Dave Cooper visits the London Underground with Jaimie Johnston MBE from Bryden Wood

Exceptional Engineering for Tottenham Court Road Crossrail Station on the Newly Opened Elizabeth Line 

“The Future of Construction” series is part of Howick’s STEEL HORIZONS thought leadership initiative. It is our commitment to championing better ways to build and inspire the construction sector. Hosted by renowned construction industry online talk show host Dave Cooper, this series explores the world of high-tech advanced methods using real world case studies.

In episodes 1-3, Dave Cooper discusses offsite manufacturing with the team at British Offsite. In episodes 4-6, Dave explores digital-to-physical design with the team from Bryden Wood. Bryden Wood is a leader in the theory and practice of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), the Platform approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (P-DfMA), generative design, creative technologies, integrated design and automation in construction. In episode 4, he talks design automation with Phil Langley, Head of Creative Technologies, before discussing the impact of data on construction with Jaimie Johnston MBE, Head of Global Systems, in episode 5.

In this episode 6, Dave teams up again with Jaimie to visit the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail Station on the newly opened Elizabeth Line of the London Underground, to check out the impressive tunnel lining – a construction project only made possible with an advanced digital-to-physical workflow.



A masterpiece of modern engineering underneath London

Standing beneath the high-arching tunnel lining of the Tottenham Court Crossrail Station on the newly opened Elizabeth Line in London, Dave Cooper immediately recognises what most busy commuters miss.

“This is a really special project,” he says. With 27,000 perfectly aligned panels, the curving tunnel lining is nothing short of an engineering marvel.

“This is something that typically would not be able to be done by humans because of all the geometry and angles that are involved,” says Dave.

Optimising design and production with digital technology

From an original concept design that used heavy panels and mechanical lifting, Bryden Wood was asked how they could optimise the design, reduce the weight of all the components, and make the installation quicker and easier.

Using Solid Works software to build a complex 3D model of the tunnel, the team was able to solve challenges long before construction began. 

This led to early eureka moments like how to redesign the supporting structure to get back to zero tolerance. This was achieved by placing a rail under the ceiling to act as another fixed point, linking with the platform at the bottom. 

“You have then got completely fixed locations, and now you can fix the ladder frame that sits behind,” explains Jaimie.

“All of those points are now exactly where they're supposed to be, which means that the panels will now always fit.”  

A complete digital-to-physical workflow

“Once we had the Solid Works model with all that geometry, everything was then driven straight from that model. All the numbering of the components, the design of the moulds, the logistics, everything!”

Panels were 3D printed or CNC cut from the files, the support frame laser cut from thin steel, and all the fixing points laser-located. During the construction phase, the as-built tunnel was automatically compared with the as-designed plans to check for out-of-tolerance areas and identify where local adjustments needed to be made.

“You can imagine working down here if panels don't fit, that is a massive problem. So everything had to be very well coordinated, pre-kitted, and logistically controlled.”

“I'm not sure how we would've done it without being able to do the digital right,” says Jaimie.

Optimised design delivers lightning-fast installation

By simplifying and reducing the weight of all the substrate, the team also reduced the number of necessary fixings by a factor of 24. And, where the original design required every panel to be mechanically lifted, now most could be lifted into place by hand. 

“Stripping out material means there is less cost, there is less carbon, and you can get more loads and more panels for the same amount of material, which is a huge benefit.”

With a team of just five installers, panels were fixed in place so fast the facility making the panels had to open a second factory to keep up.

“The team was incredibly fast because they weren't having to adjust every individual panel. They were tearing through these things. Out of the 27,000 panels, I don't think we had any that didn't fit the first time.”

Key savings

  • 58% reduction in weight
  • 96% reduction in the number of fixings
  • 46% reduction in the total quantity of parts

*Source: Bryden Wood analysis  



STEEL HORIZONS is a thought-leadership initiative launched by Howick Ltd. As a pioneer and world leader in light gauge steel, we are passionate about the possibilities of technology, automation and data; and about bringing together the brightest minds in the offsite and modular industry to collaborate and inspire each other.

If you are interested in accessing videos and presentations from our 2022 UK event, simply click here and join us.

Click here to see this interview and visit the Tottenham Court Road Station with Jaimie Johnston MBE from Bryden Wood

February 2023   #Features