Working Big Projects with ArchiCAD
San Diego, California based mvacha designs has been using ArchiCAD since version 8. As a sole proprietor, Mark Vacha designs a wide variety of projects such as custom residential homes, restaurants, and even a movie theater. By using ArchiCAD, Vacha has been able to design projects even if they are located several states away by inputting all the structural engineer’s steel shapes, beams and foundation dimensions, or even fine-tuning and coordinating projects with other team members at a similar distance from his home office.
Tying it all together
The movie theater was a 7-plex, 20,000 SF project that crossed more than one state line. A bit larger of a project, Vacha worked on the model in San Diego, while friend and design partner Kip Coleman, located in Utah, modeled the movie theater’s interior which would be constructed in Rifle, Colorado. Rifle city officials were hoping the theater would act as an anchor in the downtown area of Rifle and as such wanted it to incorporate a vertical marquee of the 30’s and tie in the rest of the town’s older style. Vacha says he and Coleman worked well together even though their respective software choices differed.
“Kip is a great designer and it was fun to work on the project with him. I did the entire drawing set in ArchiCAD because of my experience with the software, and Kip designed the interiors. I exported and IFC file of the interiors to Kip. Kip had more familiarity with Revit so he worked on the interiors that way and sent it back to me as an IFC. It was not completely seamless on the return, but I was able to see what he was doing, fix the stuff that did not translate, and produce quite a great set of construction documents – evidenced by minimal construction questions and no change orders!”
The project timeline of about three months from final go-ahead to finished drawings might be considered a fast turnaround for other teams, but Vacha says he and Coleman were so efficient, they were ahead of the curve.
“This product is so amazing that a lot of times we were waiting on information from the consultants in order to proceed. Once it is built, the rest is just about automatic. We actually had a nice, reasonable time because the software helped us work so fast!” He credits ArchiCAD with being able to stay efficient and deal with the minor issues that cropped up during the design phase.
“Everything went pretty smoothly overall. I was able to address little things as they came up, but ArchiCAD facilitated my job to the highest degree. Even though it was a major, complex undertaking, there were no ‘oh my goodness’ moments where you are scratching your head, wondering what you’ll do to fix it.”
In the end, the movie theater project had zero change orders, which is a real testament to ArchiCAD’s abilities as well as Coleman’s onsite supervision and project contractor, Ranack Constructors, Inc.
“ArchiCAD does it all for me, it allows me to design these complex and challenging projects on my own. I’m able to coordinate with the rest of the project team and be confident.”
Vacha is currently overseeing construction on a restaurant renovation for a franchise that had him deal with tight spaces and heights. The franchise documents were created in AutoCAD and the entire building’s existing documents were only available as paper plans. Vacha rebuilt the existing building, as well as the franchise standards, in ArchiCAD to facilitate MEP coordination for the project for consultants, Thorson Baker & Assoc., in Ohio.
“Modeling these types of commercial renovations presents a challenge since it is sometimes difficult to recreate the existing conditions. With these unusual situations, you don’t always know what kind of contractor worked on the structure.”
Another project on the boards for Vacha is a residential home in La Jolla. The owner chose to remodel his 4,500 square foot home to include a new second story, expanding the square footage to 7,000 square feet. The home is slated to be completed in eight months.
“Working in residential is where most of the challenges happen – which makes ArchiCAD so valuable to me. I have won restaurant projects and a movie theatre project located several states away, a 17,000 SF home in Rancho Santa Fe, and a 40,000 square foot office building renovation. I can stay on top of all those changes even though I’m working solo. ArchiCAD has allowed me to compete with firms much larger and with much greater overhead. ArchiCAD creates such a beautiful final product that it makes me look like one of the big boys too. Not only can I take on large projects because of this software, but I can handle multiple large projects at one time and not worry that adjusted details no longer coordinate or reference through the set. ArchiCAD does that all so seamlessly, I get to actually enjoy designing again.”
Vacha worked on a beach front home in Ocean Beach, CA in 2006 with a “tight window” lot. In order to preserve what little ocean view was available, the building was cantilevered out over 20’ at some points – stretching the building out to capture as much view as possible while maintaining foundations behind the bluff-edge setback. The engineering behind the design was quite complicated, but Vacha says ArchiCAD was able to handle it and assist him through a building review process as well as help with the client’s understanding of the design.
“I modeled everything that came back from the structural engineer’s DWG files. When we were asked to “prove” our design was complying with the building department’s requirements, I just turned off everything except the structural layers, created a series of axonometric views and printed it out. When the client struggled with understanding the project, I just brought my laptop to his office and loaded the 3D perspective. We rotated the building to help him understand the exterior and converted it to “video game mode” to help him understand the interiors. This was the same process done for the La Jolla home and the clients just love it! When you are designing residential projects, there is really a lot of trust that the client puts in you. The 3D capabilities of ArchiCAD are key to bridging that gap and allowing the clients to fall in love with their new home, before it is built. I am extremely excited to see the reaction when I give them a BIMx file for their iPads!”
Note from the editor:
Mark has graciously offered an opportunity for all BIM Engine by ArchiCAD readers a way to to follow along with his La Jolla project. You are invited and welcome to download his model from the BIMx site . Simply type in “Colgate” into the search and the La Jolla project will load. When there are updates, you will be notified automatically within the app. This is a very cool way for our readers to follow along as with how Mark is using the new BIMx platform. Thanks, Mark!