archis Architekten + Ingenieure GmbH is one of the largest architectural firms in the Karlsruhe region of Germany. The firm is defined by clear project structures and technical innovation. Managing partner Bastian Wieland says that the design goal is always the same: to create unique living spaces with efficient planning processes.
For archis, good architecture is a symbiosis between creativity and functionality. But it also means working economically and not losing sight of aesthetics. As a team, the architects at archis are constantly optimizing their planning processes to create the best projects possible. The firm achieves this with the help of BIM workflows in Vectorworks.
Wieland said the firm has a “family office structure” wherein management and team leaders are in constant collaboration so that the right people are assigned to the right jobs. All employees from management down to designers have their say in weekly meetings; interns and trainees present their work as do site managers, project managers, and senior architects.
"In this way, we manage to ensure that the know-how formed in individual work flows back to everyone in the office family," Wieland explained. "After all, we have around 70 people coming together who have different cultural backgrounds and bring a wide range of experiences with them, both professionally and personally. That's the mix that drives us forward and is the engine for our continuous development."
Today, the BIM process provides maximum transparency at the right time.
BIM helps to further optimize the division of tasks and, for Wieland, it represents a forward-looking method "for getting all project participants focused on the relevant processes at the right time."
"In the past, the architect was the one who manually shared project information,” he explained. “Today, the BIM process provides maximum transparency at the right time." The planning that goes into a BIM process keeps the team organized and on target, especially during information exchanges internally and with consultants.
CarlsCube, Karlsruhe, new building (Dreßler Bau GmbH). Courtesy of archis Architekten + Ingenieure GmbH.
Now, with BIM, we secure all information in one model and can make it communicable. That’s a big advantage!
The biggest advantage of BIM, Weiland indicated, is eliminating the tedium of maintaining numerous spreadsheets alongside plans and models. “Many people can’t do anything with the information spread out like that,” he said. “Now, with BIM, we secure all information in one model and can make it communicable. That’s a big advantage!”
archis tested various products from the Autodesk family in their search for the right BIM solution, but none suited the architects’ needs.
"There was no solution that everyone was happy with. That's why we went on a search and found Vectorworks, a program that fits consistently through all design phases," Wieland said. "We now have an intuitive interface that everyone understands, and we have a system that even the interns can use immediately."
The Vectorworks model is the basis for all takeoffs and allows the architects to lay the foundations to meet project requirements entirely. They can extract data for cost estimates, bidding, tendering, product specifications, shop drawings and pre-fabrications (service modules), and construction-specific needs like framework schedules. All of this is generated from the model.
As a company, archis are always innovating ways to do more with Vectorworks. "I see our archis office family as a bit of a laboratory,” Wieland said. “We test different things and push them to the limit to get the best results out of them. This includes different methods in the field of design such as virtual reality, augmented reality, or animations."
The digitization of design tools also makes it possible to involve customers very early in a project to better identify issues, Wieland explained.
"With tools such as virtual reality, customers can 'enter' their future home very realistically and walk through various color and material concepts that we’ve coordinated with each other beforehand,” he said. “This allows them to decide what’s right for them. So, we can bring the virtual reality into alignment with the physical reality that will be built later."
Real-time rendering engines such as Twinmotion with its live link to Vectorworks allow small changes to be made visible directly to the client live on the screen. Client Oliver Winzenried, for whom archis designed the new headquarters of WIBU-SYSTEMS AG in Karlsruhe, also sees advantages in these methods.
Competition Güterbahnareal Freiburg - New office building (2nd prize). Courtesy of Nikolay Kazakov.
"We were very deeply involved in the coordination of the planning process,” Winzenried said. “Reviewing different design options in virtual reality helped us to make the right decision before the tender was drawn up. This means that even before the plans were ready, we optimized our workspace to maximize productivity.”
The new building on the site of the old freight station will become a campus for computer security including the House of IT Security, a new technology center that includes the IT Security Club, and a co-working space for cybersecurity that was created next to the company headquarters.
The board of directors of WIBU-SYSTEMS AG is highly satisfied with this result, not least due to collaboration with archis: "The human component was a very good fit, both with Bastian Wieland and with the employees, who accompanied this project from start to finish with a great deal of heart and soul,” Winzenried said. “Design and architecture, the furniture, the open interior areas, but also the technology of the building with active cooling, heating, ventilation — all of this is very well received and inspires our employees as much as me, the client."
Competition Güterbahnareal Freiburg - New office building (2nd prize). Courtesy of archis Architekten + Ingenieure GmbH.
Wieland also sees great potential for digitization on the construction site: "We haven't had paper plans on our construction sites for a long time! Our site managers can use their iPads to compare the built physical reality with the previously planned digital reality." This enables a powerful target-versus-actual comparison with everyone at the construction site.
BIM ensures that all project components are brought together in one central location. This increases profitability at all levels. We definitely have a lower susceptibility to errors and higher planning efficiency.
To constantly invest into advancing BIM workflows, archis aims to get involved in research projects and industry initiatives. They’ve already done research projects with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). A managing partner is also actively involved in buildingSMART and in the BIM Alliance to ensure that BIM methodology is firmly established within the architectural profession.
Wieland also encourages smaller offices to implement BIM: "Just do it! BIM ensures that all project components are brought together in one central location. This increases profitability at all levels. We definitely have a lower susceptibility to errors and higher planning efficiency," he said.