Architectural firm Iglesias Leenders Bylois Architects (ILB Architects) has begun to incorporate the use of building information modeling (BIM). The greatest advocate is architect Meindert Leenders, who believes every architectural office should be working with BIM:
“It doesn’t need to be a big project. Take an actual case, set yourself a few achievable goals, and try to work them out in BIM." ILB chose 'Bergerheide' as a trial: a project consisting of three park villas, designed in collaboration with the construction company Dethier. The rules for collaboration were clearly set out by project director Vlaanderen Bouwt vzw, providing the architects a sturdy framework for experimenting with BIM.
Meeting Sustainable Requirements with BIM
ILB Architects take a very personal approach to their projects, whether it concerns public buildings, office buildings, industrial buildings, housing projects, the construction and renovation of individual homes, or the design of a public domain.
“ILB always gives its customers what they want, but not necessarily what they expect,” Leenders said.
To achieve this goal, the firm systematically oversees every aspect of the work, down to the very last detail. The simplicity of the concept and the pursuit of creative and economically sustainable solutions always serve as the starting points. “We try to make something beautiful and innovative every time, without resorting to excessive experimentation," Leenders said.
This approach has benefited the firm on several occasions when pitching to win projects, including the “Bergerheide” housing project. The requirements had already been drawn up according to the special planning scheme “Green Living,” which focuses on living in sustainable and resilient spaces. ILB focused on delivering a sustainable solution, part of which is encompassed by the design of green roofs for the parking garages.
“They are all NZEB-apartments (nearly zero-energy buildings), so they are efficient in terms of energy use," Leenders explained. “In addition, we have chosen to give the building a distinctive spatial quality, whereby the terraces are deliberately placed on the corners, so that each apartment has a double aspect to provide enhanced ventilation, natural sunlight, and flexibility on the part of the tenants."
Choosing Vectorworks Architect for BIM
ILB has tried other design programs over the years. "So far, we’ve found Vectorworks to be the best. The program is intuitive and flexible,” Leenders said. “Vectorworks allows us to quickly communicate personalized designs to our various construction partners.”
He emphasized an additional advantage — that Vectorworks allows you to work in both 2D and 3D. “Vectorworks allows you to make changes in 2D even after you’ve started your 3D design. Other programs won’t let you do that,” he said.
During the BIM implementation process, Leenders also noticed that the initial resistance expressed by his colleagues quickly faded away.
“When considering BIM, many people only think of Open BIM, the exchange of IFC files, and editing the 3D design itself. But it’s much more than that." Leenders believes that people often forget BIM’s full scope and that internal processes and goals become more efficient with coordinated schedules, worksheets, take-offs, and even title block borders and drawings — all these components are a part of BIM.
“The BIM tools in Vectorworks let me design efficiently and with flexibility, ensuring a more productive collaboration process,” Leenders explained. “Plus, colleagues who wish to transition to 3D can still contribute to the design process because the software is built for accommodating a mix of 2D and 3D workflows. They can focus on the 2D aspect, draw up spatial elements, or complete the facades."
Another important BIM aspect for ILB is the ability to generate sections directly from the 3D model. According to Leenders, the only thing architects have to be aware of is the urge to include too much detail.
“Many architects want to draw everything — every spindle in a balustrade, every possible potted plant, etc. Often, even the interior is included within the design. This, of course, is unnecessary and makes the file very large. Basically, BIM enables you to control the story you are trying to tell and to capture its essence in 3D."
Troubleshooting IFC Exports
ILB learned a helpful lesson when exporting their model to IFC. An issue arose where they were too detailed to the point of not adding much more to the collaboration process.
For example, the architects drew a recess in the wall where ventilation was to be provided — every post and lintel was shown, as well as all exposed concrete plinths.
“Of course, as an architect, you have to add sufficient detail, but our export was almost identical to the production drawings, which in fact did not really add to the usability of the export,” Leenders said.
As soon as the architects were able to control the level of detail, they did a few successful exchange tests with engineering firms, leading Dethier, the construction company, to be impressed with the IFC export.
“They applied different queries, generated masonry blocks in the file and used the model, for example, to create the reinforcement plans more quickly," Leenders said.
BIM Efficiencies Galore
Initially, BIM required some additional up-front work to develop a repeatable system, but in the end, the investment always pays off, according to Leenders.
"Apart from the fact that you can resolve problems even before they arise, you can also extract a lot of data from the 3D model,” he said. “Last week, for example, we had to make a window schedule for all three blocks. Those windows were accurate down to the last millimeter. We had to map more than two hundred windows and it was done in an afternoon. Try doing that in 2D… It’ll take you a week."
His experience working on the Bergerheide project made Leenders even more convinced of the BIM capabilities of Vectorworks. “BIM is a means to an end, but never the end in itself, even though the other packages seem to suggest that," he advised. “To start using BIM, you just have to set yourself a few goals. Take an actual case, something small, and try putting that into BIM. The sooner you make a start, the better."