Amr Raafat explores how computational design and prefab open up creative construction

⏱️ 4 min read

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How are we paving the way for industrialised construction to become the future standard in our industry?

It is a question that Amr Raafat, Chief Innovation Officer at Windover Construction, is on a mission to answer. He has been travelling the world and interviewing industry leaders to find out how the trailblazers are thinking outside the construction box.

As a two-time winner of the Autodesk Award for Excellence for Accelerating Transformation, Amr knows what it takes.

Stop 3 - Las Vegas, USA

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In his latest travels, Amr heads to Las Vegas to explore how building information modelling (BIM), generative design and prefabrication are coming together to unlock the potential for ever more creative build concepts – including the MSG Sphere in Vegas. 

Here, he talks to two pioneering partners leading the way with light steel construction technology: STUD-IO founder and CEO Scott Mitchell and Howick's own, CEO Nick Coubray.

Making complex build concepts tangible

Translating ambitiously complex build concepts into tangible realities is at the heart of the STUD-IO proposition.

Scott and his team are experts at computational design and prefabrication. The software they have developed is the most versatile in the world for steel fabrication, allowing them to compute highly complex design requirements for precision manufacture with their Howick machines. 

Complex projects tend to get made twice” says Scott. “People go out, build it, get something wrong, try to re-do it, and eventually land on something that’s working. With our process, everything is automated. There’s no human error with the fabrication or the assembly. The real sustainability aspect is you just build the building once. It’s right first time!”.

This approach was key in the MSG Sphere build. STUD-IO was challenged to maintain design integrity but decrease costs for the Sphere’s Collar. Using BIM and computational design, they rationalised the curving, twisting surface of the Collar into accurate individual framing components that could be assembled quickly onsite, with no wastage or rework.

MSG Sphere - Geometry Analysis from STUDIO on Vimeo.


MSG Sphere - Fab/Assembly/Install from STUDIO on Vimeo.


Accuracy the key advantage to roll-formed steel

Labour shortages and building costs are a major influence for the uptake in prefab and offsite construction, says Nick. The increased accuracy provides benefits throughout the build process. The biggest outcome is the reduction in timelines - the associated costs and efficiencies it provides.

"All of a sudden, you start saving three and five days here and there. So the project can be shortened up hugely." he says.

In one recent project, the developers reduced installation times significantly for a 16-floor hotel using Howick's telescopic stud system. 

“[For the bulk heads] it was taking 7 days per floor. We reduced that to 2 days per floor.” 

Overcoming misconceptions with prefab

“There is a misconception that with prefab, everything has to be in boxes. That is kind of a historical thing.” Says Nick. 

Next-generation software like what STUD-IO has developed is changing what can be done with roll-forming steel technology. It is empowering architects to build more complex geometries. 

One project in Auckland Nick highlights as an example has 39 different curved walls each with different radiuses. It is unlikely they would have been able to achieve that historically.

Amr's company, Windover Construction, also experienced similar time savings when they used Howick’s telescopic studs to transform a 100-year-old building into affordable housing in Boston, Massachusetts. 

For architects and builders wanting to explore what is possible with prefabrication, Nick has some simple advice.

"Come to some of the conferences and talk to people about what they're doing. We find most of our customers are reasonably open. There are lots of amazing things coming too."

Interested to find out more? Read the full article and see the interviews with Scott and Nick here.


April 2024   #Features