Digital design is a crucial element of design within offsite construction. The use of BIM to enable 3D/4D modelling and testing makes it much simpler to envisage a range of aspects in relation to the way the structure will perform and function at design stage. Professionals working within the design function need an understanding of onsite construction, manufacturing, assembly processes, as well as a practical understanding of how a range of products will be installed is also required.
Historically technical skills typically include:
- BIM-enabled design
- Creating 3D models
- Developing a value proposition (cost, durability, low carbon, aesthetic)
- Digital design software use e.g. AutoCAD, Revit
- Digital skills (e.g. scheduling and specific IT)
- Generating 2D fabrication drawings and site drawings
- Obtaining prices and dealing with variations
- Producing product/service specifications
- Reading technical drawings
- Risk assessment
However, for success in the offsite environment additional technical skills will need to be established, for example logistics as well as cost and quality will need to be considered at an early stage, as designers will need to consider not only the robustness of materials but the ease in which they can be transported.
The design function need a solid understanding of the range of materials and their different applications, for example light gauge thin steel does not shrink during the construction process, unlike timber, but conducts heat, so insulation need to be taken into account.
As the construction industry embraces new techniques and technology, professionals working within the sector will need to review and scale up their skills in order to maintain relevancy, it’s an exciting period of change, which may well change the image of the sector in a very positive manner.