Participatory Planning

The clever architects at Clark Design Group have come up with a way to plan their projects, using ARCHICAD, that helps to simplify the lengthy planning and design period of a project before creating construction documents. Richard Rinehart calls the process “participatory planning.” It involves designing in real-time in front of the client – on the entire scope of projects taken on by the firm, industrial, medical, institutional and has helped the firm become more efficient and productive.

ARCHICAD“When we deal with large clients and have to develop a plan for the MEP or piping and duct work, we use ARCHICAD. The software lets us move things around, make decisions quickly and get moving forward. On a recent 60K square foot pilot plant, we cut down what would have been a six to eight month approval process to just two weeks.”

Relying heavily on the morph tool and being able to show exactly what would happen if an element of the building were, say, to move 40 feet to one direction, everyone looking at the model has an immediate understanding of whether that would work or not.

“The most time-consuming part of it all is scheduling the meeting. Once everyone is in the room together, they can clearly see the dimensions, how much space is around it, etc. We bring BIM beyond architectural processes over to the MEP and structural processes as well. While we have not eliminated the so-called, ‘sidebar’ discussions that can really slow down an approval process, we encourage them in a way that is more conducive to finding a resolution in the moments they come up.”

Providing Decision Techniques

Participatory planning helps CDG work the plan. After architectural sketches are created, team members make improvements as needed. It has helped them score points with companies who are looking for assistance in creating their space and getting a consensus quickly.

Back in 2007, CDG designed a firehouse, working with a committee of forty individuals. Everyone present at the committee meeting had different ideas and were already at odds about how to work them out. By designing in real-time with ARCHICAD, at the end of a three hour meeting, the team emerged with a full space plan and budget.


“We like to think we are also providing decision techniques. We can control the design and say how the roof will work, for example, but in the end, we let their ideas be heard and worked out. Then we can show proof as to why it may or may not be the best choice for that particular project.”

The team at CDG has seen this process work on projects of all sizes.

“Many people will scoff and say BIM is good for the big projects, but not small ones. We’ve used it for small offices and large buildings. The process defies scale – we design in a glass box – and the transparency is key to getting everyone on board with the design intent.”

Solving Problems & Creating New Opportunities for Creative Architecture

As for those who worry about working out in the open, that it may hurt the quality of the design, Richard has this to say: “Ultimately the architecture doesn’t suffer. The way the building functions will change and evolve based on the client’s needs, but they change for the better because the building works the way they need it to work. When you solve their problems, your design ideas can still be preserved, but what you get are new opportunities for more creative architecture.”

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