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Wind Force Modeling Using Tekla Structural Designer: A Case Study

Developers don’t usually look to bustling, iconic cities like London for vacant land on which to start projects. Even so, in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, city council chose to open up a stretch of riverside land in the Twickenham neighbourhood.

Council saw it as a way to revitalize that West London community. The Royal Institute of British Architects partnered with Richmond council to organize a competition inviting ideas to develop the site in ways that would support the neighbourhood.

One of the competitors was Cullinan Studio Architects, who proposed a community wellbeing centre. Cullinan asked Mason Navarro Pledge, a structural engineering firm, to assess the proposal’s feasibility.

3D Model To Determine Timber Structure’s Feasibility

Mason Navarro Pledge assigned structural engineer Juan Stenson to lead the modeling phase of the project. “Twickenham is such a beautiful part of London and I was surprised to find out there is that much free land there,” Stenson said. “We were tasked with creating the 3D model in order to determine whether the proposed timber design was structurally feasible in this environment.”

The structure’s most unique feature is its elaborate grid, formed of timber in a shape reminiscent of an oyster shell. The plan is to support the grid with a series of steel tree columns, and with anchors into a concrete roof deck.

The timber grid contains over 2,300 timber elements arranged to form a canopy 36 metres long and 12 metres high. “Use of a timber grid shell structure meant using complex shapes that were aesthetically interesting, but also had to be structurally feasible and buildable,” Stenson explained.

To complete the building information model (BIM), Stenson relied on Tekla Structural Designer. This application from Trimble enables engineers to realistically model wind force effects on proposed structures.

The engineering team needed to know that the wellbeing centre’s timber grid could withstand the wind force blowing in from the Thames. “A lot of people were surprised that we use Tekla Structural Designer for wood, but it’s very good at representing wind forces.” 

Tekla Structural Designer Good at Representing Wind Forces

“These types of structures can take off like a parachute if you’re not careful,” Stenson cautioned. “One of the great things about the software is that it will show you deflection and displacement. In other words, it will show you how far something could fall over depending on wind direction.”

“You just have to specify that a given panel is facing in a given direction, for example, and the software works out all the forces it will get hit by,” Stenson said. “It shows you around 250 different combinations of wind coming from various directions and on all sorts of axes.”

Stenson put in three long days using Tekla Structural Designer to upgrade the timber canopy design with secondary elements to create a fully functional wind model. Having established the lateral wind load, he could re-examine the canopy’s support foundations and reinforced concrete frame and identify areas for strengthening.

The proposal is one of five finalists in the competition at Richmond Council. It’s a distinctive design with a strong public appeal because of its views out across the river from the timber grid’s open yet sheltered space.

“This was by far the most complex and unusual structure I have ever worked on,” says Stenson. “It was a great experience, and the special recognition from Tekla is a nice acknowledgment of all the hard work.”

BuildingPoint Can Help

Whether your structures are complex and distinctive or traditional and functional, BuildingPoint, through its partnership with Trimble, can show you how to put the Tekla Structures suite of BIM software to work at your company to create, combine, manage, and share multi-material 3D models.

Tekla Structures’ constructibility, collaboration tools, and localized language support will enable your teams to streamline their project work. They’ll bring in more projects on time, within budget, and exceeding client expectations.

Why not reach out to our BuildingPoint Team today to discuss how Tekla Structures can bring constructible processes to your construction projects?

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