Thursday, April 21, 2016

Material Optimization in BIM

Myself in general and my firm specifically focuses on cost sensitive clients and while I love love love the sector always central to this goal is material optimization. I’m not an engineer and therefore can’t optimize the design through steel selection and so mostly concentrate on reducing steel through an excellent grasp of geometry. However, I often struggle to understand how our drawings are used downstream by the steel supplier to optimize the design and was happy to find information on the subject in a recen
Revit Structure Blog postOur firm is always specifying just such braces seen in the post but does not explicitly design them (though we can). Our firm’s role is to calculate all the loads which go into the piece and then the steel supplier can (if they wish) optimize the piece which, as the link shows, can significantly reduce the amount of material needed with no change in capacity. It’s a very interesting read and I hope the knowledge will lead to better integration with our building design partners.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Architecturally 3D Printing Art History

With a great title like “WinSun 3D Prints TwoGorgeous Concrete Chinese Courtyards Inspired By Ancient Suzhou Gardens” I enthusiastically clicked through to the article only to be immediately underwhelmed. I’ve come back to the piece several times in preparation for this post but my conclusion remains changed: Great technology, mediocre architecture. With a background in architectural history perhaps I was expecting too much (being somewhat familiar as I am with Chinese architecture from previous trips to the region). Perhaps the overcast skies drain the images of any sort of life. The project looks endowed with the wrong type of stillness; the kind brought about from non-use and loneliness. For comparison I’ve included a picture of a 12th century Suzhou Garden. One can see the underlying “blockiness” of the forms are similar but real 12th century gardens include a lot more detail and texture missing from the 3D printed version. These visual elements are key as to why people are drawn to historic buildings in the first place.
Real 12th Century Suzhou Garden
Stories about the art history angle to architectural 3D printing now routinely appear online - such as the SyrianPalmyra Arch - and for the most part I’ve past over them for recognition on the blog because I haven’t found them to be truly compelling examples, even if the technology shows great promise. WinSun executive Ma Yi He’s statement about the project - “I like the 3D printing technology, its science, art and simple culture” - draws us to the crux of the conversation: Should architectural 3D printing be leveraged to define new architectural forms or perfectly represent old ones? I’ve covered the debate before with Dutch designer Michiel van der Kley going way over the top to call for a whole new design language be established around architectural 3D printed forms. I like old buildings so I wouldn’t go that far but do think the Suzhou Garden project would have been more successful had the medium been explored further. From a technological standpoint I really liked the Suzhou Gardens project. The sweeping curves achieved and textured finish (below) have all sorts of great interior and exterior applications. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

BIM The Mechanical Pencil

I’ve been following the excellent What Revit Wants blog for a couple of years now and appreciate its approached to BIM. So often when faced with answering hostile questions about why REVIT does things in such-and-such a way I simply can’t answer frustration with a shrug. I agree with blogger Luke Johnson’s suggestion from the article: ”You really need to commit to using Revit. Yes, it can be a difficult learning curve. The initial excitement quickly wears off, as you are faced with numerous choices you don't really understand, and this long list of "I don't know how to do this" tasks. But you will learn. You have to. Revit is not going away.”

If anything the article focused too much on introducing beginners to Revit and not enough on exploring the power user’s mindset. And for myself, it’s this quality which advances BIM design the most. Though I’m in a bit of a privileged position in being able to both love drafting and adopt an iconoclastic position with no deep ties to AutoCAD. Every once in a while I come across someone in industry who prefaces my whole view of BIM as the software owning me. I’m not sure how I ever gave that impression being hyper-focused as I am on the constructability of buildings regardless of drawing medium but I’m in agreement when the writer states: “Revit can seem daunting at times, but in the end, it is a tool for accomplishing work. You are in control of it, not vice versa.”

REVIT is nothing more than a fancy mechanical pencil and it is there to do what I want. I would not want to be in the line of fire should someone suggest I have nothing left to learn about BIM because it’s a worthless advance in building technology. If I thought even for a second I could build more with CAD over BIM I'd be using it. But as desirous as I am to build a lot; What Revit wants is an excellent rallying cry to the cause.