Posts Tagged ‘collaboration


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


Louisiana Architect Trey Trahan

It’s always enlightening to examine one particular architect’s methods and ways of thought, which Liz Martin has done in a substantial interview with Trey Trahan FAIA of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This comparatively young professional has found himself in the news lately as a person who bears watching — in the best possible way, of course. When asked by the interviewer if he finds a particular project inspirational, he moves the conversation to a different plane by talking about his grandfather, who impressed on him the idea that we’re not just here to suit ourselves, but to help others whenever possible. Trahan says,

My grandfather was a humble and extraordinary person that started with very little and worked very hard, and he did it with such dignity….He was a simple and quiet man that spoke only when he had something to say, but was terribly genuine. It’s the characteristics that I think great architecture possesses.

Trahan was also strongly influenced by the words of Le Corbusier, whose declaration that “creation is a patient search” grounds his philosophy. Trahan summarizes the process:

You learn a little; you work really hard. You learn a little more and then you work harder.

He talks about how easy it is to be taken in by an idea that seems, at first, to be the one, only, and inspired solution. Often, on closer examination, the perfect answer turns out to be more sizzle than steak, and the conscientious creator needs to start over again by re-stating the basics: the program, the uniqueness of the place, the cultural influences at work, and of course the client. Then, more study and testing. To be real and right, architecture has to satisfy on all levels. Simplicity is an important value. In general he feels that most of our lives are impeded by too much clutter.

When asked about how being a Louisiana native has affected his life as an architect, he is enthusiastic about the rich diversity of the area in terms of its population. His firm is working against the perception of Louisiana being something of a backwater where innovation doesn’t show up. He thinks it possible that the state can move into the creative forefront in architecture as well as in other areas.

Trahan describes himself as excited by new materials and processes, and at the same time willing to go back to old materials, for example in the design of Holy Rosary Catholic Church Complex where an elegant solution was found in the combination of an old material with a new process. The needs of the project led to the study of an old, primitive form of concrete called bousillage.

When the original bid for the construction turned out to be more than twice the budget, the firm turned to the new technology of building information modeling and created 3D computer files which a milling company used to produce the cypress boards that form the building. This brought the cost back within range, with the additional benefit of using a material whose interplay with light is very satisfying to the architect and many other who admire the building – including more than 30 magazine editors who included stories about it in their publications.

This project also offered a great opportunity for intensive collaboration, which Trahan sees as very important. Before the Holy Rosary project started, he hosted a day-long meeting with all the contractors and sub-contractors where he impressed upon them the importance of their work not only as handlers of physical construction components, but as artists whose contributions were essential to the aesthetic result.

Perhaps the most socially significant role played by his firm was the renovation of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. This was by many as a vital step in recovery for the whole state of Louisiana, in terms of morale, because it symbolized the rebirth of the city of New Orleans and pointed toward the return of normalcy. Even though the building is not “his” in any sense, Trahan calls this project the most fulfilling experience in his career up to this point.

More recently, the firm has gained media attention as one of those chosen to work on the Make It Right! project, for the rebuilding of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, which has become well-known through the participation of actor Brad Pitt.

SOURCE: ” Trey Trahan Defining Local Architecture at a Variety of Scales” 06/03/08
photo courtesy of raybdbomb , used under this Creative Commons license


BIMStorm Coming to Your City?

Los Angeles

BIM is of course Building Information Modeling, and here’s how it became a storm. In Cadalyst, Kenneth Wong reports on how 133 participants tested a hunk of technology called OPS, short for Onuma Planning System, also known as a “Web-based BIM collaboration platform.” And what a platform it is. In virtual attendance from Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Canada, Mexico and the U.S., this group took on the challenge of re-inventing 60 square blocks of Los Angeles. They answered the question of what would happen if, as Wong puts it,

…a bunch of idealistic architects, designers, building owners, contractors, and consultants decided to do away with the professional hierarchies, business protocols, and legal constraints that have long prevented them from working together? What if they converged on a destination and simply spent the day exchanging ideas about the high-rises, hospitals, firehouses, and schools they envision building there?

BIMStorm LA, as the event was officially dubbed, was the brainstorm of Pasadena architect Kimon Onuma. It was a case of technology in search of an application, the technology being Saas, or software-as-a-service, which was developed by Onuma’s company and named OPS. We’re talking about open, interoperable data standards, meaning the players could come in with ArchiCAD, Autodesk Revit, VectorWorks, or any number of other programs that operate under Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) standards.

This was the super-stoked collaboration track, nicknamed the Woodstock of BIM, because the idea behind it was to shake loose from the old ways and throw everybody together into one big sandbox to be as playful and inventive as they wanted — not only architects and engineers, but code reviewers, specialists in Leed certification, green consultants, and structural analysts. After a 24-hour Internet session, conducted in real time with no lag, 420 virtual buildings had been created over 54,755,153 square feet of territory.

One enthusiastic participant was analyst Karen Weber, who specializes in green roofs. Although energy-modeling BIM software is fully aware of solar panels, it doesn’t seem to have caught up with the concept of green roofs, to Weber’s regret. She’s excited about hybrid roofs — the combination of green plantings with solar panels. Roofs get hot, as hot as 200 degrees, and she’d like to see those solar panels, which function best in the high 70s, to have plants for company, to cool them off. The green roof not only looks nice, but saves, she says, lots of money over the life of the building because of several factors.

How will all these green roofs be watered? Weber has a plan for that, too. The area of the architects’ and planners’ imaginary playground would contain around 300 fire hydrants. Their annual flushing wastes millions of gallons of water, which she would like to see gathered, stored in cisterns, and sent up to the green roofs. And why not? Cities are certainly crying out for ways to do many things better, including the conservation of resources.

Another participant, Jeffrey Ouellette of VectorWorks, said,

It’s a really interesting exercise. You can find out relatively quickly how feasible it is to build two 20-story buildings instead of a single 40-story building on a site very early in the design process. A lot of architects struggle with that early design stage because they need to get the feedback, the data, that really matters, in a timely fashion.

Going by the evidence of BimStorm’s own website it appears to have designs on several more cities. One comment notes that the old ways have been proven to cause a built-in wastage of 30% of the professionals’ time and energy before construction on a project even begins. People are liking this idea of real-time collaboration that can bring problems to light before they even become problems. One even proposes the radical idea that, in many cases, the best solution would be not to build.

Comments from BIMStorm participants verge on sounding like religious conversion or falling in love — this thing is rocking their world, and they want more. Urged ahead by the visionary Onuma, they want the future to come faster, which will happen when everybody in the industry gets on board this thing.

SOURCE: ” The Summer of BIM ” 04/01/08
photo courtesy of olasisucsd , used under this Creative Commons license


The Role of Building Information Modeling in Cleantech

The Majestic Fool

While public awareness of ecological problems focuses on the transportation industry, many people are not quite accustomed to regarding construction as an area where green technology can make a huge difference. But new methods are changing the design, construction and operation of buildings and facilities more every day. This is emphasized by Scott Boutwell in a piece, where he says,

The building & facility industry is undergoing radical change today, as owners are demanding more project visibility, improved risk management (scheduling & costs); and increased use of technologies that will allow for less waste, more efficient energy consumption, and ultimately lower costs over the lifecycle of the facility (from design and construction to operations).

This change is due to Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is exponentially different from 2-dimensional computer-assisted design. Boutwell tells why:

This knowledge or database contains the ‘intelligent objects” of a structure; not just lines and arcs typically associated with traditional CAD or drawing tools. As such, BIM can represent multiple, dynamic, and collaborative views of information such as spatial data (3D), un-structured data (text), and structured data (databases, spreadsheets), as well as new views including scheduling and cost information (termed ‘4D’ and ‘5D’, respectively).

The visualization capabilities of BIM are of a different order of magnitude, allowing for much more in the way of collaboration in the early stages and throughout the gestation and birth of a structure, but that’s only the beginning. The technology’s innate intelligence and especially its ability to simulate events and processes are what really make a difference. In the area of energy and resources, like water management and re-use, it has never been so easy to design with conservation in mind. All the various elements that make up the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can be tested and improved before one pipe is laid. The impact of alternative energy sources such as wind can be factored in. Energy analysis predicts how all the parts will work together and how their synergy can be enhanced, advancing also the health and comfort of the building’s eventual inhabitants.

The results of using various kinds of insulation, windows, and structural components can be played with, trying out different combinations until the optimal energy-efficient result is reached. The virtual management of materials allows for a formerly undreamed-of degree of efficiency and a significant reduction in waste. Along with being earth-friendly, this kind of analysis is also budget-friendly. The impact of a building upon the world around it, in terms of carbon, water, and other elemental substances, can be predicted and adjusted before mistakes are made on a large, expensive scale.

The management of risk is a subject dear to the heart of every architect, builder, developer, attorney, accountant, and insurance underwriter – aside from the purely altruistic safety considerations put in place for the public good. When the goal is to meet the U.S. Green Buildings Council standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, building information modeling keeps the project on track every step of the way.

Boutwell calls the adoption of BIM technology as a green tool “rapid but uneven” across the industry. He cites the Green Index Study, conducted in 2007 by the American Institute of Architects and Autodesk. The findings are that 44% of the responding architects are currently using some form of BIM. But, at this point, the definition is not quite pinned down. He quotes Buddy Cleveland, an Applied Research expert at Bentley Systems, who says, “People are defining BIM as whatever they want it to be.” What does it mean for a firm to say it utilizes BIM technology? Does it have a full team headed by a BIM manager? Has it bought the software but not quite gotten it installed yet? Does the firm make full use of BIM technology in the back office, while not yet incorporating this green-friendly approach into its marketing strategy?

In architecture, engineering, and construction, there are cultural factors to overcome before the concept of BIM as the royal road to greenness is fully accepted. There are training issues, and adjustments that must be made in traditional business processes. For owners, operators, contractors, engineers, and architects, ultimately the widespread adoption of BIM spells win-win-win-win-win.

SOURCE: ” Building Information Modeling and the Adoption of Green Technologies ” 05/22/08
photo courtesy of The Majestic Fool , used under this Creative Commons license


New Generation of Architects with Different Perspective

Long Kesh

In the pages of RIBA Journal, the official magazine of the Royal Institute of British Architects, recent graduate Zoe Berman reflects on her education and on an attitude that is growing among her contemporaries.

Something seems to be going on among these young students of architecture similar to the fervor that captured students worldwide in what we call the Sixties, prompting them to demand relevance from their institutions and from themselves. Regarding their own particular field, Berman says,

‘Architecture lite’ TV shows and magazine articles presenting glossy projects risk creating a public perception of an industry defined by image and fad…

The architect as superstar has become a suspect figure. Electronic and print media have elevated architects and architecture that some see as what a Texan might define as all hat and no cattle. While there’s nothing wrong with style, substance must be present too, and a meaningful amount of it. There is a backlash, possibly even a revolt, against the shiny, the showy, and the superficial. These young folk are talking about things like ideals.

Berman observes that students are backing away from the superstar paradigm, and looking to small-scale, personal projects for satisfaction. Grassroots might be an over-utilized word, but it expresses perfectly what she sees as the spiritual home increasingly sought by the current generation of students. Community looks like a better deal than individual stardom. They see an opportunity to work on a home for the aged, for instance, as an enticing invitation to discover the true meaning of their chosen profession.

Architecture students are taking a good hard look at what sustainability really comprises. Another matter under scrutiny is the tendency for credit to be unevenly distributed. Every project involves a team, and recognition of that fact is not as widespread as they would like to see. Berman credits her school with fostering the ascendancy of the group over the individual in this respect:

The course at Sheffield University is rare in encouraging projects that forced us, often reluctantly, to work together in groups rather than allowing us to cruise through the course producing self-referential, self-satisfying projects.

Apparently, whoever makes policy at this university feels it’s better that young architects discover sooner, rather than later, that the magic word is collaboration.

The students of this generation also focus on ethics. Of course, the conventional attitude, so ingrained that it is not often questioned, is that a professional does the job she or he is paid to do, to the best of her or his ability. But what if the job is creating a laboratory where animals will be used in ways that many people take strong exception to? What if the job is building yet another prison, in the face of very convincing indications that the good of society will be much better served by the realization that there are better ways to deal with social problems? Then there is another position, one that asks: Given that prisons will undoubtedly continue to be built, isn’t it preferable to have them designed and built by conscientious, caring individuals than by uncaring bureaucrats?

SOURCE: “”No Stars in Our Eyes” May 2008
photo courtesy of kitestramrt , 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


Carl Galioto and Paul Seletsky on Building Information Modeling

Freedom Tower

Recently, Bryant Rousseau conducted a joint interview with two Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architects, Paul Seletsky and Carl Galioto, about the still-emerging field of building information modeling (BIM), also sometimes referred to as “virtual design and construction.” Galioto, incidentally, was subject editor for the Special Construction and Demolition section (Chapter 6) of Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition. Interviewer Rousseau introduces the piece by describing the shape of the discussion:

The pair discuss how BIM facilitated a major redesign of the Freedom Tower; assess the technology’s strategic impact on the profession; address common misperceptions; explain BIM’s potential benefits for smaller practices; point out how BIM can lead to increased compensation for architects; and lay out the potential ramifications of BIM-both positive and negative-on the architect’s overall role in the realization of buildings.

Both Galioto and Seletsky see the advent of BIM as a transforming event whose full impact has yet to be realized or appreciated. They describe the concept of performative design, and the new idea of a model rich with data, that is not really owned by anyone. The exchange, the borrowing, the circular process of swapping back and forth between all the contributors creates a huge database that is, in effect, a virtual building. Building information modeling, they say, is not just about cost-effectiveness or 3D geometry, but about a whole new level of collaboration, and joint ownership of intellectual property, and thus requires a whole new mindset.

Galioto compares BIM to email, as an entity whose beginnings give barely a hint of what it will develop into over the course of time. Seletsky knocks down the mistaken notion that BIM is just for large firms, saying that in his opinion it gives unprecedented opportunities and advantages to small firms and small-scale projects. He says:

As a very good example, take specifications-which is traditionally coming as a post-rational application to something that has already been designed. But what we’re going to see is where the specifications become embedded into the rules of a building information model. We’ll see more and more examples of taking knowledge and applying it at the very early stages of design rather than applying it later.

What is the effect of BIM on architects? Does it take away the autonomy and leadership they’ve become accustomed to? The consensus is that both the responsibility and stature of architects can only be increased, if they get behind the technology and use its full potential. Galioto in particular praises and welcomes the magnified role of collaboration. He gives the example of how the analysis of thermal performance on building envelopes is much richer when architects, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers, can have a meeting of minds so much more fully enabled by the software.

In his view, the biggest problem area is interoperability, which has fallen behind the huge gains made by individual applications. He predicts that this difficulty will be overcome due to client demand, which is always the prime mover of the marketplace. This will inevitably happen, he suggests, because clients will realize how BIM is not just something that gets the building designed, and all its systems coordinated, but is an enduring and permanent facilities management tool, much to their advantage.

BIM also brings new legal liability and insurance implications that weren’t factors before. First, there needs to be a universally accepted definition of exactly what BIM is. The technology entails changes in the delivery system, new job descriptions, the redefinition of contractual relationships, changes in compensation to the various parties, and other issues. Galioto explains why he is very pleased with the way the difficulties are being negotiated and how well the shift to a new set of expectations is progressing.

The two architects also discuss BIM in relation to the Freedom Tower, part of the new World Trade Center complex, which is under construction and will be for many more years. It presented the unusual challenge of having to be redesigned after the decision was made to increase the setback from the street to reduce its vulnerability to car bombs and other security threats. A great deal of work had been done and the creators thought everything was pretty much in place, when they learned the building was to be relocated. Seletsky describes the unparalleled usefulness of Autodesk Revit in this regard, enabling them to understand the relationships of subway lines, water mains, conduits and other underground elements to the overall suitability of the site.

The plan includes many features that hark back to the 9/11 disaster, such as a dedicated staircase for the use of firefighters and other first responders. The Freedom Tower project is highly emotionally charged and has been since its inception, with every step being controversial. Only a couple of weeks ago it made news again when a homeless man found sets of schematics in the trash, prompting a public relations uproar.

SOURCE: ” SOM’s Carl Galioto and Paul Seletsky on BIM ” (no date given)
photo courtesy of alvy, used under this Creative Commons license