AEC Tech News: 2D to 3D #14

22 Jun, 2005 By: Arnie Williams

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

Rebirth in 3D

Autodesk Revit Building Helps Skidmore, Owings
& Merill Bring Freedom Tower Project to Life

Any building that goes up at the site where the Twin Towers once stood in New York City is bound to attract attention. And you can rest assured that the architects, builders, contractors and extended team members are going to be mindful of how this site has drawn people together, not just in the U.S. but around the world. And you could justifiably say "togetherness" should be the theme for the Freedom Tower project recently launched by Skidmore, Owings & Merill. The firm's use of BIM (building information modeling) brings together the extended project team in unprecedented ways.

Just under 70 years old, SOM has offices in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The firm has completed more than 40 international projects and literally stands above other design and construction enterprises in the United States, holding the record for designing and building the tallest U.S. structure — the Sears Tower in Chicago at 190 stories and 4.6 million square feet.

Long-Held Belief in BIM
SOM has long believed in working from a building information model, but previously didn't have the technology to back up that vision. At one point, the firm developed its own 3D modeling software in-house but found it was inadequate and ultimately did most of its work in 2D in AutoCAD.

But as Autodesk Revit proved its 3D modeling strength, designers at SOM took notice. For the Freedom Tower project, SOM and its extended design team standardized on Autodesk Revit Building and the BIM system. Those extended team members include project engineering firms Cantor Seinuk Group and Jaros Baum & Boles.

Autodesk Revit will be used by the extended team not only to design the complex subgrade levels of the building, where 3D modeling will show its strength, but throughout the project, including the tower's lower and main core, enclosure, structure and cable net.

"Creating and then working in a single, comprehensive, digital model of the Freedom Tower has been a process revolution," says Carl Galioto, FAIA, partner at SOM's New York office. "Once we started using Revit Building on the project, our teams were hooked. They could explore and evaluate design options much more effortlessly than ever before."

Benefits Beyond the Obvious
The capabilities of the BIM approach extend well beyond the advantages of 3D and having a centralized building-data repository. For example, SOM was able to import data from third-party applications to do people-flow and energy analyses of its model. The firm could analyze the building as a whole as well as isolated floors. These and other analyses allowed SOM to reengineer the building to meet safety and security benchmarks at the design stage.

Extended team meetings have taken on a new look and feel with SOM and partners. When staff from SOM and the two project engineering groups meet with construction manager Tishman Construction, paper drawings and red pencils are not part of the picture. Instead, team members look over Autodesk Revit building models on a plasma monitor.

"Revit Building enables us to be successful on a project of this scale by providing the speed and flexibility to share the workload between the different members of the project team while keeping all the building information coordinated and up to date," says James Vandezande, AIA, associate and CAD manager at SOM.

Efficient Project Coordination
SOM expects that the Freedom Tower project will generate more design data than any other project in its history. The fast-track schedule demands efficient coordination will all stakeholders, including owner/developer Silverstein Properties, landlords Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York State.

SOM considers Autodesk Revit a key element in keeping all constituents apprised of design and construction progress all along the way.

The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower was laid at the site last year and commemorated on July 4. When completed in 2009, the Freedom Tower will rise 1,776 feet in a twisting glass and steel design honoring the Statue of Liberty, complete with a 276-foot spire that resembles Dame Liberty's torch.

To view images of the tower, visit the Skidmore, Owings & Merill Web site.