers too. Through the creation of custom components and macro development, we can automate otherwise repetitive tasks and generally improve our productivity levels across the board.
Of course, that said there are still challenges within the construction industry that can act as roadblocks to this efficient and digested workflow being fully adopted and its value truly maximised. For example, there are consultants that still work in 2D, which can present an issue when it comes to IFC exchange and translating this information into the 3D environment. It can defeat the object of the productivity enhancements we’re trying to achieve in Tekla. Ultimately, the widespread adoption of BIM and 3D is needed if the whole industry is to benefit. How can we look to the future when we haven’t thoroughly got the basics in order?
Following on from the theme of coordination, Design4 Structures also uses Trimble Connect, the cloud-based collaboration platform.
The value of Trimble Connect really comes to life on the larger and more complex projects, especially the to-do list function. This is hugely valuable for us, enabling a more productive and streamlined way of working, essentially replacing physical RFIs and TQs. Instead, users can easily raise an item on the to-do list, which links directly back to the 3D model; everyone can then review and discuss the highlighted query and work to rectify it.
A great example of this coordinated workflow in action is Minden Court in Doncaster, a residential development for the over 55s, consisting of a three-story apartment block and a number of individual bungalows. Design4Structures completed the structural design of the modules and detailed 3D Tekla models, fully coordinated with appointed Brewster Bye Architects and the MEP Consultant.
With the Engineering and Construction Modelling teams working together on the project for client M-AR, Tekla played an important role in creating efficiencies in the project delivery, including overcoming issues related to connection design. The 3D visualisation offered by Tekla enabled Design4Structures to resolve these challenges, enhanced even more so through the collective review and input from both teams.
Tekla software’s cloning capabilities also enabled the effective delivery of standardised module design. Naturally, as a modular project there was an element of heavy repetition; however, the use of Tekla helped to speed up the design process, from modelling to drawing creation.
In total, over 60 general arrangements drawings and 3,000 fabrication drawings were produced for the modular frames and SFS infill panels. Tekla’s custom component creation to suit connection design, plus the automatic lists feature for weights, materials and assemblies, all contributed to achieving results for our client that enabled a seamless manufacture and installation.
For more information about Design4Structures, please visit: www.design4structures.com.