Technology in Architectural Practice

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The AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community (TAP) serves as a resource for AIA members, the profession, and the public in the deployment of computer technology in the practice of architecture. TAP leaders monitor the development of computer technology and its impact on architecture practice and the entire building life cycle, including design, construction, facility management, and retirement or reuse.


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Virtual Design and Construction

  • 1.  Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-02-2019 12:44
    The Search for a Solution: Transforming Design + Delivery through Virtual Design and Construction

    Architects are being called on with increasing frequency to deliver more complex buildings with shorter delivery schedules.There is more to accomplish and less room for error; and in my opinion, the traditional approach by many architects, contractors and owners has many challenges and issues to overcome.

    My firm has harnessed progressive and highly advanced technologies and integrated them with the most essential element in design: the relationship among human beings. With the right technological tools and the implementation of thoughtfully created execution success plans, the project delivery process can shift from adversarial to cooperative, a culture where blame follows failure to one in which trust fosters success - a winning formula for our enlightened clients.

    In the spirit of the AIA's call to action in its 2006 Report on Integrated Practice, SGA has invested significantly in increasingly powerful software programs and tools, which ultimately led our firm to establishing a Virtual Design and Construction discipline in 2014.  Time and again, on a broad spectrum of commissions, VDC has produced precedent setting milestones. Implementing Virtual Design and Construction in modeling, project delivery, curation and facilities management represents a paradigm shift for the profession of architecture. Our mastery of VDC has resulted in substantial cost savings, schedule reductions, elimination of on-site waste and has elevated my role as the architect in the project delivery process without comprising design quality. It is an architect led process that takes the confrontation out of the team dynamic and addresses directly the issues of waste, change orders and cost overruns that have plagued the design and construction industry.

    Historically, architects were once viewed as Master Builders; I believe that by thinking beyond the boundaries of traditional practice and technology, and embracing the commanding power of VDC, architects can rise up into the position of Digital Builders. VDC is the long awaited "bridge between design and construction".






    ------------------------------
    Alfred Spagnolo AIA
    Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc.
    Boston MA
    AlfredAlfredAlfredAlfredAlfred
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-09-2019 02:29
    Hi Alfred, thanks for posting, I must agree with your take on VDC and maybe even expand upon the differences it makes to a firms accuracy and ultimately the bottom line of a project.

    For those who are unaware of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and what it entails, I will briefly elaborate.  Essentially VDC is the construction of a project virtually with priority items represented via Geometry. I am not sure what technology you are using Alfred, however, I know of two programs that automate the process, the first being Tekla and the other being PlusSpec, which works inside of Sketchup.  Now there is a process and Virtually designing every single component that actually goes into construction is a decision to be made by the end user, the real question is what components are required to be represented by geometry and which are simply a waste of time?  One other factor that comes into play is what is realistic to be known by an architect or designer and what is not.

    Right about now I am dancing around the subject of experience learned under tuition versus experience gained by practising in the real world. Most all of the people reading this response probably have 10 plus years of experience, and most of what goes into a project is understood, however, the readers with this amount of experience are less likely to be "computer scientists or advanced software operators and more likely to be design experts. On the other hand, we have the brilliant young 3D BIM wizards who somehow naturally pick up a piece of software in hours and make it sing like a bird, yet know very little about what goes on behind the empty shell of a Revit Model.

    I am curious Alfred, you mention your firm has been working with advanced technology since 2014, it would be great to get an understanding of what that means and what it took to be confident with the VDC process. I also think that many reading this post would like to know how long it took before you felt comfortable with the output of detail-rich designs?

    Many wrongly shy away from the VDC process as A. it could potentially open the door to vexatious clients, or B. increase the time it takes to get a project from concept to Authorities for planning approval.  My response to "A" is; you are less likely to make a mistake as the VDC outlines the mistake and to  B. is; yes you are doing more than representing walls or floors with hollow shells yet the technology automates the process in most if not all cases.

    I am fortunate enough to have learned design after I learned construction so VDC was the most natural progression for me,  essentially (just Like Alfred said) it reduces waste, not only in material onsite, it reduced communication time, RFI's, distraction, paper, administration and it allows me to be confident that the projects I deliver are actually going to meet the client brief/design expectations at the same time as coming in on budget. With the technology that is available today, I can deliver more in less time at a high rate of pay per hour. I feel sorry for the firms who see gross turnover as a reflection on a design firms success, as it is genuinely not the case. No matter how much we enjoy the design process, net profit is the key to enjoying life outside of a successful career and VDC is in my opinion the only way to make this a reality.

    Alfred, I can not agree more with your finishing statement; Historically, architects were once viewed as Master Builders; I believe that by thinking beyond the boundaries of traditional practice and technology, and embracing the commanding power of VDC, architects can rise up into the position of Digital Builders. VDC is the long awaited "bridge between design and construction".

    If architects truly want to be recognised for the hard work they did to become accredited, they would be looking to improve their output in line with the expectations of today, and the demands of tomorrows millennial clients. For those who are still using 2D CAD you probably saved yourself time and money as some of the so-called BIM packages on the market are merely 3D drawing packages with hacks, masks and workarounds that will never be VDC.

    I am happy to offer any advice if interested in my experience with VDC, respond here or PM me, I will answer as soon as I can.  B)



    ------------------------------
    Andrew Dwight
    Designer/BIM manager AAD Build
    BDM RubySketch
    Sydney Australia
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-11-2019 09:07
    Alfred,

    Having been one of those involved with this automation effort since the time before CAD included graphics and my first graphics on a Techtronics 4014 (round green screen) in the early 1970's, I applaud and embrace the promotion of VDC, as we do need to build electronically and work out issues before we build physically. We should also recognize that VDC is a subset of Building Information Modeling (BIM). Sadly the "I" in BIM has been largely unexploited to date, but that too is quickly changing. The desired concept is to have a digital twin of the built environment so that not only can we understand the asset prior to physically constructing it, but also provide the owner a product they can use to operate and maintain their asset. There are many exciting aspects which are still "under construction" including the full implementation of tools such as COBie supported with digital product libraries such as BIM Object. So the goal of BIM has always been generating a seamless digital thread of usable information from inception until after the asset has outlived its useful life. VDC will provide information to that thread  prior to and during construction. Another emerging strategy is the total cost of ownership which will provide the metrics needed to understand the complete impact of planning, design and operating decisions. Again I agree with both Alfred and Andrew that architects should step up and be the initiator and steward of that digital thread for the owner, but sadly I have not seen this to be the case to date, perhaps this next generation will take on that challenge.

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    Dana Smith FAIA
    Herndon VA
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  • 4.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-16-2019 15:50

    Wonderful responses so far from everyone.  I'll just add my two cents also.  My background is in Architecture, and was very involved with BIM/VDC at the last office that I worked.  However, they started to revert back to 2D since some key people had left.  A few of us there tried to continue the push with BIM, but it didn't take.  The overall attitude was that they could draw faster in CAD.  That may be true, but that obviously has no bearing on being productive or efficient.  Long story short, some people I knew on the construction side were showing how the tech was being utilized and I made the move to construction for professional and personal reasons.  Needless to say five years later, I now have an additional set of tools and management skills that I wish I could share back on the design side.  I do as much as I can with my peers that I continue to have relationships with on the design side.

    That being said, I really believe the solution to these complex projects with shorter timelines will require collaboration from ALL stakeholders on the project including subcontractors.  All parties need to be brought in and I truly believe a lot of questions answered upfront regarding cost and quantities can be flushed out early on.  It'll require a certain level of trust and transparency.  That's a lot to ask of course.  But, those willing to make that leap will enjoy a truly collaborative project.  It's all headed that way already with CM at Risk contracts which we do a lot of where I work.  We still don't bring in the sub's early on, but a few we have with "design assist" contracts for sub's.

    I still haven't seen any IPD contracts yet, but that would be what we're all aiming for I think.  



    ------------------------------
    Adam Hockley
    Assoc. AIA
    Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
    San Antonio TX
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-16-2019 20:54
    Hi Adam, some interesting points that I have heard before and I know there are opportunities in these points as I have encountered them myself. 
     
    For this who are unaware of project size, VDC models in my view should be used on projects from 30k to the most significant project imaginable.

    Adam you mentioned, "The overall attitude was that they could draw faster in CAD". This is understood, as primarily fees are structured around deliverables, (unfortunately, the deliverable does not have the value to the client or the project,) as it does the firm's cash flow.

    Here's how I overcame this issue.  I employed a junior, straight from school, right about now many are just about to zone out...  Yes, the younger generation can be a handful if you don't take advantage of their tech strengths, I found they thrive when you do. We understand our generation, and our associates' strengths and weaknesses. I wrongly assumed that 2d CAD was some staffs main strength; however, the real strength was experience in how a project should go together.  The flip side is also true we all get our children to fix our phones, why?  Because they get technology, it's in their DNA, and this is the value of the generation.  For my design-build business, I'll employ straight from School, age 17 upwards, and the first thing they learn is how to draw using VDC software.  I paired the young buck with the old bull (ME to start) My skill set was: understand the what and the why and their skillset was to implement the technology "the how".
    I am sure that most are not aware of the improvement of communication from a VDC model; the difference is night and Day. When a VDC is set up correctly, it can be interrogated visually, VDCis not just for downstream it is also to enable us to design better by understanding what's behind teh hollow shells. I must say I was amazed at how many drawings faults I found in a project, that I did myself,  when I redrew it using the VDC tools, it was actually quite embarrassing.

     I do know that every firm could utilise a similar strategy to mine and run a small residential project to start in parallel. I find that most firms I deal with have troubles as they try and start a complex project straight out of the gate, which ultimately leads to frustration.

    Ideally, we have an open Zoom or Go To meeting for interested people?  I would certainly get something out of learning from Adam and Alfred or other with experience in VDC, and I may be able to share a few things as well.



    ------------------------------
    Andrew Dwight
    Designer/BIM manager AAD Build
    BDM RubySketch
    Sydney Australia
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-17-2019 12:33
    Edited by Adam Hockley 07-17-2019 12:35

    Great insight Andrew.  Thank you for explaining your experience and processes. 

    Here are some of my thoughts about technology.  I'm 46 now.  I grew up on technology also in the early 80's.  What an amazing time period to be in.  Atari, Apple, Commodore, Amiga, Microsoft, TRS 80, PC's, video arcade games, walkmans, CD digital audio, VHS, Betamax.  All revolutionary.  I still to this day look with excitement at the new 21st century technology as I did when I was in my teens and 20's with 80's tech.  Learning Autocad was an amazing experience.  I always knew growing up that 3D technology was the future.  When I first saw that opening sequence for "The Black Hole" (1979) I was blown away.  That was all computer generated.  When I saw the Genesis sequence from Star Trek 2, TRON, The Last Starfighter, The Abyss, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Titanic, The Matrix, and so on and so on.  All this technology could be utilized in design and construction.  When I found out about 3D Studio around 1996, I spent countless nights with my co-worker at our computer and we just test and learned how to use the software and we were very successful with and were able to produce some really neat animations.  I still have those old 640x480 animations.  So, I focused on 3D modeling in the 1990's and early 2000's.  I learned how to use 3DS Max on my own and did a lot of 3D rendering and animations from around 1999-2009.  Then Revit came along and I realized this was finally the bridge I was looking for.  To draw and model in 3D was the way to go.  

    I never wanted to be that guy that needs to ask for help on how to use technology.  I will not fall behind with tech.  So again, I forced myself to learn how to use Revit, how to make families and parametric models from 2009-2014.  It wasn't easy.  It required a new way of looking at projects and it was certainly a disruptive technology.  But, I forced myself to do it and it paid off.  I think our generation has just as much capability to learn knew things as anyone.  You just gotta force yourself to do it.  I made the move to construction now because they are really pushing construction technology.  I got my part 107 FAA drone certification also and I can now fly on my projects and scan and create photogrammetry models.  We use Matterport and laser scanning on our projects.  Lot's of amazing things we're doing in the 21st century.  I try to make sure my kids ask me how to do something on their phone, not the other way around.  I "try" at least.  LOL.  

    Anyway,  I don't want to sound arrogant or anything.  It's just a passion I have for this stuff and I really think if people apply themselves and take some time, they can be very successful with it.  I just want to be one step ahead of everyone else.  Don't ever want to be left behind and feel like I'm trying to catch up.  Technology is evolving faster and faster and it's getting harder and harder to keep up and discern which tech is the right one to concentrate on.



    ------------------------------
    Adam Hockley
    C-BIM, Assoc. AIA
    Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
    San Antonio TX
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-18-2019 20:13
    The benefits of VDC is not in the eye candy of renderings. Save those for the end of the process when all the answers have been given and things are well defined. The real benefits are running analysis of spaces and envelopes and comparing options quickly to help in scope, energy efficiency, daylighting, passive cooling and occupant safety and code compliance. Keep the pretty pictures vague and loose before things are tied down. The public is expecting the cinema-like pictures and animations because they see all the stuff at the movies. Why spend the time and detail in fleshing out a germ of an idea when it is over budget and will cost the client a fortune to maintain for 50 years? Do I need to mention to not deal with consultants who are stuck in the 2d flatland? The time you put into a model that is not being used by the whole team of designers is worthless. The coordination issues between disciplines multiplies the less you share your model. When it is all wrapped up in a bow and the finishes are all chosen, then spend the bucks on a pretty picture for the job sign using the money you saved from not doing 10 different versions of the rendering.

    Dan Wyckoff, AIA




  • 8.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-19-2019 11:48
    Daniel, well said!  Love the "flatland" comment.  I've had the opportunity to work on a 2D set of CD's and converted to BIM for trade coordination.  I also worked on the extreme opposite of a full BIM model that wasn't coordinated with Mechanical.  Nightmare in both scenarios, but we worked everything out.

    ------------------------------
    Adam Hockley
    C-BIM, Assoc. AIA
    Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
    San Antonio TX
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-21-2019 22:12
    Hey Adam a great response, it is good to hear the passion and the drone business sounds like a rewarding career, I'm amazed at how well drones capture project stages and also create as-builts quickly and efficiently.

    I also tried Revit in the early days as it was really the first 3D package that combined 2D with 3D. I am like you, I will give anything a go and I did stick with it for 6 months, however, I found many limitations, especially time to learn, not just how to use it, how to be great at it... Maybe I did not give it as much of a go? I must say from what I learned,  I never considered Revit to be a Virtual Design and Construction tool; therefore I axed it from our workflow.

    I know Daniel J touched on one of the significant floors that I found in traditional "BIM/VDC"software; "Why spend the time and detail in fleshing out a gem of an idea when it is over budget and will cost the client a fortune to maintain for 50 years?"

    When I talk about VDC technology, I refer to the association of cost and detail, from the concept stage as that is how progressive VDC assists, if it looks pretty that is just a bonus (its possible just not photorealistic )which slightly contradicts what Daniel J says, I guess it depends on your interpretation of rendering.

    As qualified professionals, we have an understanding of what has been done in the past, and we have the capacity to suggest. Our suggested ideas enable us to be prepared for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) meetings and show the design vision, along with suggested buildability aspects. When this is technology and practice is implemented into a firm we will see the pendulum swing back to the architect as the primary provider of truth on the majority projects, large and small.

    Once again, I go back to Alfreds statement;
    I believe that by thinking beyond the boundaries of traditional practice and technology, and embracing the commanding power of VDC, architects can rise up into the position of Digital Builders. VDC is the long awaited "bridge between design and construction"

    The Key to achieving this statement is to look outside the boundaries of traditional technology.  We now have Technology that automates detail at the same time as associates budget, whilst producing construction drawings, realistic 3D models that are descriptive and dare I say fun to create.  The most significant hook for the architectural profession in 2020 will be the VDC model created, as it holds the all-important information that produces documents which save consultants, engineers & contractors countless hours, money, time and ultimately waste.







    ------------------------------
    Andrew Dwight
    Designer/BIM manager AAD Build
    BDM RubySketch
    Sydney Australia
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-18-2019 10:03
    Morning Adam,

    You offer some great insights based on your ever evolving experience with technology. I have practiced architecture for more than 40 years and have always advocated the need to provide the most advanced technological tools to my employees. With BIM and VDC, I believe architects now have the capability to claim equal status with our CM and GC colleagues when applied to project delivery. At SGA, we are not simply participating in construction meetings by reading through project meeting notes, responding to RFI’s and enduring laborious value management sessions. We are actively involved in the highest level of collaboration with the various trades ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the design intent by the architect and our consultants. We obviously employ VDC to promote this process through its highly intelligent technology. Our state of the art “Dash Board” component allows SGA to monitor key project components including project budget, cluster team status, prioritization items focused on the upcoming weeks of construction activity as well as weekly updates on one touch submittals all of which translate to time efficiencies and create great value for our clients. At this stage of my career, I am witnessing a truly transformative role of the architect that goes far beyond IPD. With VDC, I am also witnessing an important phenomenon with our youngest and least experienced staff. Those assigned to VDC led commissions are achieving accelerated learning curves involving constructibility. And critical to the profession, we have the strong endorsement of our insurers at XL because they view VDC and the expanded role of the architect in project delivery as a means to lower risks.

    It is important to note that SGA is not usurping the traditional role of the CM or GC, but serving as an equal partner to deliver the project while preserving the design. We are not assuming the risks or means and methods which remains the domain of the contractor. However, in addition to being the creator of the model and utilizing VDC from project inception, we are also injecting a very high dose of human interaction to build on the trust factor you emphasized in your earlier communication. We achieve this parity through a social engineering approach that involves non-project specific activities such as quarterly dinners between the Archiect’s and Contractor’s project teams. We employ two rules: we don’t discuss the project and we change seats a the mid point of dinner so that everyone has the opportunity to learn about one another and develop the trust that is so crucial to achieve effective collaboration that supports this paradigm shift for our profession of architecture. Sounds simple, but the results and milestones achieved on our VDC commissions are impressive. In today’s conference call with the AIA Project Delivery Knowledge Community, SGA will share these project related successes.

    Best regards,
    Al Spagnolo, AIA

    Sent from my iPhone


    Al Spagnolo AIA, NCARB
    Founding Partner

    -----------------------------------------
    e. mailto:aspagnolo@sga-arch.com
    t. 857.300.2610
    d. 857.300.2620
    c. 617.921.6300

    SGA-ARCH.COM
    -----------------------------------------
    ARCHITECTURE | PLANNING
    INTERIOR DESIGN | VDC
    BRANDED ENVIRONMENTS




  • 11.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 07-19-2019 11:53
    Al, "trust" great word to use.  I'm hopeful that trust will build more and more with collaboration between all stakeholders.  I can only speak for my office, but we really only want what the client wants, and we'll work with the design team to get it to that point.  We just want to build in the most efficient way to get the costs down as much as possible, and stay on time and on budget.  I love collaborating with the design teams and want to break down any walls or barriers to take a project from inception to a built reality.

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    Adam Hockley
    C-BIM, Assoc. AIA
    Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
    San Antonio TX
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 08-20-2019 12:47
    Edited by Emmy McGoldrick 08-20-2019 12:47


  • 13.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 08-20-2019 12:55
    If you are using Virtual Design & Construction as a delivery method, what technologies are you finding most helpful?

    ------------------------------
    Alfred Spagnolo AIA
    Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc.
    Boston MA
    AlfredAlfredAlfredAlfredAlfred
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  • 14.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 24 days ago
    Edited by Andrew Dwight 16 days ago
    Hi Alfred, I went to the great length of building my own Virtual Design and Construction software, and I did it inside of Sketchup. "Drastic times call for drastic measures".  Anyone who has witnessed the benefit of design, build, quantify and communication, from the get-go will understand my motives.

    In the beginning, it was my little secret, one at which I held very close to my chest. My business was in high demand as a result, but I did not put on more architects - I put on more software developers. Why? Because our industry can benefit from VDC. Up until now, I have not released the full version as it needed refinement to be ready for public consumption. I am pleased to say that I will be releasing the full VDC version shortly. The full version will be publicly available, however, the release will be staged, and architects and Design-build firms will be handpicked according to suitability. 

    It is interesting from the answers, or lack thereof that nobody offers or recommends an integrated VDC solution. What do you use? 
    I tried to find VDC software some ten years ago as it simply made sense for my design-build company. Unfortunately, I could not find an integrated VDC solution, and even today, I am not aware of such a program.
    Before I started developing, my company was utilising Sketchup for conceptual design and AC for drafting, yet the disconnect was stifling productivity. It is important to note that I think Sketchup is by far the best tool for communication as it is "true 3d" and not 2D with 3D viewing functionality.

    I am not responding to blow my own whistle or convince people to look at my creation. Like you, I am interested in what people use. I think that everyone needs to be aware of what is available in the VDC space and how it is being utilised. If you'd like to see what we've been developing you can find more information here: https://plusspec.com/virtual-design-and-construction-vdc-software/
    I look forward to any feedback.. 


    ------------------------------
    Andrew Dwight
    Designer/BIM manager AAD Build
    BDM RubySketch
    Sydney Australia
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Virtual Design and Construction

    Posted 22 days ago

    Achieving true VDC varies a lot depending on construction type. I think one of the best examples is using https://strucsoftsolutions.com/ and https://www.howickltd.com/ to create metal framing.

     

    BTW is there a way to block individuals from your feed? This group has turned into a constant stream of certain members advertising...