For the past twelve years, Ron Culver, AIA Managing Director of Folonis Architects has been using ARCHICAD. Two projects in particular – both located in Santa Monica, CA – highlight a couple of different ways that the firm uses ARCHICAD to work efficiently.

A 3-unit condominium on Santa Monica’s 10th street features a complex steel structure. Folonis modeled all the steel components and shared them with the steel manufacturer in an IFC file format to update and get all their drawings to correspond. This method of coordination and cooperation came about after Culver and his team discovered a myriad of conflicts in the steel shop drawings. There were eight different section cut drawings that showed steel frames 2 stories tall, but offered no way to evaluate them to see if they were dimensionally accurate. By cutting the ARCHICAD model at the corresponding locations of the shop drawings, Culver was able to see exactly how far off the shop drawings were. 


“We were able to very quickly take our model and match it to the structural model they were using in Tekla. The ARCHICAD-generated IFC file worked seamlessly on their system,” Culver explained.

“We performed section cuts through our model that cut through the steel frame and determined that their dimensions were off. This normally falls outside our responsibilities, but for the good of the project, we called attention to the potential problem and it was addressed. Finding this error in advance saved the contractor time and money. Interoperability is the top selling point of ARCHICAD.”

This level of coordination allowed for corrections and redesigns to the model for the 10th St. project to be made. The project is now in construction. 

The Built-in Beauty

All architectural projects in Santa Monica have to go through a review process by the Architectural Review Board (ARB). Folonis Architects takes advantage of ARCHICAD renderings and has been able to step in and take over several projects from other architects that hadn’t met ARB standards.

“On one occasion, we redesigned a 350-unit apartment building and used ARCHICAD to print renderings for the ARB. We publish all of our booklets in ARCHICAD because graphically they’re beautiful and help us get to an approval in as few meetings as possible.”

Another project benefiting from the use of ARCHICAD is an 89-unit mixed use apartment building in Santa Monica. The 5-story building crosses an alley with a footbridge and features 2 ½ levels of subterranean parking. Grade changes of the site added to the project’s complexity. Culver notes the beauty of ARCHICAD in relation to this project lies in the ability to see things that would otherwise be hidden.

The Case for Collaboration

“The project would have benefited greatly from the structural and mechanical engineer using BIM. Had the structural engineer modeled the major steel and concrete components in Revit, we could have simply used their file in our model. Not only would this have saved us the complexity of accurately modeling their work, both parties would have quickly seen when the structure exceeded the bounds of the architectural volume and needed to be reeled in.”

“Similarly, because the mechanical engineer only did line drawings in AutoCAD and did not have access to our model, they had no means to envision the best way to direct their ductwork through the unit soffits and framing. We had to painstakingly review every unit to determine if the ducts needed additional soffits or if we could re-rout them a different way and avoid a soffit altogether. All of this required a huge effort on our part and significant re-drawing on their part. Most of this time and labor would have been saved had the original work been done in Revit and shared with us in ARCHICAD.”

ARCHICAD provides Folonis Architects with a level of detail that the firm observes as very helpful on many projects.

“Whether we’re working on a Type I or Type V building with different wall finishes – we can model using the exact wall composition of the building structure. By doing so, we have accurate dimensions of every wall as they will actually be constructed. Designing multi-units teaches you to know that those inches matter. It is a huge advantage in terms of understanding how the building is going to work.”

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