Aurecon Insights | Non-structural element bracing design and assessment for buildings using automated design by Stephen Hogg


Using automation to design seismic resilience into NSEs

Past earthquake events have shown that even if the primary structure is intact, building reoccupation is most often prevented by the systemic failure of inadequate non-structural fit-out restraint systems. Improved building performance in large seismic events can be achieved to match owner and tenant expectations of new designs and their reliance on structural building assessments.


About designing with non-structural building elements (NSEs)

Following earthquake events in New Zealand between 2010 and 2016 and the subsequent increased awareness of seismic risk, there has been significant interest in the seismic performance of buildings.

Developing an automated design procedure for vertical load support and seismic bracing of non-structural building elements (NSEs) within a 3D Revit model provides a coordinated approach to allow seismic bracing of NSEs to be integrated into the structural engineer’s design documentation for commercial buildings. This approach can greatly improve design coordination, build quality, building safety, and seismic damage reduction.

A building that includes well-coordinated and designed NSEs provides high levels of confidence to reoccupy soon after an earthquake, giving owners and occupiers better chances of business continuity closely following a significant seismic event.

Past earthquake events have shown that suspended services and ceilings are susceptible to damage and collapse, which causes significant disruption to building reoccupation soon after earthquake events, where the primary structure is intact and a building safe for reoccupation.

A better approach to the design of these elements is possible by the integration of the services restraint design into the overall design documentation. An automated design approach can provide coordinated and accurate design at a fraction of the effort of traditional sub-contractor design and build methodology.

Detailed seismic assessment of buildings can also benefit from an automated methodology applied to building assessment. The assessment of building services seismic restraint is most often overlooked during building assessment, yet the damage resulting from an earthquake can amount to 70 per cent of the building’s value in some cases.

It is proposed that seismic assessment of NSEs a logical next step in detailed building assessment. An approach to automating building seismic assessment of NSEs can be undertaken by integrating an automated design methodology in Revit and Dynamo with comparative as-built conditions discovered with point cloud scanning and structured data of a digital twin enhanced by machine learning.

What’s inside?

This thinking paper will consider how automated design of seismic restraint to non-structural building elements can be included in the structural design and documentation process and how this automation may improve the resilience of NSEs to enable early building reoccupation after a large earthquake.

A literature review will study the NSE failures documented after significant earthquake events in New Zealand. This review will look at how automated design using Dynamo is integrated with Revit and how seismic restraint design and assessment for NSEs can be automated.

The review will include a detailed analysis of three case studies, an interview with a project manager responsible for preparing a structural engineering request for proposal, an interview with an insurance broker, and interviews with design engineering staff within Aurecon familiar with Revit software and point cloud surveying.

This thinking paper will introduce how a new approach, using automated design processes, can be used in the seismic assessment of existing buildings. Seismic assessments ordinarily only assess the primary structure and parts of the building that may have a life safety risk.

NSEs are generally overlooked but proven poor performance suggests that building owners, occupiers, and insurers could benefit from more comprehensive assessment tools.

Techniques for the assessment of NSEs are covered in the New Zealand Engineering Assessment Guidelines Part C10, released in 2017. This thinking paper will guide the assessment of secondary structural and NSEs in buildings.

About the author

Stephen Hogg is a Principal, Buildings at Aurecon. He is a creative designer and proven expert at transferring structural concept design into top-quality working drawings, with extensive experience reviewing drawings for buildability. He is a strong advocate of new technologies in seismic resilient design, specialising in low damage design and base isolation of buildings.

About Aurecon Design Academy

Aurecon Design Academy is Aurecon’s flagship learning program for technical mastery. A major component of the Aurecon Design Academy is the individual project-based research paper. The research involved developing technical innovation and application methods for an actual project through experimentation, prototyping and human-centred design. This research paper is the result of such a project and authored by an Aurecon Design Academy graduate.

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