Construction game-changer: A front end approach to digital twins


Midlands-based design and detailing company TDS discusses the value of collaboration and digital modelling at the front end of the design process in a major project at Hong Kong International Airport

Part of TDS’ brief on the $5m Hong Kong International Airport project was to challenge the design from a manufacturing perspective, working collaboratively alongside the Tier 1 consulting team including Aecom and Aedas. Importantly, this has enabled them to scrutinise the design through a steel fabricator’s eyes, which has meant they have been able to develop the model with the best manufacturing and installation solution in mind.

Having a fully connected, geometry checked, LOD400 model completed will enable the airport authority to have complete confidence that the costs provided by its steelwork contractors (when appointed) will be accurate and to a fixed scope with no risk of design creep or additional variations to the contract.

For the same reasons, this synchronously provides confidence from a project management point of view, as issues picked up at the back end of a project tend to result in delays to the installation programme but if they are addressed at the front end, before the construction programme is compiled, then the airport authority has further confidence that their anticipated timeline will experience minimal delays, which is of huge significance on infrastructure projects.

Due to the quality assurance processes in place throughout their delivery, including federated model checks and coordination, the risk of errors has also been drastically reduced.

Daniel Leech, CEO of the TDS Group and a UK leader for digital innovation, said: “We are hoping that other clients, main contractors and Tier 1 consultants can start to see the value in early engagement and collaboration.

“The main hurdle as we see it sits with procurement. At the moment, the risk is sold down the supply chain and it is the responsibility of the manufacturing businesses to complete the design and detailing process, as well as the manufacture and installation of the steelwork.

“It is impossible to give an accurate fixed cost for something when the scope is variable. This is leaving the steelwork contractors massively exposed commercially. It is fair to say that drawings have become a necessary evil for manufacturing businesses and this mentality has to stop.”

Through early engagement, TDS have now demonstrated they can develop the design to a manufacture level of detail (DFMA). Enabling the steelwork contractor to provide costs and estimates to finite information, minimising the risk of contractual conflict, reducing the strain on the project programme and nullifying the chances of design creep.

Simon Chatwin was the project lead for TDS and commented: “For too long, value engineering has mainly resulted in a ‘making it cheaper’. Value engineering should be about having a coordinated approach which ensures that all contractors and disciplines have a shared vision, effort and responsibility to collaborate and ensure the client gets the best possible solution. This then creates true value for the end-user/client.”

Client benefits:

Designed for Manufacture & Assembly (DFMA)

The model for HKIAA has been created in Tekla Structures, which is a specialist steelwork detailing software used by a huge proportion of the steelwork industry globally. This has meant that the design and data contained within the model is at a manufacturing level of detail.

Digital asset created for supply chain price certainty

From the digital asset TDS can run GAs, fabrication drawings and NC data files for automated manufacture and phased installation.

Minimalised extra work orders and contract variations

As the design is complete prior to the appointment of the steelwork contractor, there is minimal chance of contract variations and design fee creep.

Reduced risk of contractual conflict

Because the information supplied is complete there is far less ambiguity and risk of contractual conflict.

 Improved speed efficiency and accuracy

As the information was provided through IFC, TDS were able to work with Tier 1 consultant Aecom on the development of parametric modelling solutions, enabling them to speed up the modelling process. Working with a system called Trimble Connect to coordinate the model meaning all RFIs and TQs were done digitally, creating a true paperless workflow. 

Increased potential for offsite manufacture

The steelwork contractor is now digitally enabled to investigate whether assemblies and subassemblies can be produced offsite, reducing the installation time and improving the health and safety on site.



Daniel Leech

Chief Executive


Tel: +44 (0)1952 225835

Download the video: GTC Tekla fly through

Twitter: tdslimited_

LinkedIn: tds-midlands

Instagram: tds_ltd

Facebook: TDSMidlands


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here