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Virtual Building model gives small design firm the competitive edge

McCleary German Architects - Houston, Texas, U.S.

When Texas-based McCleary/German Architects started investigating 3D and rendering technologies, the firm originally sought software that would help it better present designs to clients. When the firm's architects started using Graphisoft's ArchiCAD in 1998, they realized the software's capabilities extended far beyond three-dimensional modeling, giving them more versatility.

As a design firm specializing in financial institutions, it was important that any software be able to incorporate bank equipment details and ADA-compliant lobby teller layouts. McCleary/German Architects addressed this need by creating customized building objects within ArchiCAD® . "We have pre-built modules that we use for each design, such as bank teller stations, lobby design, office layouts, restrooms and construction details. ArchiCAD enables us to take the knowledge gained from previous branch designs and past drawings and create a master module file where these design elements are stored and easily accessed by the design team," said Eric Batte, Vice President, McCleary/German Architects. As a result, McCleary/German Architects is able to place these elements into any new design without having to recreate past work.

Time saving with accuracy

Working with the building objects within ArchiCAD also offers McCleary/German Architects staff the added benefit of saving time while easily adhering to design and documentation standards. Because ArchiCAD is a fully integrated and parametric database of building information, any change made to a building object is automatically replicated in all the other views of the project.

When recently designing the Fort Worth Community Credit Union, a 50,000 square foot, two-story building with an eight-lane drive through, for example, there were numerous design changes that had to be made through all views of the model. By having pre-built building objects specific to financial institutions, architects could effectively and quickly incorporate any changes requested by the client. The building objects were easily modified to meet the needs and standards of the surrounding environment, and revisions were reflected consistently throughout the design and documentation set.

"The lobby design was the central point of the building. We designed a glass curtain wall on the exterior of the building, providing high visibility to the outside world. The credit union wanted to use the lobby as an area to place ads, a display room for new cars, sail boats - attractions that would entice new customers," said Batte. It was important that the space be visible to its surrounding high traffic freeway and that it be used to bring in new customers, as well as market merchandise. By using ArchiCAD, McCleary/German's team developed 3D panoramas that showed how different objects in the lobby would appear to the public. This helped bring about greater customer satisfaction, as the client was able to have a clear, visual understanding of how changes to the layout of the lobby would impact its business.

Effective communication flow

ArchiCAD also enabled McCleary/German Architects staff to communicate effectively with sub-contractors, allowing them to demonstrate the building's complex geometries through 3D renderings. However, the software not only provided the firm a competitive advantage with clients and sub-contractors, but is also used as an attractive selling point for new employees. Batte explained, "An increasing number of graduating students do not draft anymore; rather, they use technology to create and model buildings." In a 3D generation, ArchiCAD is intuitive to architectural students, empowering them to model buildings while the software handles documentation. This gives McCleary/German Architects an appeal to potential new employees that even larger firms may not have. With ArchiCAD, any or all team members are involved in visualization to some degree. The construction of a virtual building model is a much more interesting concept than being an architectural draftsperson.

By incorporating ArchiCAD into its business practices, McCleary/German Architects has provided its staff with a tool that supports its own business goals, standards and procedures. "It is advantageous to accomplish more than one task from a piece of software. As a small firm of only 13 people, we are not large enough to have one person dedicated to any part of the design process," said Batte. "We have certain ways we like our drawings to look and our buildings to be detailed a certain way. Our office has many well-documented ways of serving clients to ensure we continue to provide high quality design services. This methodology works well with the ArchiCAD software - it supports our office standards." Ultimately, ArchiCAD has helped the firm deliver to its clients a standard of service through each phase of the design process, ensuring long-term customer satisfaction.