Locale : North America (English)
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external view from a distance

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

We were civil, structural, building services, fire and facade engineer on this striking landmark building in Cardiff. Early development of an interactive 3D BIM model reduced design change risk, dramatically accelerating the design program.


Exceptionally for any project, let alone one of such complexity, zero redesign was required during construction.


To achieve acoustic excellence and theatrical intimacy, architect BFLS designed the college from the inside out. The college’s internal spaces – a 450-seat concert hall, a 160-seat theater, two rehearsal rooms, a foyer, and a cafe/bar – are expressed externally, creating a building of juxtaposed volumes and rich textures under a dramatically sweeping roofline.

The building’s architectural verve made it structurally challenging. Its steel frame had to be tailored to constantly changing geometries while the roof juts beyond the building cluster in a daring 33-foot (10-meter) cantilever.

Acoustic isolation of the concert hall from the rest of the structure and the need to achieve the BREEAM Excellent sustainability standard added a further challenge.

Seamless coordination between all the disciplines was imperative for smooth delivery of this project. Performing arts buildings have large open spaces. Combined with the unique geometry of the building that means there’s a lot of structural steelwork doing unusual things. Although the college makes making extensive use of natural ventilation, mechanical air handling is required to assure performer and audience comfort.


Mott MacDonald developed a 3D BIM model integrating architectural, structural, and building services designs. As each discipline developed and refined its own component of the project, the central structural model was updated.

If a beam or column was moved and it clashed with an air duct or cable run, the model alerted the team, enabling the clash to be resolved then and there.

Intelligence within the model meant that when structural alterations were made – an opening was widened or closed, for example – the design team was warned that load paths had changed. Structural analysis capability enabled the efficiency of the cantilevered roof section to be optimized. The model also automatically produced the schedule for the building’s piled foundations, recalculating the locations, diameters, lengths and cut-off heights for every pile as the structural solution evolved.


Before construction, began, information from the BIM model was used to calculate the volumes of concrete required. The model also produced a figure for the total weight of structural steel needed for the roof. This saved considerable effort when it came to quantifying the materials needed.

Detailed plans, elevations and cross-sections needed for construction were generated directly from the model, saving time on the production of drawings compared to traditional computer aided design. On site 3D details taken from the model were used to explain complex areas of construction.

Exceptionally for any project, let alone one of such complexity, no redesign was required to rectify clashes encountered during construction.

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