Structural engineers and structural technicians, get ready to harness the power of engineering BIM data and connected structural workflows to automate reinforced concrete design, calculation and detailing directly from Revit®. The next-generation BIM technology for reinforced concrete in Revit® has arrived, GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers. The question is are you ready? Here’s what you need to know…
Old habits die hard
In an age where BIM is driving benefit-proven change across the industry, it is still surprising that the workflow between structural engineers and designers is mostly stop-start, with little or no connected workflow. There are always exceptions, but at best it seems there is an initial transfer of model geometry, and in some cases material property data, from one party (or product) to another. This appears to be used to get the project started and, more often than not, a one-off one-way process, ill repeated thereafter. It seems for reinforced concrete there is still a tendency to favor communication of design changes and sharing of project properties using digital 2D or printed documentation – arguably a liability constraint or necessary to avoid jeopardizing the integrity of the digital model.
Whatever the reason, the rapid advancements in technology, combined with multiple open BIM formats, should see engineers and designers readily embracing connected workflows. Sharing project models throughout the engineering design phase should be a regular occurrence, and heavily relied on as would be expected with any BIM workflow. Perhaps this is somewhat of an unreasonable statement given that the evolution in technology and open BIM formats is happening so quickly that it is simply difficult to keep pace.
On reflection lacking the ability to connect workflows, or more aptly ‘lacking theconfidence in the respective software platforms to readily share project data reliably’, is more likely the cause. This is probably born from repeated real-world-trial-and-error processes that have proven so unreliable, or produced such poor results, it should not come as a surprise that the experience has left a tainted, once-bitten-twice-shy residue. It is conceivable that this initial experience is preventing any further attempts at trying to establish a workable connected workflow. Perhaps, but things have changed and, for reasons that will soon become crystal clear and simply cannot be ignored, structural engineers and technicians across the globe would be encouraged to persevere. To embrace the challenge head-on. To employ the principle ‘if at first you don’t succeed…’
The hidden power of information
Another major challenge facing the structural concrete industry is the perceived lack of BIM centric technology for reinforcement. Unlike its steel counterpart, which has been arguably using BIM technology for detailing steel for decades, the concrete detailing industry is still heavily dominated by 2D practices completely disconnected from any BIM workflow. Conversely rebar fabrication methods, driven by advances in manufacturing machinery, have leapfrogged technical documentation processes and are already capable of utilizing digital BIM information for fabrication. The structural concrete detailing industry needs to embrace the power of information; it is about to be thrust into the world of BIM at breakneck speed without any safety nets.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a far greater benefit to be realised than the undeniable advantage offered by BIM for accurate project modelling and collaboration. BIM represents an entire process, and whilst Building relates to the digital representation of the entire project, and Modeling to the individual digital objects, Information is potentially immeasurable and arguably the most important aspect for the part it will play in the longer term.
In a typical BIM project, digital information is naturally being created alongside its geometric counterpart. Of course this includes the obvious, such as geometrical shapes and materials, properties, as well as supplier details, availability, cost and more, all of which are gearing up to support 4D, 5D and 6D – Scheduling, Estimating and Management respectively. However this still tends to ignore more advanced industry specific intellectual know-how, such as FEM analysis calculations, constructability processes and methodology, documentation techniques, building performance optimization and sustainability, and much more. Thankfully for reinforced concrete projects centered around Revit® things are quickly changing.
Connected structural BIM workflows
You only have to read about IoT (Internet of Things) or the FoMT (Future of Making Things) or simply take a look around you to see that we are living in a connected world. It’s clear that the future holds far higher levels of information-driven automation and intuitive self-learning systems and processes than we could ever have anticipated, or imagined for that matter, with more surprises set to follow. These concepts are quickly becoming reality and one can already see glimpses of future potential in the latter with generative design (great example here by Under Armour) and similarly we are barely scratching the surface with additive manufacturing / 3D printing. Structural BIM workflows are poised to quickly follow.
It is common knowledge that Autodesk® Revit® software, Revit® for short, produces both a descriptive and analytical model. Whilst 98% of the time the Revit® analytical model is simply something that a user is aware of and does little with, or simply chooses to ignore completely, it is proof enough that Revit® is more than ready to be used by, and support project sharing with, structural engineers. Arguably more ready than any other BIM software.
To be clear Revit® is not FEM calculation software. The analytical model in Revit® simply provides the ability to interpret and store analytical results transferred from any capable FEM software. This means that Revit® is geared up to understand engineering data (not calculate it) and to use this data in multiple ways; display FEM results (with the Autodesk Structural Analysis Toolkit), share it with other systems, round-trip with the source FEM software, upload to one of many cloud services for post processing, and more. But this is just scratching the surface of the full potential.
Forward thinking engineering software author GRAITEC, is harnessing some of this potential by adopting industry-driven intelligent automation to deliver next-generation BIM technology for reinforced concrete design, calculation and detailing aimed at both structural engineers and structural technicians. When installed on Revit®, GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers provide a multi-discipline solution to streamline workflows and automate processes suited to both structural engineers and structural technicians. But Revit® is not for engineers I hear you say…
In an interesting article written by Angus W. Stocking, called ‘The Future of Structural Engineering will survive the high-tech revolution’, Angus quotes current SEI president David Odeh on the advances in technology as stating “There are just so many fundamental industry factors affecting the future of structural engineering that one scenario is that engineers become irrelevant.” Odeh goes on to say “if structural engineers embrace these changes they can be harnessed for good.” Odeh has brilliant foresight.
Revit® it would seem is fast becoming a perfect companion for the would-be ‘embracing engineer’.
Meet GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers
Years of localized concrete-industry know-how, working practices and country-specific design codes (AISC or Eurocode + local appendixes) have been integrated into GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers together with local preferences and settings.
In an ideal connected BIM workflow, FEM results are transferred and stored in the Revit® analytical model. This includes information about the forces applied on individual concrete elements – alternatively they could also be entered manually.
GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers installed on Revit® interrogate the analytical model to extract these results and use them to calculate the required reinforcement for each concrete column, beam or footing element, instantly producing a corresponding 3D rebar cage directly in the Revit® model.
After the rebar cage is calculated, one of the standard design report templates included in the GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers, can be called upon to produce a comprehensive engineer’s design report – based on the country standard and the design code used to calculate the cage. These reports include the detailed formulae at each stage of calculation for easy reference and results validation by the engineer.
To complete the workflow, GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers automatically produce native Revit® dimensioned and labelled sections, views and drawing sheets, again working to local country and industry detailing standards, all of which are client-side configurable in Revit®.
- One-click design-driven reinforcement calculation
- Fully detailed code-specific design reports produced on-demand from Revit®
- Instantly generate dimensioned and labelled drawing views
- Automated drawing sheet layouts
Structural engineers, structural technicians and anyone else involved in reinforced concrete, can immediately harness the power of engineering BIM data and connected structural workflows to automate reinforced concrete design, calculation and detailing in Revit® simply with GRAITEC Reinforced Concrete BIM Designers.
In four clicks do in minutes what would normally take hours, and all done using standard Revit® Families for easy, client-side customization and editing.
The next-generation BIM technology for reinforced concrete design and detailing is at your fingertips.
Author: Carl Spalding | GRAITEC Product Strategy Director