Demonstrating Digital Design

29th November, 2018

Over the past few years, specialist offsite design and build contractor PCE has developed a unique offering for its clients with its HybriDfMA structural frames system which combines the benefits of precast concrete, structural steelwork and insitu concrete to deliver optimised structural systems.

The HybriDfMA system has been developed to replace traditional RC concrete frames and structural steelwork frames through resolving many of the issues associated with these traditional approaches. HybriDfMA systems are structurally more efficient, provide greater co-ordination and flexibility with other building systems whilst being quicker, cleaner, safer and more environmentally friendly than traditional solutions.

This approach coupled with its expertise in delivering integrated façade solutions with the structure has enabled PCE to position itself as a strategic partner to some its key clients, delivering alternative design solutions tailored to solving project specific challenges whilst optimising the use of offsite technology and maximising the benefits derived through the adoption of a DfMA delivery strategy. This has allowed PCE to build a portfolio of award winning, multi-million-pound structural solutions across many sectors not usually associated with offsite for many leading Tier 1 contractors including Wilmott Dixon, Mace, Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine, BAM and Galliford Try amongst others.

BIM & Offsite
The principals of offsite and building information management (BIM) perfectly complement each other due to the level of definition created around any particular solution and the 'kit of parts' or system adopted in the delivery of that solution. Through the delivery of numerous government contracts and complex integrated design solutions with these Tier 1 contractors PCE has developed its BIM delivery model to achieve level 2 compliance and beyond. The ethos of BIM coupled with the digital age has presented many opportunities for PCE to develop systems and processes which optimise efficiency in both offsite and onsite delivery which creates much greater predictability and certainty around the design solution, enhances coordination and integration with the other stakeholders within the project, and maximises the benefits of DfMA.

To PCE, BIM is not just about designing in 3D and collaborating with others in this virtual world. BIM and digital construction (DC) is about collaboration through the manufacture and assembly stages also. BIM and DC are the tools and systems which allow the optimisation and efficiency of every delivery process and every activity. It allows effective coordination through the offsite and onsite phases, it allows construction driven solutions to be developed by PCE's designers, it creates safe systems of work before designs are finalised through the mitigation of risks and hazards, it optimises offsite and onsite logistics and allows informed decisions to be made as to whether offsite preassembly or onsite assembly is the correct approach and it allows PCE to effectively integrate other building systems in to the structural system to provide their clients with 'smart' solutions.

The successful delivery of any offsite engineered solution is the effective resolution of any interfaces within the system and the key to efficiency in offsite construction is standardisation. To PCE, standardisation doesn't necessarily mean that components must be the same, or 'repetitious'. However, the principles of how components fit together, how components are manufactured, assembled, preassembled, handled, stored and delivered do need to be standard. The key to repetition is to make the processes the same, not the structural materials. This approach to standardisation has allowed PCE to blend different materials and systems together to create a true Hybrid solution. Precast concrete components can seamlessly work in tandem with structural steelwork components and a composite system can be created using the premanufactured components with the use of insitu concrete techniques.

However, to do this the D&B specialist must take control of the design and all the processes that feed into and from the design must be aligned to the DfMA strategy. PCE's in-house design services have developed digital systems to maximise the benefits of standardisation and best practice whilst controlling every aspect of the design and any interfaces.

Every component is manufactured and assembled virtually before the design can be finalised with manufacturing and construction teams validating the design in the 3D Design environment prior to the fabrication and site phases. This process allows key information about the manufacture and assembly of a component to be added in the virtual environment such as specification data, manufacturing and assembly methodologies, temporary works requirements, lifting and handling guidance, stacking and storage restrictions and health and safety data, most of which will come from PCE's existing 'standards' database and libraries. This results in 'data rich models' which can be used by all disciplines within the delivery of a project, from planning and programming (4D) through to cost management (5D).

Digital Construction
The management of data rich models has led PCE to create a broader Digital Construction strategy which encompasses every aspect of delivering DfMA strategies within their business. The creation of a cloud based 'Digital Data Collaboration Hub' which allows real time data to be collated and communicated across PCE's project teams irrespective of where they are working in the country has been fundamental in the successful delivery of many complex projects whilst allowing the continued organic growth in the business and PCE's capabilities. A cloud based digital platform allows seamless information sharing across all business functions whilst workflows have significantly increased transparency and efficiency through removing duplication. All current and relevant project data is either linked into the 3D model via 'tagging' of components or is stored in the cloud within a project portal ensuring project teams can access what they need, when they need it.

Digital notifications advise of upcoming key activities and when tasks are completed, digital inventory control manages materials on and offsite and digital quality control is linked to the BIM model. Assembly methodologies are linked to the 3D model with virtual toolbox talks and risk assessments being delivered alongside the 4D planning model so specific tasks and phases can be emphasised. Site logistics is also linked to the 4D model so the way a site changes during the construction phase can be communicated to PCE's operatives along with the other specialists on site. PCE's digital archive of best practice along with training videos and QR coding for issues such as COSHH are also available via the collaboration hub and can be accessed through PDA's or Smart Phones. Best practice and innovation during project delivery are captured via an 'App' and is uploaded to the collaboration hub to facilitate cross business learning and to allow continuous improvement.

At the end of a project, a complete history of what has happened during the delivery phase is available in a digital environment. A complete asset management model is issued to the client whilst all the data PCE requires to assess the performance of the project is easily collated and analysed to facilitate continuous improvement. This 'Digital Construction' approach has resulted in PCE delivering significant efficiency and cost savings to its clients through increased productivity, innovation and smarter DfMA solutions.

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Original Link - Offsite Magazine

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