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The combination of digital technology and solid wood is revolutionizing the way we design and construct buildings, according to panelists in our recent interview with Dassault Systèmes.


Entitled How Virtual Mass Timber Extends and Improves Real Mass Timber, the conference explored how new digital design tools and material innovations converge to create more sustainable buildings and cities.

In the presentation, Jerry Jackson and Nuri Miller of software company Dassault Systèmes and architect Kirsten Haggart argued that the convergence of solid wood with a design approach called Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) enables architects, engineers and contractors to create buildings that are more affordable, of better quality and better for the environment.

“I don’t think that’s too ambitious to say, it’s like a new Bauhaus we’re approaching right now,” Haggart said at the conference.

Above: The conference explored the convergence of new digital design tools and materials such as CLT. Above: Brock Commons Tallwood House was the tallest solid timber building in the world when it was completed in 2016

Haggart is a senior partner at London-based architectural firm Waugh Thistleton, which pioneered the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) in buildings. The company says its Dalston Works office building was the largest CLT building in the world when it was completed in 2017.

CLT consists of layers of wood glued together at right angles and is one of the most well-known types of solid wood, a broad term used to describe a line of engineered wood products strong enough to produce panels and beams. structural. Other examples of solid wood include glued laminated timber (glulam) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

“When you build with wood, your gray energy levels drop”

Using solid wood in place of structural materials such as concrete and steel can significantly reduce a building’s carbon footprint, as the carbon dioxide trees remove from the atmosphere is stored in the building. drink.

“When you think of wood, it’s recyclable,” Haggart said. “But it also has the added benefit of being renewable, which means it has sequestered carbon.”

“That’s the big thing that makes all the difference. When you build with wood, your intrinsic energy levels drop.”

The CLT building at Waugh Thistleton Dalston Works was completed in 2017

CLT buildings are made up of a series of prefabricated modules which are manufactured in the factory and then assembled on site. According to Haggart, this represents a fundamental change in the way architects design buildings.

“When you design a module, you actually have to design everything much earlier so that once the production line has started, there is very little change, as stops and starts on the production line can have problems. economic considerations important enough to the plant, “she said.

“It’s a completely different way of designing and the way we are all trained as architects to cross all RIBA [Royal Institute of British Architects] the steps need to be reviewed. “

DfMA can “reduce costs and increase quality”

This is where Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) comes in. This design approach, successfully applied to industrial design and production of cars and other consumer products for years, aims to make the manufacturing and assembly process as efficient as possible. possible in order to reduce costs.

Solid wood such as CLT lends itself to this approach because the modules are prefabricated. Buildings can also be constructed using far fewer modules than would be necessary if a structural material such as steel were used.

Jackson, director of architecture, engineering and construction at Dassault Systèmes, believes that the application of DfMA to the design and construction of buildings, sometimes referred to as “productization,” can lead to a dramatic reduction in costs and an increase in quality.

Construction of Brock Commons Tallwood House by Acton Ostry Architects
Brock Commons Tallwood House by Acton Ostry Architects was built using prefabricated solid wood modules

He compares this to what has happened with consumer products such as cars and cellphones over the years.

“When I was growing up in the 1970s my economic means weren’t that great, so I had to find a job at Burger King,” he said. “And with a Burger King salary, I certainly couldn’t afford a new car.”

“Today, I could reasonably be leaving Dassault Systèmes to work at Starbucks, and I could buy a really nice Honda Civic with incredible range and quality. And if you think of cellphones, look at the range and quality you get. of a smart phone. “

“It has happened so many times and we have experienced it consistently as product buyers in so many different segments of product development,” he continued.

“And I think the work Waugh Thistleton and others are doing with DfMA and solid wood is phenomenal, because that’s the promise.”

Brock Commons Tallwood House 3D digital model by Acton Ostry Architects
An extremely detailed 3D model of the Brock Commons project was used to ensure that the construction was as efficient as possible

Dassault Systèmes, which has its roots in the development of software for the aeronautical and automotive industries, offers architects, engineers and entrepreneurs a suite of digital tools to enable them to apply DfMA methodologies via its 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

In particular, Dassault Systèmes’ platform enables the creation of what the brand calls a “Virtual Twin Experience” which allows users to test ideas and real life scenarios to iterate the design before the construction phase in order to achieve success. ensure that the process is as efficient as possible. .

The software was used to design and build Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-story student residence at the University of British Columbia by Acton Ostry Architects, which was the tallest solid timber building in the world when it was built. completed in 2016.

“Virtual worlds extend and improve the real world”

The building design was developed using a digital model of the building to test different ways of constructing it.

“This high fidelity 3D representation and system was really a way to test and build pretty much everything for the project down to the CNC code. [to fabricate the timber modules]”says Miller, cloud solutions consultant at Dassault Systèmes.

“It really worked out where everything would fit in the building and how it would all fit together.”

“It really underscores for us our belief that virtual worlds extend and improve the real world,” he added, saying the project was built 70% faster and more cheaply than a traditional building.

“We can test a lot of scenarios, we can go through a lot of iterations and we can pick the best one.”

Industrial processes begin to be applied to large-scale architecture

Miller agreed with Haggart that the convergence of new technologies, materials and methodologies could lead to a “new Bauhaus”.

The influential 20th century design school and movement embraced industrial production, but, according to Miller, we are only now beginning to be able to apply industrial processes to large-scale construction.

“If you look at the early modernists and this idea of ​​the kit of parts, it really comes back to them,” he said.

“But it was really just a design philosophy, wasn’t it? It was just kind of a way of thinking about the design process.”

“Here we are actually practicing that,” he continued. “We’re really starting to put this into practice. And we’re doing it because of the convergence of all of these elements. The technology, the manufacturing, the understanding of other industries. It’s really coming together.”


Content of the partnership

This article was written by Dezeen for Dassault Systèmes as part of a partnership. Learn more about the content of the Dezeen partnership here.

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