Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) has announced that architect and entrepreneur Dennis Shelden will be taking over as its director. The academic-industrial research and teaching alliance, focused on using technology to address concerns of “built ecology,” was founded in 2007, and is located across RPI’s main campus in Troy, New York, and in Industry City in Brooklyn. Shelden will be departing his position as an associate professor at Georgia Tech, where he was also director of the Digital Building Laboratory and the School of Architecture’s doctoral program. Previously he held other academic appointments, and worked with Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners for many years before serving as CTO of Gehry Technologies, which was later acquired by Trimble. AN spoke with Shelden to find out more about the future of CASE and how technology and climate change are reshaping not only how and what architects design and build, but how the industry functions. Drew Zeiba: What are some of the biggest challenges you think architects and others working in the built environment face going into this new decade? Dennis Shelden: I believe the building industries are entering a period of disruptive transformation similar to those seen by other industries in the 21st century. These changes will impact the “products” of building—the physical buildings themselves—as well as the delivery processes, including the erosion the identified boundaries between the distinct building professions. What do these changes mean for architects in light of the climate crisis? These changes are coming at an urgent time for the built environment, in that so many aspects of [the] climate crisis are either the product of building (such as carbon release, and habitat destruction), or have existential impacts on built systems (rising sea levels, drought, weather). Responses to environmental challenges are not “just” something that building professionals should respond to from an ethical perspective, they are becoming critical drivers of requirements either by legislation or risk response from clients. The challenge for the architectural discipline is, simply put, to rise to meet the opportunities in front of it. These include new opportunities to develop initiatives and take on opportunities in the built environment beyond the scope of architectural services, to generate innovations and to capitalize on the value of new ideas, and to rethink the products we produce and what a building is. The issue is that architecture as a discipline and a culture has been quite self-limiting and defines itself by what it isn’t (a contractor, and owner, an industrial designer) as much as by what it is. This self-limiting is potentially very risky, as business models for the built environment evolve and as others, such as manufacturers and tech companies, start entering the building industry and capturing pieces of the value chain that have traditionally been architectural services. So in order to meet the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities happening in the built environment, architecture is going to have to rethink what it is, and embrace a much more expansive and heterogeneous definition of practice. What new technologies are you most compelled by or excited for? And what does this mean for CASE? There are a number of interrelated technological advances available to designers. These include the web and cloud computing, data analytics, and environmental sensors, coupled with the sort of automated generative design capabilities from the last era, and in concert with mass production opportunities and access to capital. Together these create a wealth of opportunities to understand and act on transformative innovations in the built environment in the larger context—as integral parts of holistic urban systems and at across scales both larger and smaller than a single building. This is the opportunity for CASE and the heart of its mission for its chapter: To drive systemic technological and ecological—as well as process and business—innovation in the building industries, in order to reassert the role of design and the built environment as engines for social change in wholly new ways. You’ve worked in a traditional firm and in architectural technology. What role do you see research and R&D taking in architecture within and outside of the university environment? My hope is that CASE can become a new kind of academic venture, with far more direct models of engagement with both the building and tech industries. I think there is a need for not-for-profit centers for innovation that competitive private ventures can’t deliver. And certainly the education of students and development of talent is a key part of what academia offers. But there are a lot of potential new models to consider—from lifelong professional education and embedded research in practice to startup incubation. I am looking for CASE to be a model for exploring these possibilities in active collaboration with the remarkable building professional and tech as well as social, philanthropic, and business organizations in New York City. What are going to be some of your first steps in this new position? As a first couple of steps, we are developing new professional educational programs in design technology and technology practice leadership, and will be building out a new internship research in residence program where we can drive innovation onto projects together with partnering companies. We are thinking about new ways of leveraging the studio program as a way [of] connecting with building product, manufacturing, and software companies, as well as humanitarian organizations. And in May we will be hosting a symposium on disruptive technologies and organizational models that will relaunch CASE into the New York City community around this expanded agenda.
Posts tagged with "Trimble":
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.” https://youtu.be/YnwcGfr0Uk0 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. https://youtu.be/f0IA55N_99o 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.”
Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue. Trimble-owned Gehry Technologies (GT) launched a three-month design-and-technology-focused accelerator program called ZeroSixty that is geared toward helping a new generation of innovators revolutionize project delivery across the AEC industry. The accelerator program will help start-ups based out of its Marina del Rey, California, offices to “build and scale” their services by connecting new entrepreneurs with “people, networks, and technologies,” according to the company. The effort is aimed at turning back the increasingly common trend among mega-projects of being over budget and behind schedule. ZeroSixty comes three years after software developer Trimble purchased GT in an effort to integrate and disseminate innovations in technology-driven project delivery across its various platforms. GT was originally founded in 2002 by Frank Gehry and his team at Gehry Partners to adapt techniques from the aerospace and automotive industries and apply them to the firm’s most complex building projects. In the years since, the group has worked on a variety of challenging projects across the world for various high-profile architects, including the Beijing National Stadium with Herzog & de Meuron and the Louvre Abu Dhabi with the Ateliers Jean Nouvel. ZeroSixty was founded by German Aparicio and Lucas Reames, both GT veterans, earlier this year and is currently accepting applications for its first cohort of companies. “The idea is to help entrepreneurs scale their products and services by leveraging our past experiences, field expertise, and client base while continuously seeking to innovate,” Aparicio said. The GT team has always been at the forefront of this niche within the AEC industry, including back in the early 2000s when, working on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, they were among the first to utilize virtual reality visualizations for on-site construction. Now, Trimble and ZeroSixty seek to build upon this legacy by focusing on new AEC-related applications for emerging technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and data analytics. “These technologies offer the opportunity to provide greater insights using a data-driven approach to project delivery and increase the quality and efficiencies of our industry,” Aparicio explained. With ZeroSixty and its no-equity support for emerging practices, Trimble has its eyes firmly set on building the future. Aparicio added, “These technologies promise to create services on the web that can be used on demand to automate everyday tasks so designers, project managers, contractors, and facility operators can focus on the more interesting or important part of their everyday lives.”
“This is not a master plan,” said Omar Brownson, executive director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LARRC) at an event to introduce members of the press to the work underway by Gehry Partners on the Los Angeles River. The news earlier this month that Frank Gehry was spearheading a new master plan for the river drew surprised and mixed responses from design, development, and landscape communities near and far. Gehry was not in attendance at the press event, hosted at 100 Years Studio in Downtown Los Angeles, due to recent back surgery. Instead, partners Tensho Takemori and Anand Devarajan presented a series of boards documenting the beginning phases of a study, which Brownson suggested would take 3–6 months and would be supported by public and private funding. Specific private partnerships were kept under wraps. Fifty-one miles—the length of the entire L.A. River—was reiterated again and again. The figure acted as shorthand for an all-inclusive vision for the redevelopment and the identity of the waterway. Representatives from Gehry Partners’ full team were present: landscape architects Olin, Geosyntec, and 270 Strategies, the community engagement firm that got its start doing grassroots work on the Obama campaign. The last, underscores the scope and challenge of working with the river's diverse group of institutional, governmental, and individual stakeholders. The boards presented to reporters were preliminary strategies for tackling the whole river, and in parts seemed thin. Gehry Partners has conceptualized the river as a series of “layers,” a term familiar to anyone who uses drafting or mapping software, but at bit jargony for the public. These include: flood control, water recharge, water quality, ecosystems and habitat, parks and open space, land use, stakeholders, public health, transportation, and arts and culture. Presently, the team is continuing to review the multiple reports and master plans from Alternative 20 to work by the Arid Lands Institute to documents from the DWP and Department of Sanitation, with the hope of codifying the wealth of already completed research on the river from Canoga Park to Long Beach. Much of this data is in GIS form, but the team is also working with a beta 2-D model from Army Corps of Engineer. Long term, however, Gehry Partners is developing a 3-D model in Trimble of the whole L.A. River, which should be available for public interface. According to Takemori, the company used a LIDAR unit to map close to seventy percent of the hard-bottomed sections of the channel. Soft bottom sections in Elysian Valley and Sawtelle will require more on site documentation. Devarajan suggested that the comprehensive map would help identify opportunities to “solve multiple problems with one intervention.” A question about who would design these interventions or what the overall design of the river would look like left the architects a little flummoxed, who noted that Gehry Partners has no desire as a firm to design the whole river. Brownson hedged that there might be a couple select projects. Most of the designs on view were initial screen shots of what the architects called the L.A. River Media Platform, a public, interactive website to host a centralized database of river basin materials, including the eventual 3-D model. Given the scale and scope of such a comprehensive digital effort, it is no wonder that the design firm selected is named Prophet.
As all architects—particularly those of the belly bar and T-square generations—will agree, technology should be a design tool, not an end to itself. Building product manufacturers are among those on board with this point of view, and are developing apps that help users visualize possibilities, rather than dictate pro forma solutions. Like digital design consultants, these programs supply specific expertise, and leave the creative control in the architect's hands. Here's a few noteworthy examples. Board Morpholio This digital mood board allows electronic design concepts to be populated with real-life architectural and interiors products from such sources as 3form, Herman Miller, Knoll, and more. SketchUp Pro 2015 Trimble This popular software is now offered in a 64-bit version for Windows and Mac users, with IFC import capabilities allowing back-and-forth sharing of IFC files with any other application. Glass Visualizer Guardian Glass A web-based tool that can be accessed from desktop computer or mobile device, it allows architects to visualize standard SunGuard glass make-ups or custom make-ups. Choose the glass, select the appropriate building type, and see what the glass will look like under varying sky conditions. YouCreate 3form Working with seven material platforms and thousands of color combinations, this proprietary tool allows users to select an interlayer, play with color, and refine the translucency of the manufacturer's panels. ImageWall Zahner Using ImageWall, designers upload an image and it instantly translates into a panelized array of holes with varying sizes. In addition to uploading images, users can also drag-and-drop attractor points to control perforations by hand. Users see the price update continuously while making adjustments to their design. Transparent pricing means that designers can quickly test ideas within a budget, use their design to approach clients, and bring their projects to fruition. Light-a-Home OSRAM An interative, room-by-room comparison of existing and proposed lamping schemes, this software also provides rates of power consumption, CO2 emissions, and costs. Paving Calculator Unilock Once basic information such as product, layout pattern, area, and other details are plugged in, the calculator quickly and accurately provides recommended quantities for joint sand or compound and base and bedding materials. My Thermal Assistant YKK AP This interactive application uses independent laboratory test results to calculate overall system thermal performance using a specific YKK AP product and glass package. It can also work inversely: Input target thermal data, and the program will generate YKK AP material solutions.