TestFit and Thornton Tomasetti Put Structural Engineer in Architects’ Pocket

Columns sized and placed with consideration of architects’ plans

Save your parking spaces by putting columns between them with TestFit. (Picture courtesy of TestFit)

Save your parking spaces by putting columns between them with TestFit. (Picture courtesy of TestFit)

This might be your first assignment at an AEC firm: take a parking space under a high-rise multiuse tower and draw the parking spaces. Easy enough, you think. It can be done in AutoCAD using just 2D. You turn in your plan. You think nothing more of it — until you see how the structural engineers have placed columns smack in the middle of your neatly ordered parking spaces. They have reduced the number of vehicles that can be accommodated – except perhaps the number of motorcycles and scooters.  The structural engineers pull rank. Their columns might as well have been embedded in concrete. Here there are. Deal with it.

You fantasize about a better world, one where the structural engineer cares about architect’s plan. Failing that, how about if they could work with you while you were planning?

Clifton Harness, founder and CEO of Austin-based startup TestFit, offers a solution.

“What if you could have a structural engineer in your pocket?”

Moving the parking spaces with TestFit moves the columns as well. (Picture courtesy of TestFit)

Moving the parking spaces with TestFit moves the columns as well. (Picture courtesy of TestFit)

The structural engineer in the pocket is actually the accumulated knowledge of Thornton Tomasetti, a New York engineering firm whose projects include skyscrapers such as the Jeddah Tower and Comcast Tower; stadiums such as AT&T Park, U.S. Bank Stadium and Yankee Stadium. Clifton is announcing a partnership with Thornton Tomasetti that adds structural sense to his building and space configurator.

Upon being alerted to an AI design application with some promising technology which aims to make parking-pace-uncooperative-engineer problem would go away, we ask for a video call and a demo.

Clifton calls us from Austin. He is virtually flanked by Robert Otani, CTO at the New York-based Thornton Tomasetti. Otani has a masters in civil engineering from Penn State. He considers Thornton Tomasetti the “most tech savvy design firm in the US.”

We see TestFit take the garage space with parking spaces drawn and insert the columns with box beams.  TestFit has done the math and placed columns at the proper places and sized them to ensure the floors of the high-rise stay overhead. All that is required is the footprint and the number of floors. Should a column be in the middle of a parking space, you can move the column. The math will be redone to make sure you have not moved a column too far.

The only structural engineer involved in the early stage was the one in your pocket. Later, the structural engineers can thank you for taking their concerns into account. 

About TestFit

TestFit is a whole building and multiple building configurator. You can push and pull on your space and have the rooms, elevators, column regenerate on the fly. The ability to place and size columns considering the lined parking spaces is only TestFit’s most recent power.

Reordering parking spaces in real time is reminiscent of another building/parking space configurator SITEOPS, the product of BLUE RIDGE Analytics, which was acquired by Bentley Systems in 2014. SITEOPS is primarily for outdoor spaces so there is no need for it to place or size columns.

TestFit is Clifton Harness’ latest attempt to introduce technology to architects. His first attempt was not fruitful. Given a tedious job of replacing 150 doors in a door schedule manually at his first architectural position, he found a way to use a search and replace and instead of a manual effort that took days, he was able to finish the task in 5 minutes. Instead of a reward, he was sent home.

Clifton has taken TestFit to a 12-person team with most of its growth in the last year – during the pandemic. The employees are “all over the US.”

TestFit is already in use at a 150 cases, says Clifton. It licenses for $495 a month.

TestFit and Thornton Tomasetti intend to make their joint product available to architectural firms with an API.

Find out more about TestFit at www.testfit.io.