Firm Profile: LMN Architects AECbytes Profile (October 13, 2016)

LMN Architects, a mid-size award-winning architecture firm based in Seattle, Washington, shares its perspective on AEC technology in this Firm Profile.

What is the history and background of the firm?

Founded in 1979, LMN Architects covers a broad multi-disciplinary spectrum including architecture, interior design, urban design, and design research, with project teams commonly comprising elements of each. The firm specializes in the planning and design of public and private facilities such as convention centers, cultural arts venues, education facilities, offices, multi-family residential, hospitality mixed-use developments and other urban environments. It currently has close to 150 employees and has received over 100 awards in the past 10 years, most recently the 2016 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture Firm Award. This award, given annually, is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm and recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.

What is the firm's current focus? What are the key projects it is working on?

LMN Architects continues to build on its reputation for design excellence, sustainable solutions, practice innovation and successful delivery of complex projects. Among its current projects, some of which are shown in Figure 1, are the 1.15-million square foot addition to the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington; the University of Iowa Voxman Music Building in Iowa City, Iowa, that features a 700-seat concert hall and 200-seat recital hall; the Eighth & Howell Convention Hotel in Seattle, Washington  which includes 105,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space integrated with ground-level retail and hotel lobby functions and a 500-ft tall, 1,264-room hotel tower; design of nine stations for the Sound Transit East Link, U Link, and Lynnwood Link Light Rail system in the Pacific Northwest; the renovation and expansion of the 1.7 million square feet Greater Columbus Convention Center  in Columbus, Ohio; a new 162,000 square feet home for the Clemson University School of Business in Clemson, South Carolina; and the Fourth & Columbia Residential Tower in Seattle, Washington.

Figure 1. Some of LMN Architects’ current projects. Top left: University of Iowa Voxman Music Building in Iowa City, Iowa (Image courtesy LMN). Lower left: Sound Transit University of Washington Station, Seattle, WA (Photographer Kevin Scott). Right: Eighth and Howell Convention Hotel in Seattle, WA (Image courtesy LMN).

When did the firm start using AEC technology, and how is it being used today? How important is AEC technology to the firm?

LMN began using Intergraph workstations for 2D drafting and 3D modeling/visualization in 1988. Additional technologies were added over the years and ten years ago, we introduced BIM using Bentley Architecture. In 2011, Revit was adopted as our BIM platform of choice. Today, the use of technology permeates everything we do.  It is the primary tool by which we design and create buildings.  We use AEC technology in many of the traditional ways, BIM, electronic document management and markup, simulation, etc (Figure 2). What makes LMN different is our approach to developing the tools that we use and having the freedom to experiment with tools we may or may not use in the future.  Without the ability to look for what will transform the way we work in the future and test what we find in a research and development environment, we would lose the nimbleness that allows us not only to be more productive but to inform design.

Figure 2. Some of the ways in which LMN Architects uses AEC technology, including BIM, simulation, parametric modeling, physical modeling, and full-scale mockups generated from digital models.

Does the firm have a specific approach and/or philosophy to AEC technology? If so, what is it?

While we have standardized on Revit as our primary BIM tool, we are platform-agnostic.  We encourage use and experimentation with the tools that are out there and do our best to develop the tools we need.  If anyone in the firm finds a tool that is better than what we are using, they are encouraged to not only adopt the tool but to teach others how to use it.  Without knowledge sharing, our innovations are lost.  We encourage the people of LMN to teach themselves as much as learning from others.

What are some of the main challenges the firm faces in its implementation of AEC technology?

Interoperability has always been a focus of ours.  Making sure that different platforms can share data is essential to our philosophy.  We cannot espouse the use of multiple digital tools if they cannot work together.

How does the firm see AEC technology evolving in the future?

Centralized data has become very important to the industry and to LMN.  We see the future of the building industry mirroring what happened in manufacturing 20 years ago.  Current industry practice is that we have multiple streams of data that are created to make a building.  Often, these streams are redundant or unnecessary.  How many shop drawings are just the digital files we send, sent back to us?  We are looking into ways of coordinating data so that we may get closer to those who are doing the work and extend design into the construction process.  If we can break down these barriers, then we may be able to increase productivity in the building industry for the first time in our lifetimes. 

If the firm had a wish list for AEC technology, what would it be?

See above.

Any additional information/observations/insights on AEC technology implementation that the firm would like to share?

Every development we make in AEC technology is open source.  We work within a profession that because of experiences with intellectual property issues, typically does not share its development, findings, or solutions.  We look beyond the office walls and the profession to other industries that show us that the fastest way forward is to work together as an industry.

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