Structural Design Workflows

The reference model concept ensures the “security” of the architectural model and the structural model files, since each office remains responsible for his/her own model. Thus, the structural engineer receives a file from the architect, but does not modify it; he/she uses the architectural information as a basis for building up his own structural model. This occurs manually, using the tools of his own software, but automatic element conversion utilities also exist to speed up the process. Similarly, the architect leaves intact the file received from the structural engineer, while taking into account its suggestions for modeling load-bearing elements. This way, each discipline’s own file is independent of the one received as a reference.
The other approach to model-based exchange is to convert the other party’s model elements into the native format of one’s own application. The converted model is transformed according to the specifications of the recipient, so the original version of the model is not preserved. This approach is most typical of data exchange between architectural and analysis programs.
The architect works on the architectural model, based on her own design and on the client’s requirements. Already during the design phase, the architect should keep in mind that the model will later be exchanged with a structural engineer. For example, she can define the building elements’ structural function; define initial materials to be used; choose columns and beams with standard profiles; define the load bearing core of composite elements. In addition to this preparatory work, she can filter the model so as to narrow down the data to be exchanged: this way, only the structural model, containing just structural elements, will be exported. Naturally, the architect can export the entire architectural model, if the structural engineer’s program is capable of filtering and collecting the model data that he/she needs to work with.
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