Leveraging 3D Software Throughout Our Remodel

Given the wet weather in Los Gatos, we took some time to update our static pages describing the project.  We created renderings of certain rooms and views using the picture-taking functionality in the architectural design software that we have been using (Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD v12).

Let’s go back in time to April 2008 …

Prior to starting this project, we evaluated the three-dimensional software that architects use when designing buildings.  After much analysis, we concluded that Graphisoft had the most comprehensive, integrated suite of software tools for designing buildings and structures in 3D.  Thus, one of our selection criteria for architects was the software that they used.

We interviewed 13 architects for our project and found a wide divergence in their use of software and other productivity tools.  At one end of the spectrum were those that used pencils and paper, to the other end with full use of 3D software.  No surprise.

Our objective included using software to build a complete ‘model’ of the house in 3D prior to breaking ground.  We believe that proper design and planning with a 3D model will help with a robust design and avoid design conflicts in order to reduce change orders during the actual construction.  As well, we wanted to be able to complete ‘sun studies’ in our passive solar design, knowing what roof overhangs were required to reduce the cooling and heating loads on our house. 

In terms of the architects using leading software, we were surprised to find that some architects used lower versions of ArchiCAD and were not within N-1 of the latest release.  One of these architects offered to migrate to a more recent version on our project.  Not. 

Another architect, unknown to us, used a third party service to perform all of the development of the model in ArchiCAD v11.  We thought that he had these capabilities in house and he was fully conversant with the software. 

Although ArchiCAD can run on both Apple or Windows-based hardware platforms, every architect that we spoke with used Apple as a platform.  Wanting to avoid problems going across platforms, we decided to invest in a new Apple iMAC to run ArchiCAD.

Having the same hardware and software platform as our architect allowed us to ‘see’ the model as it was developed and understand the design issues we were facing. 

After moving into the Construction Documents phase, using the 3D software became much more involved and important.  Being able to view the 3D model as it changed each day made reviewing the changes and communicating our requirements to John Rider (Jrider+Design) much easier and faster.  Also, having the same software and having John pass the model to us each day allowed us to work remotely over the telephone so it was faster and easier to collaborate on the design details.

Importantly, John Rider used version 11 for several months after Graphisoft released version 12 and then John upgraded to version 12.  We believe that architects and designers should be within one release of the most recent version of the software they are using.

An important requirement with our design and engineering team was to work electronically.  With ArchiCAD, John could export DWG files (in any flavor) to our engineers and import DWGs from those engineers.  Importing and exporting DWGs allowed us to ensure the structure was consistant across our design team and allowed that team to collaborate and integrate their individual components.

From a visual perspective, and to illustrate how powerful ArchiCAD is, we took ‘photos’ of the renderings and used those on our static pages.  The static pages with renderings include the following:

>>> Project Overview
         >>>  House Plans
                   >>> Main Level Remodel
                   >>> New Lower Level
         >>>  Integrating Design Elements with Resource Efficiency
         >>>  Project Timeline

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