Digital architecture techniques make building a breeze

digital architecture, the venture magazineImagine how much faster construction could be if you could make a 3D scan of a building, make a computer model of the entire structure, then create a new building in prefabricated modular blocks. What if inspectors could virtually walk through buildings to point out any compliance issues or design flaws? Those are all reality, and it’s part of how digital architecture is disrupting the construction industry. Computers have had a key role in construction for decades, but digitalisation is making life a lot easier for builders and taking things to a new level.

3D scanning & printing

Whether you need to retrofit, refurbish, or simply do routine maintenance on an existing building, 3D laser scanning can deliver a full, more accurate picture of parts or entire structures much faster than traditional surveying. A 3D laser scan can help reverse engineer objects without the cycles of trial and error that are normally a drag on such projects.

Companies such as Laser Scanning Australia, 3D Scanning Australia, and National Survey Solutions help with life cycle management and quality control for existing and new builds. The Sydney Build Expo taking place 19 and 20 March will for the first time feature a geospatial summit at the digital construction zone, with a discussion of 3D scanning and 3D laser mapping.

digital architecture, the venture magazineBy measuring one data point at a time, 3D laser scanners create a “point cloud,” which can be loaded into modelling software to show what new additions would look like laid over an existing structure. These models can be loaded into virtual and augmented reality headsets that workers wear as they build, giving them an interactive blueprint to assist in their task.

The Sydney Build Expo’s disruptive technology summit will include a panel on 3D printing of buildings, which represents the next wave in digital architecture, increasing production times by up to 300 per cent. Perth-based Mirreco is working on a way to 3D print homes from hemp-based material that would capture carbon. Mirreco envisions building larger scale structures with CO2 hotspots that will enable companies to offset their emissions in CBDs.

“We’ve developed a technology that can capture and store carbon … people are going crazy about timber, but the fastest trees grow in about 20 years,” Mirreco chief executive Rich Evans told The Fifth Estate. “We can achieve the same thing in around three months.”

Building Information Modelling

Once taken, the 3D laser scans are turned into building information models (BIM) which can be shared among various stakeholders to reach a consensus on how to proceed with construction. This digital architecture allows input on maintenance and emergency management before any physical changes are made, ensuring that mistakes can be caught and corrected without costly alterations. The BIM process also makes prefabrication easy, allowing builders to plug and play, constructing buildings at a rapid pace.

The Sydney Build Expo will feature a BIM stage and summit with topics such as case studies on the use of BIM in hospital construction and AECOM’s Cesare Caoduro speaking on how the technology can facilitate construction of digital cities. There will also be a focus on digital twins, modular building, and BIM’s role in the 3D printing of sustainable homes. BVN design technology coordinator Maciej Wypych will speak to the Australian construction industry’s readiness for 4D and 5D BIM adoption.

Using BIM data to simulate the entire life cycle of a structure, companies such as Veris can save money in the short term with faster construction but also in the long term by planning for problems that will arise years in the future. Whilst the sharing of data makes many aspects of construction easier, it also presents legal challenges, particularly in regard to intellectual property. Law firms such as Kreisson specialise in drafting contracts that account for the unique aspects of digital architecture.

Computer-Aided Design 

A companion to BIM is computer-aided design (CAD), which gives architects and engineers the ability to update drawings and drafts on the fly. This capability enables late-stage changes without the headaches that normally accompany them. CAD 3D modelling can create realistic representations of structures that reduce errors due to miscommunication, eliminating costly delays once projects are underway. LEAP Australia uses a trio of CAD solutions (Creo, Rhinoceros, and SpaceClaim) to provide scalable design. CAD Design Australia offers original digital architecture and performs conversions.

digital architecture, the venture magazineWith custom software and industry focussed problem-solving, CAD Solutions can generate 3D mesh designs from photos and/or LiDAR images in what they call Context Capture to show in detail what a finished structure will look like in its surroundings, making for an impressive presentation tool.

With projects such as Sydney’s Sandstone Precinct and the Westin Hotel Perth under their belt, Ridley, a division of Willow, have proven the ability of digital architecture to transform the face of cities quickly and efficiently, something that will be of growing importance in the cities of the future.