Week 6 – IT & Construction: JULIAN D’ONOFRIO & RICK BENJAMIN

I don’t think people realise just how much of a game changer the IT behind the construction of the Dr Chau Chak Wing building is for the construction industry. Being able to build such complex profiles to such accurate degrees means that this technology will one day be used for more common construction such as office and other commercial buildings. The fact that there is only ONE straight beam in the Dr Chau Chak Wing project is a testament to our advancements in construction IT. 

Previously, projects completed using AutoCAD or BIM software such as Revit and ArchiCAD still required the building to be built according to 2-Dimensional plans. This was simply because projects were not complex enough in nature and there was a considerable amount of variance between plans and actual construction. Add human error into the equation during set-out, projects were prone to many mistakes.

As projects as complex in nature like the UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing building are increasingly popular, building in from 2-D can no longer satisfy the demands for accuracy and efficiency. Pricing such a job can also be problematic using 2-D. For example the amount of curved walls, impossible looking staircases, offset levels makes 2-D plans redundant when pricing which was reflected by the excessive quotes given to Lend Lease.
Week7_IT & Construction_3

To construct buildings like these, a more efficient and exact process must be developed. The idea was to use Digital Projects, a software developed by Gehry Technologies which was understandable since most of Gehry’s designs look rather impossible to build. Digital projects directly rival other BIM software such as Revit and ArchiCAD as the more flexible and dynamic tool for designing buildings with unconventional shapes.

You might ask yourself, what makes Digital Projects different from other BIM software which are already used to design in 3D. Digital Projects is essentially an enhancement of existing technology. Whereas existing BIM software are capable of complex shapes and forms, Digital Projects specialises in freestyle modelling (NURBS).  The game changer for Digital Projects is that each point on the model has an X,Y,Z value which means that the building modeled can be directly translated into X,Y,Z points in real life. On top of this, the software allows clashes and other design problems to be solved in-house before construction even begins.

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Construction with 3D co-ordinates rather than off grid-lines marked by a foreman greatly reduces errors, but on the downside, site surveyors are heavily scrutinised as the whole project hinges on the accuracy of their readings from the co-ordinates imported from Digital Projects. Although Digital Projects allows us to build very complex forms with an amazing degree of precision, it is still considered as an over-kill for common projects such as office and residential high-rises. I feel that the only thing holding digital projects back from taking over BIM, is compared to BIM it is still a rather cumbersome process although more effective dealing with complex designs.

One thing is for sure, after this Dr Chau Chak Wing project, Lend Lease will have had first hand experience dealing with Digital Projects and maybe they will be able to integrate some of the benefits of Digital Projects into their other projects. Logically thinking, building directly from 3D should theoretically end up faster than conventional methods, since conventional methods require more steps and is prone to errors not detected until well into construction.

Here is the full length presentation…

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