What's the Big Deal with the Bid Phase?

The bidding phase, also know as the procurement phase, is sometimes forgotten as one of the most important phases in your project process. While the drawings will illustrate the scope of work. The bidding phase will help establish terms and conditions for the scope of work. This phase is necessary to help mitigate head butting down the road when conflict arises. 

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Our Design Process: Historic Residential Addition

With our busiest time of year quickly approaching, I've had many friends ask about our services and our design process. I thought that now would be a great time to share our process work for a residential addition we are currently working on in a historic district in South Louisiana. 

With a "wish-list" and a budget, we can begin planning your project. We know that budgets are made for a reason but a small upfront investment in thought and planning can pay for itself several times over by increasing final value of a property and finding problems before contractors are mobilized and products are ordered. As architects, we can streamline this process and know the tricks to maximize your return down the road. The following images and paragraphs below describe our planning process for this particular project.

Existing home front view

Existing home front view

The 2,800 square foot home was built in 1920 as a craftsman bungalow style home. Around 1980, its previous owners renovated the home and changed the character of the home with traditional Creole cottage detailing. The current owners want an addition that is both respectful to the historic neighborhood, and the current Creole cottage architectural style. Their wish list consisted of a master suite and art studio on the first floor and a bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. 

Step 1: After spending some time measuring the property inside and out, we began by creating schematic massing studies and developing plan options. We spend time measuring and modeling the existing building to make sure the scale and proportions of our design for the addition are right on. 

As you may expect, a home addition can take various forms and shapes.  In the examples below, we have narrowed down our studies to three options showing different architectural languages and statements. These were presented to our clients not as final product but just to steer our work in a direction that both of us will ultimately be happy with.

Step 2: The second round of design work requires more refinement. In this study, we wanted to present two strong design alternatives to develop. This first option we developed was the integrated option; we called it the "Cascading Creole" because the roof line cascades from main building down to the secondary buildings, borrowing strong references to traditional creole architecture. The second option developed was called the Farmhouse Wing because of its large form, more equal to the original structure in size, and because of its wrap-around porch and geometry referencing a rural farmhouse. 

Step 3: During the Design Development phase, we lock in the plan that translate to the massing model. There are a ton of decisions that get made by the architect during design, for example with this house in particular, we were challenged by a low pitch of the existing roof line that we needed to tie into to increase the living space in the built-out attic. We check in with our clients to help us make decisions because at the end of the day, they need to be 100% happy with the design of the home.

The next phase of our services requires a little less attention from our clients. Once the design is more or less locked in, we can start detailing the home with all the little things that reinforce the design we end up with, and making sure the final product falls in line with any beautiful drawings we've produced!

Final Design Development Rendering of Addition

Final Design Development Rendering of Addition

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The Bat Signal Construction Drawing

One of the adjustments to make when using BIM for drawing production after years of AutoCAD is remembering that you have all of this information in three dimensions at your fingertips, if things are modeled correctly.  Gone are the days of switching to ISO mode and redrawing a detail with 3 locked axes, which just describing is making me both sleepy and angry.

Little axos were used often to show corner conditions or transitions when 2D got too crowded or just didn't cut it.  Though time consuming, they were often my favorite details, and contractors' as well, because of the instant communication of an idea that might have taken 3-4 convoluted 2D details to convey, or 15 minutes of a meeting.

Integrating these into your construction drawings in BIM is stupidly easy and affords all kinds of increased creativity in showing how things go together.  One of my favorite methods is what I've taken to calling the "Bat Signal" method.  You're familiar with the concept of the Bat Signal, unless your only experience with Batman is with the more recent, heavily emo iteration of the Dark Knight.  If so, Google Adam West and lighten up; and also, see below:

Bat signal, circa 1970

Bat signal, circa 1970

One problem with the old CAD axo method, and with industry standard construction drawings, is - how do you callout a 3D detail on a 2D plan or section?  Section markers don't cut it and callout bubbles can work but the connection can be lost between the larger and smaller scales, especially if the detail is on a separate page.

Enter the 3d callout, Bat Signal Method:

Holy Parameters, Batman!

Holy Parameters, Batman!

Simply constructed with two frameless views and some detail lines directly on the sheet, this arrangement solves several visual communication problems at once.  And once you use this a few times, you start realizing how many places you can use this to demonstrate complex intersections.  And you start getting encouraged to model these correctly to create useful diagrams.  It's a self-perpetuating cycle that encourages 3D thinking all around.

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Participate in the BIM Conversation

One thing we hear a lot from designers is something along the lines of: “Why should we use Revit?  We’re a design-focused firm, and we like our current methods; they’re not perfect but they work.”  It’s another version of the “devil you know” argument.  A key headache for a long time in computer-aided design has been the switch from Free-thinking & Flexibility to Lockdown & Documentation.  There are many different programs of choice that offer the ability to create swoopy forms, export beautiful atmospheric renderings and respond well to the designer’s need to tweak to his/her heart’s content.

And then, much to some poor intern’s chagrin, it’s time to create real plans, elevations and sections.  Anyone who has spent any time doing this knows that translating from a modelling program to CAD can be a new, lower circle of hell.  And the management usually understands that the process takes some production muscle and late nights, but usually with just a dim understanding of why, and to some the transition process may appear to go something like this:  

Everyone knows that process is clearly flawed, but it’s a known quantity; making the switch to BIM is unknown territory, or worse, it has been attempted before at a large cost and was marginally or not-at-all successful.

Sticking with an imperfect but familiar process may get the job done, but there is a real loss in translation, and that is the loss of the 3rd dimension.  Your work is reduced to slices of just those areas that you have deemed important enough to translate into a construction detail.  And if you are collaborating with other team members and providing backgrounds, you could be further reducing your project to others’ interpretation of what areas are important enough to necessitate a construction detail.

This can be especially problematic if you are not in direct control of the conversations with clients and contractors, who are increasingly fluent in, and proponents of, BIM.  The value you’ve developed in your process from the design phase of the job is taking hits from decisions being made by others for coordination or cost reasons because that value is either not represented, or it’s not clear that those decisions have consequences that detract from the value.

If you’re not a part of that conversation, participating in a well-run BIM process puts you in that conversation.  The more of your own critical elements you can be responsible for and monitor, the better and sooner you can defend them from conflicting forces.  A virtual building process brings that conversation that used to happen while standing on a job site with a concrete truck waiting to pour, to a conference room, or better yet to an email nine months earlier saying, “Hey, can we do/not do this?”

This is why it's been worth the battle to transition to BIM, but that battle has been fought and learned from many times, and is getting easier to overcome every day.  If you're fighting this battle, or are afraid to start, comment here or send us a message and let us know your thoughts!