Building Design

Cadalyst AEC Tech News: 2D to 3D #5 (July 22, 2004)

21 Jul, 2004 By: Arnie Williams

CASCO, an architectural and engineering firm based in St. Louis, Missouri, has drawn on the time efficiencies gained by a move to 3D to win clients and promote its services.

One recent project required the firm to design a first-floor lobby and three subterranean levels of retail space for a client in Manhattan. Using traditional 2D drafting and rendering would have taken weeks, but with the 3D building modeling capabilities of Autodesk Revit, CASCO had an initial model ready for review in two days.

The advantages of working with a 3D model continued as the project progressed. "Revit gave us the ability to produce visualizations very rapidly and accurately," says Norm Birtley, CASCO's manager of information systems.

CASCO President J.C. Alberts says the company's move to 3D design is key to helping designers focus more on the higher-level design aspects of their work. He has also seen a substantial productivity gain. "With Revit," says Alberts, "designers are spending less time on tedious CAD chores and more time on design. On one account, we've also seen 25% productivity gains."

Birtley credits the intuitive aspects of Revit for contributing to such productivity gains. He points out that one CASCO architect who had never touched Revit was able to sit down with the program and, in the course of a week, create a 3D model of an exterior perspective study of a grocery store. CASCO was able to use the design and documentation in the next phase of the model, rather than starting from scratch as would have been the case with the traditional 2D approach.

Building modeling also provides a high-impact value to clients. In the retail trade, it is not uncommon for clients to construct life-size models of projects, complete with signage, lighting, and merchandise, at an overall cost of millions of dollars, before committing to a project design.

"We've had clients spend $10 million to build a building to put their 'mock-up' store in," says Alberts. "That's no longer a necessary investment. Many of the decisions that have been made in the past based on full-scale models or 'test' stores can now be made using the visualization techniques of the building model in Revit."

Birtley also applauds the time and money saved through more accurate document coordination based on the building model. Extracting documents from the building model results in more accurate, consistent, and cleaner paperwork than the CASCO team obtained using 2D. Integrated document sets are a byproduct of the model, so accuracy and consistency are assured, he says.

Alberts notes that the new efficiencies go beyond the model to have a significant economic impact. "The fact that the model is being built in much the same way that it is built in the field, using real components that you can track and schedule and buy, eliminates a lot of coordination and purchasing problems," he says.

An overriding advantage CASCO has gleaned using 3D and Autodesk Revit is giving designers more control over quality and constructability. Clients, too, have a higher confidence level that their initial concept will match the deliverable at project's end.