Evolving 21st Century Design

CENTERBROOK, Conn. – Building design is changing so rapidly that some people have a new name for it, or at least a synonym. “We’re in the communications business,” said Steven Haines, Director of Information Technology for Centerbrook.

Haines was addressing a workshop that brought together the firm’s design staff with structural and MEP engineers to explore the latest advancements in Building Information Modeling (BIM). More than 50 people, including representatives from 12 companies that have worked with Centerbrook, attended.

Haines added, “The 3D and BIM design tools that we use on all our projects today are constantly evolving,” he said. “We have to learn not only how to keep up, but how best to share the digital models – and the detailed information they embody – with one another and with our clients.” He cautioned, “Whenever there is evolution, of course, there is the possibility of extinction.”

Haines and Scott Burke of IMAGINiT Technologies, an international training and consulting firm, led the illustrated workshop on the use of BIM software such as Revit and Navisworks. They pointed out that architects, engineers, and building contractors now use 3D digital modeling in far greater numbers than ever before. In 2012, nearly three-quarters of American architects reported using BIM, up from 28 percent in 2007. In addition, governments – federal, state and local – are requiring BIM for a growing number of projects.

Burke displayed charts that dramatized how new modeling software has enabled architects to create more detailed plans earlier in the design process, while also allowing engineers and contractors to implement their designs more efficiently. “These new tools have changed the rules and sped things up,” Haines said, citing a current Centerbrook project as an example: the 314,000-square-foot Ambulatory Care Center for the UConn Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut.

Burke demonstrated the use of Revit and the best ways for various team members on a project to coordinate their respective use of a single and shared digital model. He stressed the need for staff training, explaining that 3D design was not only about engaging imagery – or geometry – but also about the reliable and precise information embedded in the model. He pointed out that the new technology can even assist building owners in maintaining their facilities after they are occupied.

“We have to learn to trust the 3D model, not only the 2D printed plans we have used for so long,” Haines said. Burke added, “With iPads in team members’ hands to access the model, soon there will be no need for those stacks of oversized paper plans, even at the building site.”

Centerbrook began using Building Information Modeling 10 years ago, and utilizes it on all its projects today.