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A London-based structural engineering consultant is using 4D CAD technology to communicate its designs more effectively to clients, contractors and the local community.

Engineers are often told how good communication is the key to the success of a project. From speaking effectively with team members to using computer software to convey concepts and construction methods.

London-based Edge Structures uses JetStream, developed by, NavisWorks (a subsidiary of Autodesk) to communicate construction issues using time-based Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

The program allows Edge to model the progress of a development against time so that the sequence of construction can be analysed more accurately – not just by the design team, but by the contractor, client, and anyone in the local community.

Edge Structures Associate, Paul James, explains how NavisWorks showed bus drivers operating around a busy North East town centre that their services would not be disrupted.

"One bus station was being demolished as the new one was being built. While that was happening, we had to show them how they would get around the town."

Because local town features could be modelled, the bus drivers could understand the construction phasing more easily.

"The next stage of this project is to show the local authority what's going to happen to their town centre. Everyone's got their own interests so it can be shown from various angles."

On a residential project in west London, the design team were able to show that using tower cranes instead of mobile cranes would allow better site access, significantly reducing the construction programme.

"It was a very tight site, very congested and all sorts of issues with access. So we modelled the whole lot and looked at the best place to put mobile or tower cranes," says James.

The upshot was that James could demonstrate that tower cranes could do the job with very few mobile cranes, resulting in a safer access route across the site for workers.

JetStream can also track the exact moment when individual elements are installed.

"You can see the cores going in, you can see straps going in, jacking beams, columns, and all the steelwork. It's really detailed stuff; every element in there is modelled," James adds.

But the real beauty in using this software is in its adaptability – it can accommodate shifts in the construction sequence.

Information from programme management software can be linked into NavisWorks.
Edge Structures director, John Westmuckett explains, "We just give each element in the [JetStream] program a tag. You then give it an extra attribute which can then link into the project management program."

James continues, "If you want to change something, say, move one building's construction [phase] forward or decide to do your sheet piling earlier, then you move that item forward in the program, then recreate the link to NavisWorks. Then you can see how the change you've just made affects the whole development," says James.

Normally people sit down with phasing drawings and project management software to look at how the development will play out over time. What we do is take that program and link it with NavisWorks, linking tasks to elements, and then create the video. You then see the building or development being built in real-time," says James.

Westmuckett adds: "When you can show a video of the site, see a building being demolished, and see site accommodation coming in, the cost implications of the overall project can become much clearer."

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