The newly completed Museum of the Future in Dubai is one of the most complex structures ever built.
Not only is its design and purpose unique, but also the way it was constructed.
Keep reading to learn how BIM, AI, and connected solutions all played their part in helping the teams involved bring this incredible structure to life.
It seems fitting that the newly completed Museum of the Future in Dubai would not be possible without digital construction. As one of the most complex structures ever built, this oval — or more precisely torus-shaped — shell has a parametric design that was finalized through algorithmic computations.
These countless alterations were based on predetermined factors balancing everything from material cost, lifecycle complications, sustainable design, and overall project efficiency.
For instance, the steel framework of intersecting beams, known as a diagrid, was optimized in terms of connection points, the steel’s diameter, and total weight resulting in overall cost and time savings for the client, contractors and fabricators.
Stainless steel-clad composite panels provided structure, sealing and an iconic facade for the one-of-a-kind building. They are embellished with Arabic calligraphy over 1024 fire-retardant panels that form poems describing the vision of Dubai’s future by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.
Faster, Cheaper, Greener Construction Projects are the Future
UK’s BuroHappold was the lead consultant on the project and relied heavily on BIM technology to collaborate throughout the lifecycle. With its size & complexity in design, highly detailed, data-rich 3D models were needed to bring efficiency to the entire construction lifecycle.
“Our customer, Eversendai, utilized our cloud collaboration tool, Trimble Connect, to identify potential clashes in various processes such as the facades, roofing, MEP, and reinforced concrete,” says Hany Ahmed Salah, Account Manager at Trimble Solutions Middle East.
Credit: Adobe Stock
Using the cloud-based software allowed the contractor to resolve the issues in the initial design phase, saving substantial time and resources.
Ramesh Posa, Detailing Manager at Eversendai Engineering says, “The most complex part is the communication. There are a lot of trades required for this unique and complex structure — the cladding, MEP, calligraphy facade — parallel work where communication was key.”
During the construction of the Museum of the Future, various project teams used multiple solutions from Trimble. Trimble Connect was used as the Common Data Environment (CDE), Trimble’s SysQue was used for the intricate MEP design, Tekla Structures also proved helpful in designing the building’s highly complex structure and Robotic Total Stations were used for the automated on-site layout.
"Since using BIM, we now see everything, not only steel but all stakeholders, all models — and see before that day [before construction starts], before prefabrication, to answer questions and save a lot of time,” says Ramesh of Eversendai.
The use of connected Trimble solutions helped reduce the rework by up to 65%, a 50% productivity boost and a 25% total energy consumption reduction,
according to Eversendai.
Throughout the construction process, the team also used laser scanning to compare as-built conditions to the 3D model. This helped remove installation issues and re-work that can trip up a project in the later stages of the construction phase.
“When we see demonstrable examples of projects that have saved time and money and have improved the lifecycle of the project itself, these are really good proponents for other companies to follow suit,” says Paul Wallett, Regional Director for India and Middle East Trimble. “The AEC industry is quite complex.
It's a very multifaceted industry with multitudes of different subcontractors in the construction chain and to really be productive, everybody has to adopt the capability to a certain degree.”
Digital modeling also helped the construction of the exterior panels done by Affan Innovative Structures. Each custom, curved panel included portions of Arabic script that also doubled as recessed glass windows illuminating the interior. The precision–cut molds were pre-fabricated from polyurethane foam and then affixed with glass fiber/epoxy to be cured in an oven and then treated with a final adhesive bonding of stainless steel finish.
Inside the Museum of the Future? It's the Year 2071.
Inside the building, seven column-free floors are devoted to innovation and invention through exhibits focused on the future.
The main premise is that it’s the year 2071. After being blasted into space to a future space station, you journey through exhibits of possibilities challenging new ways of thinking, living, and building (No spoilers here!).
The final exhibit brings you back to Earth and present day to showcase what we as a society can do now.
Examples included carbon collection, seaweed as an alternative to plastic (image to right), augmented and mixed reality such as Microsoft Hololens, and exploring new innovative building materials like rammed earth or coconut husk structured panels.
The Museum of the Future is a great addition to a city already becoming a City of the Future, known for its grand high-rise buildings and global innovations, something emulated in the recent 2020 World Expo. Read about the design and architecture trends I spotted in my recent visit to the Expo here.
The Expo Dubai, originally set for 2020, showcased innovation on a grand scale and every country had a pavilion to showcase their take on the direction of the future — a first for a World Expo. The event concluded in March 2021 with over 20 million attendees entering the cube-like steel gates over the 6-month span. What’s next for the Expo site? Read about its future use here.
After my recent visit to the Museum of the Future, I can confirm that this awe-inspiring structure really is one of the most complex and impressive feats of engineering I have ever seen. And I believe its mission was accomplished: suggesting to visitors that our future isn’t that distant and we can shape it now, together.
All photos in the article are the author's own unless otherwise specified.