In touch with nature
MorrisBray Architects - Australia
MorrisBray is a medium-sized Australian practise of 23 staff with a 30-year history of delivering innovative projects. Its recent Strand project combines creative design with cost-effective planning and construction methods, to deliver results that blend aesthetic appeal with functionality and Return on Investment.
The service a company provides is only as good as its people and processes; MorrisBray Architects (MBA) have a skilled team with a wide range of experience across a variety of sectors. They have a clearly defined set of processes and procedures supported by the latest software and hardware that together create the foundation from which the MBA team delivers their architectural solutions. A key component of this is Graphisoft ArchiCAD®.
‘Innovation by Design' is integral to their way of thinking and the way the Company operates. "We believe that being creative alone isn't enough; being innovative involves thinking more laterally and building on the latest Best Practice techniques, blending commercial needs with aesthetic design, and exploring how best to solve a creative problem to deliver a solution that has integrity for our team and our clients," said Director, Terry Morris.
The tool that facilitates this innovation is ArchiCAD. MBA have been at the leading edge of CAD design for nearly a decade, and ArchiCAD-immersed for over six of those.
No going back
As part of a continuous improvement philosophy the Company constantly monitors and evaluates new design technology. "Once we had evaluated ArchiCAD and the rich data built into every aspect of the Virtual Building™ there was no looking back," Director, Garry Bray continues. "It was subsequently implemented as the 3D CAD tool of choice. ArchiCAD is now fundamental to the design development process in our office."
Mark Beauman, as Project Leader for The Strand and out on the front line is adamant: "ArchiCAD is permanently etched in our design and documentation procedures, and although we are observant of what other CAD software competitors are producing, we do not see any other CAD package that could replace it!"
MorrisBray creates master planning and building solutions with the ethos that Architecture has an influence on people who see it and use it, and on that basis Director, Terry Morris believes that it is the responsibility of the Architect to constantly strive to create eco-friendly buildings and sustainable urban planning that improve the environment where we live, work and play. "And ArchiCAD assists our team to achieve the level of quality necessary to deliver on this philosophy," Terry says.
A building of significance
Testament to this philosophy is The Strand - a ten-storey residential tower carrying with it a construction price tag of around AU$12 million situated in the growing coastal town of Forster north of Sydney, Australia. The design called for a unique quality solution that would effectively compete with the many similarly-sized residential towers being constructed in Forster - which has been experiencing something of a building boom. The opportunity to set a new architectural standard in Forster was recognised and delivered. The design brings a modern architectural style to the coast while still respecting the beauty of the immediate surroundings and wider environmental context of a town surrounded by beaches and lakes.
The building is composed of a single level of basement car-parking, two-storey podium with single and double-level townhouse units, seven storeys of single-level tower units, and two levels of double-storey penthouse units. The intricate landscaping, designed by Landscape Architects Aspect, provides residents with extensive planters, water features, turfed and paved areas, and a swimming pool. Due the site's high water-table the building was raised out of the ground which threw up the challenge of how to relate the building and landscaping to street level. This was met through the use of stepped planters around its perimeter, and a style of architecture that was highly readable both at a human scale through the podium and as a whole through its strong vertical and horizontal elements - inviting pedestrians to understand the internal functions and planning of the building.
The site has almost 270° views comprising of a beach on the north side and ocean inlet on the west, linking to a beautiful lake on the south and beyond. With some view lines at different levels being blocked by surrounding low-level and high-level developments, the apartments were planned to take advantage of every available view. The typical tower unit plan comprised of three units, two of which have 270° views, and the third with a 180° outlook. All units maintain a northerly aspect for better internal climate control and have large northerly balconies - most units also have southern balconies - encouraging outdoor living that is common to the coastal lifestyle.
The final structure is one that MorrisBray Architects are proud to showcase both as an innovatively designed and well documented building.
The design challenge
ArchiCAD was used throughout The Strand design and documentation phases to facilitate a carefully designed and detailed building. By maintaining the Virtual Building™ model at all stages of the project, MorrisBray were able to spend more time developing the building to a more refined level than they would otherwise have been able to during the design phase, and subsequently could identify and fine-tune details during the construction phase.
"ArchiCAD has become the backbone of our design process," says MBA's Jason McCosker. "While we still believe in using hand sketches during design, the integration of ArchiCAD into the process facilitates a greater level of development for each design option. The ease and accuracy of ArchiCAD to produce these options means design issues can be resolved sooner in the design process rather than later. Each option can be easily planned and modelled simultaneously producing conceptual renderings that can be used in-house to clearly present ideas to fellow colleagues, our clients and other project stakeholders."
"While still maintaining an accurate model that we can totally rely on, we are also able to produce plans and renderings to varying degrees of detail," comments Mark Beauman, Project Leader for The Strand., "Controlling how the detail is presented to clients is imperative to maintaining a ‘stageable' design process in order to achieve the final goal of a design that meets, and often surpasses client requirements."
"The functionality of ArchiCAD enables us to present 3D designs at different stages to our clients and project stakeholders, which is an invaluable communication tool. That MBA utilises ArchiCAD is beneficial to both the MBA team and our clients," continues Director, Terry Morris.
Renderings from concept to final.
Plans from concept to final
"As clients are not architects, having the means to produce a large range of visual presentations helps us greatly to convey our aspirations for the design. These types of presentations are offered as part of the package when presenting our capabilities for potential projects," Mark Beauman explains.
ArchiCAD's working environment and implementation of OpenGL enables MBA designers to virtually manipulate and explore the interior spaces to better understand their qualities. The Finishes can also be changed during these design sessions allowing examination of more finish schemes in a shorter amount of time. Through photo-realistic renderings they are able to finalise the finishes in near-accurate representations of the building.
Although during design the models are conceptual in nature, the Company is still able to maintain a high level of accuracy in the drawings, developing a model that only needs to be further refined rather than redrawn when moving to the next stage of construction documentation. The Strand uses a combination of Detail Windows, Section Windows, Elevation Windows, Hotlinks and TeamWork™ to create a flexible working environment for a documentation team. All these elements allow them to break-up a project into many smaller parts for individual team members to work on while still linking back to one virtual model. Maintaining this link reduces drawing time where changes in one drawing reflect automatically in the plans and elevations/sections of another.
Maintaining the virtual model throughout the construction phase also produces a high level of accuracy in the resulting documentation. Errors in detailing are easily viewed in plan, section, or the 3D model where they can be resolved or refined.
"We encourage all our staff to operate through the 3D model, requiring that staff can not only draw competently but think about the implications of their drawings so that detailing can be finished on the computer, rather than on the construction site." Garry Bray, Director of MorrisBray advocates.
"Intuitive objects also play a major role in our documentation," continues Mark Beauman. "Through objects developed by third parties, and by producing our own intelligent objects, we are able to save time with many repetitive or tiresome tasks. Modelling something as simple as a car park object requires many repetitive tasks, which are now all automated. This means more time can be spent on the design. And naturally, any other object that contains all the steel and aluminium profiles, in both 2D and 3D forms, will be at our fingertips for quick application."
So in MBA's view, overcoming which challenges ensured a successful delivery of this project?
- All clients have high expectations and require many options to be produced before a direction can be decided on. The Strand was no exception. During the early stages the design options were easily produced through conceptual models. When it came to more detailed design drawings, which for example included the internal layouts of bathrooms, we were still able to produce options in quick succession while continuing to sustain a high level of detail. By moving a wall in the plan we were able to simultaneously update the buildings elevations, sections and 3D model.
- The Strand had a hugely challenging Floor Space Council control which had to be measured and checked at all times. By maintaining the virtual model we were able to simultaneously change areas, walls, floors, roofs, bathrooms, etc at the same time updating them not only in plan but also in 3D, which subsequently changed in sections and elevations. This saves a lot of manual labour when exploring many different options that would otherwise become a tiresome job either through hand sketches or in more traditional CAD packages.
- The job was documented during a busy period in the office with documenters moving on and off the project throughout the project's life. The virtual model was produced in one file, but through ArchiCAD could be split down into more manageable parts through different windows, such as plan windows, detail windows and section windows. Through TeamWork, different users were able to easily sign into a project and identify which detail or plan they were assigned to work on without needing to have a comprehensive knowledge of the building. While signed in they could only work on the area they were assigned to yet they could view any other part of the project at the same. This proved to be a great quality control measure and facilitated a very flexible team environment.
- Due to time restrictions we had an external perspective artist create the photo-montages for the submission to gain Council approval. With the Virtual Building, we already had a 3D model so were able to reduce fees for the perspective artist as they could directly import our model into their software to use their own rendering engine. We frequently use this method when time becomes an issue.
- With an external on-site project manager appointed to the job and with the building not being within easy travel distance from our office, a very accurate and detailed documentation package was required. For this reason the virtual model was maintained through the whole documentation process while limiting the amount of 2D documentation. Through the virtual model we were able to identify and refine junctions of both structure and finishes. The entire structure system was drawn in 3D according to structural drawings. Through this we were easily able to identify problems early on in the project and give the structural engineer clear directions as to what changes were required. This was particularly useful with the raised podium level, which had many steps in the slab to support the different components of the building like the pool, planters, stairs, and building columns above.
- There was a high level of detail in the model; an example of this would be the roof. Although not seen to be complicated from the perspectives the roof was a complicated concrete form that had many subtle falls. It was designed and modelled in 3D very early on in the project and, because of its initial accuracy; it did not need to be changed for the rest of the documentation process. Our intention for the roof could also clearly be shown to the hydraulics engineer through plans, sections, and elevations generated from the virtual model.
- By also modelling every wall, slab, and roof type we could clearly detect areas that required further detail. Junctions that could not be modelled correctly in ArchiCAD generally meant it would also be a problem in construction and so led us to either change the junctions or apply special attention to the area. Viewing every junction in 3D has maintained a high level of quality control for the project and facilitated an accurate and detailed documentation package.
Mark Beauman, Project Leader for The Strand at MorrisBray Architects, Australia