Joshua Zabel talks digital collaboration in facade design

Architecture Facades+ News Technology West
The SFMOMA expansion features the first major use of FRP cladding on a multi-story building in North America. (Tom Paiva / Kreysler & Associates)

The SFMOMA expansion features the first major use of FRP cladding on a multi-story building in North America. (Tom Paiva / Kreysler & Associates)

Kreysler & Associates‘ Joshua Zabel knows more than a thing or two about collaborating with architects to produce complex facades. “On the design side, increasingly complex projects call for earlier and earlier involvement from us for material and fabrication input,” said Zabel. “With increasing frequency we’re being called on by architects to contribute during SD and DD phases.”

Zabel will share the fabricator’s perspective on teamwork in high performance envelope design and construction later this week at Facades+AM Seattle. His co-presenters on “Digital Collaborations: Applications, Realities and Opportunities in the Delivery of Complex Facades” include Jeffrey Vaglio (Enclos), David Sandinsky (NBBJ) and Marne Zahner (Magnusson Klemencic Associates).

Bing Concert Hall. (Phil King / Flickr)

Kreysler & Associates fabricated the “sails” inside the Bing Concert Hall. (Phil King / Flickr)

Digital design tools play a critical role in enabling an ongoing dialogue between designers and fabricators, said Zabel. “There’s obviously a lot to be said for the ability to pass a 3D model back and forth or share drawings on a screen in real time with someone thousands of miles away,” he explained. “It seems easy to forget it wasn’t anywhere near as fluid, say, 15 years ago.” More specifically, said Zabel, “It’s interesting to me when we’re able to communicate with architects at the level of programming the toolpath strategy for making molds with our CNC machine. Everything about that notion is enhanced by the collaborative use of technology.”

Zabel compares contemporary developments in design and fabrication technology to the introduction of another collaborative tool: the telephone. “CAD and digital fabrication processes are such useful tools for construction and collaboration, I imagine one day, like the telephone, we won’t marvel at how useful it is, we’ll just take it for granted,” he said. At the same time, there remains room for improvement. Construction documentation standards, for instance, often necessitate creating traditional 2D models that are “simply impractical” in particularly complex cases such as SFMOMA rainscreen or Bing Concert Hall, said Zabel. The ease of communication “can also lead to overload and an environment where it can be difficult to find a foothold or pinpoint the important thing to focus on where everybody has access to all of the information all the time.”

Join Zabel and other movers and shakers in the facades world December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. Register today on the symposium website.

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