AEC Tech News: 2D to 3D

26 Oct, 2005

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

'Surpassed Expectations'

ArchiCAD's building model manages details so Gelfand architects can focus on creativity

Gelfand Partners Architects, based in San Francisco, California, is a firm specializing in designs for public buildings, including schools and community centers. The firm had always depended on AutoCAD to meet the strict project bid and submission formatting requirements set by local review boards, which accept files in DWG format only.

The Move to 3D
In an effort to take its technology to the next level, Gelfand Partners sought a 3D modeling system that offered freedom of design and could meet the formatting demands of public proposals. Additionally, Gelfand principals wanted a solution that new employees might already have gained experience with, or could learn easily, thus reducing training time. The firm evaluated several options based on these criteria as well as functionality, interoperability and prevalence of use. Ultimately, Gelfand opted for ArchiCAD 9 from Graphisoft.

"Interoperability and file format compatibility were critical factors for us in evaluating building modeling solutions. We also required that the software we selected be able to manage large amounts of building information with ease while supporting our architects' creativity and design processes," said Lisa Gelfand, AIA, principal at Gelfand Partners Architects.

"ArchiCAD's DXF/DWG translator enables us to meet project submission requirements and ensures that no data or time is lost in the conversion process. It was the only solution that met all our criteria and surpassed our expectations with its capabilities."

Real-World Results
The firm first saw the benefits of working with ArchiCAD in its designs for the renovation of Mission High School in San Francisco. Originally built in 1926, there was little repetition in the design, a multistory concrete structure stepping up a hillside in 27 discrete floor levels and encompassing hundreds of individual classrooms.

Mission High School in the San Francisco Unified School District.
(Photo courtesy of Gelfand Partners Architects)

Gelfand Partners was charged with improving accessibility upgrades to restrooms and other areas as well as path of travel and specialty facilities. Other upgrades include fire separations and sprinklers and some refurbishment of finishes. The $18 million project created new computer classrooms and laboratories, brought computer technology to all classrooms and remediated water penetration, deferring maintenance and accessibility problems.

Gelfand is using ArchiCAD to design and model the project, then track all building information. Modeling information includes details such as renovations required to meet the American Disabilities Act, down to the exact latch on any specific door. "ArchiCAD's Virtual Building model has allowed us to manage this tremendous level of information with ease," said Gelfand.

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

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