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Leveraging Tekla technology for a smooth take off and landing at Farnborough Airport Hangar

Screenshot of Farnborough Airport Hangar in Tekla software, from their Tekla Awards entry in 2023

When it comes to aerospace hangars, the scale of the structure combined with the need for a spacious interior calls for precision, coordination and streamlined construction processes, with BHC Ltd leveraging the power of BIM on the new luxury hangar at Farnborough Airport.

Farnborough Airport has embarked on a £55 million investment programme to significantly expand its facilities and infrastructure, with the construction of a new 175,000 square foot hangar facility. Named Domus III, the landmark development is in response to the growing demand for premium hangar space, expected to increase Farnborough Airport’s hangar space by over 70%.

Appointed by main contractor McLaughlin & Harvey on the project, BHC Ltd was responsible for the primary steel structure, including delivery of the cold-rolled steel framing, connection design, temporary works, decking, precast concrete elements and erection on site.

photograph of plane flying over Farnborough Airport Hangar while the structure is being erected on site

Speaking about the project, Technical Manager Frazer Grant at BHC Ltd said: This project is a real shining example of what we can achieve as a multi-disciplined company. We can deliver far more than just steel, something that sets us apart from our industry competitors. Given the range of materials and components we were responsible for on this project, coordination was key – which is where Tekla software came in.

In many ways, our model became the master model on the project. We were able to convert the model data to IFC and share these files with the cladding contractor, hangar door manufacturer and others on the project, so they could coordinate their design around our main steelwork. Structural steel, decking, cladding, precast panels – it was all done in the one model. With the ability to clearly visualise the structure within the 3D environment and collaborate with others, we were able to effectively problem-solve any potential issues during the design stage, eliminating surprises on site.

Our use of Trimble Connect, the cloud-based collaboration platform, was another enabler of this approach. It’s great that you don’t have to be a Tekla user to be able to benefit from it - it’s open to all. Our model viewed within Trimble Connect formed the basis of every design meeting we had on the project.

As well as the value of coordination, the use of Tekla’s API played a crucial role in automating tasks and streamlining the overall workflow. At BHC Ltd, we’ve created a number of our own bespoke tools within the software with a variety of functions, including automatically checking the model and flagging any non-standard grade steel; adding lifting holes by automatically determining the component’s centre of gravity; and automatically detailing our edge protection.

The API also enabled us to standardise our fabrication process, delivering consistency and accuracy. Tekla is an incredibly flexible software, sometimes too flexible, especially when you have 30-40 detailers all working slightly differently. Using the API, we can set a standard way of doing something so that everyone works in the same way. This really was invaluable.

A common feature when constructing airport hangars is of course the need for a large and open interior space, unrestricted by columns to allow for productive use of the space. As a result of this, aerospace projects will often have large spanning trusses to help open up the interior. At Farnborough Airport, this was achieved through large primary trusses spanning over the hangar doors and supported by numerous secondary trusses for roof support.

screenshot of secondary truss for Farnborough Airport Hangar in Tekla Structures

Frazer commented: One of the main challenges of delivering these large truss sizes is the assembly process once on site, requiring temporary works to support, prop and jack the primary trusses into position. Another is of course logistically speaking, how you are going to transport such large lengths of steel from your fabrication facility to the site. The main roof truss for the Farnborough hangar was an immense length, with a depth of 4.1m and total length of 44m, and as such had to be detailed in three separate sections. Two were then welded together and transported to site in two sections, before being propped and jacked into position on site. All temporary works required for its assembly and construction were first modelled and visualised in Tekla Structures.

Construction began on site in August 2022, with the main steel frame being erected in Spring 2023. The new Domus III hangar is expected to reach completion in early 2024.

Find out more about Tekla software for design and construction.