1. Know your materials
All the materials have their properties and their own character. It is essential to know them well and understand how they best collaborate. Designing hybrid structures requires quite versatile design knowledge, as both timber, concrete and steel have their own peculiarities in design – and hybrid structures require matching them in a perfect way. Furthermore, the building type affects quite a lot on the materials used: for instance, acoustics, flexibility, and fire safety requirements are different depending on if you are designing an office building, school, or an apartment house. The estimated life cycle of the building needs to be considered. High-rise hybrid structures are becoming common as well, and they have specific features to consider too.
2. Choose your software wisely
Not all the software is well-suited for hybrid structures. Most of the software available in the market is focused on certain materials only, and do not include both timber, steel, and concrete. A suitable design software for hybrid structures allows for combining the materials smoothly and studying their functions within the software. Whereas not all the hybrid materials are available in the software, the designer often needs to be innovative; some designers end up creating their own tools for designing hybrid structures which, in turn, calls for more experience and insight.
3. Be prepared for some creativity
Connection items are the most crucial parts when designing hybrid structures. Nevertheless, the standardized connection items mostly do not yet exist. This challenges the daily design process and calls for creativity and an expert level of problems-solving skills and knowledge of the materials used. Each project is unique, and it is not extraordinary if an unexperienced constructor contacts the structural designer on the very moment when the connections on site are applied and calls for advice. The standardized and tested connection items make the design process a whole lot faster and easier, and luckily some exceptions, such as Peikko’s PUUCO® product family are already launched.
Hybrid construction is heavily increasing in the future too, as the optimal outcomes offer new possibilities for the industry. The standardized connections and increasing design experience, as well as developing design software, will further expand these possibilities. The strict environmental requirements ensure that the hybrid construction is here to stay, and that it will soon enough find its place also as an even more economical and smart way to design and build.
Ville Lehtimäki (M.Sc., Structural Engineering) works as a Specialist at Sweco, and has over 11 years of design experience especially in timber and hybrid projects.