Building Design

Cadalyst AEC Tech News: 2D to 3D #7 (September 23, 2004)

22 Sep, 2004

You don't have to work very hard to convince architects at Gilchrist Ross and Crowe, a busy firm based in Tallahassee, Florida, that 3D modeling has merits over 2D drafting. For years the firm has been winning business over its competition by working with virtual building designs.

The firm believes so strongly in its software of choice, Graphisoft's ArchiCAD, that it recently committed a high-level project — a 105,000 ft2 renovation of historic Landis Hall at Florida State University — to design-through-construction documentation with the prerelease version of ArchiCAD 9. The $15 million project had successfully moved into the construction documentation phase early this month, making it the first project completed using ArchiCAD 9 — all before its official release.

Some might consider foolhardy the notion of utilizing beta software on a big-ticket project, but with eight years' experience with ArchiCAD, designers at GRC were confident they would succeed. "For us there was no risk involved," says GRC Principal Richard Crowe. "We never doubted that we could rest the firm's reputation and our customer's satisfaction on the product."

Virtues of the Virtual Building
One of the distinguishing characteristics that sets GRC apart from other firms is its commitment to controlling costs for clients through all phases of the design and construction process. The firm credits its success in this area in large part to the technology behind 3D modeling and the virtual building model.

In the Landis Hall project, the firm had to preserve all the historic elements of Florida State's gothic cornerstone building. At the same time, GRC needed to renovate the student housing into a fully equipped, technology-age residence hall.

GRC achieved its usual on-time and under-budget success with Landis, and now turns its attention to another project at FSU, the 150,000 ft2 Wildwood Hall Dormitory, a $30 million project. Going up against competing firms for this project, GRC completed its winning design in just five days using ArchiCAD 9. Included in the bid presentation were 16' X 7' panoramic design-flow drawings and a 3D walkthrough of the virtual building.

No Competition
Crowe says when it comes to competing with 2D firms — "flatlanders," as he calls them — there's really no competition. "With the Virtual Building, up against 2D, we will always win," he says. "Our productivity per head is double to triple the average."

Graphisoft officially released ArchiCAD 9 in mid-September, but a number of projects have been under way globally with prerelease versions, notes Bence Kovacs, vice-president of product management at Graphisoft. Many credit Graphisoft with a pioneering role in the 3D building modeling approach to architecture. But Gilchrist Ross and Crowe Architects may well be the first firm in Graphisoft's history to bring a high-profile project to completion using a prerelease version of ArchiCAD. That's quite a nod of confidence from customer to developer — one that Graphisoft is quite proud of, notes Kovacs.

Web sites
Gilchrist Ross and Crowe Architects:
Graphisoft ArchiCAD:

This special edition of AEC Tech News examines the real-world experiences of manufacturing companies 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