Oh Yeah!!! Cue the Kool-Aid pitcher crashing through a cinder block wall… why am I beginning the post this way? Because in his own words, John Black of Lapis Design Partners has admitted to drinking the ArchiCAD Kool-Aid – and this is his story.
Black has been using ArchiCAD since version five. He believes the best thing Autocad ever did was drop their Macintosh platform just at the moment he began looking for a software program. Having been a Mac user, with no plans to change, he was ready to go from hand-drafting right into ArchiCAD. As with many users we’ve interviewed here on the blog, he had two weeks to get up to speed enough to create a design and presentation.
“After a very short time using the software – mind you, it was somewhat under the gun, I was able to create an incredible presentation and 3D images,” says Black. “Now I use it in conjunction with Artlantis and help my customers understand what I’m designing for them. I’ve even seen it help contractors get a better sense of the building’s design as opposed to reading two dimensional plans.”
And the rest is history, as far as his choice of BIM software goes. A dozen years ago, Black relocated his office from Cambridge, MA to Hawaii in an effort to downsize, focus on residential work and keep his practice small. Mission accomplished, says Black.
“ArchiCAD helps me do the work of two drafts people. I’ve simplified my life and can produce great work with incredible flexibility. I travel often to projects in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but my travel time becomes billable time – since I can work on the model on my laptop.”
Black credits his background in knowing how to use ink and pencil and then transitioning to digital or CAD as helping him know what works in ArchiCAD. As he put it, this is a fascinating time to be alive and what may be viewed as a minor aspect of his architectural career turned into a huge transformation which enables him to be efficient.
“ArchiCAD is an extremely easy program to work with, it is designed so intuitively – so that architects can just hit the ground running – create a working model that will be able to serve through the building’s construction. In fact, I recently had two out of state clients visit me for a design charrette – I met with them, took in their ideas and manipulated the model so that the very next day, we had the projects nailed down, including the basis for the construction documents.”
Black is currently using ArchiCAD 17 and believes in upgrading his software every year. “I have seen the investment I make in the software with each release pay me back in productivity throughout the entire year I’m using it. If you boil it down, it’s all about being the most efficient within your model so that you are earning your fee in the least amount of time possible. Each time new bells and whistles are added to ArchiCAD, I see myself getting the ability to work in the model quicker than before.”
Black is also a believer in BIMx, GRAPHISOFT’s presentation tool and recently began applying BIMx Docs to his workflow as well.
“I have always taken BIMx to my meetings and job sites. Now with BIMx Docs I no longer have to save the set as a .pdf – which took time to render. All the sheets are there and connected to the 3D model. My first use of BIMx Docs was for an apartment renovation. I was able to spin through the model on BIMx to show my client how all the rooms were related, and then quickly overlay detailed interior elevation drawings. Showing that detail was important for that meeting to go well.”
Black is working on a project in Los Angeles that has benefitted from his ability to show his client renderings from the model. One element inside this house is a two-story waterfall cascading past a suspended glass and steel stair that spans across a pond recessed into the floor. Being able to easily construct this feature element as a 3D model really helped the future owner understand all the intricatedetails.
“I used to produce colored pencil and marker renderings for my clients and although I knew they were approving the design choices throughout the process, there was that little bit of understanding missing. Until they saw it finished in real life, they never really got it. The ArchiCAD model puts them there virtually – in such a detailed manner, that I don’t experience that anymore.”
On a high rise project located near the ocean, Black is using ArchiCAD to show finishes and cabinetry. Even the electrical switches and outlets appear in elevation to show the electricians the properly alignment. Recent improvements to ArchiCAD’s handling of sections (ArchiCAD 17) has made it easier for Black to work in the sections of the high rise.
“Before it was limited to moving things around – it was 2D in the plan view, changing wall heights and cutting and pasting dimensions in the dialog box. When the software added reference to the floor, I discovered the way to fine tune connections. It simplified and made my life easier. This is why you upgrade every year.”
“I took over a project last year from an architect using ArchiCAD – but he was still working on version 8. That baffled me. If he had upgraded to ArchiCAD 9 he would have had all his drawing sheets set up. It all goes back to letting the program help you be efficient. If you don’t take advantage of that, you’re missing out.”