In today’s cut-throat economy – design and architectural firms constantly need to look for ways to overcome obstacles, open doors, and gain an edge in order to survive and succeed. Can software be the solution? Purists would obviously disagree. “It’s the people and not the software that makes the difference! However, a BIM (Building Information Modelling) software, which creates difficulty and conflict certainly won’t help the brilliant minds who are burning the midnight oil by gallon to ensure that the ambitious project undertaken by your firm is a resounding success.
While every BIM promises workflow optimization and the various ways it can help designers and architects work smarter, which BIM solution actually delivers on that promise? As more and more design firm adopt BIM – it’s time to take a closer look at one of the most promising software solutions – the ArchiCad – and how it has helped in completing revamping work process of an Australian architectural firm.
Francis Jones Morehen Thorp is a multi-disciplined practice that focuses on the organic and spatial interconnection of site and built form. Says Jonathan Redmen - chief architect FJMT, “Our firm has received various national and Global awards, and is considered by the Australian press as one of the best design firms in Sydney. The firm has been using ArchiCad since 2006.
Jonathan started out drawing by hand but he was smart enough to see the potential of investing big in technology. He remembers how expensive the first CAD machines were and as such is the perfect candidate to talk about the rapid advances in BIM.
When asked about how ArchiCAD has helped his firm grow, Jonathan feels that using BIM has helped him deliver much faster than earlier. For him ArchiCAD has proved to be a blessing. “It has unclogged my approach to design and my ability to resolve complex details and forms.”
For Jonathan, it's much more than just increasing productivity. ArchiCAD dramatically improves the text and quality of work and focuses the firm's efforts on design. As Jonathan says, "We are now able to spend a lot more time on our core capability – designing. It has become easier to understand and resolve complex designing algorithms, thereby help us come up with innovative solutions, on a limited budget…
We can try out several different ideas and approaches and test them out in 3D. Moreover, our clients can see, and understand, our approach to the work. This understanding helps them provide us with a more meaningful feedback by being able to step through a scalable model, rather than staring at complex building plans (that only a trained architect would understand) on paper in 2D.
Jonathan mentions two fairly recent building commissions that exemplify his admiration for ArchiCAD. The Surrey Hills Library and the Community Centre in Sydney – which is incidentally the most awarded building at the AIA 2010 NSW architecture awards has been welcomed by the community it serves. The finely crafted details, the number of facilities contained within a relatively modest footprint and the building’s distinctive profile were all easier to achieve thanks to ArchiCAD.
"We 3D modelled continuously through this project and were able to design and build in a very refined way on budget. We could see in the model how the triple layer ventilation façade would look like and work. We were also successful in achieving greater spatial complexity."
Jonathan further listed out the various advantages of working with ArchiCad 15 (its latest version), which he feels makes the software a viable and useful tool for 3D artists:
The product has been in the market for over a decade and has undergone numerous upgradations. The main focus of Version 15 was to offer architects a robust and highly intuitive modelling interface through advanced designing tools in the form of the shell tool. Moreover, improvements made to roof tool along with a new 3D editing platform makes the current version a pleasure to work with.
Since it’s easy to lose ones bearing while working inside a 3D environment, The improved 3D editing platform has proved to be a big improvement. Within it, one can now chalk universal XYZ planes, which can be moved around and fluidly integrated with different design elements in your design board without you getting disoriented.
The current version has also added workflow support for refurbishment and renovation projects — while lets you control exactly how you want the demolition, existing and new line-work to be displayed. In very simple terms the demolition elements can be dashed, a thin line can be used to represent existing linework, while all new constructions can be shown using a thick bold line.
Before this new feature, which is yet to be introduced in either Revit or AutoCad, it was difficult to explain certain situations and three different work plans (for demolition, existing and new) had to be prepared and shown to explain something as simple as how a door was removed, how the space the filled in and what the new structure now looks like.
Using the patented IFC Property Management platform on ArchiCad 15, you can specify a separate IFC setting for every element and object in your design. Currently, the software offers 10 different IFC translators which can viewed on different CAD software like Revit structures, Tekla Structures and Bentely Buildings.
Although it's early days, Jonathan believes building information modelling is the way of the future. Increasingly large clients such as major design and construction developers are demanding BIM as a condition of the commissioning process.
Jonathan believes there are many firms, including single person practices that right now are faced with the decision to adopt 3D CAD and the BIM.
"It is not as daunting a process as they may think. In my opinion, the time is now."