furnishings and decorations

Introduction to Autodesk Homestyler

Introduction to Autodesk Homestyler

“Design your dream home in 3D.

Express your creativity, find inspiration and make smarter home design choices, faster.”

Autodesk Homestyler is a very useful application which will allow anyone to design their perfect interior. The website is user friendly and does not require one to be tech savvy, nor have intimate knowledge about interior design.

From the Home screen, one will be able to either access the 3D Room Designer function, or access the 3D Floor Planner function.

3D Room Design

Below you will find some examples of users who have designed their dream home and/or room, have been creative, have found inspiration and have made smarter design choices, faster.

smarter design

When Creating a New Design, Autodesk Homestyler will immediately provide a help window to assist you in using the website with all of its relevant commands.

Autodesk Homestyler

To start off with, one can create any building shape, using the Rooms, Walls and Areas tool.

building shape

building shape

After a basic room shape has been created, we can now start decorating the interior. Quite a number of typical furnishings and decorations are available from the catalog toolbar.

furnishings and decorations

I quite like the Itemsized Product List, which will allow you to see which materials, furnishings, decorations, etc. you have placed in your room.

Itemsized Product List

 A Printable View will provide a Bill of Quantities of sorts.

A Printable View will provide a Bill of Quantities of sorts

Autodesk Homestyler is not only applicable to interior designing aspects. One can also do landscaping around your home.

Autodesk Homestyler is not only applicable to interior designing aspects

I believe that for the average person who would like to investigate their options when designing a home, Autodesk Homestyler will provide a good understanding of the potential end result. This result can then be discussed with architects, interior designers, landscape architects and the like, for further refinement. Reference Introduction to Autodesk Homestyler by Herman Solomon. For more information about it then contact us and click here to see our services.

The Great Wall Of China

The Great Wall Of China

wall of china

Standing tall, mighty, and unmoved over millennia, the 4,000 miles (6,500 km) long Great Wall of China is an architectural wonder of epic significance. The Great Wall is the largest ever built structure in terms of mass and surface area.

The Great Wall of China

Standing tall, mighty, and unmoved over millennia, the 4,000 miles (6,500 km) long Great Wall of China is an architectural wonder of epic significance. Snaking along through hills, plains, deserts, and swamps, with an average height of 25 feet and housing 25,000 watch towers (beacons) along the course, this robust man-made barricade requires more than just applause to truly appreciate the engineering and architectural feat that it is.The Great Wall of China, made up of stone and earthen fortifications was built and rebuilt over several generations. The construction was started from scratch by the Qing Dynasty in 5th century BC.  Several chains of walls were unified over the centuries as the different warring states came together under a unified empire. However, most of what we see today was built by the Ming Dynasty and continued till the 16th century. 

Design of the Great Wall
There are primarily three structures that constitute the Great Wall, namely walls, passes, and signal towers. Each is elaborated as under:

Walls: The wall forms the major portion of the entire built structure. It stands to a height ranging between 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters). The width at the base stretches to 21 feet (6.5 meters) and tapers to 19 feet (5.8 meters) at the top. At some places, where the terrain is rugged, natural features like river dikes, mountain cliffs, and gorges have been used instead of human construction.

great wall of china big
Passes: Where the Great Wall came across major trade routes, secure passes were built. These crossover points are about 30 feet (10 meters) high, with a width of 15 feet (5 meters) at the top. The passes have access ramps and ladders that were used for getting horses, merchants, and soldiers across both sides. The outer parapet has perforated battlements and the inner parapet had a low wall of 3 feet (1 meter) to prevent people and their horses from tippling down.

Signal Towers: These high bastions placed 18 kilometers apart from each other, and usually located on hilltops were used to transmit military information and communication. Smoke signals were used during the daytime and fire/lantern (beacon) was used in the nights. Some other modes employed were hoisting huge banners, making sound with large clappers, or by firing guns. The lower portion of these towers had restrooms for soldiers, storage compartments, and stables for housing horses, sheep, etc. 

The Development of the Great Wall over Centuries
Built along an arc that roughly demarcates Mongolia from China, the Great Wall is the largest ever built structure in terms of mass and surface area. The Chinese had learned the techniques of building heavy-duty walls during the ‘Warring States Period’ of the 5th century BC. The states of Yan, Qi, and Zhao constructed massive fortifications to protect their borders. These walls were built by stuffing earth and gravel within board frames.

When Qin Shi Huang conquered numerous states and unified China under his empire in 221 BC, he demolished previous walls that separated the states and instead ordered the construction of new walls on the northern front to keep away the Mongols. Given the scale and dimensions of the wall, transportation of such large quantities of raw materials was not feasible. Therefore, local resources were heavily used. Stones were used for construction over mountainous areas where they were plenty, while rammed earth gave shape to the walls in the plains.

In the later period, different dynasties like the Han, Jin, and Sui repaired, renovated, or expanded different sections of the Great Wall to serve as the first line of defense from the northern invaders. In 1449, after the Ming army’s defeat at the hands of the Mongols, a massive reconstruction of the Great Wall was ordered. The Mings constructed stronger walls and reinforced previous sections by using stone and bricks. Use of rammed earth as previously prevalent was restricted to a miniscule. 
largest wall of chinaMaterials Used in the Great Wall 

Sections closer to Beijing, the throne of the Ming dynasty, were especially reinforced to the point of making them impenetrable by any means. The walls were plastered with lime and tiles to add strength. Stones were cut into rectangular blocks and used in areas like the foundation, gateways and brims. Small gaps measuring 30 cmx20 cm were provided in the upper portion of the walls for use during battles. 

Built primarily with construction material available nearby the site, we find limestone blocks in use near the Beijing area. In other places, it could be burnt bricks or granite. At many places, the blocks are cemented together with a mix of rice and egg-white. In the western desert areas, as raw materials are quite scarce, rammed earth and wooden planks is used.

BIM Technologies

BIM Technologies

Over the past week we have been blown away by how fast our 16 year old work experience student Olawale Labulo who is from Peckham has picked up Revit and learnt about the fundamentals of BIM.

Having no experience whatsoever with Revit, and only using Sketchup for around 6 months, some of the work he produced is highly impressive. Not only getting to grips with modelling in Revit but also the understanding of some of the more advanced tools in Revit, for example modeling parametric array families has really impressed us all.

Below is a sample of some of the work he has been doing and a short snippet of his concluding statement. After giving him a simple house to model (which he completed in a couple of hours) he took matters into his own hands and started to design his own building (apparently inspired from the computer game Minecraft!).

BIM Technology BIM Technology

Here at BIM Technologies I learnt how to use Revit at the basic level; learning how to make families, stairs, floors, ceilings, roofs and rendering. I also learned what they did as a job; help fix problems in building designs that they found in big builds they have been assigned with.

This experience at BIM Technologies hasn’t motivated me to pursue a career in Architecture because before coming to work at BIM Technologies  I already knew what career I wanted to pursue; to become an Architect. However it did give me a further insight to what was to expect in the line of Architecture. So overall I have always been motivated to pursue a career in Architecture, but this experience has enhanced the motivation I have in becoming an Architect.

The things I find interesting about these professions is that they get to work on wonderful buildings in London and across the UK. The thought of knowing that u help in the construction of an iconic building or just a wonderful looking build brings great joy to me.

Ola is sure to be a future star of Architecture or any other career he decides to pursue. All of us here at BIM Technologies wish him the best of luck in whatever he decides to do, and hope he remembers us when he’s famous! Reference COYO – Work experience student at BIM.Technologies by Ben Malone.

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Down Save Revit Models

Down Save Revit Models

Paul Crickard hates that Revit will not allow him to open a 2011 model in 2010. When upgrading to 2011, his office decided to only move certain projects over and leave others. They took in to account the fact that we could not down save and once They were in 2011 they were stuck in 2011.

There is a workaround! If you really need to open a model from a later version of Revit you can — by using IFC.

WARNING: You will lose information. Your walls, windows, doors, and some other elements will be safe, but the model will not be 100% complete — depending on how detailed it is.

To see what will export, go to EXPORT>OPTIONS>IFC OPTIONS


As you can see, Area Tags will not export by default. If you are familiar with the IFC tags you can export objects that are currently not exporting by specifying what tag should be used in the IFC.


Export your model to IFC. Voila! you now have a text file (.IFC) that should look as follows.


From an earlier version of Revit click R>OPEN>IFC and select the file. Now you have a 2011 model in 2010 or 2009. This is also a good way to get your file to many other programs.

DISCLAIMER: Paul Crickard does not recommend using this as a way to work on a daily basis. This tip is for those times when it is absolutely necessary to go between two different version of Revit. You should talk with all parties involved in a project and decide on a version before beginning your project.

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Revit 2016 Render Engine Comparison

Revit 2016 Render Engine Comparison

NVIDIA Mental Ray or Autodesk Raytracer? That is the question. I believe that both render engines have their advantages and disadvantages.
The first render engine comparison is of an exterior day render. The NVIDIA Mental Ray image is on the left, while the Autodesk Raytracer image is on the right. Even though these two renders were created using the same quality settings, sun settings etc., one can clearly see that the Autodesk Raytracer engine saturates colours far more than the NVIDIA Mental Ray engine.

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When comparing an internal night render, one can see that the NVIDIA Mental Ray engine is far more “realistic” than the Autodesk Raytracer engine. Pay attention to the floor lamp on the left. No electrical, nor photometric properties were changed between the two renders, yet something is “off” about the lamp lighting. (It might have been a mistake on my side)

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If you do not have access to a dedicated rendering/visualization program and you can only render from within Revit, if your renders do not look “perfect”, there is no need to start moaning about the “limitations” of the program. You have 5 main options to choose from:
1. Choose which render engine will give you the best result: NVIDIA Mental Ray, or Autodesk Raytracer.
2. If one of the above options do not give you the results you want, how about rendering through the Cloud?
3. If neither one of the above options work for you, start post processing the image inside of Revit. Change the Highlights, Saturation, Mid Tones, etc. to make your image as close to perfect as can be.
4. You always have the option to export your Revit model to an external software program, such as Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Showcase, Autodesk Navisworks, even Autodesk AutoCAD. From within these programs, you will be able to tweak your renders even further
5. Use post-processing software such as Adobe Photoshop.
Make due with what you have. Make what you have work for you.

Revit 2015 – sketchy lines

Revit 2015 – sketchy lines

Sometimes when using BIM for presentation purposes, especially during the design development stages, the digital outputs can look a little too polished. In the past an architect might of used hand drawn sketches & diagrams to convey the design. New for Revit 2015 is the Sketchy Lines feature which emulates a hand drawn visual style. This feature is available to be applied to any graphic display style including 3d views, perspective views, elevations, sections & plan views.

You can adjust settings for Jitter and Extension to create unique interpretations of any visual style as shown. The Jitter slider allows to vary the weighting & clarity of the line as if you had drawn it with a pen or pencil, where as the Extension slider allows you to how far lines overlap at intersections. Check out Tim Waldocks detailed overview for more examples of how this feature can be used.

A 3d view with the Jitter set to 7 & no Extension:-

Revit 2015 – sketchy lines

A 3d view with no Jitter & the Extension set to 10:-

Revit 2015 – sketchy lines

The combination of the Jitter set to 7 & Extension set to 10:-

Revit 2015 – sketchy lines

For more detail about it then contact us and for our all services related to BIM on Revit click here. Reference Revit 2015 – sketchy lines by David Light.

Schedules Basics & Tips for Revit Beginner

Schedules Basics & Tips of Revit Beginner


Types of Schedules:

  • Schedule/Quantities Schedules: Schedule placed (and modeled in-place) families
  • Graphic Column Schedules: A graphical schedule of structural columns
  • Material Takeoff Schedules: Schedule materials in the project
  • Note Block Schedules: Schedule placed instances of a generic annotation family
  • Sheet List Schedules: Schedule sheets in the project
  • View List Schedules: Schedule views in the project
  • Embedded Schedules: In Schedules of Spaces, Electrical Circuits, Piping Systems, or Mechanical Systems
  • Key Schedules: Key in typical parameters to quickly populate large schedules of the same category
  • Keynote Legends: Keynote elements from a predefined list of Key Values & Text
  • Revision Schedules: Live in the titleblock families


There are a heck of a lot of cool ideas out there for schedules.  This post is a small fraction.

1.  Need to identify what type or category of schedule you are looking at?

  • In the Properties of the Schedule, edit “fields.” The type of Schedule is in the title of the window and the categories is often in the “Select from available fields” dropdown.
  • A Key Schedule will have an additional Parameter in the properties called “Parameter Name.”

2.  Is a Shared Parameter necessary?

  • Usually when you introduce a .rfa file (ex. tag or component) a shared parameter is necessary to tag or schedule the parameter. However, Generic Annotation families do not need to have shared parameters, to populate a Note Block Schedule.
  • In addition, a value that schedules for a system family does not need to be a shared parameter, unless you are also tagging it (.rfa).

3.  Are you using a Shared Parameter in a tag or component and you’re having trouble referencing it in your Key Schedules? 

  • Key Schedules will not support them. Consider FINALLY using those Hard-coded parameters that come with Revit families OOTB.  They ARE available in both tags and Key Schedules.

4.  Is text wrapping for your General Notes or other text (placed with the Text Tool) giving you grief? 

  • Consider creating a Key Schedule (preferably from an unused category). You will have all the flexibility of Schedules (and even access to some of the new enhancements).

5.  A material is in the model but you can’t find it in the Material Takeoff Schedule? 

  • Materials applied with the Paint Tool are excluded from a Material Takeoff Schedule

6.  A material is in the Material Takeoff Schedule but you can’t find it in the model?

  • Right Click and select “Show” to find where this item is in the model

7.  Want to manage in bulk the “issue dates” for sheets or the “title on sheet” for views?

  • Consider creating Sheet List and View List Schedules for internal QC

8.  Want to link an Excel File into Revit?

  • In Excel, Isolate just the portion of table you would like to import
  • Save as xls or xlsx
  • In AutoCAD, Create a table (command “TABLE”)
  • From a Data Link
  • Create a new excel data link
  • Browse to location of excel file
  • Select Excel sheet to link
  • Say OK and place in model view
  • In Revit, Create a new LEGEND view with scale set to 12” = 1’-0”
  • Link your dwg file into Revit
  • To Update your schedule
  • Make a change to the excel file and save
  • In the AutoCAD file, right click on table and “Update Table Data Links” and save
  • In Revit, Manage links and reload the DWG file
9.  Want to Calculate Costs for Material Areas or Volumes?

Formula examples:
  • QTO_Calc SF = yes/no parameter
  • QTO_Calc CF = not(Material: QTO_Calc SF)
  • QTO_Unit Cost = currency parameter
  • QTO_Unit Total = if(Material: QTO_Calc SF, (Material: QTO_Unit Cost * Material: Area / 1 SF), (Material: QTO_Unit Cost * Material: Volume / 1 CF))


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Cape Dutch Architecture

Cape Dutch Architecture

“Cape Dutch architecture is a traditional Afrikaner architectural style found mostly in the Western Cape of South Africa. The style was prominent in the early days (17th century) of the Cape Colony, and the name derives from the fact that the initial settlers of the Cape were primarily Dutch. The style has roots in mediaeval Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia.

Houses in this style have a distinctive and recognisable design, with a prominent feature being the grand, ornately rounded gables, reminiscent of features in townhouses of Amsterdam built in the Dutch style. The houses are also usually H-shaped, with the front section of the house usually being flanked by two wings running perpendicular to it. Furthermore, walls are whitewashed, and the roofs are thatched.

Most Cape Dutch buildings in Cape Town have been lost to new developments – particularly to high-rises in the City Bowl during the 1960s. However, the Cape Dutch tradition can still be seen in many of the farmhouses of the Wine Route, and historical towns such as Stellenbosch, Swellendam, Tulbagh and Graaff-Reinet.

One characteristic feature of South African colonial architecture which has attracted the attention of many observers is the extensive use of gables. Earlier research has repeatedly sought to justify the term `Cape-Dutch’ solely by comparing the decorative form of these gables to those of Amsterdam. However, in the second half of the 18th century, the period in which, the entire development of the South African gable tradition occurs, gable architecture had gradually ceased to be built in Amsterdam. North of Amsterdam, along the river Zaan, however, gable design remained vigorous until the capture of the Cape. South African gables have many features in common with gables along the river Zaan, in spite of the different materials used.”

Cape Dutch Architecture

Cape Dutch Architecture

Cape Dutch Architecture

Cape Dutch Architecture

Cape Dutch Architecture

Reference Cape Dutch Architecture by  Herman Solomon.

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Modern Architecture Declassified

Modern Architecture Declassified

modern building

Art is the ultimate finesse of our human race. Architecture is the greatest inspiration and a powerful symbolic manifestation of our aesthetic fire. AE presents a wholly different perspective at viewing modern architecture.

Architecture is one part science, one part craft and two parts art,” mentions David Rutten. Art is the ultimate finesse of our human race. It’s the driving force. Goethe likens architecture to frozen music. It’s the greatest inspiration and a powerful symbolic manifestation of our aesthetic fire.

In this zeal, the buildings and structures that we architect are dynamic presentations of our drive to infuse life into them so that they become long-standing monuments that enthuse and charm the onlooker.

Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space,” asserted Ludwig Mies, the pioneering 20th century American architect. He devoted all his life to capturing the spirit of his times into his architecture, which we know today as ‘Modernist architecture.’ Like any great artistic movement, modernism presented a wholly different perspective at viewing architecture.

Modernism: The 20th century provided diverse, and sometimes disparate, approaches to building design. Modernist architecture lays significant emphasis on the buildings being functional and we notice a marked rebellion against traditional design styles that were overtly obsessed with architectural ornamentation. The roots of Modernism are founded in applying scientific and analytical methods to building design.

With scant regard for ornamentation, prefabricated factory-made components of metal and concrete were heavily used. The stark buildings habitually ran counter to traditional expectations and ingeniously appeared to defy gravity. Architects of this era often drew on several design philosophies to architect buildings that are both unique and startling.

Modernism planted seeds for many off-shoots in the later decades. The different stylistic architectural movements are detailed further on. It must be kept in mind that these classifications cannot be water-tight compartments because any artistic movement influences other movements in multi-lateral ways. Therefore, it could be very frequent that one style runs into the other. At times, one building could be based upon an amalgamation of multiple styles too.

Bauhaus: Bauhaus is a German expression for ‘house for building.’ In 1919, the German economy was crumbling after the First World War. A new architectural institution called Bauhaus was established, headed by Walter Gropius, to rebuild the country through a rational community housing for the working class. Bauhaus architects discarded “bourgeois” specialties like eaves, cornices, and decorative details. They strove to use the basic forms of Classical architecture in the most basic form, devoid of any ornamentation. 

Bauhaus buildings are characterized by flat roofs, cubic shapes, and smooth facades. The colors are simple in their use of white, beige, gray, or black. Even floor plans are open housing functional furniture. The chief architect, Walter Gropius, built his home in Massachusetts following the same philosophy.

When the Nazis disbanded the Bauhaus school, the principal Bauhaus leaders migrated to the US, where they applied the same principles to public and corporate buildings. The American form of Bauhaus architecture took the name of ‘International Style.’ 

Brutalism: Brutalism is another architectural movement that produced stark, angular and economical concrete buildings. The term ‘brutalism’ was first used in reference to Le Corbusier’s simple concrete buildings in the 50s. Brutalism grew as an offshoot of the International Style, but the designs may seem less refined. 

Top Brazilian architect, Paulo Mendes, is another famous for following this style. Brutalist buildings are constructed economically in smaller time-frames. This is made possible by using precast concrete slabs. These buildings are noticeable for their rough unfinished surfaces and exposed steel beams.

Expressionism: Expressionism found its inspiration from the work of avant garde artists and designers in France, Germany, and other European countries during the first quarter of the last century. The distinctive features of expressionist buildings are the massive distorted shapes that blow symmetry to the winds. Fragmented contours are prominent and they seem like sculpted forms, even though the construction material is primarily brick and concrete.

The desired end product of expressionist architects was to have biomorphic and organic designs that were akin to forms found in Nature. This movement went on to magnify into a different style altogether which is popularly known as organic architecture. 

Neo-expressionism: Neo-expressionism owes its roots to expressionist ideas. Architects through the 1950s and 60s indulged in designing buildings that gave shape to their feelings about the surrounding landscape. The buildings suggested the forms of rocks and mountains. Brutalist and Organic architecture are often described to represent Neo-expressionism.

Formalism: As evident from the name, Formalism lays great emphasis on ‘form.’ The architect’s sole concern lies in accentuating visual relationships between different parts of the building and the entire structure as one unified whole. The overall shape of the structure is given monumental attention. Lines and rigid geometric shapes are predominant in Formalist architecture.

The Bank of China Tower, built by renowned architect I. M. Pei, is the most acclaimed example of Formalist architecture. Mr. Pei is highly praised for his “elegant formalism” in building design.

International Style: International Style grew from Bauhaus architecture in the United States. While German Bauhaus architecture dealt with the social aspects of design, America’s International Style took a symbolic position of Capitalism. The International Style swept across large office buildings and even found way to upscale homes for American elites. The United Nations Secretariat building and the Seagram Building in New York are considered the finest in International Style.

A typical International Style high-rise has a square or rectangular floor-plan. It has a simple cubic “extruded rectangle” form with all facades at right angles to each other. ‘Form follows function’ is the guiding principle of the building design. There is complete rejection of ornament but transparency of the building is given a prime position. To achieve this, glass is heavily used in the exteriors, held together by steel and concrete beams. Industrialized mass-production processes give a machine aesthetic to the building.

Minimalism: One striking trend in Modernist architecture is the growing shift towards minimalist or reductivist design. Acclaimed architect Ludwig Mies is said to have pioneered this architectural style, inspired by the motto “less is more.” Traditional Japanese architecture that values simplicity and abstraction is also said to have a deep influence.

The hallmark of a minimalist building is that it is stripped of almost all essential interior elements like the walls. The outline, or the frame, of the structure is given greater value. Floor plans are quite open and negative spaces surrounding the structure form a part of the overall design. Lighting is directed to dramatize planes and lines. 

The Mexico City home of award-winning Mexican architect Luis Barragán is Minimalist due to its emphasis on open spaces and dramatically lit planes.

Structuralism: Structuralism is founded in the belief system that all matter is built from a system of opposing signs like male/female, hot/cold, old/young, etc. For Structuralists, design is a process of searching for the relationship between different elements. They are also curious about the social structures and mental processes that contribute to the design. 

Structuralist architecture can be vastly complex within a highly structured framework. For example, a Structuralist design may have a cell-like honeycomb shape, cubed grids, intersecting planes, or densely clustered spaces with connecting courtyards. The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is a notable Structuralist work by architect Peter Eisenman.

Postmodernism: In the later part of the twentieth century, designers rebelled against the rationalism followed in Modernist architecture and took to more abstract styles. Postmodern architecture germinated from modernist movement, yet blatantly contradicts most modernist ideas. Postmodernist buildings combine new ideas with traditional forms to startle, surprise, and amuse its viewer. Familiar shapes are metamorphosed in unexpected ways. Buildings may, at times, incorporate symbols to make a statement.

Philip Johnson’s AT&T Headquarters (now the SONY Building) is often referred as an epitome of postmodernism. The skyscraper has a sleek classical façade with the top being an oversized “Chippendale” pediment. 

Deconstructivism: Deconstructivism (or the literary root: Deconstruction) is an approach to building design that attempts to view architecture in bits and pieces. The basic elements of architecture are dismantled. Deconstructivist buildings may seem to have no visual logic. They may appear to be made up of unrelated, abstract, and disharmonious forms. Deconstructive ideas are borrowed from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. The Seattle Public Library by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is a monumental example of Deconstructivist architecture.

High Tech: High-tech buildings make heavy use of construction materials like steel, aluminum, and glass that combine with brightly colored girders, beams, and braces to give it a machine-like look. Most parts of the building are prefabricated in a factory and assembled on-site. The support beams, duct work, and other functional elements are innovatively placed on the exterior facade, which becomes the focus of attention. The interior spaces are open and adaptable for multiple purposes. 
The Centre Pompidou in Paris is an iconic High-tech building. Its ‘inside-out’ architecture reveals the inner workings on the exterior facade.

Organic Architecture: The Art Nouveau architects of the early twentieth century first incorporated curving, plant-like organic shapes into their building designs. But in the later half of the twentieth century, Modernist architects took the concept of organic architecture to new heights. By using new forms of concrete and cantilever trusses, architects could create swooping arches without visible beams or pillars. Organic buildings are never linear or rigidly geometric. Instead, wavy lines and curved shapes are replicated to suggest natural forms.

The Sydney Opera House in Australia with its sail-like motifs, the shell-like spiral forms of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, and the ocean motifs of Sea Ranch Chapel in California are fine examples of organic architecture. Reference architectural evangelist.

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Science World reaps benefits of BIM

Moving into the 21st Century – Science World reaps benefits of BIM

Science World reaps benefits of BIM

Science World reaps benefits of BIM : Traditional paper-based drawings may be the status quo for many in the Canadian construction industry but some leading-edge innovators have made the transition into the digital world. Building Information Management (BIM) has already taken root in some sectors and is proving to be an invaluable tool – even in the piling industry.

BIM by design

“I’ve been using BIM for about eight or nine years now,” states Geraldine Rayner, vice-president of Consulting Services, Summit BIM Consulting Ltd. “Unfortunately, the adoption rate across the industry has been patchy at best.”

According to Rayner, there is still a lot of confusion around the concept of BIM. This has led to some hesitation and a slow adoption rate.

“BIM is a process of utilizing digital technology to convey information rather than paper,” she says. “Some in the architectural community are using BIM to produce black and white traditional drawings. A small number of people are using it as a tool to create a digital prototype – that’s where the real value comes into the equation.”

The use of BIM-enabled software allows users to access and manipulate data throughout the various stages of construction – from the design through to facilities management.

“BIM is really about trying to take the digital prototype from the manufacturing side of the industry and applying it to the architectural and owner side,” adds Rayner. “We can do the estimating, the time analysis, scheduling, ordering, etc. – all from a 3D prototype. This allows us to resolve any potential problems before they occur – and well before getting to the actual job site.”

Key benefits

There are many significant advantages inherent in the use of BIM, according to Summit BIM Consulting. These include: collaboration, cost certainty, facility asset management, improved quality, informed decision making, increased productivity, reduced FM cost, reuse of data, reduced changes, reduced risk, and sustainable design analysis/visualization.

At the end of the day, BIM can reduce a project’s overall costs and improve efficiencies along the way.

A report from the Construction Task Force in the United Kingdom, Rethinking Construction, cites recent studies that suggest: up to 30 per cent of construction is rework; labour is used at only 40 to 60 per cent of potential efficiency; accidents can account for three to six per cent of total project costs; and at least 10 per cent of materials are wasted.

“More than 30 per cent of the cost of a project is tied up in inefficiencies, delays and wastage,” states Rayner. “As we learn to use BIM effectively, we can reduce this percentage. But the potential exists to eradicate it completely.”

Rayner describes BIM as a number of different tools. Each segment of the construction industry has its own tool but there is a common “language” that allows everyone to talk to each other. The information is entered once and then used repeatedly throughout the different phases of the project. It may involve a bit more work at the front end but that extra work will reap digital rewards throughout the entire project – even once that project has been handed to the owner in the facilities and operations management phase.

A 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report on infrastructure productivity states that: “A key source of savings in project delivery is investing heavily in early-stage project planning and design. This can reduce costs significantly by preventing changes and delays later on in the process when they become ever more expensive. Bringing together cross-functional teams from the government and contractor sides early in the design process can avoid the alterations that lead to 60 per cent of project delays.”

Summit BIM Consulting typically works with building owners, many of whom have used BIM to great advantage.

“The cost of change orders on a project can be about 10 per cent,” says Rayner. “Owners have to bear that cost. Our clients have all seen a reduction in the number of RFIs and the number of change orders associated with their building projects. They have seen some definite benefits, like having all of the building’s information data go straight through to building, maintenance and operations departments, without needing to be re-entered along the way.”

Other important elements that BIM brings to light – before actual construction – are soft and hard “clashes”. The former refers to having enough space within a certain area of the building to do the required work and the latter is used to identify actual obstructions, such a pipe hitting a duct. All of this becomes readily apparent when working in 3D.

“There’s no doubt that BIM has the potential to improve industry efficiencies,” says Rayner, who adds that the design side of the industry has the skill set to start generating this data and many of the large construction contractors have evolving BIM departments – all of which is very good news.

Piling work proves premise

When consulting structural engineering firm, Bush, Bohlman & Partners, was awarded the $35-million renovation project to Science World in 2011, they didn’t hesitate to make use of Revit Structure within a BIM process to create a 3D digital version of the existing building structure. That foresight has paid huge dividends along the way.

Science World at TELUS World of Science is located in an iconic geodesic dome, which was originally built for Expo ’86 as a temporary structure. The building is close to 30 years old – and still going strong. This is due, in part, to the massive structural engineering work completed in 2011.

“Part of our work in 2011 was to do a seismic assessment and retrofit of the original Expo building podium structure utilizing 3D dynamic analysis,” states Michael Sullivan, CTech, a Structural Technologist/BIM Specialist with Bush, Bohlman & Partners (consulting structural engineers), who adds that the podium and base structure support a 47-metre high geodesic dome and was built partially over water.

“The existing building structure used a complex and congested pile-supported foundation system – with battered piles at major column-support locations. During this expansion project, over 400 – or 98 per cent – of the existing piles were modelled digitally,” he explains.

Extensive new piling work was required on the Science World podium base structure’s existing foundation system. Large steel moment-resisting frames were centred along the radial gridlines on the west side. The frames were anchored by custom-cruciform shape, wide-flange columns. The steel columns were then supported by the new pilecaps keyed into the existing concourse level such that no additional gravity or seismic loads were transferred back to the existing structure.

Bush, Bohlman & Partners used Revit software to determine where the existing piles were located so that workers could cut through the podium’s deck structure to drive the new piles.

“We used the modelling software initially to lay out the locations of the existing piles and to where to cut through the existing deck to drive the new piles,” explains Sullivan, who adds that the new piles were designed to support the new expansion seismic retrofit and relieve the load from the existing structure. “We cast the pile caps directly into the holes cut through the existing deck structure.”

East meets west

The west side of the Podium structure required over 40 new concrete-filled steel piles, of which 30 were battered piles. The former were 508 centimetres in diameter and 15 metres long. The latter were 610 centimetres in diameter and 15 metres long, each with a 55 milimetre diameter Dywidag rock anchor. All of these piles had to be driven from a rig set up on a barge on the False Creek side of the building.

“The battered piles were part of the seismic system upgrade,” explains Sullivan. “Where new columns bear on an existing concrete beam, we spanned new reinforced concrete beams underneath that existing beam and placed pilecaps with battered piles, in groups of three, on either side to transfer the new column loads off of the existing deck support beams.”

The renovation and expansion work on the east side of the podium wasn’t as extensive and didn’t require seismic upgrading to the existing previous expansion completed in 1988. A total of 20 new piles were driven to support the new entry sequence and augment the structure’s existing foundation system.

“The use of Revit software in this project was huge,” states Sullivan. “It facilitated the installation of the piles relative to the dome and to the existing piles. The facility remained open during the work so being able to know the exact locations of where to cut through the deck was invaluable. We used Revit to lay it all out before we started the actual work. Plus, the existing battered piles were slanted and angled in different directions. We used Revit to lay out where each new pile could be located without running into the other piles already there.”

More to come

Although the benefits of using BIM tools were well established – and capitalized upon – during the 2011 renovation project, it looks like it may be a case of where BIM just keeps on giving. Last year, TELUS World of Science again approached Bush, Bohlman & Partners.

“They asked us to conduct an assessment of the dome and piling foundation structure because the facility has long outlasted its initial lifespan as a temporary structure,” states Sullivan. “We’ve been tasked to review all of the existing structure with the goal in mind to make it last many more years.”

In 2014, Bush, Bohlman & Partners completed the condition assessment study of the entire existing building and expansion base structure, which involved going out in a small boat at low tide and doing an extensive visual study of the underneath of the existing base structure. This study revealed the damaging effects of salt water on the existing steel piles and these were categorized within the 3d digital model to create a comprehensive condition assessment report of the base structure. This information will be used to facilitate any future remediation work.

“We categorized the piles according to the severity of their condition and then colour-coded and scheduled them for easy identification,” states Sullivan. “And we can provide all of that detailed information up front so that contractors know exactly where and what needs to be done to provide more accurate bids.”

Fortunately, Bush, Bohlman & Partners already had completed a lot of the preliminary work required in the condition assessment study – thanks to their use of BIM on the 2011 renovation project.

“It does take longer to digitally model a building, especially an existing structure like Science World,” concludes Sullivan. “But we’re certainly pleased that we put the energy in to do it in 2011. Not only did it prove advantageous back then but now, with this new assessment four years later, it will make our work that much easier.” Reference PIC magazine.

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