Firm Profile: Newtecnic AECbytes Profile (July 24, 2018)

Newtecnic, a multidisciplinary building engineering with multiple locations and projects around the world, shares its perspective on AEC technology in this Firm Profile.

What is the history and background of the firm?

Newtecnic was founded in 2003 to design-engineer high-profile, complex projects in countries around the world, often in remote locations. The company has expanded and currently has 4 US offices (in San Jose, Atlanta, LA and Austin), 3 in the UK, and one in Saudi Arabia. The firm plans to open in further US and other locations over the coming months.

On projects of regional and national importance, Newtecnic works from first principles to deliver validated design-engineering that simplifies complexity. This helps reduce risk and bring assurance to projects. That means they are delivered on time, within budget and to very high levels of quality. Fully resolved façade component, assembly and fabrication designs, and assured building methods, achieve the realization of these goals.

The company also researches, develops, and validates new building methods to ensure that components, fabrications and the whole building, can be delivered and assembled on time and within budget. This is achieved through the use of advanced and integrated cloud hosted 3D digital-twin design and analysis technology throughout the design process.

What is the firm's current focus? What are the key projects it is working on?

The firm is focused on high profile, complex projects on an increasing scale (Figure 1). These include:

  • The King Abdullah Financial District Metro Hub (KAFD) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • The City Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Central Bank of Iraq, Baghdad
  • Küçük Çamlıca TV (KCTV) Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Grand Theatre de Rabat, Morocco

The firm is also design-engineering futuristically conceived housing in Australia and a commercial centre in Riyadh.

Figure 1. Some of the projects around the world that Newtecnic is working on.

When did the firm start using AEC technology, and how is it being used today? How important is AEC technology to the firm?

Newtecnic has been using AEC technology from day one and continues to challenge and push the limits of technology to achieve ever more ambitious and integrated façade and MEP designs. The firm is always eager to experience new developments and innovations in unified 3D design that enable multi-dimensional design together with CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and FEA (Finite Element Analysis).

Digital technology is used to realize, visualize and communicate designs that cannot be faithfully reproduced by any other means. This is crucial and central to Newtecnic’s current and future work because when complex curved structures are accurately simulated, positive outcomes become more certain while risk is reduced. Deploying a digital 3D also helps create the rules and methods that enable accurate communication throughout project value chains (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The use of 3D models in the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) Metro Hub project.

Newtecnic develops its own algorithms to unify data from normally separate sources. This provides data covering main structure, façade and MEP. These 3 factors are then considered together, and their interactions and relationships combined to generate designs. In practice, that means for example, air-flow and shading, structural integrity and flexibility and any other inter-relationships including climate, wind load, acoustics, seismic activity, and material behaviors over time, can be combined to develop very sophisticated views of the big picture and all of its details. Additionally, air permeability, insulation, energy performance, and embodied energy can be factored in to drive the design.

Generative design, which automatically creates designs based on function related physics, is introduced to projects to develop new exciting geometry that often mimics nature’s forms. The progress of automated generative design is unstoppable as 3D simulation technology makes component and system manufacturing simpler and more efficient and productive.

The company devotes considerable resources to investigating the physics of junctions between components. By understanding the physical and thermal relationships between, for example, concrete and steel fixings, designs are developed to be stronger, lighter and more elegant. In many projects, the components are not hidden behind panels but form the aesthetic of the building. Generative design technology is deployed to make these components more slender and graceful as part of the design optimization process.

3D printing and additive manufacturing are also deployed to accurately reproduce physical forms from digital designs. This is important in the communication of designs and ideas as well as to check the physical properties of digital prototypes.

Does the firm have a specific approach and/or philosophy to AEC technology? If so, what is it?

Newtecnic’s approach to AEC technology is to create a 3D digital-twin of each project that acts as an evolving store of knowledge and know how. This allows issues to be recognized, fully understood and solved during the pre-building stage. That, in turn, lets new ideas, methods, aesthetics and solutions to emerge and be developed and refined.

Technology also enables Newtecnic to drive design through engineering requirements, to look at design in new ways, and to validate innovations at the earliest stages of their development.

This enables greater creative confidence because optimization is assured throughout the design process. That means that designs are buildable and that engineering requirements are considered as part of the design process. Providing designers and stakeholders with this level of cognition, command and control affects the entire project with assurance of correct and appropriate data throughout. This is crucial because it means each stakeholder has the right information on which to make decisions and that those choices are based on physics and not opinions.

Working this way with a cloud hosted digital-twin enables the seamless communications of ideas, data and knowledge that lets each part of the supply chain do its best work. It also means that the commonly experienced legal actions within the supply chain are minimized because everyone is much clearer about their expected actions and responsibilities from the outset.

Newtecnic futureproofs its façade designs by accommodating access by robots and drones (Figure 3). LiDAR and camera equipped drones are especially useful for inspecting small spaces that are not accessible by people. They can also provide excellent views of the façade for inspection, without the need for potentially hazardous suspended cradles.

Facades are designed by Newtecnic to facilitate future robot movement across their surfaces to avoid the need for cranes during planned maintenance (Figure 3). Robots can also be used to measure the as-built structure and relay precise measurements of complex shapes to the 3D digital-twin. This means that building components can then be manufactured with absolute accuracy (Figure 4).

Figure 3. The Grand Theatre de Rabat, Morocco, shown in the future undergoing routine maintenance.

Figure 4. It is the year 2038. Inside the Newtecnic Construction Lab, additive manufacture is used to make replacement façade panels for the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) Metro Hub in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Each component fits perfectly because it is developed from data collected using Lidar scans from the as-built structure.

What are some of the main challenges the firm faces in its implementation of AEC technology?

Because we work around the world 24 hours a day, speed and location are the primary challenges that we face. We need powerful, fast, portable, secure, cloud-based tech that is easily accessible yet simple and clear in its operation. Accessing and manipulating simultaneous 3D, FE and CFD simulations and analysis remotely can be challenging.

Computer speeds are improving but we still have to wait while our array processors crunch the numbers. I hope and expect that future developments in hardware and cloud technology mean that we will be able to quickly process bigger data and combine more aspects to generate even better design engineering solutions.

How does the firm see AEC technology evolving in the future?

The future of AEC technology will combine shapes, forces and airflow into unified simulations. That way, geometry, structure and environmental factors will come together and lead to truly generative designs based on multiple inter-related factors. This way, the design process will become the design tool, allowing us to develop living processes where designs are constantly validated throughout the design phase. This means that any errors will be discovered before they can produce negative consequences, and that bad decisions will become a thing of the past.

The use of robots and drones will become standard in the coming years (Figure 5). They will be used not just for inspection and monitoring but also for autonomous assembly and construction. The use of cobots (cobot is short for co-robot, i.e., collaborative robot) will increase too with humans and working robots just as they currently work with tools. These developments are accommodated in Newtecnic’s design and engineering work so that its projects are futureproofed.

Figure 5. Depicted in 2038, construction workers and cobots work together maintaining the façade of The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) Metro Hub in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Flying Lidar equipped drones inspect the structure feeding data to the building's cloud hosted digital twin.

If the firm had a wish list for AEC technology, what would it be?
  • Greater integration of specialist software without any loss of functionality.

  • Ultra-fast totally secure cloud operations with full model and data portability.

  • Computing that is invisible and that just lets you do the work.

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