Customer Implementations from GRAPHISOFT KCC 2017AECbytes Feature (December 14, 2017)

Earlier this year, I provided an overview of GRAPHISOFT’s 2017 Key Client Conference (KCC) event that was held in Kyoto, Japan. This is an annual invitation-only event that brings together GRAPHISOFT’s key clients across the world, and while it comprised several updates from GRAPHISOFT as well as third party solutions working with GRAPHISOFT products—which were covered in my article—the majority of the event was devoted to presentations from GRAPHISOFT customers across the world, sharing their work and how they were using GRAPHISOFT solutions, not just for architecture but also for construction. Collectively, they provided a fascinating glimpse at the wide-ranging use of GRAPHISOFT solutions at a global level.

While each presentation was so detailed and informative that it was worthy of a dedicated article in and of itself, this article attempts to capture some of the main implementation themes common to many of GRAPHISOFT’s customers as described in their presentations. These ranged all the way from conceptual design to construction and operation, and are in addition to the flagship design and documentation capabilities that ARCHICAD is so well-known for.

Algorithmic Modeling

GRAPHISOFT had introduced the real-time, bi-directional integration of ARCHICAD with McNeel’s Rhino/Grasshopper for algorithmic design—creating parametric forms through scripting—in version 20 last year and continued to expand its capabilities in ARCHICAD 21 earlier this year, allowing more native ARCHICAD/BIM elements to be used to create a design script in Grasshopper. Many of GRAPHISOFT’s customers are using this capability to create sophisticated sculptural forms that can be brought into ARCHICAD, an excellent example being the Australian multidisciplinary design studio, fmjt (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp). As shown in Figure 1, its projects are characterized by organic shapes that seem to be exquisitely crafted, for which it uses the Grasshopper-ARCHICAD integration extensively (Figure 2), for design as well as fabrication.

Figure 1. Design projects from fjmt Studio characterized by complex forms that are created using algorithmic modeling. (Image courtesy: fjmt Studio).

Figure 2. An example of the use of the Grasshopper-ARCHICAD integration by fjmt Studio on a project. (Image courtesy: fjmt Studio).

Another example of the use of the Grasshopper-ARCHICAD integration was in the optimization of roof designs in stadiums (Figure 3) by the SunYiMin Studio in the School of Architecture at South China University of Technology (SCUT), which has worked on several sports venues including the National Speed Skating Oval and the JiangMen Sports and Exhibition Center (Figure 4).

Figure 3. An example of the use of the Grasshopper-ARCHICAD in the optimization of the roof design of a stadium by SunYiMin Studio, SCUT. (Image courtesy: SunYiMin Studio, SCUT).

Figure 4. The JiangMen Sports and Exhibition Center in Jiang Men city, GuangDong Province, China. (Image courtesy: SunYiMin Studio, SCUT).

The Use of OpenBIM

GRAPHISOFT has always been one of the leading proponents of interoperability in AEC software and was one of the pioneers of the IFC-based OpenBIM initiative, which has become a de facto standard in the industry. It is hardly surprisingly, therefore, to find that the firms who strongly believe in this philosophy are some of GRAPHISOFT’s most dedicated users. The use of OpenBIM featured in many of the customer presentations at the KCC event. The example shown in Figure 5 is from the SunYiMin Studio of SCUT mentioned earlier, which transferred a structural steel model from Tekla to ARCHICAD using IFC under the OpenBIM paradigm (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Transferring a structural steel model from Tekla to ARCHICAD using IFC. (Image courtesy: SunYiMin Studio, SCUT).

Another example comes from the London-based firm, John Robertson Architects (JRA), which concentrates on the design and implementation of new build, retrofit, and historic refurbishment and restoration projects in Central London (Figure 6). The firm is a long-time user of ARCHICAD, and was deploying it for all of its processes—conceptual design, design development, detailed design, documentation, construction sequencing, and visualization—long before the concept of OpenBIM. During this phase, which JRA refers to as “Closed BIM,” it was using ARCHICAD for design coordination, model management, compiling production information and tender packages, and even prefabrication because none of the multi-disciplinary collaboration was happening in 3D at that time (Figure 7).

Figure 6. Some of the projects in London by John Robertson Architects. Top left: 199 Bishopsgate, sustainable refurbishment of commercial development. Top right: 10 Park Drive, a new residential and mixed use waterside development. Lower left: 101 Moorgate Crossrail Oversite Development, new retail and commercial space next to the proposed new western entrance to Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station. Lower right: 33 Central, a new build office development. (Image courtesy: John Robertson Architects).

Figure 7. Examples of some of the work JRA did on a project, Silk Gardens, during the “Closed BIM” phase, including coordination and compiling production information and tender packages. (Image courtesy: John Robertson Architects).

Then came the UK BIM Level 2 mandate that was in effect from 2011 to 2015, which required BIM to be implemented on all projects in order to have 3D domain models from which 2D reviewable PDF files as well as COBie data could be generated. JRA was so far advanced in its BIM implementation that it was already meeting this requirement. With the new BIM Level 3 mandate which calls for a fully integrated and collaborative process, JRA is deploying ARCHICAD’s OpenBIM capabilities to meet the new requirements, including using required naming conventions, organization of the folder structure, using ARCHICAD templates for IFC mapping, and creating data structures that help to interrogate the model in different ways (Figure 8). This not only allows COBie data to be accurately generated for the project, it also allows other OpenBIM applications such as Solibri Model Checker, BIMcollab, GliderBIM, and Viewpoint to be used for coordination, validation, classification, quantity take-off, issue management, facilities management (FM), and other downstream processes (Figure 9). 

Figure 8. Using ARCHICAD template capabilities for advanced IFC mapping of building components and types. (Image courtesy: John Robertson Architects)

Figure 9. Use of Solibri Model Checker for classification, quantity take-off, and COBie data generation from the ARCHICAD model exported with IFC mapping and other OpenBIM capabilities. (Image courtesy: John Robertson Architects).

I found the use of Solibri Model Checker almost universal among the customers who presented at the KCC event. For example, it is extensively used by the firm, HDR Rice Daubney, for design coordination and clash detection, as shown in Figures 10 and 11 for its Sunshine Coast University Hospital project. HDR Rice Daubney also made extensive use of dRofus, a space planning and data management tool that was recently acquired by Nemetschek, the parent company of GRAPHISOFT, which is also strongly supportive of OpenBIM. dRofus integrates with the 3D model through an IFC viewer and allowed the detailed room and equipment requirements of this large and complex hospital project to be managed efficiently (Figure 12).

Figure 10. The Sunshine Coast University Hospital project in Queensland, Australia. (Image courtesy: HDR Rice Daubney).

Figure 11. Use of Solibri Model Checker for model verification and clash detection. The clashes were exported to Excel for detailed review. (Image courtesy: HDR Rice Daubney).

Figure 12. Use of dRofus on the Sunshine Coast University Hospital project for managing all the room and equipment requirements. (Image courtesy: HDR Rice Daubney).

Construction and Beyond

Although ARCHICAD is unapologetically an architectural design application, the robustness of its modeling engine, its ability to create highly detailed and accurate models, and the relatively compact file size of its models has made it popular for use in construction as well. There is, of course, its BIMcloud application specifically developed for teamwork and collaboration, which is used by many of its customers in the construction sector, including the JianYI Group in China which specializes in the assembly of steel structures for buildings (Figure 13). It also uses ArchiCAD to develop fabrication level models of the details of its structures (Figure 14).

Figure 13. Use of BIMcloud as a collaboration platform at the JianYI Group. (Image courtesy: JianYI Group).

Figure 14. Fabrication level models of the details of its steel structures. (Image courtesy: JianYI Group)..

Other examples of the use of ARCHICAD in construction include the creation of 2D sections and their corresponding 3D model views by the SunYiMin Studio of SCUT to better illustrate construction details for a project (Figure 15); the material take-off for a component of a project by fjmt Studio which is far from straightforward because of its complex form (Figure 16); and the use of laser scanning to check construction quality, accuracy, and progress of a project against its BIM model  by the ENR-ranked global construction firm, GS E&C, headquartered in Korea (Figure 17).

Figure 15. A 2D section and its corresponding 3D model view created for delivery to construction. (Image courtesy: SunYiMin Studio, SCUT).

Figure 16. Detailed material takeoff of a complex project component. (Image courtesy: fmjt Studio).

Figure 17. Comparing the laser scan of a space with its BIM model to track construction. (Image courtesy: GS E&C).

Customers also highlighted their use of advanced technologies such as Microsoft’s HoloLens (described in the article, Augmented Reality in AEC) by Kajima Corporation, one of the largest construction firms in Japan with offices globally. It uses HoloLens in both the construction phase to verify proper installations, and during the facilities management (FM) phase to check the structure and MEP behind walls, floors, and ceilings (Figure 18). The firm HDR Rice Daubney used augmented reality, virtual reality, as well as GRAPHISOFT’s BIMx mobile app to give designers and users a better insight into the design of spaces with particular requirements in the Sunshine Coast University Hospital project (Figure 19). And finally, we already saw how the London-based firm of John Robertson Architects used ARCHICAD’s OpenBIM approach to use several downstream applications; these included BIMcollab for issue management during construction (Figure 20) and GliderBIM for facilities management (Figure 21).

Figure 18. The use of Microsoft’s HoloLens to “see” beneath a ceiling . (Image courtesy: Kajima Corporation).

Figure 19. The use of BIMx, augmented reality, and virtual reality in the Sunshine Coast University Hospital project. (Image courtesy: HDR Rice Daubney).

Figure 20 Use of BIMcollab for issue management during construction at John Robertson Architects. (Image courtesy: John Robertson Architects).

Figure 21. Use of GliderBIM for facilities management at John Robertson Architects. (Image courtesy: John Robertson Architects).

Back to the Beginning

While GRAPHISOFT has certainly expanded its capabilities over the last decade to a larger spectrum of the AEC industry, a fitting conclusion for this article is to go back and look at the early implementation of ARCHICAD, especially considering its global presence and the fact that in many parts of the world, 2D CAD is still ubiquitous. A great perspective on this was provided by the Hong-Kong based firm, LWK & Partners, which started using ARCHICAD only recently—for about seven months prior to its KCC presentation—but still had a lot of ARCHICAD work to show (Figure 22). While all of its projects are currently in the schematic design phase, the firm really likes the sophistication, range of capabilities, internal rendering engine, and the OpenBIM approach in ARCHICAD, and plans to continue using it to transition from from 2D to 3D and become a major player in Hong King's still-nascent BIM industry.

Figure 22. Use of ARCHICAD for schematic design as the starting point for LWK & Partners in its BIM implementation. (Image courtesy: LWK & Partners).

About the Author

Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at

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