BIM for Landscape Architecture: How Ares Uses Vectorworks

BIM for Landscape Architecture: How Ares Uses Vectorworks

The landscape architecture industry’s recent movement to standardize BIM workflows is a transition quite similar to its former move from hand drawings to CAD drafting. Now with BIM, landscape architects can work more closely with fellow architects, engineers, and other external collaborators on projects with structural and civil requirements. Adopting a new workflow to accommodate partners who use BIM regularly, however, isn't always a walk in the park.

For one, not all landscape-specific software options are capable of doing BIM, and not all BIM software options are purpose-built for the landscape architect. Landscape architects often use an array of different software programs to append data to their models. Then, there’s the learning curve itself: successfully implementing BIM workflows takes time, time at the cost of project efficiency.

Vectorworks Landmark is the solution. While much of the landscape architecture software currently available hasn’t integrated BIM workflows, Vectorworks Landmark has. Data is crucial to design. That’s why Landmark lets you make informed design decisions with live data visualization of slope analysis, water budgets, solar animations, and more. All of the data is in one easy-to-access interface.

Vectorworks Landmark. Image courtesy of Vectorworks

Meet Ares Landscape Architects Ltd

Ares Landscape Architects Ltd mandates quality in all areas of their practice, starting with the quality of their employees. Led by Directors Ricardo and Ania Ares, the firm is comprised of 20+ members who, at a minimum, hold a postgraduate qualification in Landscape Architecture. Ares's experienced team members offer consultancy services in all areas of landscape architecture throughout the UK; leading and facilitating landscape design, feasibility studies, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments, site planning, contract administration, modeling, and community project consultation.

In 2016, the UK government mandated adoption of the BIM Level 2 framework on all public projects; this requirement had a direct impact on the firm’s work in the public realm, particularly on the education sector. Since they serve clients in this particular sector, Ares Landscape Architects knew they needed a software program that creates models with associated data — easily shareable in a 3D environment — with other construction disciplines. The opportunity to experiment with a new workflow to meet these requirements presented itself when they were appointed to work on a number of different projects such as the Nottingham College City Hub project, a new educational facility in Nottingham City Centre.

Nottingham City Hub. Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.

Merging Past and Future

Nottingham College is the result of joining two preexisting colleges, New College Nottingham and Central College Nottingham, developed as part of the regeneration efforts of the Nottingham City Centre. Envisioned for both college students and the community to enjoy, the new proposed City Hub is in close proximity to Nottingham’s public transport system, rail network, and the wider city’s green infrastructure. However, the constrained site needed to account for existing buildings and transport infrastructure, along with the proposed surrounding regeneration projects. They also encountered problems related to the landscape over structure, as well as site conditions overall. Additionally, as part of their BIM requirements, the firm needed to collaborate with the wider design team both efficiently and effectively.

In order to achieve BIM Level 2 requirements — and to reach their target completion date of May 2020 — Ares used Vectorworks Landmark to facilitate the delivery of the project’s BIM execution plan (BEP). According to Sam Bailey, senior landscape architect and BIM coordinator at Ares, using Landmark helped “speed up the time needed for project drafting and data reporting since the two processes are integrated, while providing useful information for other parties involved.” Although they were interfacing with collaborators using different software programs, Bailey claims that “IFC became the common denominator” and by defining BIM requirements out of the gate, the firm could clearly state expectations tied to the IFC models. “We were loading drawings with intelligent and quantifiable information,” said Bailey. “It was really useful.”

Another useful time-saving step was setting classes in the Vectorworks file to predefine objects’ attributes during the early stages of the project. “It speeds up the drafting process and takes a lot of the thinking out of it,” Bailey explained. In fact, Ares is currently developing templates that are available across their different office locations as a training tool for junior employees who may be new to working in BIM.

Nottingham City Hub. Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.

From 2D to 3D

For the Nottingham City Hub, Ares fully embraced the integrated 2D to 3D functionality of Vectorworks. Using features such as the Hardscape tool, the 3D Polygon tool, and the Plant tool, Bailey could easily draw, adjust, edit, and replace elements of the model as needed. He could also edit the look of the graphical representation by a simple click of a button, which automatically changes the information attached.

“All of the information is embedded in the object,” Bailey said. “If something should change, such as a plant species, it can be replaced easily.” That same information can then be seamlessly transferred to a worksheet, which Bailey has used for things such as plant schedules, clearly laid out in a table that immediately updates as needed.

And for landscape architects who would rather input plant information manually, that option is also available. Bailey and his colleagues can attach data such as the plant’s Latin name, common name, and anything else the designer or the contractor may need.  

Import/Export Made Easy 

In their plans to include a roof terrace to the Nottingham City Hub project, Bailey was able to easily change elevations through design layers, and export it just as easily as one model with those proper elevations left intact. For coordinating with the project architects in particular, the ability to specify stories in this nature was invaluable.

In a different phase of the project, Ares needed an export option to send files that can be read by other software programs. Nottingham College required COBie data and a Federated Model for their records; the firm was able to submit this information. By using the Object Information palette (OIP) in Vectorworks, Ares can edit IFC data to ensure it matches the COBie information as required by multiple parties, including Information Managers across the site, the architects on the project, and the firm’s own landscape architects.

Nottingham City Hub. Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.

Forerunners of the BIM Arena

Ares Landscape Architects was able to meet a government requirement while simultaneously becoming a pioneer in the growing arena of BIM for landscape architecture. Through several helpful toolsets from Vectorworks Landmark, Ares significantly streamlined their workflow with a singular, all-in-one solution. As demonstrated through their work with conceptualizing and planning Nottingham City Hub, Ares proved that integrating BIM is not only possible to achieve expected results, but also has the potential to make a lasting impact on the field, thanks to Vectorworks Landmark.

Need further convincing to add BIM to your workflow? Explore our BIM for Landscape page and try Vectorworks free for 30 days.

About this author
Cite: Megan Schires. "BIM for Landscape Architecture: How Ares Uses Vectorworks" 07 Oct 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.