Why Landscape Architecture Firms Are Switching to BIM

The noticeable shift from 2D CAD in landscape architecture is in part due to external pressures. The UK’s requirement for BIM level 2 framework on all government-procured projects is the most notable. Even in places where there is no BIM mandate, there is some inherent pressure to deliver BIM files when working with consultants who have matured their workflows with BIM.

Hanging on to 2D tools like AutoCAD for information modeling leaves landscape architecture firms in a dilemma. And it’s a dilemma more practitioners need to solve.

To properly incorporate 3D modeling with embedded data, 2D-focused firms have to use separate software programs (note: “programs” is plural!). It is not uncommon for these firms to use 3 or 4 separate applications to put together a concept, which inevitably leads to multiple payments that cost a bundle over time. That’s not to mention the cost of staffing when considering the large amounts of time spent working in multiple applications. This is all sounding painfully familiar, right?

Nottingham City Hub. Rendering courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.

Ares Landscape Architects found themselves in that predicament under the BIM level 2 mandate. After years of an AutoCAD-based workflow, the firm started looking for a BIM-ready application. Vectorworks Landmark became their choice for its cohesion between design and documentation, a huge draw as they became more and more ingrained in the BIM process.

There is a lot to learn from Ares’ Nottingham City Hub project, whose delivery required BIM level 2 framework. Ares senior landscape architect Sam Bailey says that the project involved collaboration with architects using ArchiCAD and engineers using Revit, and it was crucial that the teams establish expectations for file transfers — this is where the standard IFC came in handy.

“It just helps to make sure everyone is on the same page going forward, and it speeds up the coordination process,” Bailey said.

After establishing such standards in their BIM Execution Plan, Ares modeled the site in 3D, using the architects’ building model for context. The 3D model automatically generated 2D plans, not unlike the ones they used to produce in AutoCAD. Bailey said they worked in 3D from the very start of the project because they knew they would need to deliver 3D models.

With the model in place, Ares used Vectorworks’ built-in IFC specifications to tag geometry for export. The architects then pulled all models together in Solibri to check for clashes. The information manager on the project used Ares’ model to generate COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) data, another requirement for the project.

In the end, Ares’ 3D model became the source for a variety of outputs — 2D plans, plant and material schedules, IFC specifications, cost estimates, the list goes on — all without having to leave the Vectorworks design space. With an integrated process, you can imagine the time savings landscape architecture firms like Ares capture by moving to BIM.

See for yourself — fill out the form below for a full walkthrough of Ares’ Nottingham City Hub project with commentary by senior landscape architect Sam Bailey.

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