Leading the Field in Solid Timber Structures:
How Digital Modelling and Design Keeps Eurban Ahead of the Pack
Eurban is an independent UK-based company leading the field in the design, manufacture and assembly of solid timber structures. In 2003, it became the first company to endorse cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction as a high-quality, efficiency-optimised building system in the UK. Recognising the benefits CLT could offer not only to the design and construction industries but also to the aesthetics of the built environment, Eurban established a specialised design, manufacture and installation process which now serves a global market. Its collection of completed solid timber buildings outnumbers that of any other UK company, and its in-house expertise spans both design and installation services. Eurban uses a virtual process for design from the inception stage of any building information modelling-based (BIM-based) project. It develops computer numerical control (CNC) digital models for manufacture and subsequent on-site assembly.
In terms of software, Eurban uses Autodesk Revit for design, a range of other solutions for fabrication and Autodesk Navisworks to visualise the build digitally. Using Autodesk software makes sense to Eurban, primarily because it enables them to generate high-quality drawings, documents and digital models.
On any project, in whatever format the architect chooses to send a design, Eurban always models the scheme in Autodesk Revit. It then develops its own 3D model of the CLT structure and uses it for detailing, before splitting it into different panels/modules for fabrication and manufacturing. Eurban uses CAD software from another supplier for the fabrication process, then links that panelised model back into the original model and uses Revit to generate instructions of how to build and assemble the main construction itself. It uses Autodesk Navisworks to better visualise the 3D models and designs and makes use of Autodesk BIM360 collaboration software. Global BIM and EAM consultancy and Autodesk reseller Microdesk provides just-in-time training and staff support throughout Eurban’s projects.
Software Implementation, BIM Level 2 Consulting
Structural timber design in practice – a campus project in Cambridgeshire
Eurban works across a wide spectrum of the construction industry in both the public and private sectors and clients range from County Councils to large private construction companies. In 2019 Eurban completed its largest project to date with Frank Shaw Architects and Kier Eastern as Principal Contractors. Northstowe Education Campus located North West of Cambridge has just been awarded the Education Project of the Year at the Structural Timber Awards. The project consisted of 3 main buildings – the Energy Centre, the Secondary School and a Special Educational Needs Centre (SEN). It was built in an extraordinarily fast period of time, this was possible thanks to incredibly efficient use of BIM by the teams delivering the buildings.
As Eoin McCooey, Associate and BIM Manager at Eurban said: “The Northstowe project is a great example of how we use Autodesk tools to design, engineer and deliver projects. The main contractor, Kier Eastern has a robust understanding of BIM, evident from its BIM Execution Plans (BEP), allowing all disciplines to start out on the right foot. Once the architects had completed the stage 3 architectural design, we stepped in to carry out the timber and structural engineering. Utilising Revit’s geo-coordinate systems and other workflow tools to allow models to be built from each other, we could inherit the elements needed and replace them in the required structure. Our model is effectively a structural twin of the architects’ layouts, with MEP openings automatically coordinated from the M&E consultants.
“All the coordination was done in 3D,” he continued. “We shared 3D models with each other and did clash detections in Navisworks. With the whole building then coordinated in Revit on Kier’s internal Common Data Environment which hosts models and suites of drawings as they are issued and signed off. Then, that took us over into panelising it, and effectively conducting the fabrication design and the assembly.”
Microdesk has supported the Autodesk software used by Eurban on the project. As Eurban’s active design solutions partner, it has provided expert consultancy on what a BIM Level 2 project entails and has conducted health checks on models used by Eurban for structural design and engineering. This work is just one aspect of the ongoing support and mentoring on Autodesk products and BIM processes which Microdesk provides to Eurban on a daily basis.
Gauging the benefits
The Northstowe project is one key example of how the use of Autodesk software has benefitted Eurban. More generally, Eurban has reaped significant rewards from the use of Revit in particular.
As McCooey explains: “One of the key benefits of Autodesk Revit for us is its ability to produce good quality production drawings that capture the essence of the digital model. We see the model as a very important means of both generating a good package of information and extracting accurate data that is used as the project develops. This ensures that any design progression is recorded accurately and that it can be priced accordingly for manufacture and delivery.”
“Revit is also a great way of delivering BIM Level 2 projects, he added. “You can develop a template to suit different BEP requirements, ensuring your model and associated suite of drawings comply, while also using the same information to clearly define what your scope is and what you are offering as a package. It’s important that we are able to show the clients what we are delivering, and Revit helps us to do that.”
As Eurban deploys the design software on structural engineering projects today, Microdesk continues to play an important supporting role in supplying software, testing design models and, not least in providing well-informed expert training sessions. The two companies have worked together looking at developing BIM lifecycle best practices in a way Eurban can use with design and modelling software, this will help to drive efficiencies further in the future. The findings of this review have been incorporated into bespoke training programmes which Microdesk runs regularly with the Eurban team.
Looking to the future, Eurban is dedicated to continue leading the way in the design, manufacture and assembly of solid timber structures. Autodesk software and the support of Microdesk will be instrumental in helping it to achieve this goal.