Page T2.2 . 02 April 2003                     
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    Towering with ArchiCAD

    continued

    Sutherland says the mantra in his firm is byproduct. By using ArchiCAD, which stores all the information about the building in a central database, FKAU simulates the building in three dimensions throughout the design and documentation process.

    For years, software vendors have touted the virtues of database extraction capabilities. With ArchiCAD, changes made in one view are automatically updated in all others, including plans, sections, elevations, architectural and construction details, bills of material, window/ door/ finish schedules, renderings, animations, and virtual reality scenes. Intelligent building elements like doors, windows, and columns are said to "understand" their own properties and "react" to their context. This level of integration makes the management of the project easier and faster and allows the designer to design instead of draft.

    The byproducts of the ArchiCAD database also include descriptions of materiality and quality, specification data, and analysis of environmental, financial, and construction issues. In fact, the architect could continue coordinating such information for the life of the building through computer-aided facilities management.

    Object-Oriented Design in Practice

    The development of the Eureka project into the world's tallest building could not easily have happened without a comprehensive 3D building database. An early version of the design consisted of two tall buildings next to each other. Katsalidis had the idea of simply putting one approved building envelope on top of the other, thereby creating a taller building that would make a much slimmer profile, provide more light and space in the surrounding streetscape, and produce a more iconic structure.

    The Eureka Tower database was organized around the major programmatic components, and 25-person teams worked on subsets of the digital model: cores, superstructure, podium, tower, and facade. The project was divided up in this way so its sheer size would not challenge the computer hardware and networks.

    Because the combined model was rarely needed for production, the architects were able to design most of the project within the component models. Sutherland says that information produced by teams was hot-linked to the other models, so that the entire 3D database was coordinated in dimensional and locational attributes.

    Sutherland notes that in conventional practice, those who design a building are generally not the same people as those who describe it through construction drawings. With the integrated ArchiCAD process, everyone is designing.

    FKAU works in 3D as long as they can, so that they draft as little as possible. Sutherland says drafting represents wasted effort because it produces only lines, and it is more important to be creating byproduct-rich 3D information.

    For 2D output, the firm uses a separate Graphisoft application, Plotmaker, which allows them to batch-plot drawings. Live design information is brought into Plotmaker from the 3D model, and live document information is brought in automatically from a Microsoft Access drawing registration/ issue/ transmittal database.

    Coexisting with AutoCAD

    FKAU did not have many problems in converting ArchiCAD files to the "industry standard" DWG format when exchanging data with their consultants. Sutherland says the stumbling blocks on any file transfer, no matter what the software, are in layering systems and object management.

    ArchiCAD can automatically filter and reorganize ArchiCAD layers and information into the AutoCAD format desired by others, and vice versa when importing data. But they found some translation difficulties in how ArchiCAD handles fills.

    Sutherland questions why the industry cannot work with rich 3D information instead of the DWG format. He believes we are really "dumbing down" the information when we translate building data into lines and text. He foresees the day when the major subcontractors will use the same design software as engineers and link the design data directly to manufacturing processes, interrogating and enriching the 3D building model created by architects.

    Working that way with other participants in construction will provide architects with the opportunity to ensure integrity of information. Software for interference detection and virtual model auditing will offer the advantages of the ongoing and cumulative coordination of information.

    With object-oriented software like ArchiCAD and leaders like FKAU to pave the way, perhaps the architecture profession will realize the return on CAD investments it has sought so long.

    Elizabeth Bollinger is a professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, in Houston, Texas.

     

    AW

    ArchWeek Image

    Photomontage of a model of Eureka Tower, by Fender Katsalidis Architects, on the bank of the Yarra River.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    Sectional perspective rendered from the model used for production of construction information.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    Plan perspective of ground-level entry forecourt and restaurant.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    After building a model of the podium, right, architects automatically generated a building section. To make the construction drawing (left), they only had to draft text, dimensions, levels, and insulation hatching.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    Rendering of restaurant and podium level, generated directly from construction data.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    Sectional perspective through apartment entry lobby.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    A typical apartment kitchen.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

    ArchWeek Image

    Residential elevator.
    Image: Fender Katsalidis

     

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