Embedding Technological Thinking

24th January, 2020

Professor Robert Hairstans from the Centre for Offsite Construction + Innovative Structures at Edinburgh Napier University, outlines a new strategic partnership to digitally enable a sustainable built environment.

From tall timber buildings to micromanufacture the products, systems and approaches necessary for the delivery of a sustainable built environment are available. Appropriate application to the context requires informed decision-making enabled by digital tools. Establishing a Trimble Technology lab at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) presents a unique opportunity to create the right environment to furnish the sector with the next generation of individuals that have the necessary knowledge and skills to move this sustainable approach to the built environment forward.

Construction productivity has stagnated: however, increasing construction output will only serve to exacerbate its current negative environmental impact. The construction and use of buildings in the EU accounts for about half of all extracted materials and energy consumption and about a third of water consumption. The whole-life performance of built assets therefore needs to be fully considered. Embracing offsite approaches to construction delivery utilising renewable resources combined with digitisation offers a solution. Digital integration of the supply chain from forest floor to built asset is ambitious but can be made a reality with the correct ingredients and endeavour.

The establishment of the Trimble Technology Lab at ENU is the culmination of an already 10 year-long research and teaching partnership. The objective is to shape the future delivery of the built environment through digital enablement. The partnership originated on this basis, with ENU embedding research findings into Trimble Tekla Tedds software as a route to impact. Tekla Tedds is the UK industry standard software for engineering design. Embedding research into Tedds, engineers throughout the UK had ready access to it facilitating the uptake of the European structural codes of practice (which were superseding British Standards at the time) as well as the innovative solutions derived to resolve technical detailing issues associated with pre-manufactured approaches.

The outputs of this partnership have been practically demonstrated on numerous projects working with industry partners including showcase examples such as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games athletes' village in 2014 and more recently the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology student village completed in 2018. The CCG iQ closed panel timber frame system utilised standard details from the research, these panels were then capable of being fully enhanced in the factory environment for on-site efficiency. The Carbon Dynamic factory-fabricated cross laminated timber (CLT) volumetric modules also had technical connection challenges resolved utilising the derived software's. The result was ambitious cantilevers being achieved in the final array of standardised units.

Read more in the Offsite Magazine HERE

Share this content



Enter your name and your comment below. Your e-mail address will not be published on the website.