Quebec Wood Export Bureau is adding another tool to your arsenal: a free BIM plugin on Revit. With the help of its wood-producing members, the nonprofit group has stepped into the free software world to put a growing suite of structural wood system components at architects’ fingertips.
Intuitive and easy to use, the app called « Offsite Wood » will help to guide and filter download options using criteria defined by the architect, to offer the correct product families that have the dimensions, fire resistance, sustainability profile, and life-cycle data and product families (EPDs, etc) desired by the architect. Content packs are available immediately for in-app download: they have been refined and streamlined with the help of US BIM managers who have been working in a beta-testing capacity throughout 2020.
Offsite Wood contains four "streams" that relate to the wood structure types as well as to the type of Revit family required to define them. For instance, within the Glulam Post and Beam Stream, a user can sort loadable components. The Mass Timber Floor Assemblies are offered as system families, as well as the Light Wood Enclosure Stream, along with an interface to sort for specialized manufacturers. A fourth stream, Modular/Volumetric Assemblies, has been created for 2021 beta content but is not yet active.
“A lot of what we have done so far is playing catch-up to the very smart ways that other industries have already made their structural systems available to architects within the early-stage BIM workflows,” says Eli Gould, US Representative and architectural liaison for QWEB.
“Our industry is still young and content is evolving, so we have invested in a platform that can be updated and can easily bring new options forward. This soft launch is just the first step, as our members are so varied that we need to continue to define and upload. I will say that one of the most exciting parts about this has been to learn from our US beta-testing architect firms and improve our tools by connecting them with structural producers who possess the specialized expertise to inform schematic design.”
Unlike other more mature and standardized industries, wood structures are still offered in a variety of dimensions and qualities. The source of the fiber itself can vary greatly, so it has sometimes been hard for architects to become experts on these options. The Offsite Wood plugin will answer that very need by letting Revit’s own parametric features swap options and perform the dimensional coordination and adjustment work.
This project is not just about a specific material. Although QWEB loves the inherent qualities of sustainably-sourced regional fiber, it also is working on digital guidance to optimize for offsite delivery methods. The producer community’s expertise can really come into play when a designer decides to learn about prefabrication as a way to improve cost options and to schedule outcomes.
“We won’t be able to build all that into the software immediately, but we will be able to connect the dots with our Preconstruction Service request portal in a way that is really respectful of client confidentiality and proprietary workflows on all sides of the model,” Mister Gould adds.
With market feedback, QWEB is aiming at a targeted next round of helpful features. There may be a call for more US expertise in an advisory group that is working on a road map that helps many “downstream” workflows including life cycle analysis, engineering, cost estimates, and scheduling/sequencing of supply chain partners.
Environment, Carbon Footprint and Life Cycle
One of the major advantages of wood in modern constructions is the respect of the environment. The embodied carbon benefits of wood usage in buildings are well documented. But for an architect, it can be hard to justify the extra expense of early-stage design studies and creating dual models for comparative analysis.
A complementary web tool to the plug-ins, developed along with other nonprofit partners, aims to improve that early-stage carbon benefit estimation. QWEB is working with partner organizations on both sides of the border, including our technical peers at Cecobois, to adapt and share a simplified Northeast US version of Quebec’s provincial early-phase calculator. The nonprofit is working in Quebec to administer a comprehensive program for member-specific EPDs. Validation will occur throughout 2021 and align with partner organizations who are working on cross-industry standards, such as the Carbon Leadership Council with their SE2050 standard.
For those who are outside the BIM environment, or who just want to join a beta community to learn more about the plug-in, the QWEB architectural market team has started a LinkedIn group for community education and feedback. An informational website will soon be launched featuring the carbon calculation tools and tutorial videos.
Offsite Wood is available to download for free on the Autodesk App Store.