Intercollegiate Team Collaborates through ArchiCAD
The students at CalPoly in California have long benefited from Elbert Speidel’s expertise in Architecture, Polymers in construction and 3D Modeling and BIM. For the past six years, since first beginning as a lecturer at CalPoly, Speidel has imparted his experience with students in the construction management program. Recently he coordinated an intercollegiate project with two other professors – Prof. Tammy McCuen at the University of Oklahoma and Junshan Liu of Auburn University. McCuen’s Project Team 1 worked on the J E Dunn Hospital, Speidel’s Project Team 2 based their model on the Klorman Hospital and Liu’s Project Team 3 focused on the Brice Building Hospital. The students CalPoly, Auburn University and Oklahoma State collaborated and shared work, remotely, over a semester. Once completed, the students met for the first time at EcoBuild, DC and presented their projects.
Students in the construction management program get an overview of estimating, scheduling and drawing over a ten week period. Speidel’s class has worked with a variety of BIM software but soon gravitated to solely work in ArchiCAD. “ArchiCAD kept standing out as a better program than the rest,” said Speidel. “I introduced it to the freshman class- who at first were enamored of another program which has a presence here on campus. I allowed them to choose what program they wanted to use. The drawing we create in class is a rather simple one – a mixed use building with concrete block. It took less than three weeks for the ones using other software to realize that ArchiCAD is better – so they switched.”
Why did the students gravitate toward ArchiCAD?
Speidel cites ArchiCAD’s ease of use on both MAC and PC platforms as a key factor in the students’ decision-making. A quick learning curve also played a role. “ArchiCAD doesn’t get in the way of their learning. I merely get them acquainted with the software and they fly past me. As a professor – it is refreshing to have a tool at one’s disposal that is so conducive to the learning process.”
The intercollegiate project began shortly after a meeting with Tammy and Junshun at a recent ASC conference in Omaha. During their meeting it was suggested that an intercollegiate project that would involve students from each university could serve to teach collaboration and even serve as a model for the industry. So three students worked on three projects from three universities. They’d model, estimate and schedule an existing project. Each university received a completed project from a general contractor that served as a sponsor for the project. As it turned out, each of projects was a hospital.
“The buildings in question were perhaps a little more complicated than what they should have been for a learning environment. Hospitals aren’t easy buildings to model. From that standpoint, the project was challenging as was the variations in timing between the universities’ schedules. In spite of those obstacles – the project worked.”
Each student was responsible for modeling one project, estimating another and scheduling the third. They made use of Dropbox (a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them) as a method for sharing files; held meetings over GoToMeeting and Skype to coordinate who was doing what. As the semester progressed, Speidel says they were able to work in such a way that exploited their strengths and minimized weaknesses. He adds that the workload and structure of the project mimicked a real world scenario.
“It is becoming more common for a firm to design in a place that isn’t local to the actual build. At the same time, contractors are being asked to work with remote firms. They don’t have to come together and meet as they did in the old days – at a conference table. Its what the industry is trending toward so the university environment need to lead the search for the best way to build a building and communicate through that process.”
The students at CalPoly decided to use IFCs as a method for disseminating information – but Auburn and Oklahoma both used Revit for their modeling. When those models had to be put in an estimating program for a final analysis; ArchiCAD was able to handle the Revit files.
“As the models were shared throughout the semester, it became clear that ArchiCAD was preserving all the data even when the students working in Revit were experiencing information loss. The ArchiCAD model was always complete and consistently handled data from other programs without fail.”
The intercollegiate program is one Speidel would like to see expand – to include participation from universities in other countries. “We know that ArchiCAD will have no trouble handling other files or programs. We won’t have to be limited by time zones. It would be a terrific international experiment in integrated project delivery.”
Where Speidel sees the greatest benefit to this shared work experiment is in simplifying the “as build” process, the documentation of changes that take place during the actual building process.
“Time was that architects had a heck of a time finishing ‘as builds’. ArchiCAD simplifies that process – which for many architects represents non-billable hours – because the model is constantly revised as changes happen and when the plans are handed over they are complete.