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Structural engineers are new to ArchiCAD, and are increasingly discovering the benefits to be had by using it. Patrick Bird of Riverstone Structural Concepts has won projects and improved workflow and data sharing by using ArchiCAD software. Specifically, a recent project involving the 9,000-square-foot residence of the Johnson family in Sun Valley, Idaho provides an example of the speed and accuracy gained by a structural engineering firm’s use of architectural BIM software.

Patrick Bird of Riverstone Structural Concepts has made his firm stand out by specializing and using tools that make the skills and services his firm provides indispensible to clients. He has done so in part by using ArchiCAD – an unusual item for the structural engineer to have at the ready. He began to adopt ArchiCAD into his practice after seeing an architect client make changes to their plans in one hour – changes he didn’t expect back for two weeks.

He has since teamed up with ArchiCAD users to exploit the value-added services in ArchiCAD’s reference model workflow, reducing data loss dramatically and delivering higher quality, higher value designs to their clients. Bird has also set up his own BIM server – which allows members of a collaborative team to come together and work on a single project in real time. One of the first projects Bird’s team worked on, the Johnson residence, was on a hyper accelerated deadline of two weeks.

Under such a speedy deadline the heavy demands of the project meant that without using ArchiCAD BIM software successful completion would have been impossible, Bird said. To save time, three staff members at Riverstone worked simultaneously through the BIM server. Because they were able to manage all points of connectivity, the software maintained a central point of truth throughout the project and avoided losing data, calculation errors and other delays that go along with traditional file sharing on team projects.

Riverstone deploys BIM server functionality regularly to facilitate a number of key project activities. It is used in-house to manage projects within a team; “calc and sketch” which refers to situations where Riverstone clients have their own server – create their own modeling and drawings, but allow Bird’s staff access to the model for mark ups. Equally, and perhaps most importantly, the BIM Server becomes an even more valuable tool when it supports full-on collaboration. Riverstone staff can go in the model and take control of all the structural elements. In instances where the architect may have just created a floor or roof slab, Bird’s team can add the joists and beams and other structural elements.

Riverstone Structural Concepts is now in the enviable position where the company is being sought out for work.

Audi car dealership located in Reno, Nevada.
Custom timber/light frame steel residence located in Teton Village, Wy.
Custom timber/light frame steel residence located in Ojai, Calif.

“Potential clients can see the collaboration feature of our workflow as a benefit and added value. Many didn’t realize that a structural engineer would be using that level of collaboration software. It has given us a bit of notoriety and we are, at times, in a position to teach others about ways to maximize their skills in a similar fashion,” Bird says. “We are a team of engineers that model – we’ve eliminated the drafting step and position – and provide quality assurance by having another engineer go through it. Removing that step also removes the opportunity for errors.”

Mary Moscarello is a writer with more than a decade of broadcast and print journalism experience. As editor of the BIM Engine Blog by Graphisoft, she writes about an array of architecture techniques, projects and industry trends. The BIM Engine Blog profiles architects and how they used ArchiCAD to successfully complete projects around the world. http://blog.graphisoftus.com/.