Offsite is a popular topic within construction, frequently heralded as being the future of the industry and the key to building better, greener and faster. Light metal framing is one such example of offsite construction, favoured for its durability, versatility, speed and cost-effectiveness, with BIM at the core of helping to bring it to life. Two companies operating within the light metal framing (LMF) sector are Design & Consultancy and Frameclad, who together have been benefitting from the added value that a model-based workflow brings.
Design & Consultancy is a design consultancy business specialising in steel framing systems, particularly load-bearing structures, and works closely with Frameclad, a light-gauge steel manufacturer. Despite both companies being relatively new, with Design & Consultancy operating since 2016 and Frameclad manufacturing since 2014, the two have grown substantially in that time, with Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and Offsite key to this growth.
Paul Winwood, Managing Director at Frameclad said:
The Offsite and LMF sector have both been growing significantly recently, thanks in part to the significant push made by the UK government on MMC – now it’s all about keeping that momentum going. Even recently, while other industries have been affected by the coronavirus restrictions, we were able to keep on working. In fact, it’s one of the many benefits of offsite construction, being well-suited to this new way of working.
Quality is key within MMC; it’s all about bringing factory quality products and components into the construction site setting. And modelling tools and model-based software are a key part of achieving this.
A user of Tekla Structures since the company’s outset, Design & Consultancy is well-accustomed to the benefits of a model-based workflow, taking the information and drawings supplied by Frameclad, the end-client and architect to first create a base building model in Tekla Structures, before then detailing the individual steel framing profiles.
Nik Teagle, Director at Design & Consultancy, explained further:
For us, it’s all about designing with manufacture and assembly in mind. Through Tekla, we’re able to constantly develop the way we detail frames and the fixings and connections we use, all based off feedback received from Frameclad.
However, perhaps one of the main benefits of the software for us is the library of LMF components – both standard and bespoke. As well as utilising the library of standard frames and profiles offered by Tekla, we also have the ability to create our own catalogue, containing frames, connections and components unique to Frameclad. In addition to custom macros and ribbons, with Tekla Structures you really have the flexibility to make the software your own.
In turn, this of course all helps to save time and provide a more efficient process. Within the LMF sector, repetition, both within and between projects, is a common occurrence. Here, with a library of parts readily available, it mitigates the need to re-model all frames and systems on every new project.
Once the Tekla model is completed and approved, this is then used by Design & Consultancy to generate the detailed fabrication drawings (including frame weights and dimensions), panel references and part marks and project reports, before being shared with Frameclad.
While we don’t use Tekla Structures directly ourselves, we do rely heavily on the extracted information and outputs from the software, supplied to us via Design & Consultancy. This information is used by us right from the initial procurement and bidding stages through to fabrication and manufacturing. Therefore, it is essential that it’s correct. With procurement especially, given the fact that we are still a relatively small and new business, having accurate calculations, quantities and lengths is perhaps even more critical, helping us to better allocate resources. Here, with a model-based workflow, where all data is automatically generated from the central model, we are provided with an assurance of precision.
In fact, it is this very accuracy and reliability of data that is perhaps the biggest benefit of Tekla for us as a company. Within the LMF sector, we rely heavily on the manufacturing information being correct. Tolerances are tight and with numerous trades and disciplines involved on any one project, all elements are often interconnected. What’s more, with the main structural frame being made from metal, it’s extremely difficult to rework once on site – it’s not as if you can just slightly change the alignment or positioning of one section. Everything has to be perfect. It’s for this reason that the quality and depth of information available, the automatic clash detection and interoperability within Tekla Structures is all so valuable.
In addition to accuracy, the visibility enabled by BIM is another benefit of the model-based workflow for Frameclad, helping them to win new work and create client confidence.
Ultimately, construction is a very conservative sector with a traditional marketplace. People can be reluctant to change or adopt new ways of working. If we are to succeed in encouraging the adoption of these new methods of construction, including offsite and light metal framing, we need to be able to show off and highlight the benefits of doing so in a very visual way. With the 3D models created in Tekla Structures, we can walk our clients through the structure and show them the end product before it’s even reached our fabrication shop, giving them added confidence and assurance.
One example of LMF and BIM in action was the Concord Street development in central Leeds, an exciting new nine-storey building offering 35 one and two-bed apartments. Given the city centre location, the site was very restricted, bordered on all four sides by roads, pedestrian walkways and other buildings. As a result, MMC was the ideal solution. Demonstrating the versatility and adaptability of light metal framing, everything on the project was delivered using Frameclad’s light-gauge steel, from the structural frame to the lift shaft and door frames, with a crane able to be installed within the building to erect the structure.
It’s clear that MMC is going to be a big part of the construction industry’s future, with BIM tools there to help deliver it and make it a reality. For me, it’s the level of detail and data-rich visibility enabled by 3D modelling that stands to be one of the biggest benefits for light metal framing and offsite construction. Ultimately, the more you put in and the more work you do at the detailing stage, the more you stand to get out of the software – this is where the real value is.