In General

Introduction

Let’s face it, the average Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) firm uses a lot of software. Some programs do one thing amazingly well, while others seem to do a good job at everything, which leads to an overlap in asset capabilities. This post will delve into the various stages of a project, the core applications employed, some forward-looking tools around high-performance and efficiency and how Enscape might fit in. We will also hear from Enscape customers who have shared their success stories with us.

If you already use Enscape, you might discover new opportunities here. Those who have yet to adopt this new technology just might discover the true value gained when using this up-and-coming visualization star in your practice.

 

Architecture Software Workflow

 

Project Acquisition

The marketing efforts required to win the official commission for a new project.

Before a project is awarded, we often must prove to our prospective client that we are capable and worthy of the task. And this, often in a competitive environment, means going up against the other AEC firms.

There are many applications used at this point in a project. The cornerstones are Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.) as well as Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, etc.). Large marketing boards and printed, leave-behind handouts are often created. This material must be clear, concise and delivered on time.

When the opportunity presents itself, using Enscape during the project acquisition phase may help tip the odds in your favor. Not only can Enscape generate great still images for your boards, but it can also be used live – to walk a potential client or selection committee through a previous project – allowing you to immediately respond to questions. This author has seen more than one project where the selection committee required Virtual Reality be demonstrated during the interview. At this interview, would you be able to say that you have used VR on several projects, or is this clearly your first time?

 

Predesign

The data-gathering phase before any design work commences; e.g. the number of employees needed, requirement of an open vs private office, adjacency matrix and FFE needs, etc.

With the project firmly in hand, it is data collection time! This is accomplished using apps ranging from Microsoft Office and dRoufus to Egan Space Planning , to name a few.

Before we can start putting the puzzle (i.e. design) together, we need to define the pieces (i.e. data).

While it may seem like Enscape does not have much application here, there are in fact opportunities. For existing buildings to be remodeled or expanded, not everyone on the design team has an opportunity to visit the site in person. Enscape can be used by the design team to explore the existing building, from a Revit or SketchUp model, in order to become familiar with the facility. This can even be done together with the client if meeting in the architect’s office.

In case of using the “space planning blocks” method, Enscape can be used to show the initial collection of the prepared blocks for being used in the next phase.

 

For design groups that specialize in Healthcare, Education, etc., consider developing typical room configurations to dynamically exploring in Enscape with the client to aid in the better understanding of what they like and don’t like for their building.

 

Typical Room Layout for Visual Listening Sessions

 

Schematic Design

The fluid show-me-some-possible-design-solutions phase. Some elements may not end up working as shown, and others might still be changed or eliminated.

With the pieces of the puzzle in hand, the sketching and modeling can commence! I am a firm believer in hand-sketching – in fact, I wrote two books on just that. Equally as important, but not done very often, is early energy modeling. This is the best time to compare the Energy Use Index (EUI) of various massing and site options. Firms like mine, who have signed on to the American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment are required to do this. Popular tools used at this phase include IES-VE , Trimble Sefaira and Autodesk Insight.

The software used to translate a hand sketch to a model varies from Trimble SketchUp, Autodesk FormIt Pro to Revit & McNeel’s Rhino. The good news is that Enscape works with the three big ones in this list – just not FormIt, at the moment.

An exciting new way to iterate and automate valid design options, based on the given puzzle pieces, is computational design using Autodesk Project Fractal  along with Dynamo Studio. If this is not cool enough, the advent of Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence will surely result in more meaningful and efficient facilities in the very near future.

There are many facets of this phase that can benefit from the use of Enscape. As a designer sitting at their desk, you can see high quality rendered results in real-time while pushing and pulling masses around in Revit, SketchUp or Rhino. Enscape can also be used for internal design charrettes, while using the new Presentation Mode to quickly jump to saved views.

 

As depicted in the following two images, Enscape even has an application in the energy modeling efforts. I have used Enscape to visualize Revit 3D Energy Model to quickly navigate the model looking for any holes or irregularities that might affect the EnergyPlus-based calculations in Insight.

 

im03a
im03b

 

Design Development

A general direction in design has been chosen, and codes and general constructability are refining the proposed solution

As the design begins to formalize, the conceptual massing tools give way to formal documentation tools; namely, Revit. Plus, there are lots of opportunities to complete mundane and repetitive tasks with Dynamo and an array of add-ons. We, as design professionals, have some amazing tools at our disposal these days!

One popular add-on for electrical engineers and architects is ElumTools , which does point-by- point illuminance calculations based on surface reflectance and photometry. Creating an adequately lit space can have a real impact on the general mood and productivity of the staff who spend forty plus hours a week there. For visualization purposes, Enscape also support the photometric data associated with Revit’s luminaire families.

IMAGINiT  and CTC ExpressTools  each have an amazing collection of tools to do everything from creating views to renumbering elements. To explore the many, many more options out there, be sure to check out the Autodesk App Store  and the Revit Add-ons  blog.

Enscape continues to play an important role in the Design Development stage. There are still many areas being developed and material-selections happening. We can use Revit’s Design Options, as I previously wrote about here, to quickly show the client two or more options for the administrative suite, for example. Just having Enscape open while applying materials  can be helpful to get instant contextual feedback. Don’t forget that you can click Enscape’s Pause button to stop instant updates when you know that there are a lot of changes to be made in the model.

If working with external consultants, consider including an Executable Export  version of the project along with the weekly file exchange. This gives others on the team, who may not have Enscape, an opportunity to explore the project and look for things in a totally new and more natural way. Some problems cannot be discovered via clash detection; for example, a microwave needing power, or a toilet room grab bar conflicting with an adjacent window. In a large existing building, I once found a classroom being added to an area where the existing floor stepped down two feet in the middle of the space… the new floor had not even been modeled yet!

 

Construction Documentary

The results of this effort become the legally binding contract from which the project is built. All details must be fully resolved; meaning all elements are specified, documented and buildable. Failure in this important deliverable often costs time and money.

Deep into the building design, at a time when structure and MEP can focus on completing their layouts, as the architects have their design highly resolved, many of the same applications are being used. Additionally, Structural Analysis Software like Nemetschek RISA , Autodesk Robot , Bentley RAM , Bluebeam  or mechanical equipment sizing with Trane Trace 700  are used. Changes are still happening, with some originating from the client as they continue to understand the design and reflect on their business.

In addition to the Enscape-applications already given, consider providing your client 360-degree photosphere  experiences they can view on a computer or in Google Cardboard. This is a great way for them to show their staff and customers, as they begin to motivate and instill excitement in what is often a big change ahead.

The use of Virtual Reality  (VR) is also a great option at this point. Moving a door one foot is essentially free before it is built… but once installed and the client realizes something does not work or look right, then it is a lot more expensive. These sorts of problems can reflect poorly on the design team, even if they had no knowledge or control over the requirements. As I mentioned in a previous post on the subject , offering the client and stakeholders a VR experience can help with buy-in or sign-off of the design at this crucial phase prior to bidding.

 

Construction Administration

The phase in which the project is being built by the contractor and overseen by the designers. Final finishes, such as paint colors, are often selected during this phase.

Once construction starts, there is no slowdown in the use of tools to aid in efficiency and process optimization. Some examples of popular construction management applications are Newforma , Procore , Sage , Solibri  and Bluebeam  to name a few.

During construction, when ASI’s, Change Orders and Proposal Requests are flying around, in some cases, it might be helpful to explore the change in Enscape to make sure there are no unexpected conflicts. If the BIM is being updated, one change might have a negative impact on a previous change, relative to the original bid documents.

In the USA, when using the AIA’s E200-series contracts, the BIM begins to have a value equal to, or even greater than, the printing of final drawings. In cases like this, or when a high-quality Revit model is available to the contractor, it can be really helpful to use Enscape to explore the model. The general contractor can become more familiar with the project during bidding as can the subs during construction.

Another interesting option for VR at this stage of the project is to facilitate a VR experience for your client’s prospective tenants. The client will appreciate the extra help in securing tenants and hopefully remember that when their next project comes around.

Finally, consider tracking questions or “record drawing” changes using Phil Read’s tips and tricks per this post: Context, Comments and QR Codes .

 

Facilities Management

The processes by which the owner uses, protects, cleans, repairs and maintains their building and its assets.

Owners need to keep their building operating efficiently through proactive maintenance and cleaning. There is no shortage of tools in this department – for example, Maximo, Archibus, FM Systems and BIM 360 Ops.

Using Enscape to quickly follow a drainage pipe through the walls and under the floors can save a lot of time when troubleshooting problems. Knowing what finishes will be encountered or whether a ladder will be required to reach a pendent light fixture  that requires service can save a lot of time for the person doing the work.

 

Conclusion

Much of what was just presented in this article is well known to those working in the AEC industry. But considering the whole process, along with various value-add propositions for using Enscape, might lead to better communication, improved deliverables and even increased revenue through extra services.

 

Dan Stine

Dan Stine
He is an Author, Blogger, Educator,
BIM Administrator and Wisconsin registered architect.
He works full-time at LHB – a 250 person full-service design firm.

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