This is a follow-up to the article that was published two weeks ago capturing three design case studies from Graphisoft’s recent Building Together Design event, in which it unveiled its 2023 product lineup as well as profiled several of its design customers from around the world who presented an overview of how they were using Archicad, BIMx, and BIMcloud. This article captures the highlights of three more customer presentations from the event: Brenac & Gonzalez & Associés from France, JKMM Architects from Finland, and Earthworld Architects & Interiors from South Africa.
The architectural firm, Brenac & Gonzalez & Associés, was founded in the 1980s and has worked on several project types including housing, cultural, educational, healthcare, and offices throughout France. The focus of its presentation at the Building Together event was the Higher Roch project located in Montpellier, which it won in a design competition in 2015. This is a 16-floor residential tower whose shape, inspired by a flamenco dancer, has lots of curved lines and large wavy terraces with sails as sun-blockers that give it a distinctive look (Figure 1). The complex façade was designed by the firm in collaboration with a dedicated façade design company, VSA. The project was completed in 2022.
Archicad was used on the project throughout (Figure 2). The key driver was Archicad’s live bidirectional integration with Rhino and Grasshopper, which allowed the freeform façade to be designed parametrically using scripts developed in Grasshopper. Starting with a shape in Rhino, the Grasshopper scripts generated parametric Archicad building components for the façade from it. Since the connection is live, any change in the Rhino shape automatically updates the façade components generated by Grasshopper in Archicad. This enabled the architects to quickly go through multiple iterations to finalize the design. In particular, they were able to experiment with different variations for the curvature of the façade, the areas of the balconies, the design of the railings, and other parameters to reduce the cost of the project as much as possible, so that it could be built within the allocated budget while staying true to the sketch (of the flamenco dancer, shown in Figure 1) they had started with.
In addition to being able to extract accurate quantities of building materials and components to optimize its cost, Archicad also helped with environmental analysis (Figure 3). It allowed sun and shading studies of the project to be carried out almost immediately during the conceptual design process, allowing the architects to optimize the design to meet the client’s environmental requests and any additional performance standards. They did not have to wait for the detailed analysis to come back from their environmental consultants in order to determine the impact of the building’s shape and its shading devices on its performance.
JKMM Architects was established in 1998 and has grown to become one of the leading practices in Finland. The firm has won several awards for its work and over a hundred design competitions. The Nova Hospital project, which was the focus of its presentation at the Graphisoft Building Together event, was also won in a competition (Figure 4). It is the first completely new hospital built in Finland since the 1970’s and was designed with several innovations, including a rethinking of the operational system, process flow, and logistics so as to put the patient in the center and deliver the best possible health care while still reducing the annual operating costs. The project took close to ten years to design and build. It was completed in January 2021 and has been in operation since then, serving a population of 200,000 people. With a size of 110,000 square meters and 500 beds, it is one of the biggest hospitals in Finland.
JKMM Architects is the biggest Archicad user in Finland, and the firm relied heavily on Archicad and its collaboration offerings to successfully execute the project. This was a large multidisciplinary effort, and at one point, there were close to 30 architects and 100 engineers working on the project at the same time. Within the firm, the architectural team collaborated with Teamwork powered by BIMcloud, allowing them to work together on the design (Figure 5). The renderings from the model enabled the functional solution of each unit of the hospital to be communicated and discussed with the doctors, the medical staff, and other users (Figure 6).
All of the other engineering disciplines also worked on the project using BIM, and their models were imported into Archicad using IFC. By always bringing in the latest models from the other disciplines, the architectural team was able to keep track of the structural and MEP elements in the spaces and finalize their designs accordingly Figure 7). The final aggregated model — which combined about 20 different IFC models — was used for multi-disciplinary coordination and collision detection using applications like Solibri and BIMcollab (Figure 8).
The final design case study presented at the 2023 Building Together event came from the firm, Earthworld Architects & Interiors, describing its work on the new Future Africa campus at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Envisioned as a place where Africa’s leading scientists and scholars from across the world and from a broad range of disciplines would come together to address global challenges, the brief called for the design of an environment that would facilitate collective research. Earthworld Architects & Interiors won the design competition for the project in 2014. The construction was completed in 2018 and the campus opened its doors in 2019. While the firm designed the entire campus, its presentation at the Building Together event was focused on the dining hall of the facility, which is the hub of the campus, providing a space where everyone could congregate, eat, and share ideas (Figure 9).
What makes the dining hall unique is that it is constructed entirely of birch plywood, making it the first mass timber building in South Africa. It is also entirely prefabricated, with the individual components manufactured in factories and assembled on site by construction workers. The detailed BIM model created in Archicad was critical to the prefabrication, allowing the 3D geometry of the components to be sent to CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machines for cutting (Figure 10). It allowed the team to be able to work with zero tolerances, with all the components modeled and cut precisely so that they could be fitted together accurately. Even prior to the actual prefabrication, Archicad’s ability to export moment models allowed it to be used by the structural engineer to design the joints of the structure accurately, the joints being especially critical when working with timber.
What was also invaluable was the ability to communicate the design through BIMx, not only with the client and other team members, but also to the construction crew when they were building the structure on the site (Figure 11). Most of these were unskilled or semi-skilled labor, but they were still able to use the BIMx model very easily with an iPad to see the building in three dimensions and fully understand where their work fit in. A conscious decision was made to use people to assemble the building by hand rather than automating it with heavy equipment, which made the ability to view and walk through the model in BIMx indispensable. It allowed the entire building to be assembled by a crew of only eight people, which was remarkable.
The end result was a building that was not only sculptural, but also socially relevant — providing employment to the local people — and sustainable — using locally grown material.
It was a privilege to be able to armchair-travel to different parts of the world and see the kinds of projects being built. While it goes without saying that creating good design requires, first and foremost, talented and skilled designers, presentations like the ones from Graphisoft’s Building Together Design event also show how designers can benefit greatly from having the right software. It is a mutually beneficial partnership that benefits the world at large.
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 email@example.com.
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