We usually start demos of Arcol by asking the person to tell us about their firm’s current feasibility workflow. While there are slight nuances in each case, the answer is generally the same. This is actually a good thing, because it means that Arcol can solve the same problems for lots of people!
Every so often the person in the demo seems surprised that other firms have the same workflow — “Oh really? I thought we were the only ones who did things this way”. Presumably this is because they realize that their workflow is a bit clunky, and they assume that other firms have it figured out…which just isn’t true! This article is meant to get us all on the same page. We’ll describe the feasibility workflow that we’ve heard from talking to LOTS of architects, and then show how Arcol makes the entire process better to allow you to spend more time designing and win more work.
Most firms we speak to start in Excel for gathering basic programming requirements. Some jump straight to hand sketches and bubble diagrams, but from our experience Excel is much more common as a starting point because it allows the owner to speak in the language they understand best — numbers and dollars. The main issue is that this data is separate from the 3D model, leading to massing attempting to loosely match the Excel numbers without actually being sync’d.
Sketchup (~60% of firms we’ve spoken to)
Most firms we chat with are small to medium sized (1–300) and move into massing and form exploration in Sketchup. They may import a DWG or image underlay of the site and then manually model the surrounding context before modelling their proposed design. Typically 3D terrain is not incorporated and while it is easy to generate masses, they lack any metrics for areas, units, parking, etc.
Next to Sketchup, the most common tool we see firms using for massing is Revit. This initially seemed odd to us, as Revit is not known for its ease of modelling and iterating, however the value provided by areas and schedules seems to make it worth it for these firms. Site context and 3D terrain is not incorporated, and modelling tends to be slower and more limited due to Revit’s toolset.
Larger firms (300+) usually have a computational design team in place to leverage Rhino and Grasshopper. These firms tend to have numerous internally developed plugins and tools for importing site context and terrain. The internal tools are powerful, but require entire teams of people over months of time to build initially and require ongoing support afterwards.
This would be in the minority of firms we speak to, but some move from Excel to AutoCAD for site planning. This allows them to easily create setbacks and get areas via fills, with the main tradeoff being that an entire extra tool is added to the workflow since 3D design still occurs afterwards (typically in Sketchup).
InDesign is ubiquitous across all firms we speak to, and it involves a lot of manual entry to create a presentation document. Numbers from Excel and massing screenshots (or modified images from Illustrator) are placed onto sheets. If anything changes in Excel or the massing model, everything needs to be updated manually or else the documents become out of sync. This happens often.
How does Arcol make all this better?
Arcol is purpose-built for the feasibility workflow, and we’ve crafted it to make sure you can design and iterate quickly while keeping everything in sync automatically.
- Import site context — In Arcol you can import your site boundary on a map underlay with all the existing surrounding buildings on the existing terrain…in less than 30 seconds. This ensures that you’re designing within the constraints of your site from the very beginning.
- Real-time metrics — Arcol calculates useful metrics like site area, gross floor area, area by function, FAR, parking requirements, and parking stall counts. All this happens in real time while you design — whenever you update your design the metrics recalculate automatically, giving you confidence that your design meets the requirements of the brief and site zoning.
- Design options — Easily create multiple options to iterate on your design. Option sets let you mix and match options for different parts of your design (eg. parking options and building options). This allows you to compare the metrics between different options to determine which option works best.
- Sketchup-like massing — We know that Sketchup is widely used because it’s easy to learn and use. Modelling in Arcol is similar, with the ability to enter dimensions and angles while drawing lines or arcs and then push and pull your masses into the size and shape you want.
- Fully sync’d presentations — Arcol boards let you place model views and metrics onto sheets with title blocks that you’ve made or imported. Since everything is in Arcol it is always updated automatically; no need to relink files or manually update numbers and values.
There are other amazing Arcol features that we haven’t mentioned like comments, markups, and shadows. If you’d like to improve your workflow and see all that Arcol can do, reach out to us at beta [at] arcol.io. We look forward to chatting with you!