design feasibility studies bridge the gap between concept and engagement

‘Design Feasibility Study’: Bridging the gap between Concept and Engagement

In TILT’s work as industrial designers, the team are regularly tasked with bringing concepts to life. We meet with architects, designers and builders to receive high level concepts coupled with design intent and an outline of what is trying to be achieved. In the process of concept and design, if architects and designers create unique and often complex designs, it can help to commission a Design Study to help bring their ideas to fruition.

A recent case study illustrating this process is the UTS Central project at the University of Technology Sydney, where TILT was engaged by the head contractor as a specialty consultant to assess a proposed special design feature with a Design (feasibility) Study.

In summary this short study is a review of the major design criteria and risk factors, and serves to bridge the gap between concept and full engagement by proposing a way forward for the design, fabrication and installation of a project. The study usually includes information such as preliminary structural engineering considerations, CAD development, assembly drawings, control systems specifications, performance specification and a budget review.

The information that results serves two fundamental purposes:

1. For projects that are required to go to tender, design feasibility serves as documentation that can be shared with those tendering for the project to ensure they can respond well.

2. For all projects, the study solidifies the design brief – by managing risk and providing confidence the design intent can be delivered. It also allows exploration of any elements that may need to be sourced or custom manufactured and their associated costs to ensure the project budget can be adhered to.

For the UTS Central project, TILT was engaged by Richard Crookes Construction (RCC) to provide advice in an Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) process. This competitive tender process included consultation with RCC, architects FJMT and façade consultant Surface Design – with whom TILT collaborated on the One Central Park heliostat project.

For this project, the architectural design feature conceived by FJMT comprises 108 unique louvre systems each with elements that are similar but not the same. The sun shading elements have been designed to regulate solar access to the UTS Central facade, enabling optimal conditions for the reading area. Some of these louvres must be operable to align with the design intent of ensuring control over the light, and in order to be able to manufacture these unique elements of the building, the Design Study included the use of parametric modelling to implement design-to-fabrication workflows to close the gap between the digital model and the physical construction process.

In principle, the architect’s faceted sheet metal design is ‘unfolded’ generating 2D shop drawings that include dimensions, annotations and cutting plans with geometric accuracy, providing confidence the unique form and pattern can be manufactured whilst maintaining design intent.

To facilitate automation of the system, mechanical elements that will be required to manage the operable aspect of the louvres have had several options researched and assessed. This then allowed an informed decision on which option provides the optimal solution for both operational and aesthetic requirements.

The result of this particular Design Study was the creation of design files and a specification that when combined with the architects documentation enabled the builder RCC to go to tender – confirming feasibility, approximating budget and an overall methodology for the balance of the project.

For a relatively small investment, Design Studies are a great method of assessing an architect’s creative ideas, managing risk, solidifying the design brief and developing stakeholder confidence.

TILT was successful in winning the competitive tender for the main works following the design Study and are currently completing development of the detailed design.

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