Located in the heart of Chicago, Wolf Point East is a luxury 60-story apartment tower that has 698 residential units, high-end amenity areas on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 40th floors, a ground retail space, and 6-underground levels on top of which there is a park with a Riverwalk (Figure 1). The project was completed in 2020. The developer is Hines, the landowner is Kennedy Enterprises, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects is the Design Architect of masterplan and building envelope, Pappageorge Haymes Partners (PH) is the Architect of Record, and Walsh was the General Contractor.
Every consultant on the Wolf Point East used a different AEC application.
Archicad was the main application used by Pappageorge Haymes Partners (PH) to study and produce architectural conceptual presentations and the permit and construction documents, as well as to coordinate the project throughout all the design phases from schematic design through construction administration (Figure 2). PH has utilized this BIM software since 1994. The majority of the consultants and sub-contractors used Revit as their main application for the project. The model exchange from and to our company was done via IFC files (Industry Foundation Classes format), while the 2D drawing exchange was handled with DWG and PDF files. The MEP coordination and clash detection was done in Navisworks (Figure 3). The general contractor would often request PH to export BIMx files for a quick on-site review from any available device (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
A video of the multi-disciplinary coordination is shown below.
PH has a stringent protocol for organizing, developing, and maintaining their projects in Archicad, which is crucial, especially for fast-track, large-scale jobs as Wolf Point East. This protocol is constantly evolving based on lessons learned from past projects and the software's new capabilities with every next version.
Usually, we create a new Teamwork file by uploading our standard template to the BIM Server. That way, multiple architects can work at the same time and from any location on the project. Every team member is instructed and required to use the preset settings for layers, layer-combinations, composites, profiles, materials, model views, graphic overrides, etc. If any new settings are required based on the specific project needs, they are created by a dedicated team member whose is also responsible for keeping the file clean and lightweight.
We use hot-linked modules for repetitive building parts as much as we can, as this accelerates the design process and eliminates discrepancies. The level of development needs to be appropriate and suitable for the firm’s specific responsibilities, since the same model/file is used to generate permit and contract documents, coordinate with different trades, and investigate design options and presentations. At the same time, we try to keep the files as “light” as possible.
Without using BIM applications, the team would not have been able to design, coordinate, and complete this complex project in the allotted time per the aggressive schedule. PH and its partners checked every little corner of the building well in advance before the project was built. This avoided costly mistakes on site. Having a clear picture of how the different building components interact allowed us to detect issues early on and quickly make the right decisions.
For PH, Archicad is the right tool to design and to communicate the project with our clients, consultants, and contractors. We like it because it is easy to use and flexible — the 3D window and BIM sections and elevations load fast. Schedules are super helpful to keep up with constant changes. For certain details at Wolf Point East, we used Archicad’s thermal bridge simulations to help us make the right material choices. Quite often, we need to do sun studies, fly-though animations, and renderings, and using one single application — Archicad — for all of these helps us to optimize our workflow.
One challenge was how to organize the hot-link module structure since it was hard to predict how the different building elements would evolve with the design process. For large-scale and complex projects, based on lessons learned, PH has concluded that we should keep our models sub-divided by type (e.g., building envelop, structure, partitions, ceilings, and stairs) into separate files and subsequently combined in one master file (Figure 4). We want to keep these in separate files because they have their own repetitive pattern (Figure 5). To manage repetitive structures and building elements, we create and distribute hot-link modules, which can be modified in one step by just updating the module’s source.
However, if you mix building elements with different repetitive patterns, the hot-link management gets trickier and requires more manual work, which we want to avoid because it is time-consuming. We were successful at managing the curtain wall, the structural and the stairs models, but we mixed the interior partitions with ceilings which created some issues on this particular project due to its complexity. Hot-link module structure is crucial because we are constantly incorporating design updates based on decisions made in coordination meetings with multiple trades, and it is essential to have a fully updated model all times as the next decision depends on the previous one and our partners rely on our model to get their part of the job done.
Another challenge was the time needed to import the IFC files into Archicad, Navisworks, or Revit. It took us less time to import consultants’ IFC files into Archicad, but we heard from the others that it could take hours of waiting time. We believe that the process should be quicker moving forward.
We would have liked to be able to collaborate with our consultants and contractors in real-time more efficiently. We envisage a platform that would allow every team member to join in a grand-master-file with a BIM application of their choice and coordinate without the need to Send&Receive changes for this process to happen instantly — similar to how people use different brand vehicles and share the same road. We believe in OpenBIM as a concept and do not want to advocate for one software company over another, as more variety would accelerate the technology advancement in the industry and benefit the users.
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