Riverstone Structural Concepts and the Discovery that Delivered Success

Patrick Bird of Riverstone Structural Concepts has enjoyed success at his firm – in part because of his ability to spot the opportunities, technologies and areas in which to specialize that make his skills indispensible.

Discovering ArchiCAD

The first evidence of his knack for noticing a chance to stand out came in 2005 while working on a project for a new client, while an employee of another firm. The client, an architect, had sent plans in which Bird noticed some need for changes. After making the corrections and sending them along – he settled to focus on some other items that needed attention as well.  Having bargained for at least a two week delay before receiving updated plans he was shocked to get those plans back from the architects within an hour. They were fully updated plans, including all sections and details.

courtesy of Riverstone Structural Concepts

Curiosity peaked for him to inquire directly with that firm as to how they’d made that change so quickly – he previously had been unaware that this was at all possible – and it was then he first learned of ArchiCAD.  Bird approached his supervisors of the company and told them about it. But status quo won out and the software was not adopted by that firm.

When it came time for Bird to strike out on his own, he knew he wanted use ArchiCAD. In fact, he approached the firm that first introduced him to it and was told – if you use it, you’ll get 100% of our business, because up to that point they’d lost data during sharing of information with other structural engineering firms. This gave Bird impetus to specialize.

courtesy of Riverstone Structural Concepts

“My idea was to team up with ArchiCAD users – because to me they seem to have a quality mindset that I hadn’t sensed with other firms,” explained Bird. “At the time, one other employee and I were tasked with learning ArchiCAD inside and out. I could see that another market existed and could tap into it – gain a strategic advantage. Since then we’ve been on an upward swing, landing bigger and better jobs.”

courtesy of Riverstone Structural Concepts

Not long after that, Bird set up his own BIM Server – which allows members of a collaborative team to come together and work on a single project in real time. One of the first projects Bird’s team at Riverstone Structural Concepts worked on, the Johnson residence in Sun Valley California, a 9,000 square foot home that was on a hyper accelerated deadline of two weeks. Bird’s client was using an older version of ArchiCAD than his firm was at the time, but it presented no obstacles to meeting the deadline because of the ability to share data over the server.

“ArchiCAD was the only way we would have been able to make that project a reality. A team of three of my staff worked on it at the same time – through the server – which managed all those multiple points of connectivity and maintained a central point of truth throughout the project. We had played around with other types of software around the same time; but found it clumsy and less intuitive.”

The team at Riverstone is using the BIM Server in three ways – in house, to manage projects within a team; “calc and sketch” which refers to situations where Riverstone clients have their own server – create their own modeling and drawings, but allow Bird’s staff access to the model for mark ups. It becomes an even more useful tool when it supports full on collaboration. Riverstone staff can go in the model and take control of all the structural elements. In instances where the architect may have just created a slab, Bird’s team can add the joists and beams.

courtesy of Riverstone Structural Concepts

According to Bird, Riverstone Structural Concepts is now in the enviable position where the company is being sought out for work. “Potential clients can see the collaboration feature of our workflow as a benefit and added value. Many didn’t realize that a structural engineer would be using that level of collaborating software. It has given us a bit of notoriety and we are at times, in a position to teach others about ways to maximize their skills in a similar way.”

“We are a team of engineers that model – we’ve eliminated the drafting step and position – and provide quality assurance by having another engineer go through it. Removing that step also removed the opportunity for errors.”

Incorporating Scia

Riverstone Structural Concepts obtained an early adopter program for Scia technology (a structural analysis, design and detailing software) when it made its entrance into North America. Intended for larger scale steel and concrete projects, it helped RSC obtain bigger projects on which to use the technology. With Scia, RSC no longer has to purchase modules one by one. Using Scia, therefore provides a significant advantage in that it becomes a one-stop shop engineering program. Scia is interoperable with ArchiCAD as well – and in the early stages of exporting back and forth from the ArchiCAD model back into Scia, the staff at RSC is quickly finding ways to maximize that ability.

“We really have developed a one-two punch by combining the power of these two software technologies. We’re enjoying a significant advantage over our competition, growing as our clients grow and doing it with intelligence.”


1 Comment

  1. Darren Bell

    Would love to see more engineers go down this route. It would make my job so much easier if I didn’t have to construct the engineering in 3D for clash detection etc. and the engineers did this for themselves.
    After all, isn’t this what BIM is suppose to be about, multi discipline engagement.

    Despite the other offerings out there really pushing their products to other design services, most engineers only want to work in 2D and making the move to BIM will be a real change in mind set. So well done Riverstone.



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