Exploring new horizons...

“Just over four years ago Wolf found it necessary to adopt a different approach to its development of timber frame software. Customers were asking for an AutoCAD based platform which was primarily led by the vast number of CAD technicians using this application. A timber frame CAD package built on AutoCAD was perceived to be an extension of their existing skillset and therefore a quicker training path,” says Paul Flounders, Business Development Manager.

“We saw this as a no brainer, but had heard of another Autodesk product – Revit, its flagship Building Information Modelling software that offered a true 3D environment to users. After an exhaustive process of consultations and demonstrations, it became clear that Revit should be our technological basis. However, like others in the timber frame industry at the time, we knew little about BIM so it wasn’t exclusively the strategic driver for our software,” continues Paul.

Horizon is the result of several years’ software research and development, incorporating feedback from timber frame designers.

Horizon Ground

 Wall panel detailing created by Horizon can incorporate floors and roofs, imported into Revit using Horizon tools.


 “When combined with Revit, Horizon delivers Building Information Modelling to the timber frame industry,” explains Paul.  “Wall panel detailing created by Horizon can incorporate floors and roofs – designed externally and imported into Revit using Horizon tools. Integrating Wolf’s market leading truss and joist design software into the 3D building information model leads to high quality digital information that can be easily transferred, leading to knowledge being more easily shared. Not only does it make timber frame designers’ jobs easier thanks to greater visibility, it heralds better outcomes, more predictability, greater accuracy and less wastage – all of which contribute to making BIM the clear route forward for AEC (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) disciplines.”


Technically smarter

Horizon produces true BIM families for wall panel, roof truss and metalweb floor designs, enabling the supplier to attach essential design and manufacturing data important for BIM documentation. These designs are native Revit families or can be exported to IFC file format to meet Open BIM standards.

“The information-rich 3D building model provides insightful design information that aids the design process and supports better decision making and planning throughout the project,” continues Paul. “We call it ‘singularly inclusive’, because a change anywhere is a change everywhere – so any issues can be identified early on in the project, when the impact on time and cost is lower.

“From a designer’s viewpoint, intelligent 3D objects represent physical building details such as wall panels, doors, floors and roof trusses. These can be manipulated and specified to represent just about every real-world timber frame construction method.


 Horizon Visualisation

Users benefit from levels of insight digital 2D documents simply cannot deliver.


“Powerful visualisation tools make every level of detail transparent. So co-ordination between the client and the supply chain is vastly improved, thanks to the many views that can be created in Revit. Whether it’s the designer looking to grasp complex architectural specifications, the builder looking for timber frame connection details between the core construction elements, or ultimately, the client looking to sample their building material choices virtually before they are committed to actual design and construction, all stakeholders can benefit from levels of insight that typical hard copy or digital 2D documents simply cannot deliver.

“Importantly, we recognise that BIM is not all about 3D design,” continues Paul. “Documentation of a building’s framing information is provided through Revit’s powerful scheduling tools. Essentially, if it’s in the model, it can be scheduled.”


Horizons new ... from a customer’s perspective

West Midlands based timber frame manufacturer, Wyckham Blackwell has recently adopted Wolf Systems’ Horizon software – a logical move, prompted by the receipt of enquiries from construction companies and architects seeking a ‘BIM engaged’ supplier.

Wyckham Blackwell Director, David Himmons, explains: “It made sense for us to upgrade to Horizon for two main reasons. Firstly we are increasing our design capability due to the interest in BIM. Secondly, if we are to remain at the forefront of our industry, we must stay abreast of the technology.”

While BIM is presently the remit of large commercial and public sector projects, David sees the technology filtering down to SMEs and considers the visualisation and documentation functionality achievable with Horizon to be of significant benefit. 

 Horizon Timber Frame

Visualise an interactive 3D image of how a project will look. 


“A lot of our customers are self-builders and they represent a growing market sector. Few of them are building professionals though, so it’s very helpful for them to be able to visualise interactive images of how their project will look, at every stage of construction.”

Together with the obvious technological advantage and its BIM credentials, Horizon gives Wyckham Blackwell a more advanced design capability than other building systems manufacturers, and of course there’s no harm in having a competitive edge. “I guess we’ll just have to wait now for the rest of the industry to catch up,” says David.


BIM – a slow burner?

Paul suggests that perhaps the growing interest in BIM within the timber frame industry is due to the fact that until recently, the tools simply haven’t been available. 

“BIM is clearly an important factor in the interest Horizon has received and its uptake to date demonstrates that BIM adoption within the timber frame industry is on the increase,” he says.

“Horizon has generated a lot of interest through our website,” explains Paul, “particularly from builders and architects looking to engage with BIM orientated timber frame specialists. This interest has already begun to open doors for Wolf’s customers, a number of which are beginning early talks on providing a BIM service for timber frame structures – and this can be directly attributed to the fact that Horizon is built on the Revit platform.

“Developing in Revit was at the time, a brave decision – until recent years, not many people had heard of it and although engineers have led the way, architects are also now increasingly adopting it as the platform of choice for meeting their CAD needs, obviously accelerated by the requirement for BIM.  Thanks to the technology, we see it as a sustainable platform for 3D building design.

“All our customers who used our old software have now converted to Horizon,” says Paul. Apart from its BIM credentials, it really is a powerful design tool in its own right. Horizon’s automation tools for timber frame detailing along with Revit’s own functionality help make the timber design process faster and improve accuracy. The intuitive interface and many graphical options really do create a more logical path to building design.”


For more details about Horizon timber frame software, please contact karl.foster@wolfsystem.co.uk or paul.flounders@wolfsystem.co.uk



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