AEC Tech News: 2D to 3D

27 Jul, 2005 By: Arnie Williams

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

'No Going Back'

MorrisBray Architects adopts ArchiCAD’s Virtual Building approach for the Strand and all future projects

MorrisBray Architects is an Australian practice of 23 staff and 30 years’ history. When it considered the design challenges of the Strand high-rise apartment complex to be built in the coastal town of Forster, north of Sydney, the group felt a sense of confidence knowing it would be using Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD on the project. The Strand was to be a 10-story residential tower with a construction price tag of approximately US$9 million, and designers looked forward to working with a complete building-model database as opposed to disparate 2D drawings files. For MorrisBray, the project has proved the worth of ArchiCAD’s Virtual Building.

“Once we had evaluated ArchiCAD and the rich data built into every aspect of the Virtual Building, there was no going back,” says Garry Bray, director. “ArchiCAD was subsequently implemented as the 3D tool of choice. It is now fundamental to the design development process at our office.”

The Strand is composed of a single level of basement parking, a two-story podium with one- and two-level townhouse units, seven stories of single-level tower units and two levels of two-story penthouse units (click here to view renderings). The site has almost 270-degree views of a beach on the north side and an ocean inlet on the west, with a beautiful lake to the south.

ArchiCAD was used throughout the project in both design and documentation phases to facilitate a carefully designed and detailed building. Design architects say the Virtual Building model let them spend more time refining the building during the design phase, so they could subsequently fine-tune details during construction.

“ArchiCAD became the backbone of our process,” says Jason McCosker. “While we still believe in using hand sketches during design, the integration of ArchiCAD into the process facilitates a greater level of development for each design option. The ease and accuracy of ArchiCAD to produce these options means design issues can be resolved sooner in the design process rather than later. Each option can be easily planned and modeled, simultaneously producing conceptual renderings that can be used to clearly present ideas to colleagues, our clients and other project stakeholders.”

Mark Beauman, project leader for the Strand, points out that ArchiCAD gave his team a model it  could rely on and the ability to control how details were presented to clients. This, he says, is imperative to maintaining a stageable design process that can help achieve the final goal of a design that meets, and even exceeds, client expectations.

“As clients are not architects,” says Beauman, “having the means to produce a range of visual presentations helps us greatly to convey our aspirations for the design. These types of presentations are offered as part of the package when presenting our capabilities for potential projects.”

In addition to facilitating conceptual models of the early design that are so critical to client buy-in, the Virtual Building also facilitates the actual design process by producing accurate drawings that can be refined later, rather than having to be redrawn at the construction documentation stage, where 2D has been the rule. The Strand design included a combination of ArchiCAD features -- Detail Windows, Section and Elevation Windows, Hotlinks and TeamWork -- to create a flexible working environment for the documentation team. This meant the project could be broken into many elements that individual team members could address, all the while linking their work back to the main model. Maintaining the virtual model throughout the construction phase, notes Bray, gives the company a high level of accuracy. Errors in detailing are easily viewed in plan, section or 3D where they can be resolved and refined, he says.

“We encourage our staff to operate through the 3D model,” says Bray, “requiring that they not only draw competently but think about the implications of their drawings so that detailing can be finished on the computer, rather than on the construction site.”

The Strand showed the distinct advantages of working from the Virtual Building over traditional 2D approaches, notes Beauman. “By producing our own intelligent objects, we are able to save time with many tasks, which are now automated. This means more time can be spent on the design.” And naturally, he continues, “any other object that contains all the steel and aluminum profiles, in both 2D and 3D forms, will be at our fingertips for quick application.”

This special edition of AEC Tech News examines the real-world experiences of architects and builders as they move from 2D drafting to 3D modeling. If you have suggestions about companies or issues you'd like to see covered here, please e-mail us at