BEng graduates want design programs to communicate with each other

Friday 23 Mar 18


Jan Karlshøj
Head of section, Associate Professor
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 17 11


Erik Falck Jørgensen
Senior ICT Officer
+45 93 51 09 00
Two BEng graduates in Architectural Engineering pave the way for a new work process where data exchange between modeling and static calculation programs can minimize both time consumption and the risk of errors.

Once a building project commences, the employees involved work with several different design programs throughout the project life cycle. These design programs often has difficulties to exchanging data for interdisciplinary use. For example, the architects work in one program when they model a building, while the engineers work in another program to perform static calculations for the same building.

At present, there are more or less efficient methods for exchanging data between two or more programs. However, these methods require some degree of interaction with people, resulting in delays in work processes, and increased consumption of resources. Every time an interaction involves people, it also increases the risk of errors. There is therefore a great need for digital automation of data transfers from one program to another.

In order to solve this problem, two BEng graduates — Anders Patrick Woetmann Andersen and Kasper Nøhr Madsen — decided to examine how to streamline the development and design process in the early phase of a building project. 

Direct data exchange reduces resource consumption and errors

The idea of trying to make the programs communicate with each other arose in an ongoing dialogue with the engineering consultancy firm Orbicon, where Anders Patrick Woetmann Andersen was an intern. Here, both parties saw an opportunity to improve the work processes in building projects.

"Our project is basically about utilizing the resources inherent in the computer rather than having people spend time on this"
Kasper Nøhr Madsen

“It can be a problem when you must handle several different models in a project and ensure that their data are all up-to-date and identical. This requires many resources and a lot of time,” explains Anders Patrick Woetmann Andersen.  

He and Kasper Nøhr Madsen therefore decided that—in their final project—they would examine whether it was possible to exchange data directly between two different programs, thereby avoiding time-consuming and faulty manual updating. 

The method they have chosen to use is called Computational Engineering/Design and takes place in a visual programming environment in which nodes are connected forming a graph.

In this case, the two BEng graduates have chosen to use the visual programming tool Dynamo as the link to exchange data between the modeling program Revit and the calculation program FEM-Design. The two programs are widely used in many consulting firms throughout the world.

By using Dynamo as a link between the two programs, employees only have to make the changes in one place and once for all, after which Dynamo ensures that the corresponding models are kept up to date. This minimizes both time consumption and the risk of errors.

“Our project is basically about utilizing the resources inherent in the computer rather than having people spend time on this,” says Kasper Nøhr Madsen.

Tested on a real model

In connection with the project, Orbicon made a building model available to Anders Patrick Woetmann Andersen and Kasper Nøhr Madsen. It made it possible to test their theory on a real model.

The two BEng graduates agree that the project collaboration with Orbicon has been very instructive. One of the advantages was that they had the opportunity to work with a larger—and more complex—model than they would have been able to construct themselves.

In order to communicate the results from this project as effectively as possible, the results are now being entered at the digital platform where the rest of the world participates in the work with and development of Dynamo. Here, all those working with Dynamo share their problems and solutions, so that more users—and society in general—can benefit from them. 

The calculation program FEM-Design is a program by the software development company StruSoft. StruSoft has contributed in the development of automation of data exchange between programs. The results from Anders Patrick Woetmann Andersen’s and Kasper Nøhr Madsen’s project have been incorporated in the latest version of FEM-Design, so that everyone can now work with a far more automated process via, for example, Dynamo.

Large-scale implementation on the way

The two BEng graduates have come a long way in showing that Computational Engineering/Design can be a benefit to engineering firms; however, they emphasize that their project results do not constitute an overall solution, but are rather an attempt at illustrating a possibility, which can subsequently be implemented on a larger scale.

Two MSc students in Civil Engineering have therefore decided to follow up on the results from Anders Patrick Woetmann Andersen’s and Kasper Nøhr Madsen’s project. In their MSc thesis, they will examine how Computational Engineering/Design can be used in securing buildings against collapse in connection with, for example, fire or other unintended incidents, where the load bearing function of building components is reduced.

Their focus is on robustness analysis, in which they will use the automation possibilities of Computational Engineering/Design by systematically removing load bearing structures in a building and calculating the consequences thereof for the safety of the building. Calculations which are, at present, very resource-intensive, as they cannot be made using automated calculation. 

In order to achieve the desired results, StruSoft also participates in this work, and several results are already on the way to the users of FEM-Design in the next version of the tool.

  • Dynamo is an open-source platform supported by Autodesk, which is the company behind many modeling tools used worldwide.
  • Data exchange between programs is one perspective of the work with Building Information Modeling (BIM), which covers digitization of the processes that form the life cycle of a building. In the BIM concept, the focus is on linking geometry and information together in a way that creates as much value as possible for the participants in the individual disciplinary fields. At international level, the buildingSMART organization seeks to standardize attributes data, processes, and concepts, so that all the tools included in the BIM concept can communicate with each other.