Metal system roofing firm speeddeck has been in business since the late 1970s. Back in 1998, it developed a software program for architects to use when specifying roofing systems. It calculated loadings for metal roofs and worked rather like Microsoft Excel. Now it has launched Designer 2.0, an altogether more sophisticated design package.
Designer 2.0, which is free, comprises five easy-to-use modules: a specifier, a gutter designer, a technical manual, construction details and a picture gallery. In the specifier module, the user inputs critical data such as sheeting material, finish, thickness, curvature, insulation and vapour control membrane, as well as the building environment. The program uses this information to calculate the roof’s weight, U-value, risk of condensation and the maximum wind load the roof can resist.
If the specification is adjusted, the roof’s properties will be automatically updated. The program even suggests alternatives when the information already entered is not accurate, so potential mistakes in the specification can be eliminated immediately. Once the performance criteria have been established, the construction data can be printed in the National Building Specification standard format.
The gutter design application is a new feature. It calculates how much guttering your roof should have and gives an indication of the number of downpipes needed to drain the guttering. This includes the spacing and size of outlet pipes, based on local weather conditions. Should any of the specified roof values be revised, the guttering and outlet pipe specification advises on its suitability for the expected rainfall.
The construction details module contains diagrams and information on hips, eaves, gutters and rooflights. This data comes from built projects so it is easy to see how the details work. The information can be viewed on screen or downloaded and amended to suit project needs.
The technical manual is the complete reference source for SpeedDeck components, systems and technical data. The user will need an Internet browser to view the manual, which contains a copy of the SpeedDeck product brochure and includes manufacturing details and maintenance information. All indices are hyperlinked for easy access to relevant criteria.
The system is very easy to use. Once you have downloaded the program from the CD-ROM, you double-click on its list of modules. In the specification module, you get a list of different palettes covering the choice of metal, finish, roof shape and so on. The wind load estimator involves selecting the location for your roof on a map of the UK – the program uses this and the structural information to calculate the roof’s U-value and the amount of insulation required by the Building Regulations. It will also assess the risk of condensation. The building models and graphics used to illustrate the technical data are high quality and combined with an intelligible interface lead the user through a logical process to metal roof specification.
The program does have a few weaknesses. Its companion web site (www.speeddeck.com) does not seem to add any value to the software application. Mainly acting as a mirror of the picture gallery module on the CD-ROM, it includes a library of showcase images to reflect the versatility of SpeedDeck roof systems.
Another potential problem is the timing of the software’s launch. With the current review of the Building Regulations’ guidance on the conservation of fuel and power under Part L, there is a chance that the insulation requirements built into the software may change. In the longer term, the web site may be able to respond to any revisions better.
Overall, Designer 2.0 is a vast improvement on the first version. By combining the design concept with construction data, Designer 2.0 would be very useful to an architect designing metal system roofs.
Paul Green is a technical coach at architect Geoffrey Reid Associates.