Architects set to build on global technology success

Architects set to build on global technology success

13th November 2013


ARCHITECTS at the forefront of technology that is redefining a profession have been rewarded for their efforts after winning global acclaim for their vision.

On the same day as North East-based Niven Architects celebrated success in an international technological challenge they also gained major exposure at a global conference looking at the future of building design and delivery.

Working with the Teesside University’s Knowledge Transfer Programme the Darlington practice has secured its reputation as being at the cutting edge of BIM – Building Information Modelling.

BIM uses state of the art computer software to provide a single set of three dimensional plans for building schemes of all sizes. In the construction industry it is pioneering in its approach to design.

The system offers one electronic point of reference containing vital information for the many contractors working on a scheme, ranging from wall sockets to wiring ducts, drainage, materials and dimensions.

The BIM model sits in the cloud and is accessible via the internet replacing conventional plans and computer aided design and because the model contains all relevant details on the scheme it allows for more accurate costs, helps with ordering materials and results in less waste.

Niven’s BIM manager Johnathan Munkley led a team in the international contest Build Sydney Live 2013, which attracted leading experts from Germany, USA, Singapore, Vietnam and Latvia.

Hosted by international companies Open BIM and Asite, from a boat in Sydney Harbour, more than 40 experts had 48 hours to design an international conference centre.

Team Niven comprised practice staff and colleagues from England and Australia and included Shepherd Construction, Cundall, Real Visual, Summers Inman, Rapid 5D, BIM Campus, Spatial Designers, LT STudio and Teesside University’s Construction Innovation Department, along with undergraduate interior architects.

Their round-the-clock efforts saw them take the award for Best Use of BIM for Sustainability and Constructability. The success also led to two of the team, who had just graduated, securing jobs.

“We went through a process in just 48 hours that would normally take two years,” said Johnathan, of Billingham

“It was like conducting an orchestra and it worked perfectly. The plans ran to 970 documents, including mechanical, engineering, electrical, interior design and landscaping. I was humbled by how hard the team worked and the result was a virtual conference centre that was completely viable, an incredible feat.”

At the same time Niven director Simon Crowe was in London where the practice was the main sponsor of the Construction Virtual Reality Conference, which attracted leading authorities from around the world including America, Russia, Pakistan and Australia.

“This was a conference for the key people who speak at conferences around the world; the individuals who write the definitive textbooks and write the industry software,” said Simon.

“We were part of something which is advancing the construction industry to a point where it is unrecognisable, which is redefining how we think and act and where the technology sounds like something from Star Trek but exists today.”

BIM takes a ‘cradle to the grave’ approach to construction and allows every part needed in a building project to be electronically tagged allowing for more efficient maintenance as it makes future repairs and replacement much easier.

It allows building managers to locate the main services, such as steelwork, cables and pipes without tearing down the walls.

Very soon it will be linked to GPS technology which will allow surveyors to pinpoint issues behind the plaster using their tablets.

Advances in 3D printing and robotics will also see buildings constructed from constituents ‘dusts’ and put together by robo-copters that can work in all weathers.

“The technology is mind-blowing and the speed of development is staggering,” said Simon. “By the end of next year our projects will all be developed using 3D BIM and I can see a time very soon when we will be working in holographics.

“An architect’s drawing board used to be for life, now we have a yearly rolling replacement IT programme. The technological advances are going to happen, there is no stopping them and we are delighted to be in the vanguard of this amazing development.”

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