The Importance of Clean Design Models Early in the Design Process…

Recently, I was asked why someone like me, who is more interested in advanced 3D modeling, parametric design, scripting, digital fabrication and 3D printing, would be interested in the DD, CD and CA phases of the architectural design process. I ended up writing a rather long letter to this person and I would like to share some of those thoughts here:


My passion is for the built environment—to build things at a human scale that last and change the lives of those who interact with them every day. My long term career goal is to implement technology in a greater way into the way we design and build in the architecture industry. This has been the guiding force throughout my education at CCA, my choice of masters at the University of Michigan, and my choice for my first job out of school. I feel that in order to achieve my goal I would be best suited for a technology consultant role in a larger firm which would probably equate to a BIM manager or something of the sort. I am still not entirely sure that the position I am describing even exists in a firm yet, a BIM manager seems to be the closest to it currently, and I am determined to invent it if necessary. As such I need to have two things: one is a strong affinity and portfolio of experience with the most cutting edge technologies that most affect the design and construction aspects of architecture, the second is actual experience working in a design firm.
What I have just described may not seem like qualities that would translate to a traditional architectural role, but I am convinced that they are. So let me explain how my skills translate to every phase of the design process, and even a story of how these skills have already helped a San Francisco firm. First, in schematic design (SD) or even earlier in the chases to win projects, the goal is to quickly captures the client’s needs, address the restrictions provided by the site, local municipalities, budget and so much more. It is also the phase at which the foundations are laid for the rest of the design phases. In this phase it is necessary to create a digital model of the design that is flexible and can quickly adapt to changes based on the above mentioned inputs. It is also critical to output from this model various ways of communicating to the client the design, including renderings, animations, drawings, and models. My skills in software, advanced 3D modeling, parametric modeling, 3D printing and digital fabrication are especially suited for this phase because they allow a firm to do just what I have described with the best and greatest possible efficiency available to us today. And I have seen this proven over the last year and a half, as I have worked with various firms around the city, which has resulted in these firms winning projects. A perfect example of this is was a certain project from a San Francisco based architectural office which they recently won. During this project, I worked closely with Anthony (name changed), one of the current architectural interns in that office, to prepare files for 3D printing. At first Anthony was spending hours trying to fix the files. But after an hour workshop for this office and then later an additional 10-15 minutes one-on-one with Anthony, I was able to cut this potentially tedious and very time consuming process down to a few hours. As Anthony has continued to reach out to me and I have continued coaching him, he has continued to improve and he has become, what seems to be the go-to person for fixing files for the 3D printer in this San Francisco office.
But I still have not answered the question about the other phases of design. In design development (DD), construction documentation (CD) and finally in construction administration (CA), everything is built on the work done in the previous phases. So as you progress from SD to DD it is important that the Revit model is clean and well-built since during this phase the model will need to still be used to produce presentation materials at various phases while beginning to take on the rigor of detail development. The step from DD to CD is likewise reliant on how well the previous phase was developed and finally CA is the ultimate test in how well your process was able to accommodate and foresee every aspect of the construction of the building. This requires an unwavering commitment to detail, the ability to convert between what you are working on in digital space and the actual size of every little fastener, reveal and offset you are adding. This is why for me it is so critical to have a physical outlet for the digital design process. Through my experience in digital fabrication, I have learned the importance of even a single mistyped letter in a line of machine code or the difference 0.01 inches and 0.02 inches will have on the success or failure of a moving joint. I have also seen first-hand how a poorly built model in early phases can become disastrous and cost countless hours of wasted time later on. So in short, I strongly believe that the skills that I possess are vital to the ability of a firm to efficiently produce quality work, which ultimately affects the bottom line.

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