Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Wilkus Architects is keeping busy these days with several interiors projects for major chain restaurants, retail establishments, and hospitality and fitness centers.
Wilkus specializes on interiors architecture and completes those projects in ArchiCAD, BIM software by Graphisoft. ArchiCAD users since 2008, Wilkus Architects (Wilkus) leverages creativity with speed – a must in their world of extremely tight deadlines for commercial interiors architecture. Tight schedules vary by client and project, but most have time lines of mere weeks, which makes Wilkus’ software choice a critical one. “You don’t want software that gets in the way of the design process,” said Jon Buerg, project architect at Wilkus. “ArchiCAD helps us to meet design challenges on accelerated schedules. We make excellent use of the ability to develop a kit of parts, by developing templates and libraries of objects so we can go to them on the fly. The investment in the software is well worth it for us, especially for us in cases when we are producing multiple projects with a particular client.”
Those rapid fire delivery dates pushes Wilkus to be efficient and nimble. In addition, the bulk of the firm’s projects are set in an existing space, necessitating using other data sources. ArchiCAD proves valuable to the firm when staff must adapt to use existing hand drawings. The challenge of working with clients with established, existing space makes working with other software critical. The firm deals with information from varying sources on a daily basis. Buerg says that skill, along with the amount of experience they bring to the table, is what sets them apart from other firms.
“ArchiCAD works beautifully for us,” stated Buerg. “With our commercial interior architecture projects, we’ve received information on the shell buildings for the spaces that ranges from decades old, hand-drafted drawings to CAD files from numerous software sources. Because of the nature of what we do, we’re often dealing with a starting point that is generated from information of varying quality. With ArchiCAD we can bring in all sorts of extant building drawings and make it work. ”
“It is difficult to predict what files or data we’re going to receive before we begin a project. But deadlines are there and we have to clean it up and make it usable – quickly. That’s when ArchiCAD becomes our Swiss army knife – and we definitely use it to its full capabilities. Each space is unique, as well as the way details about it are communicated. We rely on ArchiCAD’s flexibility and ability to work equally well with 2D drawing data from a variety of sources and with the 3D BIM elements we create as a part of the new interior architecture. Bottom line is we need to get into design mode quickly and turnaround deliverables, be they presentation drawings and walk-throughs, construction drawings, or what ever the client needs.”
While providing services for Anytime Fitness, a health club that is designed to be located into a strip mall layout, Wilkus has been tasked with providing visualization of the facilities and assisting their client in achieving uniformity in their franchises. “We use ArchiCAD to help us model the facility and to import models of fitness equipment we receive from the equipment manufacturers directly into our designs. With other software, importing information can create obstacles, but since we’ve adopted ArchiCAD, the process is streamlined.”
Wilkus also works with Caribou Coffee, a national coffee shop chain with stores overseas as well. In those cases outside the United States in particular, the nature of the project is highly dependent on visualization. The firm provides photo realistic images while putting together the construction drawings, rendering them in Artlantis. At Chipotle Mexican Grill, the firm must transform and work with design elements that coordinate with an established palate and aesthetic – even on a tight schedule.
“ArchiCAD has been very useful in our work with Chipotle, we’re able to develop the 3D visualizations our client needs to help make decisions on the design while simultaneously preparing other design drawings and then move right into construction drawings. Since ArchiCAD works so well in 2D and 3D at the same time, we can leave data we receive from the client that is not critical to visualization in 2D with ease.”
Having come on board with ArchiCAD at version 10, staff members say they found the transition to ArchiCAD smooth. “Most of our employees were used to a CAD environment. We identified a core group and got them trained in ArchiCAD.” The team at Wilkus has developed unique ways to manage their workload in a challenging economy – taking advantage of Graphisoft’s pay-per-use licensing of ArchiCAD software. Graphisoft introduced the concept at the beginning of the recession, allowing smaller firms to avoid maintaining unwieldy subscription fees, and manage costs, time and materials in a way that makes sense to the firm.
“When our workload fluctuates, we take advantage of that licensing option,” explained Buerg. “We are able to increase or decrease the number of licenses, employing our per-use keys as we need them. Since the majority of our project timetables are truncated compared to other projects our industry peers face, we take advantage of the flexibility that pay-per-use licensing provides.”
Buerg says the nature of the firm’s core business involves adaptive reuse of existing spaces. The renovation feature in ArchiCAD 15 will therefore be a welcomed improvement within software that is already serving the team well. “It is safe to say that renovation feature is going to become something we use heavily going forward. It has been a hot topic lately. We see a lot of potential in it despite the fact we’ve only been working in ArchiCAD 15 for a short while. We can already see that for the work we do it is going to be important.”
Most of the projects Wilkus comes across are small and fast enough to be handled by a single person, so the team hasn’t found the need to employ Graphisoft’s BIM Server on a regular basis. However as the complexity of a project or number of staffers needed to work on it increases, the BIM Server has come into play. Buerg calls it “a great piece of technology” that no other company has come close to producing.
Another element of ArchiCAD and Graphisoft that Wilkus is beginning to test is the mobile application; BIMx. Buerg says he was intrigued by the application’s ability to take the models on mobile devices. “This will change the way we’ll do walk-throughs in the future. A year or two ago, we’d have to render the model and make a movie file, sending the client on a fixed path through the model. But today with BIMx, we’ll be able to let the client explore at will. I expect very positive reactions from our client base.”
Overall, Buerg and the team at Wilkus Architects say they are passionate about the importance of ArchiCAD to their firm, their workflow and their ability to meet and exceed client demands on a wide variety of projects. “It really is a fun software to work in, definitely our favorite. With Graphisoft, we know they have the architects’ best interests at heart, they know what architects want and it shows through in the software.”