Founded in 1924, Barton Malow used 2D drawings to design its projects until 2008, when it began embracing BIM. Fast-forward four years to 2012, when a few experienced Barton Malow BIM users in the reinforcing steel department decided to investigate whether Tekla Structures—long used as a construction management tool at Barton Malow—would offer the team more capabilities, especially for reinforcing steel and concrete detailing. After a month-long trial, the group adopted Tekla Structures.

“After working with Tekla Structures for a month, we decided to move forward with it and haven’t looked back,” says Matt Hedke, Barton Malow’s reinforcing steel fabrication manager. “It didn’t take long to see the benefits for us and our clients. Tekla is definitely a construction BIM solution that’s geared toward the contractor and the company prides itself on understanding what we do. No other software provider is as advanced as Tekla, especially with cast-in-place concrete and rebar modeling. We knew there would be a learning curve, but we embraced it because we knew the end result was where were wanted to be.”

In less than a year’s time, the Barton Malow team put Tekla Structures to the test and is already seeing the benefits, including impressive efficiency gains upwards of 15%. The team is learning to customize Tekla. For example, they’ve developed templates to create automated assembly tags, which provide instructions on how to pre-tie a cage to improve rebar placement efficiency. What’s more, Tekla’s rebar release manager helps the team keep track of each release of rebar and associate it with each concrete pour.

“We’re seeing incredible results and we’re just getting started,” says Hedke. “There is a tremendous amount of customization this software allows us to do. The Tekla support team has been extremely supportive and responsive in helping understand how to get the most out of the software and to become proficient in using it.”

The tools in Tekla’s software for scheduling columns and detailing slabs, base plates, and stirrups are particularly effective for improving efficiencies by enabling the team to rapidly add detail to their drawings.

“Before Tekla, we simply didn’t have the time or the tools to easily add this depth of detail,” says Hedke. “Our focus was on detailing the rebar rather than the various components of the concrete object. Tekla allows us to see in 3D how everything will fit together and if we will run into clashes or interferences.”

“Since we self-perform many different trades and disciplines, it just makes sense that we should know exactly how things like embedded iron and anchor bolts fit with the rebar before the construction phase,” says Hedke. “We also share the 3D model with the field project manager and crews, so they have an accurate reference for their work. The operations personnel are using this information to plan pours.”

These capabilities have become a core part of Barton Malow’s self-perform approach. If a 3D model already exists, the team imports it into Tekla to use as a reference to add the rebar and concrete. Tekla supports a wide variety of file formats, allowing the team to use and share the model with internal and external engineers, as well as trades, and allows the project manager to combine various models for a complete view.

“Tekla truly enables collaboration during the design phase and on the job site,” says Hedke.

The model is not just a tool for drawings and coordination though. To gain the full potential of the software, Barton Malow tied the model to its fabrication software, Shear97.

“We were able to model bars, create drawings, and send all the information directly to our fabrication system,” says Hedke. “If the model is correct we know the drawings are as well and we know we’re fabricating exactly and only what is needed for the job”

Tekla at Work

Barton Malow won the contract to design and construct two cast-in-place concrete silos and equipment and building foundations totaling over 10,000 cubic yards of concrete to be placed at Consumers Energy’s Karn/Weadock Power Plant in Essexville, Mich. This contract was part of a larger project to install air quality control equipment to help the company meet future environmental regulations. The design for the 110-foot x 46-foot silos was particularly complex and the timeframe for completing the project was aggressive.

“Barton Malow’s use of Tekla allowed them to efficiently coordinate structure openings and embedments with equipment vendors and align with the unique requirements of the silos at our site,” says Corietta Meeks, consumers energy construction manager. “This was crucial in executing the work quickly within a small footprint.”

Each silo has 10 lifts, a lower composite slab, a roof composite slab, and a 4-foot thick structural slab, all cast in place. To complicate matters, each silo has as many as 40 different openings. Some openings are round; others are square and many are placed at challenging angles. In addition, sleeves of varying diameters bisect the silos either perpendicular to the wall or at a 45 degree angle, and the rebar splices are staggered.

“Once we modeled the silos in Tekla, we quickly discovered the current design would have been extremely difficult to fabricate and install,” says Doug Demongey, Barton Malow’s reinforcing-steel detailer. “We took snapshots of the Tekla 3D model—instead of drawing a sketch or typing out a multi-paragraph explanation—to illustrate the conflicts between the openings, sleeves, and rebar. The engineer immediately saw the problem, which allowed us to work with him to find a solution that would benefit both parties. If I had done this in 2D, I might not have caught it.”

“For visualization, you just can’t beat a Tekla model,” says Demongey. “If you show the design engineer a 3D image of an interaction issue accompanied by a brief explanation, he sees exactly what the problem is. I can’t stress how important that is to overall job efficiency.”

After Demongey modeled the rebar and concrete, he published the model to Tekla BIMsight, so that the field staff could readily access it. The field project manager used the model to order the correct amount of concrete for each pour from the job site.

“We saw huge benefits using Tekla, especially how the openings and sleeves interacted with our steel,” says Hedke. “With all of the variables in the silo design, I’m not sure we would have been able to do it as accurately without it.”