Structural change

We often talk about “smart” design and “value” engineering. The concept of DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) drills down into the mechanics of smart engineering solutions. Its intrinsic value can be uncovered when there is an understanding of the repercussions of each design decision. Meanwhile the key to realising the benefits is in undertaking holistic design early in the design process.

“The value of DfMA is uncovered when there is a collaborative approach, and conversely it remains concealed when projects are engineered in isolation.”

Below are some pointers worth noting in terms of effective design thinking:

  • Know the drivers: e.g. How will my material selection affect the transportation of the structure?
  • Collaborate: e.g. Can my structural members serve a dual purpose in the structure?
  • Investigate and learn: e.g. Do I fully understand the manufacturing process?
  • Ask multiple questions: e.g. Do I have an understanding of the supplier’s/fabricator’s capabilities?

The value of DfMA is uncovered when there is a collaborative approach, and conversely it remains concealed when projects are engineered in isolation. The challenge for DfMA is to resist the temptation to design as “business as usual” without truly understanding and appreciating the constraints and drivers for a project. This of course can, in some instances, be hampered by fees; so it becomes our challenge to sell the value of DfMA and smart engineering. Our industry has a responsibility to challenge any commoditisation of engineering as it is the natural enemy of cleverly engineered solutions.

Design optimisation requires an appreciation of components outside of one’s field of expertise. For example, a structural engineer will need to consider the requirements from other fields such as electrical, mechanical, fire engineering, transportation companies and so on. It is hoped that the the proposed future Model Code for the Design of Modular Structures will serve to demystify the design of off-site or modular structures. Whilst we know that the laws of physics remain the same, it is hoped that this new document will assist in addressing the unknowns that might prevent engineers from attempting off-site construction. 

This article first appeared in BUILT offsite

ASSOCIATE, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER

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