Rietveld Architects: Seeking Solutions with ArchiCAD
Tools to Tackle Problems
New York-based firm, Rietveld Architects stakes its name on the firm’s ability and dedication to solving problems for its clients. Using ArchiCAD, the firm creates projects in 3D using the BIM to serve them in that search for a solution. As any expert would, Rietveld employs a variety of tools with which its architects can create options, communicate project specifics to a client and help them understand not only the limitations of a particular job, but all the possibilities.
Case in point, Rietveld is working to find a solution for a new dilemma that has developed in the Netherlands. Thanks to economic shifts; there currently exists a surplus of vacant office buildings in that region. At the same time, the need for affordable housing has risen. As much as 16% of the office buildings in the area are unoccupied. Considering also that Netherlands government officials lowered the standard by which one can qualify for subsidized housing, the need for such housing has grown beyond the supply. The project which Rietveld Architects is currently designing and modeling in ArchiCAD requires converting the office building to residential units of varying sizes while improving or at least maintaining the value of the property. Rietveld Architects associate partner Piet Meijs explains the scope of the project.
“Office buildings have a very open structure, high ceilings, so it is easier to convert from office to residential rather than the other way around – however this particular building, which will eventually hold between sixty and sixty-four units needs to match the value it was as an office building – a big challenge,” says Meijs.
Most large companies would relocate every once in a while so that they wouldn’t have to buy new places – ten year old buildings lose their appeal – but the office space is not officially devalued, so it is no longer sought after. With increasing work happening remotely, companies are shrinking physically and there is more decentralization.
There is an investment required to convert the building – but the margins are extremely slim – so the firm has to be mindful of this as they put hours into creating the model and developing the project.
Enabling Efficient Workflow
“We have to work very efficiently – because we are aware our fee for the project is a small percentage of overall costs. Yet our input can make or break the success of it,” says Meijs. “Our design strategy for these types of buildings is rooted in increasing income, while keeping costs in control.”
Rietveld relies on ArchiCAD to help maintain control over many variables, the client needs, city requirements, future tenants. Making sure all interests are protected, including that of the firm itself demands a holistic view and a willingness to see the opportunity the problem creates.
“We see that this is a common problem in the Netherlands now, so we are actually working to apply a baseline standard solution. Now that the building is in the permit phase, we can suggest the idea that our concept can be applied to other buildings. There are some exceptions, of course, where buildings are outside the city limits – for example – but we feel as though we can use this project as a step off point.”
R.A. is also employing a feature of ArchiCAD that allows them to work remotely on a private residence in London – the BIM Server. There are drafters in London that can log in to the BIM Server to make changes. The residence is undergoing some renovations, and so the team is using ArchiCAD 16 to make those changes.
Supporting 3D Printing Prowess
Rietveld Architects has also become known for creating 3D printed models of their designs. However, there is currently no direct link from the BIM to the 3D printer – no print button exists. So the firm has to export the water-tight geometry (cubes have to have six sides, not five) created in ArchiCAD into an STL format – which triangulates the model so the 3D printer understands what is being printed. When RA begins work, the team draws up 2D lines of the basic geometry in ArchiCAD. This project geometry serves as the basis for all the 3D computer models that will be made, whether it’s for 2D drawings, 3D renderings, or a 3D print model. There are a few more steps that must be taken before printing the model, and Meijs says he looks forward to the day there is a 3D print button incorporated into ArchiCAD.
“3D printing does not have to be a replacement for hand-made models – rather, it is a tool we use to communicate to our client. If you think about it, the most fluid part of our workflow is the BIM in ArchiCAD – it can change and keep up with the project as it goes through various design iterations. The hand-made or 3D printed model is frozen in time from when a certain design look was achieved. Once that changes in any way at all, the model becomes outdated.”
“If I were to explain the borough of Manhattan to someone who had never been there, I could simply take a piece of graph paper and create the grid system – they’d have a basic understanding of how the area is laid out. But 3D is critical when I want to explain, for example, a spiral staircase. Because it is circular with vertical elevation – it becomes an ellipse and suddenly the advantage of seeing it in 3D is obvious – so the value of a 3D printed model is as well.”