Author: B. Lewis (Arup)
1 March 2016
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B. Lewis (Arup)
The paper focuses on the building’s roof structure, which is completely free-form, architecturally defined by a 3D doubly-curved NURBS surface. The roof’s surface area is approximately 13 500m2 and is constructed from curved plate girders, each one unique. The roof’s geometry ranges from areas with a radius of curvature of approximately 500m, therefore relatively flat, to areas of high curvature with a radius of 5m or less.
This article describes how cutting edge parametric-based engineering techniques have been used to achieve the detailed design of 2500 complex steelwork connections for the exoskeleton of the new City of Dreams hotel in Macau, China. It discusses the tools, methodology and strategy employed by the engineering team to automate the difficult and time-consuming process of creating, verifying and documenting the geometrically challenging, large-scale steel connections using finite element methods within an ambitious timescale of just 12 months.
Not so long ago, a journalist asked me an interesting question: “Do you believe the work of the structural engineer can ever be replaced by artificial intelligence”. I think she was somewhat taken aback when I answered “Yes”. But before the esteemed readership of this magazine floods Verulam with missives of indignation, let me explain that I qualified my answer; I postulated that while almost all the technical work undertaken by structural engineers at every level could, in theory, be overtaken by artificial intelligence (and that it would be highly complacent of us as a profession to assume our more “left brained” tendencies were irreplaceable) the art of the structural engineer would always remain. Which begs the question, as structural engineers, what do we really mean by design? When I was at university over 30 years ago, much of our course work was taken up learning the hard, number-crunching ways of analysing structures, while “design” lessons generally involved practising the use of codes and standards to select and detail structural elements. For the 21st-century structural engineer, these are processes which can now be almost entirely automated. Our real value comes in understanding when and how to apply the increasingly complex tools at our disposal to deliver value and creativity to our clients and stakeholders. So in this special issue of The Structural Engineer, we set out to describe how far our profession has come, and where it might be going, in the development of digital design tools, and what this might mean for structural engineers of the future.
All the articles published in the March 2016 issue.