Posts tagged with "Revit":

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Sidewalk Labs unveils digital model for the world’s tallest timber tower

Sidewalk Labs, the architecture and urbanism spinoff of Google parent company Alphabet, has detailed a new model for designing tall timber towers on their Medium page. The “digital proof-of-concept,” designed in Revit and hosted in BIM 360, is called PMX (proto-model X), and is intended to show how a modular 35-story tower could be designed and built effectively and efficiently using almost exclusively timber. The Sidewalk Labs team went through eight design steps: Addressing site (the decision was to make the design site-agnostic), massing, structure, program, MEP, a passive house–like envelope, Ontario code compliance (likely to speed the process along when implementation in Quayside, Toronto), and ease of manufacture. The structure itself is perhaps what is most interesting about PMX—the design is pretty basic—which also is directly tied to its ability to be modularly fabricated, as well as allowing for the maximum amount of space for tenants. With timber being much lighter than concrete, winds became an issue during testing. The researchers found that because the building was as much as 2.5 times lighter as a traditional structure, lateral forces acted on it more like a typical 40- or 50-story building. However, Sidewalks Lab wanted to avoid a hybrid solution that added steel or concrete. A timber structural core, they reported, would have necessitated walls that were five feet thick. Since this was unfeasible given the difficulty to manufacture and the resultant loss of floor space, Sidewalk Labs instead chose to use a cross-brace frame exoskeleton, like those found on many supertall towers. Since the exoskeleton still left the building fairly susceptible to large swaying motions, the team opted to add a 70-ton steel tuned mass damper at the penthouse level. To create a design that was easy and affordable to manufacture offsite with CNC machines, the Sidewalk Labs team created an interlocking kit of parts, including a “floor cassette” which used wood panels, layers of acoustic padding and insulation, and space for plumbing, electrical, and mechanical infrastructure. To make the cassettes work, Sidewalk Labs designed a standardized grid for columns to plug into, which kept everything standardized for easy construction where sequence order becomes more or less irrelevant. The cassettes also feature stone wool, a fibrous structure of minerals, in place of concrete, and can be built in 25 steps. The envelope is also modular, and the standardized metal panel has 40 percent window coverage and space for a balcony can be slotted into. However, to offer more aesthetic possibilities, each building could also be “skinned” to produce various effects, some of which have been speculatively designed by Gensler, such as a faceted skin of waving forms. What this means for Sidewalk Labs’ contentious Toronto waterfront project, which past renderings included designs from Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studios, was not immediately clear. It may mean revisions to the proposed designs of the taller towers, of which renders were first released back in February 2019. Regardless of whether the research is implemented, the model demonstrates a future for building up with timber, providing more sustainable options than the common carbon-intensive glass and concrete construction. Cara Eckholm, associate director of development at Sidewalk Labs, clarified the divide when asked:
“The renderings in the MIDP were illustrative, and do not represent final project design. Similarly, the images posted in the PMX model blog post are used to demonstrate potential variations using different facade materials.”
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Unity creates new open source tool just for architects with Reflect

Video game software suites like Unreal Engine and Unity have made their way into the architectural arsenal with AEC firms like Skanska, Foster + Partners, and Zaha Hadid Architects using them to visualize and test new buildings. However, these tools weren’t necessarily built with AEC professionals in mind and while they often result in nice-looking environments, they don’t generally offer much in the way of architecture-specific functionality like the ones architectural designers have come to rely upon in BIM and CAD software. To help bridge this gap, the company behind Unity is testing a new piece of software called Reflect. “Unity Pro is a super powerful tool that people use it for creating design walkthroughs and custom application development,” said Tim McDonough, vice president at Unity, “but these firms have a whole bunch of people that would like to be able to view their Revit data easily in a 3D engine like Unity without having to be a software developer, which is what are our current tools built for.” Reflect, which will launch publicly this fall, connects with existing software suites like Revit and Trimble to leverage the vast amounts of data that designers and contractors rely upon, and uses it to create new visualizations, simulations, AR, and VR experiences. Users can view and collaborate across BIM software and Reflect, which are synchronized in real-time across multiple devices for both desktop and mobile. “Users were saying it took them weeks to get data out of Revit into Unity and by the time they got it out, the project had moved on and what was done was irrelevant,’” said McDonough. “We’ve taken out the drudgery so that now what used to take weeks takes just minutes.” A number of firms have already been putting Reflect to the test. Reflect is open source and allows users to develop their own applications, whether for use in their firm or for a broader architectural public. SHoP Architects has been trying out Reflect since the software entered its Alpha phase this summer, creating various solutions to test on their supertall project at 9 Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn. Adam Chernick‌, an associate at SHoP focusing on AR and VR research, noted that while showing off buildings in software like Unity has become part of standard practice, getting those visualizations attached to critical information has been a challenge up until now. “It hasn't been super difficult to get the geometry into the game engines," he said, "but what has been even more difficult is getting that data into the game engines." One of the first uses for Reflect that the SHoP team devised was an AR application that allowed them to monitor the progress of 9 Dekalb and easily oversee construction sequencing using color-coded panels that map onto the building’s model in their office. Chernick explained that there was a huge amount of exterior window panels to keep track of and that the app really helped. “We wanted to be able to visualize where we are in the construction process from anywhere—whether in VR or AR, and be able to get a live update of its status,” he said. “Now we can watch the building being constructed in real-time.” The SHoP team has also leveraged the power of Reflect—and its integration with Unity—to create new visualization tools for acoustic modeling. “We created an immersive acoustic simulator where you get to see how a sound wave expands through space, reflects off of walls, and interacts with geometry,” said Christopher Morse‌, an associate of interactive visualization at SHoP. “You can slow it down, you can pause it, and you can stop it.” The idea, he explained, is to help architects make acoustic decisions earlier in the design process. “Currently a lot of those acoustic decisions come later and most of the geometry is already decided,” Morse said, noting that at a certain point, all designers can really do is add carpeting or acoustic tiling. “But we want to use these tools earlier and in order for that to actually work, we needed to enable an iterative feedback loop so that you can create a design, analyze and evaluate it, and then make changes based on your analysis." With Reflect, there's also no more grueling import and export process, which Morse said prevented designers from even incorporating tools in their workflow. “Once we had Reflect, we integrated it into our existing acoustic visualization software in order to make that round trip quicker so that people can put on the headset, make a change in Revit, and instantly reevaluate based on those changes.” There is also metadata attached to the geometry, such as material information. While 9 Dekalb is too far along in its construction to incorporate the new software heavily into the design, SHoP’s begun testing out their acoustic modeling app in the lobby of the project. Reflect could also provide BIM data in more a user-friendly package to more people working on building projects. “We think that BIM is so valuable, but not enough people get to use it,” said McDonough. “We were trying to figure out how to get BIM in the hands of people on a construction site, so everyone can see all that information at a human scale.” At SHoP, this means creating apps that contractors can use on the job. Currently, their AR apps work on mobile devices, but SHoP hopes that, as AR headsets become more mainstream, they’ll also be able to use the apps on products such as the HoloLens. “This could be a paradigm shift,” says Chernick‌. “We realize that this massive, thousand-sheet set of construction documents that we need to create in order to get a building built is not going anywhere soon. But what we can do is help make this process more efficient and help our construction teams understand and potentially build these projects in more efficient ways.”
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The International Code Council goes to court over free access to building codes

Potential productivity benefits for architecture, engineering, and construction may depend on the outcome of copyright litigation by the International Code Council (ICC) against San Francisco-based startup UpCodes. The firm, which aims to reduce perceived bottlenecks in the implementation of the nation's 93,000 building codes, faces charges that its public posting of codes undermines the public-private partnership that develops them. The nonprofit ICC, which prepares the International Building Code and other model codes adopted by multiple jurisdictions, contends that UpCodes has appropriated its property and “does not need to violate ICC’s copyrights to further its claim to innovate,” an anonymous ICC spokesperson commented for this article through its public relations firm. UpCodes regards its practice as fair use, citing precedents establishing that information “incorporated by reference” into law (the applicable legal term) enters the public domain. Other appeals courts, ICC counters, have protected copyrights in cases it considers comparable. The suit involves a tension that jurists have long recognized in copyright law: the need for material support and incentive for creators (who have exclusive rights “for limited times” under the Constitution's copyright clause) versus the need to prevent monopoly control from stifling the circulation of ideas. The conflict pits ICC's interests in codebook development and sales, and its assertion that its website already provides adequate access, against UpCodes' interests in expanding access and linking codes with building information modeling (BIM) systems. Brothers Scott and Garrett Reynolds, the first formerly an architect with KPF and the latter an engineer with construction-software firm PlanGrid, founded UpCodes in 2016 to streamline the often-tedious aspects of code review. Automating this process, they contend, can reduce errors and free up architects' attention and time. Opposing ICC's don't-fix-what-ain't-broke legal position, Scott Reynolds commented, “I think it actually is a broken system.” An estimated multi-billion-dollar annual expenditure goes into construction rework due to compliance errors, so there's a huge amount of wasted expenditure simply from code mistakes.” He is not alone in finding code review laborious. The Economist, citing McKinsey Global Institute findings on the $10 trillion construction industry's historically low productivity, advocates standardizing codes, alongside steadier public infrastructure investment and incentives for BIM adoption, as strategies to modernize the sector. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that 24.3 percent of the final price of an average new single-family house, over $84,000, is attributable to regulation, with an even higher burden, 32.1 percent, for multifamily developments. UpCodes, supported by the prominent seed accelerator Y Combinator, offers two products out of beta as of May 2019: UpCodes Web, a searchable code repository, and the extension UpCodes AI, a Revit add-in that analyzes 3D digital models and provides real-time compliance checks. The web product is the target of ICC's suit. The AI product uses the code database as its foundation, automatically synchronizing with code updates; it is often compared to editorial tools like spellcheckers and Grammarly, or the Lint analytic utility for Unix. A key feature of UpCodes AI, Garrett Reynolds notes, is that “checking models in 3D is orders of magnitude easier than checking 2D plans... For example, stair headroom clearance is pretty difficult to tell in a 2D plan, but in a 3D, we can just draw a box and check for intersections.” The ICC views UpCodes as infringing on a successful process that makes U.S. buildings safe, balancing efficient standardization with adaptability to local conditions. Its statement notes that the organization “develops the model codes through a rigorous, transparent, consensus-driven process involving nearly 55,000 industry sector members and over 9,500 government agency members. It provides free access to view the codes on its website. The sale and licensing of the codes to professionals and governmental organizations defrays the cost of the code production process.” “The Code Council’s position is that incorporation into law does not terminate the copyright in the Code Council’s model codes,” the statement continues, adding that “UpCodes—a for-profit company—is trying to solve a problem that does not exist because the Code Council already makes its model codes freely available to all to read on its website.” The ICC's website and some jurisdictions, Scott Reynolds allows, offer online access to codes, but not in practical form. “You can't copy. You can't paste. You can't print,” he says. “You just can't work with the text. You can simply have read-only access, and from a professional standpoint, or [for] a homeowner, that just doesn't suit the needs that you have. And then there's even jurisdictions like Michigan where you can't access the code; they don't host free access.” Such limitations, he argues, amount to constriction of the very processes ICC claims to promote. They arguably border on privatizing the law: “If you are legally bound to follow rules of the government, and you will face civil and criminal penalties if you don't, you have to be able to read those rules. They can't be put behind a paywall.” “The key distinction in these cases is not whether something is a code or not but whether it's legally binding,” noted Mitch Stoltz, an intellectual-property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), supporting the Reynoldses' position with a historical comparison. “Supposedly the Roman emperor Caligula would write the laws in small print and hang them up very high, so no one could actually read them. That's a problem for democracy.” The EFF is not involved in the ICC–UpCodes suit but is defending the nonprofit organization Public Resource in a similar case involving publication of documents from three standards-development organizations: the American Society for Testing and Materials, National Fire Protection Association, and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. ICC's charge that loss of copyright could impair code development, Stoltz adds, does not square with the underlying economics. “They are happy to make money by rationing access to codes,” he said, but “their business model in the end doesn't depend on that, because the actual work of creating these codes [in] most industries is done by volunteers from that industry and from the government. They're not paying people to write the things. People are coming together voluntarily to write them.” The Reynoldses emphasize that UpCodes is not meant to put code specialists out of business, but to help more people implement codes properly and safely. “We really wanted to democratize the process of code research and empower all individuals or professionals to navigate through that process themselves,” Scott said. “The first thing we tell a user is, UpCodes AI is not a replacement for a professional code consultant,” Garrett added, noting that “spellcheck doesn't put editors out of work.” He described the ICC's work as “really important, and we want them to continue doing it. Their main revenue stream actually isn't from selling books of the law. It actually comes from program services: things like consulting, accreditation, training, consulting.” An initial co-plaintiff, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), withdrew from the suit but maintains that its materials are copyrighted and describes its economic model differently. Alexa Lopez, ASCE's senior manager for public affairs and media relations, provided a written comment: “Upcodes is a for-profit entity that posted these copyrighted materials online for profit. For awareness, ASCE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a long history of promoting the education, science and profession of civil engineering. ASCE expends significant resources on standards development, including convening staff and volunteer experts from across the country and globe, compliance with ANSI standards, public input, and balloting. ASCE recoups some of these costs through standards sales, the proceeds of which are used to promote the Society’s educational and charitable 501(c)(3) activities. The Society’s standards are protected by copyright and registered with the U.S. copyright office.” The most relevant precedent, the Reynoldses and their allies hold, is Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc., 293 F.3d 791 (5th Cir. 2002), where the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that model codes developed by the SBCCI (one of three organizations that merged to form the ICC in 1994), once enacted into law, forfeited copyright protection. An earlier case, Building Officials & Code Adm. [BOCA] v. Code Technology, Inc., 628 F.2d 730, 734 (1st Cir. 1980), also defined Massachusetts building codes as law not protectable by copyright. The ICC's position distinguishes between legislatively-generated laws and model codes developed through public-private partnerships, pointing to decisions in which copyrights incorporated by reference were preserved for other privately created information, such as the American Medical Association's procedure-coding system, or a used-car valuation guide mentioned in insurance regulations. Stoltz contrasts Veeck, where code was explicitly made part of the law, with the used-car price book case (CCC Information Services, Inc. v. Maclean Hunter Market Reports, Inc., 44 F.3d 61 (1994)): “The court said that didn't put that book in the public domain. But that's different from saying ‘This document establishes rules for fire safety in the construction of an office building, and it is hereby incorporated into this regulation’” To Garrett Reynolds, ICC's action is “a suit where they said, 'Let's try to kill them out of the gate.' I think they thought they could bury us in litigation costs, and they have succeeded in that strategy many times” with other firms. Scott noted that of the three groups that formed ICC, “one of those three is SBCCI, and then another one of those three is BOCA. So, two of those three organizations have already litigated the case and lost. But now it's a new entity, and they can threaten, and they can litigate again. So yeah, I do think it's a tactic of intimidation.” Architects contacted for comment describe UpCodes as a time-saver, though not a panacea. Rob Pivovarnick, AIA, a senior project architect at Michael Graves Architecture & Design and an early adopter of UpCodes AI, has found the program useful, though not without a few false-positives—e.g., mistaking 20-inch stadium stairs, meant for seating rather than walking, for ordinary steps limited by code to a seven-inch height. It is particularly helpful, he said, in checking ADA-compliant bathroom details. “It looks for the ambulatory stall, it checks returning spaces, it checks for accessible sinks and toilet-seat heights.” He is careful to manage expectations: “There's no software out there that you're going to unleash and say, 'This thing is doing my code review,' and they make that clear on their website.... I don't think UpCodes or Revit are ever going to preclude the use of a code consultant on a job. There's just too much information there for somebody to build a pro piece of software that's going to run all those checks.” Yet, since UpCodes is currently free of charge, “if it catches one thing, then it's valuable,” he added. “[It] can be a $100,000 problem if the toilet room isn't big enough to hold the ambulatory stall, and then it gets built, and then walls need to move and plumbing needs to change.” Depending on what price point UpCodes eventually chooses for individual or network licenses for its AI product, Pivovarnick speculated, it may be a valuable investment. At a previous firm he used MADCAD, a program that centralizes codes from ICC and other organizations, largely on a paid basis; he finds UpCodes more flexible, especially in the field. “Instead of having to remember the code section, I can type stairs or firewall or fire partition and things like that, and it brings up all the relevant sections, which is great.” The ICC's statement includes a description of its efforts in the digital realm: “We have worked with our members and partners to harness a variety of innovative ideas to take advantage of breakthroughs in technology, such as, and will continue to do so. Paramount, however, is ensuring that the public continues to have confidence that buildings are being constructed according to the most modern codes and safety standards.” If Pivovarnick's experience is representative, free digital instruments are already performing more nimbly than their paid equivalents. It now falls to the courts to determine whether a copyright in this disruptive realm hinders or advances aims that all parties share.
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Architects launch startup to attach more context to BIM models

The Lincoln, Nebraska, firm BVH Architecture had a problem. It was awarded the chance to help overhaul the HVAC system at the Bertram Goodhue–designed Nebraska State Capitol, but even with the high-precision BIM model it created over 800 hours, there was no good way to attach additional information—like current status, preservation-worthiness, or any of their 40,000-plus photos and nearly 60 data points needed to map the many elements in each of the 1,300 rooms of the building. It was, as Zach Soflin, an architect and former associate at BVH, described it, “overwhelming.” To tackle this immense issue, the firm created a new software suite for internal use, which after a rebuild from the ground up is being released for any architect, designer, or building manager to add to their own arsenal. Called Layer, the cloud-based app, of which Soflin is COO, runs in-browser or natively on mobile devices and Windows and Mac computers and integrates directly with Revit, to allow the addition of all sorts of notes, imagery, and other data to the workflow. “Layer is a customizable platform,” Soflin explained, “meaning that the data within our platform is able to adapt to any project type, whether it's an existing building or new construction building, or just an owner wanting to use it for maintenance requirements.” The app allows for real-time collaboration, working something like Google Docs or Airtable, with unique user profiles and version histories. Users can also assign tasks to each other, which are directly related to specific elements—rooms, doors, lights, whatever—that have been populated from Revit. After the Revit model has been synced one time, any changes in the model get reflected in Layer and users can click through the Revit model and Layer can automatically pull up information based on where they are in their model. “There's no sync button, there's no exporting information,” explained Soflin. Any changes made in Revit are also reflected immediately in Layer—whether shifting dimensions, adding elements, deleting rooms, or any other action. The goal of Layer is to increase project transparency and ease of use by allowing all of the information on a building to exist together and to allow team communication to happen within the same space. “One of the biggest concepts behind Layer is ‘contextualized information,’” Soflin said, noting that directly integrating with BIM software allows for richer data right in the design process. You can “have conversations directly within the context of the building itself.”
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Clive Wilkinson Architects Makes a Superdesk

Endless table materializes intra-office connectivity in plywood, MDF, and epoxy.

When Culver City-based Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA) sat down with representatives of the Barbarian Group to discuss renovating the advertising agency's new 20,000-square-foot office, one word kept coming up: connection. "Before, they were all in offices designed for one person, but crammed five in each, and scattered," recalled associate principal Chester Nielsen. "It was a pain. Bringing everyone into the open, and having them feel like they were all connected was super important." The architects elected to "surgically gut" the leased New York Garment District loft to create a central workspace for between 125-175 employees. To materialize the theme of connection, they zeroed in on the idea of a single work surface, an endless table later christened the Superdesk. With 4,400 square feet of epoxy-coated surface atop a support structure comprising 870 unique laser-cut plywood panels, the Superdesk is a triumph of programmatic creativity. "Building a big table was not an obvious solution," said Nielsen, "but it's a simple one." The Superdesk began as a series of sketches by president Clive Wilkinson. "Upon first impression we got to this squiggly table," said Nielsen. "It worked really well. Honestly, we've just been refining that." The table's undulating surface lifts and lowers, to indicate subtle divisions between departments, and to create arched overpasses above intra-office "cow paths." The grotto-like spaces under the archways double as intimate gathering areas for up to eight people.
  • Fabricator Machineous LLC
  • Designers Clive Wilkinson Architects
  • Location New York, NY
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material 2-by-4 lumber, plywood, plate steel, MDF, paint, epoxy
  • Process sketching, physical models, Revit, Rhino, laser cutting, bolting, bonding, painting, continuous epoxy pour
From the sketches, the architects built two physical models—the first rough, the second more refined—before taking the design into Revit and Rhino. There they further fine-tuned the form and prepared it for fabrication by Machineous LLC. "Machineous wanted the project very much; they were a good partner on this," said Nielsen. "We worked back and forth to tweak what we needed to make the table constructible." Machineous laser-cut the component parts, including the plywood ribs that shape the Superdesk's archways, using vintage automotive-industry robots. Machineous flat-packed the cut pieces and shipped them to New York, where the desk was assembled on site. The Superdesk's walls are framed in 2-by-4 lumber faced with plywood; plate steel brackets connect the various wood elements. Machineous bonded the MDF tabletop and painted it a shimmering white to give it the appearance of a single connected surface. The crowning achievement of the fabrication process—and the literal polish on the project—was a continuous epoxy pour, completed by rotating teams over a 24-hour period. Despite the complications inherent to prefabricating and installing a massive piece of furniture on opposite coasts, CWA and Machineous managed to deliver their innovative take on contemporary office culture both on time and within Barbarian Group's tight budget. "Something quite notable from the perspectives of both design and fabrication is that it's the same cost as going to Office Depot" for conventional desks, noted Nielsen. What is more, with plenty of surface area for laptops and the other, increasingly minimal, accoutrements of the modern workplace, and with a data and power track built into its walls, the Superdesk "is very, very flexible," he said. "Unlike a typical office [layout], it can change in a day."
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Product> Data for Designers: Six Amazing Apps

Communicating information—both the visual and verbal varieties—in an accurate, timely fashion comprises the heart of any construction project. There are myriad programs and apps on the market that offer to streamline design problems, decision making, and materials selection. Here are some new tech tools that we think really make a difference. Autodesk A360 Collaboration for Revit Autodesk Overcoming the barriers of corporate firewalls and physical location, A360 Collaboration for Revit enables true centralized access to Revit models by team members in all disciplines from multiple firms or sites. It also replaces work-arounds for sharing models such as use of FTP sites, sharing software, or inefficient use of email with PDF attachments. As a cloud-based service, the software does not require costly or complex IT setup and maintenance. ViraconGlass Viracon This app allows users to select from twenty-five different coatings on fifteen substrates, presenting transmitted and reflective glass color on a variety of building types. The models can then be viewed under different lighting conditions from both interior and exterior perspectives, and can be compared to one another. Field Assets InfraWorks 360, Autodesk With this program, owners and operators will be able to collect, mark-up, and share date on infrastructure assets in real-time so teams can make better-informed decisions on how to deploy their field workforce for asset inspection and maintenance, key to optimal productivity and financial performance. SIMplexity Launch LT Introspective Systems This software enables architects to uncover and prioritize the underlying goals of each project, and create a road map from inception to completion. It captures data associated with a project in any format (email, video, images, databases, spreadsheets, PDFs, and more) and connects each piece of information to its role within a job—owner request, regulation, LEED target, or any user-created category—to produce a 360-degree view of the project. HD Home Viewer Cosentino This design tool allows users to change the materials by clicking on virtual countertops, facades, wall coverings, floors, furniture, and bathroom elements to visualize surface clad in the entire range of colors and finishes of Silestone quartz, Dekton ultra-compact material, and recycled Eco. HD Home Viewer is based on HTML5, permitting use on all portable and desktop devices running Android, iOS, and Windows. ColorSnap Studio Sherwin-Williams This iPad app makes it easy to find the closet-matching paint colors within an image and to fine-tune colors using lightness, saturation, and hue features. The Color Visuallizer toole facilitates experimenting with thousands of color combinations by applying color to an image without complicated edge-masking: Simply touch the color and "fingerpaint" the hue into the image.
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Page Floats a Cedar Sunshade in Albuquerque

Minimalist catenary canopy lends warmth and lightness to office courtyard.

When Page design principal Larry Speck suggested a catenary sunshade for the courtyard of the new GSA building in Albuquerque, his colleagues set about identifying precedents. "There were some really great devices that we looked at, but a lot were done in the 1960s out of heavy, monumental materials," said principal Talmadge Smith. "We wondered if there was a way to do it in a lighter, more delicate way that would also introduce some warmth to the space." The architects elected to build the structure out of western red cedar, which performs particularly well in arid climates. Comprising 4-, 8-, and 12-foot boards suspended on steel cables, the sunshade appears as a wave of blonde wood floating in mid-air, casting slatted shadows on the glass walls of the courtyard. The courtyard is an important amenity in the two-story, 80,000-square-foot building, currently occupied by a combination of federal employees, including immigration and customs enforcement staff, and state and local law enforcement. "We said, 'This is a pretty big floor plate, it needs a great courtyard,'" said Smith. "For one thing, in this climate that's just what you build. You get free shading and can create a cooler microclimate." The courtyard also helps bring light into the communal spaces that surround it, which include training areas, circulation, and conference rooms. "It remains a democratic insertion into the floor plan," observed Smith. Finally, the courtyard allowed the architects to compensate for a lack of glazing on the exterior walls, the result of security requirements. Working in Revit and 3ds Max, Page experimented with various patterns for the sunshade. They first tried a regular arrangement of identical slats. "The result wasn't very pleasing," said Smith. "It made a drooping, uninviting shape. It also closed the courtyard, as if you had pulled a big venetian blind across it." They decided to break up the pattern and use three different modules of wood, placing them only where daylighting analysis dictated. They also worked with the cables themselves to identify the appropriate amount of slack. "We tested what it would be if you pulled the cables tight," said Smith. "It negated the effect of the catenary, and led to a courtyard with a little bit of a ceiling, a rigidity that we didn't want." The final design incorporates 18 inches worth of slack per cable.
  • Fabricator Enterprise Builders
  • Designers Page
  • Location Albuquerque
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • Material 2x6 western red cedar boards from US Lumber Brokers, steel cables, off-the-shelf hardware
  • Process Revit, 3ds Max, daylighting analysis, bolting, grouting, hanging
Enterprise Builders used off-the-shelf hardware to assemble and install the sunshade. The cedar boards are attached to the cables via steel clips bolted to one face of each board. Deciding against integrating hardware directly into the curtain walls, Page designed opaque concrete headers for the two short sides of the courtyard, then grouted the anchors into the masonry units. A turnbuckle attached to a pivot near each anchor allowed the builders to make adjustments to the length of the cables once they had been hung. A second, perpendicular, system of cables prevents the shading structure from swaying. "The hardest part was getting it level," said Smith. "There was a little art to that because some strands are more heavily loaded than the others." Fabricated out of standard lumber and mass-produced hardware, the sunshade might have felt bulky or crude. Instead, it provides relief from the New Mexico sun while seeming almost to dissolve into the sky. "When you're standing there, you only ever see half of the shading members at a time," said Smith. "You see a lot of sky, but you feel a lot of shade. It performs, but it feels light."
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LMN Architects Materialize a Metaphor in Cleveland

A digitally-designed medical products showroom plays well with its City Beautiful neighbors.

The Global Center for Health Innovation, designed by LMN Architects along with the attached Cleveland Convention Center, is more than a showroom for medical products and services. Located adjacent to the Burnham Malls, the open space at the heart of Daniel Burnham’s Group Plan of 1903, the building is part of Cleveland’s civic core. “One of the things about the Global Center is that it has a unique expression and in particular the facade treatment,” said design partner Mark Reddington. “But it’s also a really integrated piece of a bigger idea and a bigger composition.” A dynamic combination of textured concrete panels and irregular slashes of glazing, the Global Center’s facade, which won honorable mention in AN’s 2014 Best of Design Awards, deftly negotiates the gap between the building’s historic context and its function as a high-tech marketplace. The Global Center’s City Beautiful surrounds influenced its facade design in several ways. “Part of the trick for us in looking at the Global Center,” said project architect Stephen Van Dyck, “was to try and make a building that was contemporary and relevant, but also a building that referred and deferred to its context materially and compositionally.” As a reflection on the solidity of the older structures ringing the Malls, the architects minimized glazing in the east face’s concrete system. In addition, they chose the color and aggregates of the concrete to mimic the tone of limestone. The texturing on the concrete panels, too, was informed by the Global Center’s context. “Like the classical buildings, there’s a lot of detail that shows up in different lighting conditions,” said Reddington. At the same time, the Global Center is very much a product of the 21st century. “There was an explicit intention in creating a facade whose qualities would not have been achievable without digital technology,” said Van Dyck. “It doesn’t look like it was handcrafted. It was primarily an exercise in allowing the technical means of creation and design to live forever on the outside of this building.” In particular, he said, the architects were interested in how their chosen material—precast concrete—allowed them to move beyond a punched-window system to a more complicated relationship between solids and voids. The result eventually became a scientific metaphor, as the designers observed the resemblance of the pattern to the twisting helices of a DNA molecule. LMN developed the facade design on a remarkably short timeline: about four months from concept to shop drawings. “The schedule requirements of the whole thing were absurd,” said Van Dyck. To make modifying the design as easy as possible, the architects developed a utility called Cricket to link Grasshopper and Revit. The ability to update the BIM model in real time convinced the design-build team to take risks despite the compressed timeframe. “Once they realized there was a strong mastery of the data, an ability to listen and incorporate the needs of [multiple] parties, that was really the breakthrough,” explained Van Dyck. “They said, ‘Hey, we can build something that’s a little unconventional.’”
  • Facade Manufacturer Sidley Precast Group, NUPRESS Group
  • Architects LMN Architects
  • Facade Consultant Facade Forensics
  • Facade Installer Harmon
  • Location Cleveland, OH
  • Date of Completion June 2013
  • System Precast concrete panels and glazing welded to vertical steel tubes, structural glass wall
  • Products Precast concrete panels by Sidley Precast Group, Viracon VU1-40 (glazing), Viracon VE1-2M (atrium wall)
Besides their Cricket plug-in, a 3D printer was LMN’s most valuable tool during the design process. To explore how the panels’ texturing would animate the facade under different lighting conditions, they created plaster models from 3D-printed casts. “We had to do that because the geometry was so complex that we didn’t have any computers at the time that were capable of [modeling it],” said Van Dyck. “For us, working between the physical, digital, hand-drawn renderings were all so critical in discovering what we ultimately ended up building.” Sidley Precast Group fabricated the concrete panels with a surface pattern of horizontal joints that vary in depth and height. To minimize cost, the fabricators made almost all of the molds from a single 8-by-10-foot master formliner, with horizontal ribs spaced every 6 inches acting as dams for the smaller molds. While LMN Architects originally wanted to limit the number of panel types to eight, the final count was around 50, including larger pieces made by connecting smaller panels vertically. The approximately 400 precast panels were moved by crane to a system of vertical steel tubes running from slab to slab, then welded into place. The Viracon glazing was welded to the same tubes, a couple of inches back from the face of the concrete. The large atrium window on the building’s east face was manufactured by NUPRESS Group. For the architects, the significance of the Global Center’s facade remains tied to its broader context. Its design, while driven by modern technology, achieves a surprising degree of harmony with its surroundings. “Our building is in a way very classical, though it wasn’t an explicit intention of ours,” said Van Dyck. “To create a language that was both universal and also something that was really new—from our perspective that was a big achievement of the project.”
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Act Fast! Early Bird Rates For Facades+ PERFORMANCE Chicago Ends Today

blogbanner Calling architects, engineers, fabricators, consultants, and other design professionals: don’t miss your opportunity to join the industry’s leading innovators in our series of hands-on technology workshops and in-depth dialog workshops, only at the premiere conference for high-performance building envelopes – Facades+ PERFORMANCE Chicago, October 24th-25th! Register today to take advantage of our Early Bird Special and be ready to get your hands dirty with the latest tools and techniques that are changing the face of contemporary architecture. Join Jonathan Schumacher and Mostapha Roudsari of Thornton Tomasetti, Nathan Miller of CASE Design, Ronnie Parsons of Mode Lab, and other industry professionals for our full-day tech workshops, and gain the valuable skills necessary to deliver cutting-edge facades in today’s dynamic architectural landscape. Registered architects can earn 8 AIA LU credits as they catch up on the ever-evolving tools of the trade in the Mies van der Rohe-designed Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Campus in Chicago, so don’t miss out! Following the series of stimulating presentations and lectures on day one of the conference, attendees will have the chance to choose from either two seminar-style dialog workshops or one of six daylong tech workshops, presented in conjunction with Mode Collective. In small, one-on-one, classroom settings, participants will gain the knowledge and skills to work with the latest in cutting edge design and analysis technologies to push your practice’s facades to the highest standards of performance. Learn the mechanisms for creating performance-based parametric systems and dynamic patterning with Grasshopper. Explore emerging techniques for the rationalitazion of envelope surfaces and the fundamental concepts of facade panelization and optimization with Galapagos and Kangaroo. Develop new skills for generating facade geometry, utilizing analysis information and managing complex parameters with Dynamo. Gain hands-on experience in the most up-to-date environmental analysis technologies to discover the next generation of high-performance building envelope design. All of this and more, more, more make AN and Enclos' Facades+ PERFORMANCE Chicago the event of the season for groundbreaking facade technologies. Our Early Bird special ends today, so sign up now to take advantage of this great deal. See you in Chicago!
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Ceilings Plus Soars in Texas

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Gensler’s design at the University of Houston is realized in a cloud-inspired, sound-absorptive ceiling solution.

Gensler and Ceilings Plus have brought a touch of the Big Apple to the University of Houston’s recently completed Quiet Hall in the Classroom and Business Building. Gensler drew its design inspiration for a ceiling in the new building from the New York Central Library’s Rose Reading Room. The firm hired the California-based Ceilings Plus to translate its interpretation of this classical interior, which includes perforations and geometric folds, into an affordable, buildable, and installable ceiling solution. Ceilings Plus used digital software to marry the design architect’s vision with a workable model that offered minimal joint tolerances and maintained compatibility with HVAC systems. “Since the architect was interested in doing something completely new, it was important to realize that process together,” said Michael Chusid, who works in marketing and business development for Ceilings Plus. Gensler produced three conceptual renderings in Revit, then turned them over to project engineer Robert Wochner, who developed sound-absorptive perforations and a suspension system that could support the various angles of the Quiet Hall’s multi-planar ceiling.
  • Fabricators Ceilings Plus
  • Designers Gensler
  • Location Houston, Texas
  • Date of Completion October 2012
  • Material Illusions ceiling system, sheet aluminum, Saranté PVC-free laminate, non-woven acoustical fabric, recycled cotton batt, blue felt, modified tee-bar system, torsion spring clips
  • Process AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, CNC milling, punch pressing, cutting, folding
Wochner used AutoCAD to reconcile Gensler’s rendering, which depicted a cloud of perforations across the ceiling for sound absorption. Acoustically there was an ineffective number of apertures, so Wochner filled in the original design with smaller, carefully angled perforations. By leaving an ample amount of space between the dropped ceiling and the planchement, the perforations are able to absorb vibrations in an efficient and lightweight system. Nearly 50 configurations were considered before arriving at a final design, which was modeled in SolidWorks. Ceilings Plus fabricated the panels using stock products and a CNC router. The architect’s chose the company’s PVC-free Saranté laminate in a henna-toned wood finish, which is affixed to an aluminum sheet. A punch press knocked out the perforations, revealing a blue felt backing. Despite the ceiling’s complex appearance, Ceilings Plus developed a suspension system based on a conventional T-bar system, making it easy to install. Since the ceiling is not flat, attachment points were individually set to hang each of the 280 panels from between six and eight torsion springs. “With this firm pressure downward, you can extract the panel and lower it out of place to gain access to the ceiling cavity to maintain the HVAC system, ductwork, and other mechanicals,” said Chusid. Custom-fabricated brackets help support the unique angles. Ceilings Plus deployed several expert installers to assist the installation process. “Any time there’s a slope on the ceiling and it interfaces with something round, like a column, it goes from a circle to an ellipse,” said Wochner. “Though we have precise information about the field location, it’s not uncommon to make adjustments on site.”  
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PROFILE> Alphonso Peluso puts Revit into Parametric Overdrive

Alphonso Peluso, Director of Digital Architecture + Fabrication at the Illinois Institute of Technology, is on a mission to max out Revit. His workshop, "Revit Parametric Facade Design," on October 12 offers participants a hands-on lab for exploring how the program can help produce the most complex building skins. "It's a unique opportunity to experiment in one session with all the different tools Revit has for creating parametric facades," said Peluso. The event is part of Collaboration: The Art and Science of Building Facades, the Chicago edition of the Architect’s Newspaper's conference taking place October 11 and 12. Using a series of tutorials Peluso will begin by looking at basic curtain wall creation through deploying system families and also making custom parametric families. Next up: mining the Conceptual Massing interface that yields complex parametric facade forms. Then on to pattern, from basic to advanced and responsive. Finally, Revit's Adaptive Component families will be explored for the creation of  "one off " building components. "The participant will walk away with the knowledge of which tool is most appropriate for the different types of facades they are designing," said Peluso. The Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi designed by Aedas will be a key case study. "The towers have a unique responsive facade that's perfect to push the Revit parametric capabilities," said Peluso, who noted that  Fernando Romero's Museo Soumaya in Mexico City would also be a workshop case study. "I thought it would be interesting to use Revit to model a building designed by the symposium's keynote speaker." To register for the conference and this workshop, click here.
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Profile> David Fano Explores the Digital Possibilities of Revit

On February 17, David Fano will lead Revit Design, a workshop exploring the possibilities of the digital design program Revit, as part of DAY 2 of COLLABORATION, a conference on fabrication and facades sponsored by The Architect's Newspaper. In 2008, David Fano established CASE Design, a Building Information Modeling (BIM) consultancy in New York. Prior to CASE, Fano was Director of Technology Research at SHoP Architects, where he managed technology R&D initiatives, worked with project teams to ensure the successful implementation of BIM, and developed “direct to fabrication” initiatives with software manufacturers and fabricators through the use of BIM. He contributed technology expertise on numerous projects, including for a 41-story rental tower in New York City and for The New Seaport, an 860,000-square-feet multi-use development in New York City’s Historic Seaport District. Since 2006, David has been an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation where he teaches seminars and workshops focusing on the impact of technology on design processes. David received his Master of Architecture with honors from Columbia University where he was the recipient of the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize and the Computer Aided Design Honor Award. On February 17, David will present the day-long workshop, Revit Design, building from fundamental Revit design concepts to advanced techniques concentrating on how the formal and organizational potentials emerge from informational modeling. Register here.