Digital design unlocks project value
Digital design is a broad term that embraces many specialisms. Our advanced digital expertise falls into roughly two areas: the work we do working with BIM, and the work we do with computational design. What unites our digital capabilities is a commitment to value. We believe that collectively – as an industry – we have only begun to scratch the surface of what these tools can offer. Much of our most exciting R&D work is happening in this field.
Driving innovation in the best practice use of BIM
Building Information Modelling, or BIM, is the use of a single, integrated 3D model throughout the design and construction life cycle of a project. Useful for clash detection and integration of disciplines, BIM is quickly becoming an industry-standard practice, though individual approaches to it differ widely.
We have long been fluent in the use of Rhino, Bentley MS, Revit and other modelling software, and 3D analysis is well embedded in our design culture. More recently we have pioneered the integrated use of laser scanning with other modelling techniques within the BIM environment. We call this Laser Aided Modeling, or LAM. Network Rail appointed us to assess the impact upon London Bridge Station of the Shard construction programme. Using laser scanning combined with finite element 3D modelling, we were able to predict likely ground movement at various stages in the planned programme to within a millimetre.
Our BIM specialists are also making strides in the development of a fourth dimension within BIM, developing data capture and modelling processes that can support long term asset management.
Cutting-edge computational engineering solves previously unsolvable problems
Advanced computational design involves using digital intelligence to create more optimised, buildable and sustainable structures than would have been possible using traditional engineering techniques. The Ramboll Computational Design team is one of the few dedicated teams in the industry actively working in this field. Their work is founded in the new computer-based engineering languages that have emerged in recent years, and whose potential has only begun to be explored. They have created numerous software scripts and programmes to solve previously unsolvable engineering problems.
Many of the scripts they use are directly inspired by insights from the natural and physical sciences. For example the Genetic Algorithm Solver is a modelling script inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution. It uses the process of evolution, where successive generations of individuals (or data sets) are assessed against a fitness criterion, then 'evolve' through their progeny to achieve a higher fitness rating. Thus a series of successive variations in structural form can be assessed against a relevant performance criterion until the most efficient form is identified. This is one example – many of the RCD's other digital tools apply a similar principle. They use computer intelligence to 'evolve' a structure through a series of infinitesimally divergent variations until the best-adapted solution is achieved. This is very often a solution that could not have been realised by any other means.
"Digital tools don’t replace basic design instincts – they are an incredibly useful enhancement of these. It takes an intelligent engineer, and also a well-structured business, to understand when and how to use one digital tool instead of another, and how to unite the strengths of different tools to create real project value." Stephen Melville, Director