The 1.3-million-sq-ft Fenway Center project is on track to become one of the first new air-rights projects to take shape on Boston’s skyline in decades.
And maybe the most crucial component of the high-rise complex—the 90,000-sq-ft deck over the Massachusetts Turnpike next to Fenway Park—has been designed with help of Qnect, a firm that has created cloud-based connection design software that is gaining traction among developers and contractors.
Based in the Western Massachusetts town of Hadley, the cloud-based, structural-steel connection design and optimization software firm is working with LeMessurier, consulting engineers on the project, according to Jef Sharp, CEO of Qnect.
Qnect’s cloud-based software crunches all the numbers for dimensions and load, automatically placing all the structure steel connections, and then delivers the updated information into the Tekla Structures model used by the engineer.
Qnect recently completed its work on the deck over the Turnpike, which is “ready to fabricate,” Sharp said, with the firm’s work on the tower portion “well underway.”
Qnect’s software is designed to optimize each steel connection as efficiently as possible, with the ability to run the program several times in order to get the best results, Sharp said.
A complex process that could take weeks, involving laborious drafting work, can now be substantially done in an hour or so.
“It has given us more confidence in the constructibility of the project, which helps mitigate risk,” said Craig Blanchet, a vice president at LeMessurier, of Qnect's work.
“We have also been able to cycle through numerous options to produce much more efficient connections.”
In the case of Fenway Center, LeMessurier subcontracted out the detailing work to Qnect, which in turn, brought on a connection engineer and detailer to round out the modeling work, according to Sharp.
Overall, the 90,000 sq-ft deck over the Turnpike will be the foundation of the project’s second $1-billion phase, which will feature a pair of towers with 700,000 sq ft of offices and lab space. It follows the recent opening of the project’s first phase, 14-story and eight-story apartment buildings with hundreds of luxury units.
The deck will take two years to build, with the lab and office towers slated for completion in early 2025.
Qnect’s software is currently able to do 70% of the connections, with the another 30% still needing a human touch, Sharp said.
“Bringing the detailing service into the design process is a novel idea and it makes a lot of sense for this type of project,” Blanchet said.
The ability to rapidly explore the most efficient connections also enabled Qnect to identify materials that could be eliminated from the project, resulting in potential savings, according to Blanchet.
For example, many reinforcement doublers were identified early and engineered out, Qnect’s Sharp says.
Sharp said the firm has generated similar cost savings for other projects, noting that eliminating the need, for example, of thousands of $30 bolts could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars saved.
Allan Paull, a senior vice president in civil and structural engineering at AECOM Tishman, said his firm has worked with Qnect on projects in New York.
By automating the connections “rather than someone going floor-by-floor, beam-by-beam,” Qnect helps free up engineers to work on more complex connections.
“If you can take one bolt out of the connection and you have 10,000 connections that ends up being a lot of money,” Paull said.