Skip to content Skip to main menu
Digital Construction methods at the Barbara Hepworth Building project

Blog: Technology in action at Huddersfield's Barbara Hepworth Building

Wakefield-born Barbara Hepworth was one of the foremost modernist sculptors of the 20th century, with her works located today at leading galleries across the world. It is therefore fitting that the University of Huddersfield should name the new home for its School of Art, Design and Architecture after one of Yorkshire’s favourite daughters.

It is also fitting that the firm employed to deliver the £30 million Barbara Hepworth Building, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, is using some of the most cutting edge technology available to create a building becoming of the legendary sculptor’s legacy.

Designed by local architect AHR, the five-storey 7,500 square foot building will be located alongside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Queen Street South and incorporate studios for art, design, architecture, fashion and textiles.

The project represents the latest collaboration between Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure and the university following the completion of the £28 million Oastler Building, which now houses the law school and humanities department, in 2017. In order to deliver this latest building, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure has deployed cutting edge BIM and mixed-reality technology to enable its team to better examine the project as it develops.

This involves the use of 3D design coordination processes, where architecture, structural and MEP 3D models are periodically combined to check for clashes and issues that could affect construction programme and costs.

“By using 3D BIM models to create and validate project data, we have been able to minimise the risks during the construction process and improve the quality of the information throughout the project lifecycle,” explains Simon Taylor, design manager, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure.

Digital Construction methods at the Barbara Hepworth Building project

This includes the use of 3D laser scanning to scan existing site conditions, collecting millions of data points, otherwise invisible to the naked eye, in order to provide the most accurate possible depiction of the ongoing site.

This allows the Barbara Hepworth Building project team to discover exact details of how ongoing work causes deflections to its audacious structure – without fully understanding these deflections and making the necessary modifications, it is possible that different components of the building would not fit together in the desired way, putting key elements of the build programme in jeopardy. This enables the team to adapt its plans in real time in order to ensure any issues are rectified in a speedy and efficient manner.

“The building is located on a tight site, and features a cantilevered floor – while this will be visually striking, it presents us with some challenges during the build programme. The use of modern technology allows us to navigate these issues,” says Marina Machado, BIM implementation manager, Morgan Sindall Construction.

The project team has also partnered with the University to pilot the use of Microsoft Hololens on site. Hololens incorporates mixed reality for project coordination by providing precise alignment of holographic data on the job site, allowing the project team to inspect and complete walk-throughs within a projection of the building in progress in order to undertake surveys and risk assessments of the project as it develops.

“The use of Hololens enables the smooth running of our projects,” says Marina Machado. “It allows our team to walk through the building to check and audit the design, and as it is fully interactive we’re able to record any modifications that we see have to be made.”

Marina added: “When complete, the Barbara Hepworth Building will be a fantastic home to some of the university’s most creative students, providing cutting edge facilities for them to learn and develop skills. It is apt that our project team deploys the most up to date technology in order to create the right environment to nurture their skills.”

“One of the most rewarding aspects of the project for our team is being able to get students involved. From day one, we’ve got undergraduates on site to show them how modern technology can aid construction projects, and also delivered a number of lectures in which we detailed the difference innovations like laser scanning and Hololens can make to projects such as this.”

The close relationship with the university was exemplified by the involvement of Mustafa Al-Adhami, a PhD researcher at the University. Mustafa created an app that enabled better integration between the 3D models in Hololens and the live building site, resulting in a better, more accurate augmented reality experience for the project team.

“We are always looking at ways we can improve our offer to clients, as well as our industry as a whole,” concludes Marina. “Mixed reality technology such as Hololens is still in its relative infancy - it’s therefore very exciting to see the already great level of understanding many students have about it, meaning it will become part and parcel of projects like this in the future, resulting in better build programmes for new buildings at universities and beyond.”