Archive for the 'CAD' Category


AGS Case Study: West Side Skate Park, Albuquerque

Who would have thought such an exquisite degree of planning could go into a skate park? The project undertaken by Morrow Reardon Wilkinson Miller (MRWM) certainly proves that collaboration with the widest possible team can pay off in terms of the wow factor. In the Building Sitework chapter of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, Gregg Miller relates every step in the creation of this large-scale in-ground skate park. Here’s the overview:

The majority of the basic elements of the skate park utilize standard construction details and methods. The unique aspect of this project is the modification, application, and combination with these elements that makes them more “skate-able.” …. The arrangement, spacing, and connection of elements was resolved and refined in concert with the grading design. Through this process, the majority of the schematic design remained intact. Modifications were made to establish grades to acceptable slopes and to provide better internal circulation.

Now, what exactly are these elements? They are all standard concrete applications, either flat, sloped, or vertical, but it’s the imaginative way they’re put together that makes this park such a treat. They’re combined into features such as volcanoes, which are transitioned ledges with flat tops, and pyramids, which are multi-banked structures. There’s a thing called a sofa, which is a notch running laterally in a bank, and another called a loveseat, which is a protrusion at a bank’s corner. Since skaters like to jump over things, they have vertical separations and horizontal gaps to jump over.

Everything is grouped into two main areas, a section called the Trenches, mostly made from cast-in-place concrete around a central plaza of brick. This is described as a liner-flow area, replete with walls, banks, ledges, gaps, rails and steps. Separated from the Trenches by a grassy area is the Dogbone, a feature combining three bowls with a ¾ pipe. These bowls are from 8 to 11 feet deep, made to resemble the backyard swimming pools where many skaters learned their trade. The brick area pays homage to the University of New Mexico’s brick plazas, and the Trenches to the city’s system of drainage arroyos. Another part is modeled after a supremely skateable California bridge.

This illustration from Architectural Graphic Standards (from page 726) gives some idea of the meticulous planning that went into this unique recreational facility.

Miller goes into great detail describing the composition and formation of the various parts. The concrete paving, for instance, has to withstand not only skateboards but trucks, in the Trenches area, because they have to get in there for maintenance. So some of the concrete flatwork is six inches thick, reinforced by steel. The four different kinds of joints are enumerated and described: expansion joints, cold joints, cold-keyed joints, and control joints. The concrete retaining walls are of course not just walls, but skateable elements also, and vary from 8″ to 24″ in thickness, while part of the retaining wall is an aggregation of granite boulders with two-thirds of their bulk above ground. Both banks and ledges are composed of numerous variations on a theme, with different heights, widths, lengths, slopes, and connections.

The success of the project is attributed to the expertise of the consultants, namely, professional skateboard maestros who are usually on tour displaying their skills. All their ideas for exciting features were pulled together by an architect into a site plan. MRWM’s implementation of the plan started off with 3-D modeling, and at each step, everything was checked again with the experts who had envisioned the plan. Some changes and improvements were made along the way, but the park essentially came into reality matching the initial dream.

SOURCE: “West Side Skate Park” 2007
photo courtesy of striatic , used under this Creative Commons license


BIM Revolution Not Quite Here Yet

An interesting article in The Economist suggests that the revolution in BIM (Building Information Modeling) is, at least for the present, mainly wishful thinking. By and large,

… fancy graphics tend to be used only for conceptual purposes and play no role in the detailed design and construction of the finished structure. For the most part, this is still carried out with old-fashioned two-dimensional elevation and plan drawings, created by hand or using computer-aided design (CAD) software. “It’s still a 2-D profession,” says Shane Burger, an associate architect at Grimshaw…

With CAD, you draw your picture, and the software makes it malleable, so it can be changed, added to, combined with another. With BIM, you put in the facts of the case and tell the software what you need, and it draws the picture. It seems that many practitioners are still in a CAD headspace, unable to make the leap of imagination that would really put BIM to work for them.

When the client says, “How will it look from over there?”, the elegant and stunning pictorial answer can be shown, and that’s cool. But there’s so much more to BIM than dazzling graphics. The amazing virtual walk-through is negligible compared to the real power and beauty of BIM. The thing to keep in mind is that a building information model is a digital representation of both the physicals and functional characteristics.

Traditionally, one of the embarrassing possibilities, once construction starts, is discovering that a basic law of physics is being violated, as two things, such as an air duct and a beam, try to occupy the same space at the same time. In building information modeling, the word “information” is there for a reason – because the best part of BIM is the huge database of everything you could possibly want to know about every part of the building at all times. Like the weather or any other system, a building is subject to the so-called “butterfly effect.” Tweak something over here, and something over there is affected. With BIM,

the model is based on objects, which are solid shapes or voids with their own properties. The model also includes information about the relationships between these objects, so that when one object is changed… any related objects are automatically updated.

In a large project, the number of stakeholders can grow to monstrous proportions, and BIM keeps them all on the same page. Time is an added dimension, so processes can be followed through the life cycle of the building. All the stages of design, construction, and facility management are taken into account and automatically updated. Energy use, lighting, heat flow, acoustics, and many other factors can all be kept track of. The most important thing is the sharing of resources and information across platforms and environments.

The author points out that the early adapters are the more flamboyant, high-name-recognition architects. Because their creations are so complicated and unusual, there’s really no other choice. What’s needed is BIM across the board; it needs to be a plow horse as well as a show pony. Apparently this is happening, as the General Services Administration now requires BIM technology for all the projects it funds.

Of course, accurate cost estimation is a huge incentive, now more than ever. When the digital prototype is the main reference, it’s possible to calculate very finely the quantities of materials needed. Perhaps even more important, every detail necessary for compliance with regulations is spelled out. MIT professor William Mitchell estimates that inconsistencies and clashes can eat up from 2 to 5% of a budget. This is interesting, because that’s about the same percentage range as it costs to make a really good green building. So, thanks to BIM, it seems that a building could be made greener (costing 3% more) and smarter (saving 3%) and still end up with about the same price tag, when all’s said and done. With the cost of energy and materials going up, and the cost of information going down, it looks like the BIM revolution will go forward.

Pictured: the Eden Project, in England. The geodesic domes were BIM-designed.

SOURCE: ” From blueprint to database ” 06/05/08
photo courtesy of just_laze , used under this Creative Commons license


The Inevitability of Building Information Modeling

Ronda Bridge visualization

“Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job,” the old saying goes. That’s the gist of John Tobin’s plea for universal adoption and fullest possible use of Building Information Modeling (BIM). Tobin’s career has focused on 3D technologies. Now the principal architect at EYP Architecture & Engineering PC, he has also taught at Rensselaer School of Architecture.

His message is to not rely on the same old convention of two-dimensional drawings to visualize a project when there is a so much better tool at hand. And likewise, don’t send a man to do a boy’s job. Don’t think of BIM as just a fancier way to produce two-dimensional drawings. It’s a whole new world. Tobin says, “We would be better served to look beyond using BIM merely as a more powerful representation tool, and instead to treat the models we create as proto-buildings.”

A BIM model is the first iteration of a building, Tobin says, a true prototype, because proto means first. Once BIM gets its hands on a project and is used properly, what you get is less like a picture of a building, and more like a building. What you get is virtual construction.

Like anything else in life, the full realization of the BIM promise depends on attitude, the willingness to learn, change, co-operate, and share. New ways of thinking are called for. For instance, Tobin says:

After working with BIM for several years, many architects find themselves modeling in ways that don’t necessarily make sense if 2D representation is the end-goal.… A segment of the architecture profession is moving beyond representation, and embracing a proto-construction mentality, carefully but inevitably.

Tobin suggests that contractors have a head start on architects when it comes to adaptability, and discusses the options for interoperability, including the National BIM Standard (NBIMS), about which he is optimistic. He breaks down the chronology of BIM history into generations, and, along with the great examples and many illustrations, this is really why it’s worth reading the original article:

BIM 1.0 – CAD on Steroids, but still doing the traditional representation.
BIM 2.0 – The Big Bang in Reverse – this has to do with solving the design/build dichotomy. Now we get into the 4th dimension, which is time, and the 5th, which is money. Then came analyses of energy and environment, and the drive for interoperability, all wrapped up in a steep learning curve.
BIM 3.0 – Post-Interoperability: This era is in its infancy, and the quicker we help it grow up, the better. Just think of the advantage: Unlike any architects or builders in history, we can build a thing twice (or as many times as it takes) without the dreary agony of tearing down masonry or pulling out wrongly placed components. We get an infinite number of do-overs, without the sweat. What’s not to like?

Wiley’s BIM Handbook is just what’s needed to get up to speed on this vital topic. It includes everything you’d want to know about BIM, and case studies, too; a universe of information in a very accessible format, starting off with a chapter called “BIM Tools and Parametric Modeling Interoperability.” Other chapters approach BIM from the viewpoints of the architect, engineer, owner, facility manager, builder, subcontractor, fabricator, and family dog (just kidding.)

The visualization of Ronda Bridge, at the top of the page, was tagged by its creator with the labels Autocad and Maya.

SOURCE: ” Proto-Building: To BIM is to Build ” 05/28/08
photo courtesy of Ziuth2008, used under this Creative Commons license


The Current Concerns of Peter Eisenman

At the recent RIAS 2008 (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) gathering, Peter Eisenman was a keynote speaker. The thoughts he shared with the convention were organized into six major points, as recapitulated in a transcript at bdonline. Eisenman is known as one of the “New York Five” and, philosophically, as a “deconstructionist,” whose career has been problematic in some ways. In this speech, he makes a point about the widespread media craze for polls and popularity contests, a point which has been made by theorists in fields other than architecture:

Vote for this, vote for whatever stories you want to hear, vote for what popular song you want to hear, vote for what commercial you want to see. This voting gives the appearance of active participation, but it is merely another form of sedation because the voting is irrelevant. It is part of the attempt to make people believe they are participating when in fact they are becoming more and more passive.

He warns that people, especially students, have become increasingly non-participatory, content to just lie back and let their sensoria be flooded by tides of images. This is particularly dangerous in the case of students because it is the young to whom we look for the fresh ideas and the massive amount of energy it takes to effect changes in society. But now, terrible things are going on all over the globe, and students are inert.

Eisenman seems concerned by the ubiquity of media, and its inseparable intertwining with human endeavors at the most mundane level, to the point where people have almost become extensions of their own computers. He sees this as the cause of a widespread societal epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder, causing the inability to focus or concentrate on anything for more that a short time. Irrelevant information keeps multiplying, he feels, while genuine communication shrinks. In his view, architecture must resort to “more and more spectacular imaging” to counter this trend.

But, speaking of spectacular imaging, what about computer-aided design? Well, it seems that Eisenman thinks computers have a deleterious effect on design standards. There is a connection between what the hand does and what the brain learns, which he feels is being broken when students no longer draw with actual tools on actual paper. He goes so far as to say that computers are great for those who don’t want to think, an assertion that would surely be disputed by any student burning the midnight oil, trying to wrap her head around the latest software package. But his own students, he says, are no longer able to draw a simple diagram or plan, and this bodes no good for the future of architecture as a whole.

He goes on to discuss the difference between icons, symbols, and indices, and what the difference means in terms of real-world applications. He references the work of C. S. Peirce, explaining what is meant by the concept of the “decorated shed.” For some reason, which may or may not lay responsibility at the door of the CAD revolution, Eisenman sees a loss of values in architecture, resulting in an inability to judge.

He sees some importance in sorting out what phase architecture currently resides in, relative to its other phases both past and future. The phase architecture is in now, he says, is a period of late style, which contains no new paradigm, but represents the end of a historic cycle. Quoting Edward Said, he sees late style as, “A moment not of fate or hopelessness but one that contains a possibility of looking at a great style for the possibility of the new and the transformative.”

Eisenman goes on to reflect on the relationship between the part and the whole: the building is related to the site, which is related to the street, the immediate neighborhood, and the whole city. He concludes that to be an architect is a social act, and that this engagement with society is what needs to be concentrated on now.

(Pictured: one view of Eisenman’s “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”)

SOURCE: ” Eisenman’s six point plan ” 05/14/08
photo courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt , used under this Creative Commons license


CAD Caveats from a Developer-Contractor

Photoshop and Autodesk Maya

T.K. Garrison, author of Cracks, Sags, and Dimwits – Lessons to Build On, also maintains a website with some great articles on it, for instance this one called “Slaughtered in the Dirt.” Two friends in the industry are swapping tales of professional misery, and the subject of their woes is dirt. On any building site, it’s expensive to handle, especially when you have to do it more than once. One guy advises the other:

You’re usually dollars ahead paying for a topo survey up front and then having your architect check dirt quantities as she designs. Not only does this minimize dirt work, it also helps ensure driveways and lawns aren’t too steep and that the site drains properly.

Like so many other aspects of a project, working the dirt right is the responsibility of humans who can be devastatingly fallible, whether through lack of training or lack of caring. It comes to the same thing in the end — a badly flawed project, in this case a road the engineer put in the wrong place without consulting the dirt.

Though Garrison’s piece is about computer-assisted design (CAD), it applies equally to Building Information Modeling (BIM). It’s funny and, unfortunately, all too true. There’s a strong warning here against the assumption that a lot of pricey software and few buzz words can add up to a technologically competent architectural firm. Training and commitment matter, and so do versatility, and adaptability, and so do machines and programs that can work together harmoniously. As one of Garrison’s characters says,

There are two types of CAD operators… The thinking kind are worth their weight in gold. The I-only-push-buttons-for-a-living-don’t-ask-me-to-think variety are far more common… They can be successful, but only if the boss spends LOTS of time reviewing and correcting their work…. He’s so busy bringing in new jobs, trying to get paid, and training new employees, there’s no time left to manage and maintain the people actually doing his day-to-day workload.

Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition contains a whole chapter on “Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM)” which defines the design technologies associated with the field as ranging from simple two-dimensional drawing programs to the more inclusive and complicated 3D programs that do solid parametric modeling. It’s basically any digital environment where a desired shape is first designed, then interpreted, producing directions that control the actions of a machine tool. While unquestionably unequalled when it comes to laying out and cutting out parts, the further reaches of computer-aided design can create ambivalence in its human users,

As Dan Hanganu points out, the ability to make beautiful pictures alone isn’t enough, and can conceal shortfalls in other areas. He says, “The technology has taken off and there is a generation of people in our offices who know how to manipulate the machine. But the machine has the seductive ability to hide the lack of depth and essential knowledge of the user.” Newly fledged architect Zoe Berman notes in her blog, “For a while, we seemed to forget that the computer can only ever be a tool that we direct, and is not a tool to direct us. CAD creates a veil of perception that can distance us from the realities of a project.” Many voices remind us that technology alone can never replace human intelligence, and even the best tool is only as good as the mind that directs and interprets its activities.

SOURCE: ” Slaughtered In the Dirt – Part 1: Bad CAD” 06/02/08
photo courtesy of ovendelon , used under this Creative Commons license


Building Information Modeling or Virtual Building with ArchiCAD 11

ArchiCAD production

In AECbytes, Eric Bobrow presents a lavishly illustrated article that almost amounts to a tutorial on ArchiCAD 11, describing it in such glowing terms as “amazingly versatile,” “a revolutionary catalyst” and “redefines the state of the art.” This article fits together nicely with Graphisoft’s PDF document outlining the program’s new features, and their three-and-a-half minute movie about the benefits to be expected by each particular member of the team – designer, project architect, draftsman, consultant.

Virtual Building™ is Graphisoft’s trademarked phrase for building information modeling, of which the company is a pioneer. What it does, of course, is make workflows work together, whether they are two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or hybrid. Users report significant improvement in the areas of drawing generation, design, and collaboration. Here is Bobrow’s breakdown of a few of the ways in which Virtual Trace makes the professional’s life a better place:

· Overlaying one story against another to verify structural relationships, or to snap and align new elements in relation to those on the traced story.

· Showing the site plan or a lower story as a light image underneath another floor plan-this can be printed for study or presentation.

· Seeing a plan overlaid with another view of the same story which has different layers turned on (such as cabinets, structure or landscaping).

· Developing a site plan in a 2D Worksheet while coordinating with the building model.

· Viewing and aligning elements to an elevation or section while working on the floor plan.

ArchiCAD 11’s Virtual Trace feature is greatly enhanced over the previous similar tool, Ghost Story. With humble beginnings in our ancestral memory of tracing paper, Virtual Trace provides overlay views of things which elsewhere have to be viewed in two separate windows, and simplifies the alignment of drawings on one sheet to their counterparts on another sheet. It has a thing called Visual Compare which dynamically analyzes the differences and relationships between two drawings. Its Splitter slides across the screen to allow minutely detailed comparisons and spot things that might otherwise be missed.

This brand of software is mentioned in the section on BIM and BIM-complementary applications in Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition. The book says:

ArchiCAD is based on the single-model concept. The Constructor application includes the ArchiCAD modeling system for automatically linking the construction model to the project schedule, thus enabling different schedule alternatives to be analyzed, and a connector to a related estimating application.

Fans of ArchiCAD 11 praise its high degree of compatibility with outside file types, its ability to import information directly from Google Earth, the new Interior Elevations tool, and the new tool and view type known as Worksheet. Also much appreciated are its support of AutoCAD 2007 and Macintosh. The improved quality control for construction documents is often mentioned. One reviewer is very excited about the new way to classify components within a model, Home Story. Another is crazy about the capacity to produce a freehand design with the Sketch rendering engine, or an animated walkthrough with the Lightworks engine.

Improved design workflow, more productivity, and better-coordinated and more detailed documentation of complex projects – what’s not to like?

SOURCE: “ArchiCAD Virtual Trace: A Versatile Catalyst for BIM” 03/20/08
photo courtesy of rucativava , used under this Creative Commons license


CAD Market Prospects Considered

CAD model

On the Cadalyst website, Kenneth Wong asks, “Can CAD Market Grow in an Economic Downturn?” and then goes on to interpret and place into context raw data from the Jon Peddie Research Special Report, a collection of facts and figures which describes itself thus:

The 2008 CAD Report is a detailed report that looks specifically at the CAD market. It includes information on worldwide CAD software revenues, market share, and information about the user base. The market looks at the industry from the two major subsets of Mechanical/Manufacturing and AEC (Architecture, Electrical, and Construction). The report also includes a section on CAD for the Mac and Process and Power. It breaks out the relative share of the market for Architecture, MCAD, Process and Power, Civil, GIS/Mapping, and other.

What, you may ask, does the “Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM)” chapter of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition have to say about all this? The chapter, by Kimo Griggs and Kenneth Kao, starts with a simple definition and then elaborates:

The digital design technologies associated with CAD/CAM range from simple two-dimensional (2D) drawing to sophisticated three-dimensional (3D) solid parametric modeling programs…The ability to extend the use of digital design models, particularly 3D models, beyond design visualization into design development, engineering, manufacturing, and then into facilities management, enables designers to explore ideas and provide solutions in ways that were previously inconceivable.

And this is not only wonderful, but inevitable. Still, many AEC professionals are asking themselves, and the experts on their payroll, questions about the future of this technology and especially about its profitability. According to a recent report, Africa’s demand for engineering applications software increased by 8% in 2007, over the previous year. This news comes from Cambashi, another research and analysis consulting firm that specializes in engineering and enterprise applications. Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and Libya together (collectively known as the Mahgreb) account for a third of all the demand for engineering applications software that stems from Africa, as well as a large share of the architecture and construction software, which are all tending to pretty much flow together as time goes on. Egypt is also an enthusiastic consumer of engineering applications. On another page, we find information from Cambashi about the United Arab Emirates, which also uses engineering applications in a big way. In the UAE, three-quarters of the software demand is for the kind that serves the engineering, construction, and architecture fields. This is compared to the rest of the world, where purchases applicable to those fields make up only 38% of the software market.

After posing the very relevant question of whether the CAD market can grow, Kenneth Wong asks another one:

So how are the IT managers and CAD managers bracing for the inevitable economic slump? Some think loosening the purse strings for well-timed training and well-placed technology might help tighten their companies’ operating margins.

It’s obvious that the computers and the people are only two factors in the equation. Industrial firms need an infrastructure to employ IT effectively, and that base needs to meld CAD visualization and information management. One of the trends noted by the Jon Peddie Research Special Report is “a significant shift taking place as smaller businesses are investing in new technologies.” Stepping into the next phase of technological progress is definitely not just for the big boys. Another emerging trend is an emphasis on training in such vital areas as building information modeling. One of the experts Wong talked with for his article noted that, over the past five years, the main growth he has seen is in the upgrading of 2D licenses to their related 3D systems. This CAD management consultant, Robert Green, also says,

“Examine your processes and fix the problems you find so you can squeeze every little bit of productivity from your existing staff. To the extent that CAD/IT tools support these goals, make the investments. If training to achieve better standards compliance and process control supports these goals, then do so.”

So – given all this – can the CAD market grow in an economic downturn?

SOURCE: “Can CAD Market Grow in an Economic Downturn?” 04/07/08
photo courtesy of AmyMEmeME , used under this Creative Commons license