BIM Collaboration: A practical example of architectural design and structural calculations with the collaborative and operational procedures for design team
How should data exchange between the structural and architectural boundaries be accomplished?
The BS1192 standard provides extensive details and guidelines including specific examples that describe how this exchange should be configured.
Let’s see the possible operating methods using BIM oriented software.
Design Collaboration, in an engineering context, requires dedicated software applications for both the architectural and structural design aspects. In this example we’ll be using Edificius and Edilus. Both solutions belong to the “BIM authoring” category, as referred to in our previous “BIM evolution and virtual building model” article, published a few weeks ago.
Architectural design and structural calculation, practical design and BIM collaboration example
As a reference to the BS 1192 example, in this case we are dealing with a new building where the architectural design team has completed a first draft of the project including a possible structural solution.
This first layout of the structure only shows a preliminary sizing and positioning of the main structural members, such as the columns and beams, and ignores other typical structural engineering considerations.
The model can obviously be exported in the IFC format (see “BIM and software interoperability“), and therefore be imported by the structural design team through a seamless integration process to structural design software (in this case, EdiLus).
Starting from this architectural model (including architectural and structural design aspects), the structural design team can decide whether to proceed with the project, approving the current preliminary hypothesis, or implement appropriate structural solutions to be in line with regulations and safety codes. Whatever the case, the structural model will still need to be verified before any approval can be issued to the architectural design team.
Having the architectural model as a reference, even when working on the structural aspects, allows both teams to coordinate their work in a continuous and immediate manner.
Furthermore, thanks to the full integration of both models, together with advanced structural design tools, a first physical layout of the structure can be produced very rapidly giving a clear idea of the project right from the very start. Whatever re-adaptions of the architectural design, in accordance with the structural requirements, are addressed in this phase of project development constituting a feedback chain until the best solution is finally adopted by both teams.
The next step is structural analysis and verification. This leads to the final structural model: a mathematical model, generated from the physical model, necessary for performing calculations and verifications.
This activity, based on the British guidelines and technical regulations, is carried out using software defined as “BIM tools“: software designed to deal with specific aspects that don’t need their own dedicated input model, but simply extract the necessary information from one or more “main” models.
In the case of EdiLus these features are already integrated into the software, so the generation of the structural model (necessary for the finite element calculation method), together with reinforcements design, regulatory compliance, the bill of quantities aspects, etc. are built directly into the software according to a more advanced configuration as highlighted below in yellow.
The architectural design team will subsequently be able to integrate the structural design solution back into the architectural model and make the final adjustments.
Once the structural and architectural design process is validated, the resulting model can be shared with other project teams too.
At this stage, the original preliminary design solution will have been completely modified due to a continuous design alignment process in a true collaborative design approach by both the architectural and structural design teams.