Industry special: wood and digital design tools – a disruption of ongoing design and construction


Construction employs around 7 percent of the world’s population. Globally, $ 10 trillion is spent annually on construction-related goods and services, accounting for 13% of global production. But the industry has a productivity problem.

With growing demand to build more affordable housing, accommodation and infrastructure – and deliver it better and faster – the construction industry in British Columbia is taking the lead in streamlining planning and technology to build. construction. And they do it with a centuries-old material available in abundance in our backyard: wood.

Today, an increasing number of prefabricated and modular wood projects are being built in British Columbia and beyond, taking advantage of modern manufacturing methods and technologies. Offsite construction continues to gain popularity, and companies in British Columbia find wood to be an ideal material when it comes to that more precise, factory-made approach to putting a building together like a kit of parts.

But to do this, companies must take advantage of innovations in digital design tools, such as building information modeling (BIM), design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA), 3D rendering software and augmented virtual reality (AVR). More and more, the industry is seeing buildings designed in software like Revit, a 3D modeling application. The files can then be converted to a format for computer numerical control (CNC) machines at the factory.

In some cases, solid wood projects can be challenged by building codes that can lead to the development of site-specific regulations and the proposal of alternative solutions. In these situations, BIM allows authorities and code consultants to clearly visualize the project and proposed solutions, thereby speeding up the approval process.

A new approach to the large 18-storey wood, a precedent Brock Commons Tallwood House at the University of British Columbia (UBC) was the heavy use of virtual design and construction (VDC) tools and methods. VDC is a subset of BIM primarily focused on the 3D geometric representation of a facility to support analysis for design and construction and can be particularly useful for large-scale solid timber projects. BIM allows the representation of the properties of different building elements that are linked to a database – almost like a taxonomy of building parts. This allows the creation of a project prototype that can be tested and simulated against performance criteria.

Brock Commons VDC preconstruction model at UBC
As the owner of the project, the university directly initially hired the modeling company VDC to be part of the project team, and the company’s modelers acted as facilitators throughout the development of the design. and construction. (rendered courtesy of CadMakers, images naturally: wood, photographer KK Law)

BIM can also help the installer and fabricator coordinate the delivery of structural elements. For Brock Commons, BIM was used to plan the delivery and unloading cycles of timber elements. This exercise helps prevent component misplacement and plan just-in-time delivery for construction sites where space is limited and items cannot be stored on-site, but are immediately erected and placed. .

A two-story mockup and 3D modeling allowed the design team to discuss, test and streamline the process prior to site assembly. The timber structure was completed in less than 70 days after the first prefabricated components arrived on site, four months faster than a typical project of this size, according to Fast + Epp, the structural engineering company of the project.

BIM excels when combined with Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) – a method of project delivery that integrates people, systems, structures and business practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses talents and ideas from all participating experts. As a member of this team, CADMakers, the dedicated VDC consultant, was involved from the start and throughout the project to continuously incorporate design iterations and updates informing the team of potential issues. The VDC model also functioned as a communication tool with the construction trades before the tender to clearly define the scope of the project. The overall result is a more seamless, efficient and often faster design and construction process.

Improved project collaboration and visualization are especially useful when new construction technologies such as solid wood are implemented. BIM enables multidisciplinary teams to identify challenges earlier and help overcome them with detailed and precise planning.

Read Learn more about the potential impacts of BIM and solid wood construction in a report from UBC’s BIM TOPiCs Research Lab.

This is an industry special by Naturally: Wood in conjunction with ConstructConnect® Media. To learn more about naturally: wood, visit


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