AEC Tech News (#251)

17 Jun, 2009

What You See Is What You Getp>

VisionREZ and hsbCAD bridge the gap between architecture and manufacturing.

By Kenneth Wong

In carpentry, what is usually a good rule of thumb can sometimes result in major problems. Tony Tersigni, architectural coordinator for Great Gulf Homes, discovered this the hard way. In a project he oversaw, the architect had stipulated the height of the window headers as 7 ft. Unbeknownst to Tersigni, the construction crew at the site began second-guessing the dimensions. The carpenters felt that, for the type of windows they were installing, the header should be 8 ft, not 7 ft. So they adjusted the height at their own discretion, resulting in inaccurate quantity takeoffs. The outcome was a series of windows that didn't line up correctly.

The incident serves as a cautionary tale about the costly mistakes common in the fragmented AEC workflow, especially in a non-BIM (non-building information modeling) environment. Because design and construction occur in different phases -- in isolation from each other -- what is built sometimes doesn't match the plan. 

"One of the things that drives me crazy is when our constructed homes do not match our architectural drawings," said Tersigni.

With an emphasis on collaboration, BIM encourages design and construction teams to work together more closely. But Great Gulf Homes decided to take it a step farther. Through the use of two complementary software products -- VisionREZ for building information modeling and hsbCAD, a 3D CAD/CAM solution for the timberframe industry -- the company linked its in-house fabrication operations with the 3D digital model. Walls, windows, and trusses are manufactured in its own facility, using a computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine code generated directly from the CAD file. Now, there's little chance the windows won't line up correctly. After all, what's manufactured is identical to what's in the drawing.  Read more »

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Freelance writer Kenneth Wong explores the innovative use of technology and its implications. Contact him at kennethwongsf (at)


Building a Better AEC File Cabinet

BSA LifeStructures uses M-Files to manage all documents without changing how architects and designers work.

By Brett Duesing

In any kind of design firm, documents aren't just the final deliverable -- they also are the currency of a project's workflow. Keeping track of changes can be a challenging prospect even among a few designers, but as a company grows, a laissez-faire method of managing files soon may prove problematic.

That was the case with BSA LifeStructures. The Indianapolis AEC group isn't just any kind of design firm; it's more of an every-kind-of-design firm. Its core specialty remains facility designs that fit all the complexities of healthcare, education, and scientific research activities, and its affiliated companies include transportation consultation and management, interior design, reprographics, and technological planning. With these diverse operations, BSA LifeStructures cannot be considered small. Including its Chicago office, the firm employs a staff of 325.

CIO Brett Bonenberger has witnessed the changing IT needs of the growing business. "In the past, we really did not have a system in place to manage files. For the most part, we just used standard Windows folders," he explained. "When you are smaller, document management doesn't seem to matter too much. You rely on face-to-face interactions. Most people are able to go to an individual and ask the location of the information. As we have gotten bigger and responsibilities have been spread out a bit more, we may not always have that close communication, especially as people take vacations or change assignments. If the communication or consistency is not there, we're liable to stumble over ourselves."  Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

June Webinars: Wide-Format Scanning
Through June 2009
This month's webinars from Contex Americas include tips on large-format scanning and working with large-format, scanned drawings. Read more  »

Ecobuild America 2009
December 7-10, 2009
Washington, D.C.
Ecobuild America, sponsored by the National Institute of Building Sciences, educates design and construction professionals on how to improve our built environment.  Read more  »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on


What’s New at

Road Map to Cost Savings
Calculate ROI to determine the real financial benefits of switching from AutoCAD to Map 3D. Read more

3D Printer Buyer's Guide
Learn which questions to ask so you can choose the best possible 3D printer to meet your prototyping needs without overspending. Available free in Cadalyst’s Whitepaper Library to users who register.

Establishing a Rewards Program (CAD Manager's Toolbox)
Acknowledge those who help you -- motivating your users will bring even greater benefits. Read more

Lay Down the Law on CAD Standards, Part 2
A thorough file cleanup will show users you mean business and set the tone for standard practices. Read more