The architectural workflow, for many firms, has remained the same since the initial rolling-out of CAD software. Some firms have yet to convert the architectural design workflow from a 2D design and drafting production workflow into a 3D model-based workflow. The 3D model of the project is a powerful base of information from which all other documentation should flow from, and not into. Integrating 3D CAD design services in the beginning of project uses CAD technology to its fullest, will save man-hours of drafting and detailing production, and provides for less in-field construction conflicts.
3D model-centric design moves away from using CAD as a 2D drafting tool, producing orthographic views to represent the 3D structure, to putting the 3D model at the center of the design project and following a set of work processes, or roadmap which is specifically created to use 3D model data to support all five phases of the architectural workflow. The results of model-based design include:
dimensional accuracy is forced throughout all documentation phases
consistent floor plans and structural data is accessible to MEP disciplines
enables engineering programs for structural integrity, energy efficiency, etc.
greater 2D drafting productivity, especially when generating sections and elevations
accurate estimation of quantity take-offs for vendor bids
efficient updating of schedules and specifications for contractor bids
full systems coordination and interference prevention for construction
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Best Practices illustrates the design process as an architectural workflow consisting of five phases of common services presented to clients in completing the design-bid process:
Schematic Design Phase – In this initial phase of conceptual design, architects focus on the scale of the structure and the relationship between building components. The form and function of spaces are decided within the process of building the 3D model. Often architects will use specific software developed to enhance the conceptual design process; a program such as SketchUp allows the architect to more easily build an initial architectural model. The first step in a 3D model-based workflow is converting these initial sketches into true 3D models to be used as the basis for further design.
Partnering with a firm that offers 3D modeling services is a cost-effective option to 3D model-based design. Our firm will supply the skilled architectural CAD technicians which will relieve your firm of hiring and trained the staff required to build an accurate model with geometric integrity, proper layering, underlying data, and symbology. All future phases of the architectural workflow heavily depend on this central source of design data. With the latest versions of innovative software programs such as Revit, 3D Studio Max, AutoCAD and more, our services can build your 3D model in a fashion ready for proficient design and construction drawing phases.
Design Development Phase – This phase of architectural and engineering design will consume the majority of the project and involves many man-hours of floor plan production and multiple engineering and client reviews which ultimately progress the project to design completion. The need for highly skilled architectural CAD technicians capable of isolating views from the 3D model and adding appropriate dimensioning, details, and supporting text are essential. Firms that mistakenly focus on floor plan development outside of a 3D model sacrifice the powerful tools inherent to 3D CAD which allow for the automatic generation of sectional and elevation views. Time, cost and accuracy are lost in a 2D-based model of design development.
Project deliverables in this phase also include the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life safety engineering drawings. MEP building services layout can and should be performed within the 3D model whenever possible. One model accessible to all disciplines ensures clearances are maintained and lessens the amount of field re-work. A proven path to increase an architectural firm’s reputation lies in presenting projects within budget, adhering to the client’s scope of work, and decreasing the amount of engineering change notices caused by system conflicts.
Construction Document Phase – A properly designed 3D model can also enhance this phase of design where not only detailed drawings dictate the final fashion and materials of construction, but also component data sheets, specifications, and material or component schedules are needed. As a 3D model is created, underlying data can be assigned to walls, floors, the building envelope; and when the MEP layouts are also a part of the 3D model and utilize tagged graphical components as opposed to 2D line/circle/arc elements, supporting documentation can be automatically generated with a minimal of input and completion from drafters.
An outstanding example can be found with the use of Tekla steel detailing services. A 3D structural steel model not only supports engineering analysis for structural integrity, but the model can also hold steel and concrete rebar component information crucial for later construction erection and piece detail information. Embedding architectural element and systems component information as underlying data to the graphical representation of a structure should be included in the design development phase so that it can be automatically generated when producing construction documentation.
Contractor Bid Phase – A 3D model presents a fast way to develop contractor or shop drawings for any discipline. Views of small or congested areas are easily isolated, enlarged, and detailed with as much information necessary for bidding. While these drawings may be handed off for third-party contractors to generate, the dimensional accuracy and relational spacing is reliable because they are based on the single model-based workflow which has been followed throughout the project.
Third-party contractors or vendors will use the primary A&E firm’s 2D engineering design documentation which have been developed from the original 3D model for quantity take-offs. An accurate count of components or linear measurements for conduit, plumbing, and HVAC contributes to an accurate construction cost estimation
If the project is a 3D BIM model, the 3D model information is crucial for mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment providers to provide services that are not only energy efficient installations, but may also include 4D and 5D BIM support to eliminate scheduling conflicts, idle time, and delays.
Construction Phase – Construction documentation holds the highest level of detail. Contractors and vendors require highly detailed shop drawings to determine pricing for fabrication, erection or installation of the structure and each mechanical and electrical system. As one example, Translating foundation drawings into formwork is more accurate when a precise 3D model of the structure can be used to construct the wooden forms for poured concrete.
It makes good sense to use a 3D modeling service that can also provide shop drawings or construction level documentation for all the following disciplines:
Sheet metal and HVAC ductwork
Structural steel erection drawings
Reinforced Concrete documentation
Mill Work Shop Drawings
MEP Coordination and Shop Drawings
Landmark Study Supports 3D-Model Based Workflow
Consider the following statistics that have resulted from a landmark study by the Aberdeen Group which analyzed the proficiency in using a 3D-model based workflow when designing with CAD:
3D CAD tools improve the development cycle by 30-50%
Non-conformance issues are reduced by 30-40% when using a 3D model
2D based design produces 30-40% more inaccuracies
To avoid mistakes and save time and money, it has been proven that 3D CAD models are the preferred path. Additionally, the use of standard parts libraries and including tagged component information early in the design development phase will enable productivity tools that enhance construction and shop drawing generation.
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