Building Configurator Tutorial

Automatic Building Design Demonstration

This demonstrator shows how a complex building design task can be specified and completed over the web.  It is NOT a complete design application; its purpose is rather to illustrate the automatic over-the-web design capability that can be created using Design Power’s Design++ technology.  This specific demonstrator shows the design of a metal building roof supported by frames.

You, in your role as the visiting designer, may have already registered your personal account, with your email address and optional password.

With this tutorial in hand, you are now ready to embark on creating your first metal building.

The Design Task

You are designing a rectangular building where one end wall may be straight or skewed.  The design focuses on the main structural steel framing members, the metal roof panels, and purlins that run between the frames to support the panels.  The overall goal of this design process is to minimize the combined weight and cost of the purlins and frames for the given set of dimensions - the roof panel cost is basically constant for the area being covered.

You will set up the problem for the Building Configurator by entering a few key dimensional parameters (width, length, height, and skew offset for the end wall, all measured in feet).  In addition, you may adjust some of the default design assumptions (roof slope, roof load, default roof member type, and member connection type). You can also control the output of the program by specifying whether to design all connection parts (takes a little longer), what drawings and reports you need, and in what format you want them produced.

Managing Projects

Before proceeding to the configuration interface, you will need to create a project to hold your input data and design results.  After you log in using your email address and optional password, the demonstrator then lets you create a new project using your own project identifier.

Click “Submit” to get to the new project dialog.

You may create any number of projects, although we reserve the right to purge them from time to time.  Each project will contain one set of design input along with the 3D models, 2D drawings, and reports that you requested from the Building Configurator.  To create another project or to switch projects, just go back in your browser to get to the project dialog.

The Configuration Process

You have successfully reached the main configuration dialog.  Your user and project names appear on the left under the banner.  The input pane below is populated with a set of combo boxes and check boxes.  At the bottom there are three (3) buttons, the “Tutorial” button to bring you to this page, a “Projects” button to access your projects, and a “Configure” button to start the configuration process.

Quick Start

This tutorial examines each of these options in detail, but let's do a quick configuration first.  The input will be the same as in the sample view of the Building Configurator window above (width = 40 feet, length = 80 feet, height = 20 feet, skew offset = 0 feet).  Perform these actions.

1.               Select “Building Isometric” and “Frame Erection” as your requested drawings. You can request drawings in 3 different formats: DWG (default), DWF, or PDF.

2.               Select “Bill of Materials” as the requested report. You can request reports in text format (default) or as Excel files.

3.               Click the “Configure” button.  Follow the building engineering and design progress in the configuration progress window that opens.

4.               When the main configuration dialog reappears, the configuration process is ready.

5.               The configuration results are shown on the right-hand side panel. A list of drawings and report appear with the date and time of the design.

6.               View the selected drawings and reports by clicking on respective links.

7.               For drawings there are 2 different modes: view mode (default) and save mode.
In the view mode, the drawings are shown using an online viewer, 3D Viewer, from which allows drawings to be viewed inside the web browser.  There is no need to install a separate browser plugin.
In the save mode, drawings can be saved locally and viewed with locally installed applications, like AutoCAD for DWG files.

8.               The 3D Viewer allows the basic viewing operations.  Study the details of the drawings “Building Isometric” and “Frame Erection”.

9.               View the “Bill of Materials” report by clicking on its link in the reports list.  Note the total number of parts.

You have now successfully created, documented, and studied your first automatically generated metal building design.

The Options

There are two configuration options.  The default option is a preliminary design option, which includes all major building parts in the design.  By selecting the “Add Connection Parts” option, the building will be designed with all clips and associated bolts.

The outputs of the demonstrator are drawings and reports selected with check boxes under Requested Drawings and Requested Reports.  The configuration time is naturally dependent on the number of drawings and reports requested, thus initially while contemplating the concept of the building, only those necessary to help in the conceptual phase should be selected, while the full set may be requested as the final result.

When a new project is opened, the main configuration dialog appears with default configuration options selected and a set of default drawings or reports requested.

When an existing project is opened, the main configuration dialog settings are set to those used for the last configuration within the project.

Adding Details

The next step in this tutorial is to add some details to the design.  We do that as follows:

1.               Select “Add Connection Parts” under Roof Parameters.

2.               Click on the “Configure” button again and wait until the engineering and design is complete.  This will take a longer time than the initial configuration time as a large number of new parts are added to the building.

3.               Bring up the “Building Isometric” drawing.

4.               Find an intersection between a purlin line and an inner frame and zoom into that intersection using 3D Viewer’s Zoom tool (or scroll wheel on your mouse). If you have locally installed AutoCAD, you may switch to save mode and open the created drawing in your local AutoCAD. AutoCAD viewing capabilities are of course superior.

5.               View clips and their four fastening bolts to the attached purlins and frame.


6.               Pan along a purlin until you see a roof panel-fastening clip.

7.               Zoom out using the “Fit to Window” tool.

8.               Find the intersection between a purlin line and an outer frame and zoom in to that intersection.

9.               Note that clips now have only a set of two bolts.

10.            Bring up the “Bill of Materials” report.  Note that the total number of parts is considerable higher than the building without the connection parts.

Making Changes

We have now successfully created the first building with all its details.  Let’s make some changes:

1.               Deselect “Add Connection Parts”.

2.               Change “Building Length” to 100.  The length range is 40 to 500.

3.               Change the “Skew Offset” to 10.

4.               Change the “Connection” selection from Simple to Continuous.

5.               Request all drawings and reports.

6.               Configure.  The considerably bigger building will take a little longer to design and engineer.

7.               Review the resulting drawings and reports for changes.


This Building Configurator is only a demonstrator that illustrates the capabilities of Design++ connected to a web-interface.  This demonstrator was built using simple in-house created rules.  As Design Power’s web page describes, thousands of real metal buildings are designed each year using applications created by Design Power’s customers using Design++.

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