Vectorworks Spotlight Case Study: Stagestruck

Vectorworks Spotlight

This is an abridged version of the original case study by VectorworksView the original

Stagestruck started as a technical production company but quickly developed into a full-service agency, mostly serving the corporate events market. With 80 full-time team members, the firm coordinates everything themselves, including concept, design, documentation, and production.

“There are a number of different people involved in any design process we undertake,” said Tom Cordory, head of technical project management at Stagestruck. “We have a team of event producers and technical production managers. Then we have our design team, set construction team, technical team, and content team. We work together through the end to end process from initial design through to delivery.”

Among the different teams, 20-25 of Stagestruck’s employees used a mix of different CAD software: primarily AutoCAD, along with Revit, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, and SketchUp. However, as their business grew, the firm realised they needed an all-in-one program to better suit their collaboration needs and to streamline their workflow.

They decided to make the switch to Vectorworks.

“We’re still very much in the implementation, learning, and development phases” said Cordory. “At the moment, we’re in the crossover between AutoCAD into Vectorworks.”

 

Image courtesy of Stagestruck.

Behind the Switch 

“The whole process started when we were looking to switch over to a 3D package,” Cordory said. “We’d been working mostly in 2D AutoCAD and creating separate plan and elevation drawings, and that process seemed a little bit silly to us to just be working 2D. It also opened the door for errors.”

Previously, if they updated an elevation drawing and not the plan document, or vice versa, they could potentially run into problems with their drawings. They needed to find a new 3D package.

“We did quite a lot of comparisons and testing between Vectorworks and Revit, because, obviously, moving from AutoCAD onto Revit is quite a simple process because it has a very similar workflow” Cordory said. “It was almost creating a checklist to say, okay, what can Revit do? What can Vectorworks do? What’s the comparison?”

From the results of this structured vetting process, Vectorworks appeared to be on par with Revit for everything Stagestruck needed, in terms of working from 2D to 3D, so once they started to work more intimately with the software, they were quite comfortable making the switch.

“The beauty of Vectorworks is a much more collaborative approach between the technical production managers, the designers, and the set construction elements of what we do,” he said. “We can all work within the same package and still be able to see everything in 3D.”

Stagestruck transitioned via staged rollout.

“Initially, we took the core team, about eight of us, who we knew would pick the software up easily, and tasked them to develop our in-house stock library and our in-house work group library. And we put them all through a training course here,” said Cordory. “We then gave that group time to learn a little bit more, to get hands-on with it, and to start developing the best working processes for our ways of working.”

The firm also invested in several training sessions with the Vectorworks UK office and has more planned for the future. Once employees gained more experience, they planned to incorporate internal training processes as well.

Moving to Spotlight

Throughout their rollout and training process, the various teams at Stagestruck came across several different features they found quite helpful. One of these was point cloud objects.

“The point cloud integration is absolutely brilliant” said Cordory. “We can scan a venue, then produce a 3D point cloud which can be taken directly into Vectorworks; it’s absolutely brilliant for us. It’s those tools that just make everything quicker, easier and more accurate to produce. It’s a lot easier for us to calculate lens throws, compared to anything we were doing in AutoCAD where it was a more manual process.”

Automated reports saved them even more time, allowing quick communication across various teams. In one example, Cordory discussed passing along the necessary number of stage weights from the design team to the set department, then to the production management team responsible for setting up the final event.

“In all, it’s valuable being able to work in one drawing, being able to check parts in and out so different departments can check out different elements and know that we can work on the same drawing at once,” said Cordory. “Essentially, you’re not waiting on someone to finish their edits before someone else can start working on their element. It seems to work really well for us.”

Cordory went into further detail as to how this new workflow compares to what they had been dealing with previously.

Image courtesy of Stagestruck.

“Now, we’re not creating something in 3ds Max and then creating it again in AutoCAD. We’re not creating something in SketchUp and having to recreate it in AutoCAD. It’s very much a more streamlined process,” he explained. “The fact that we draw something once and then we’re able to get everything we need out of it, whether that be technical plans, 3D renders, sketches or output documents — I think that’s going to be the biggest time saver for us.”

Future Directions

“It’s very much been a smooth process — definitely been faster as a transition than we thought it would be,” he said. “We thought we would be six months into this year before we got to the point where had our libraries at a suitable standard that we were happy with, and had everybody trained and happy to use it. But, already three months in, we had already decided not to start any new projects in AutoCAD and just work straight into Vectorworks. So, that kind of shows how easy it is to learn, and the fact that we were able to adapt and change so quickly is great for us.”

They’ve been so quick to adapt that the firm is already looking into trying some of the newer features in the software, such as the algorithmic modelling tool, Marionette.

“We’ve already started to develop a number of custom objects that allow us to have adaptable stock objects, so you just drop it in the object and then we can choose certain things that happen with them. That’s a really big timesaver for us,” said Cordory. “We’re not having to build individual components and change things. We can just have a single backdrop within and then select from the menu how we want it to appear and what’s going to happen with it. It’s a really good feature, one we’re going to keep exploring. We’ve already got four or five other things that we want to start programming. It’s really powerful, really, really powerful.”

In a similar vein, as an events-focused firm, Stagestruck has also started exploring Braceworks and how it can be integrated into their new workflow.

“Braceworks is going to come in our next phase of the rollout — meaning, how we’re actually going to be implementing Braceworks and using that more as a technical planning element. The design team will be more focused on learning more about the modelling and the rendering capabilities.”

Opening Doors Via Vectorworks 

When asked what advice he would give to other firms considering making the switch to Vectorworks, Cordory suggested keeping a structured, solid plan. By presenting this new software with a staged rollout, Stagestruck could maintain productivity for active projects while keeping their options open for future projects they’d like to plan completely in Vectorworks.

“The switch is opening up a lot of doors,” said Cordory. “I think it’s quite exciting for us as a business to know there’s a lot of potential for us to get more out of the software and to grow how we’re working proactively. It’s exciting. We’re excited about it. It’s not very often you get excited about a piece of software.”

Vectorworks is available now at CAD Software Direct.

2D to BIM Case Study – Assael Architecture

Vectorworks Case Study

This is an abridged version of the original case study by Vectorworks. View the original

Assael Architecture started with humble beginnings. Two staff members grew into an award-winning practice comprising several teams, directors, associate directors, and managers. With over 20 years of expertise in the design of mixed-use, residential-led developments in large, urban areas, the practice primarily works in major cities throughout the UK and is expanding its international presence with projects in Russia, Bahrain, and Germany.

A new project — Pontoon Dock — proved the perfect opportunity for the company to put its Building Information Modeling (BIM) planning and coordination into practice.

The Problem

The proposal is a landmark “Build to Rent” development comprising three buildings with heights ranging between five and 14 storeys, with 154 private rented apartments and 82 affordable homes, in response to Greater London’s housing shortage.

Assael’s major design challenge was balancing the build density on the constrained site, which sits between a viaduct outside Pontoon Dock DLR Station and the Thames Barrier Park.

The Plan

The Assael team sets out a project execution plan scaled to match the size of each project. “We work with the clients to make sure they understand the standards of the program we are working to,” explained Simon Pitt, one of the directors at Assael. “We allocate resources on a weekly and monthly basis to make sure that the key project tasks of the program are being met, while saving time and unnecessary expenses.”

With this in mind, the practice structured its project workflow to follow a workable and proven routine:

  • Assael issued the architectural model near the end of the week (Friday).
  • The MEP and structural engineers had a few days to download the architectural model and update any changes to their own models, uploading their own IFC files the following week (Tuesday).
  • Assael downloaded these models, combined the discipline models together, and performed clash detection with Solibri Model Checker. The resulting federated model was issued with PDF reports within 24 hours (Wednesday).
  • The federated combined digital model is reviewed at the fortnightly DTM (design team meeting). All design coordination prior to the DTM would be done via a web-based communication tool called BIMcollab.

This process was repeated in two-week cycles until the model was finalised. This systematising of information and model exchange worked well, and the Pontoon Dock project was the first of Assael’s to reach BIM Level 2 collaboration.

 

 

Assael was committed to constant communication, coordination, and negotiation to ensure all parties were presented with a consistent view of the project status. “We all had to sit around the table and look at the execution plan, the timeline, the model, the model exchanges, and the time for federating the model,” said Ben Lam, BIM manager and associate at Assael.

 

 

“We definitely spent a lot of time getting the model right and not just concentrating on 2D information, even though the contractors and consultants rely heavily on 2D data,” said Lam. Focusing on 3D modeling was important for the Assael team to reach their goals and allowed the firm to share not only the model, but also 2D information more easily.

“Getting the model right and spending more time at the beginning has really reaped rewards,” said Pitt. “And using Vectorworks allows us to generate the 2D information a lot quicker than we could before, especially when we consider the repeated updating and refining of the design.”

The Results

To meet the BIM Level 2 mandate, Assael had its own workflow adjustments to absorb. According to Lam, Vectorworks played a big role in this transition.

“It was quite a natural progression from using Vectorworks to get into BIM because we have always used Vectorworks’ intelligent objects like walls, windows, and doors, but we had never taken advantage of the fact that they were creating 3D BIM objects already,” he said. “I think our users have come to realise they’re creating BIM models without having to dramatically change the way they work. They’re starting to see the benefit of actually generating a proper model from which they are generating 2D information and how effective that can really be.”

The software also simplified the number of steps taken to reach major milestones in projects. In particular, Renderworks one of many features that’s proved to be a game changer.

“It’s a complete necessity here because we use rendering a lot for our elevations,” said Lam. “Without Renderworks, we just would not get the correct look and feel to our elevations and the associated information. With many of our material renders, for example, the light resources and the shadowing are very important for elevations. So, no matter what changes we do for the model, the renderings for the elevations come up just the way we like them to.”

Moving completely to BIM has also transformed the firm’s design process overall.

“In four to five years, projects that go from initial capacity study through to planning are now done as BIM models,” said Lam. “Everyone uses the 3D aspect much more than they used to; they have become more proficient in using 3D as part of the BIM process.”

He emphasised the importance of working completely in 3D.

“In the UK, a massive part of the design process for any project is gaining planning permission,” Pitt explained. “A vital part of our work is ensuring that we get the information right to present to planning committees, planning authorities, and the general public. When we moved towards BIM Level 2 using Vectorworks, we also needed to make sure the quality of our work didn’t drop or was compromised in any way. The fact that our existing workflow could be adapted quickly really helped in the transition.”

For Assael Architecture, the switch to BIM Level 2 compliance has been very effective, and the results of the Pontoon Dock project, along with many others, has set the firm up to continue on the path to a productive and promising future.

“We’ve developed our skills in 3D to develop BIM, and everyone is more proficient now in the way they use Vectorworks,” said Lam. “So, it’s been a natural progression between what we were using primarily as a 2D tool, for sections and elevations and plans, to develop that to 3D information that was already there but not being utilised.”

By fully utilising 3D, creating a BIM execution plan, and learning how to successfully conduct an openBIM workflow process with engineers, Assael will continue building future homes — and building its practice — for many years to come.

 

All Images © Assael Architecture