Company: AutodeskCustomer: LaingSubmitted by: The WhiteOaks ConsultancyThe design and construction industry has been using CAD applications for many years, but until now has been unable to enjoy the luxury of a single model environment. Autodesk’s Architectural Desktop Release 2 (ADT2) and 3D Studio VIZ, which work interoperably with third party software and other databases, now make the single model environment achievable.Operating in the UK for more than 150 years, Laing is one of the top five construction companies in the country. With a staff of 8,000 world-wide and a turnover exceeding US$2.

5bn, it provides project development, financing, construction and design service both in the UK and overseas. Recently, Laing has also been responsible for some exciting and high profile construction projects, including the Millennium Dome at Greenwich and the Second Severn Crossing.”The need to move towards computer generated graphics was identified as long ago as the mid 1970s” says Mervyn Richards, Senior CADD consultant who has worked at Laing for 28 years. “More recently we have recognised that Autodesk’s solutions achieve a fully integrated approach from design through to construction into client aftercare.”It used to be the case,” he continues, “that the industry software was incompatible and needed to be re-keyed into different applications.

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This is no longer necessary as ADT2 generates graphic and non-graphic information which enable the sharing of data, thus enabling different applications to talk to one another.”

What is a Single Model Environment?

This allows an electronic representation of a building to be created in 3D. Ensuring that information is not subject to inaccuracies that may occur when being passed between the various groups who need to view it in the design – build – operate life cycle of construction. The other major advantage is that it covers every detail that is needed in any project small or large (which in the case of Laing may total several thousand) and housed on a central computer in one easy-to-understand 3D model.

Half the work and half the cost

The Laing relationship with Autodesk is now well established, a sixth generation CAD user, it previously used AutoCAD R14. In a comparative test using the existing application and then switching to the new ADT2 software on a project where the building was 10 times the size, Laing found that the cost was halved, demonstrating that not only does the new Autodesk software increase efficiency but also delivers exceptional savings.

In a separate study carried out by Salford University for BAA Lynton on a low rise office building at Stansted Airport, major savings on construction costs were identified by using a 3D CAD model during the design phase.

The new face of Basingstoke

The ADT2 system is now being used very effectively for the £110m refurbishment of Basingstoke town centre. As project manager, Laing presented the savings and the long-term benefits to the client, Grosvenor and were instructed to proceed using the new Autodesk 3D Visualisation package. For Richards, “the ability to see evidence of any potential problems before construction starts could cut costs, so you can see why we are so excited about it.”Over the past 20 years Laing has adopted many innovative solutions and the re-development of Basingstoke’s town centre area is the first time that all of these systems have been brought together. Formerly a 1960’s development, it was recognised that Basingstoke needed radical change if it was to keep up with the needs of the 21st century.

“Using a single model environment for a comprehensive development of this kind was the only way to go,” says David Clarke, construction industry specialist at Autodesk. “However, it is very unforgiving in that you can’t hide bad design. It looks at all aspects – health and safety, security, free-flowing traffic – all in 3D.””Addressing matters such as traffic flow by simulating deliveries and putting security at the forefront of the design process for example will also help businesses and investors in the area. In effect, shopkeepers can walk around areas that they need to see and look at every aspect of the design to check that it fulfils their needs before it is built.

“”With 85% of the costs of a development of this nature in the running and subsequent upkeep of the buildings,” points out Clarke, “any effort to cut costs is crucial. A 3D model of this kind enables design changes to be almost instantaneous, pinpointing problems and solving them at the push of a button.”

Other benefits

Autodesk applications are well established throughout the construction industry. AutoCAD for example is used by 70% of the Laing project supply chain, which ensures that they are able to communicate effectively with a large majority of clients.Additionally, there are other Autodesk application programmes which have been written to interface with ADT2. “Many of these applications are not only for building,” confirms Richards, “they also enable us at Laing to look at the things on the ground, allowing us to cover the total project and put us in a position to detect construction problems before they occur.

We can also write our own software if necessary, which creates an excellent environment for further development.””ADT2 has opened up the ability to attach additional non-visual information,” he continues. “For example, you can dictate that a door is made of wood or steel or a wall is brick or block. By subsequently extracting this information, it enables us to produce material schedules for buyers, again saving time and money.”The Autodesk VIZ application allows the user to add textures, colours and finishes, producing walkthroughs and photo-quality imagery, giving designers the freedom to view the final effects within seconds – all within the single model environment.Where next? “The Single Model Environment may have encountered scepticism in the past as it was once thought to be impossible to achieve,” says Richards.

“Now that it is live and working in a successful and sizeable project at Laing we will be using the same methods on our future developments.”