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Solaris Redevelopment Project: Efficient BIM Collaboration

Nestled in the Rockies, the Solaris redevelopment project in Vail, Colorado, replaces structures built in the 1970s with over $230 million of new construction. Efficient BIM (Building Information Modeling) collaboration of local engineering consultant Structural Consultants Inc. and Davis Partnership Architects enabled additional benefits to the owner in project delivery and construction.

Two birds, one stone: satisfying both architect and construction team

Structural Consultants Inc. (SCI), established in 1977, is a full service structural engineering consulting firm with headquarters located in Denver, Colorado. Davis Partnership Architects (DPA), founded in 1967, is one of the largest multi-disciplinary architectural firms in the Rocky Mountain Region. Both companies have been leaders in their adoption and use of Building Information Modeling (BIM). Their recent collaboration on the Solaris project in Vail, Colorado, is with no exception. SCI and DPA effectively coordinated their designs using their own respective BIM software, Tekla Structures and Revit Architecture. By using Tekla Structures, the design team was able to offer additional benefits to the owner in project delivery and construction.

Brian J. Patty, AIA, LED AP, Project Architect with Davis Partnership Architects, effectively collaborated with SCI’s design team through the sharing of IFC building information models. The architect utilized the structural engineer’s building information model for various production activities including Track Changes using copy/monitoring tools that linked to the structural model, referencing structural objects into architectural drawings, and coordinating high levels of structural detail when needed.

Benefits to the design team

The biggest point Mr. Patty notes is that structural engineers really need to be using BIM to be an effective contributor to the project team. “The fact that SCI, the structural engineer, and Dowco, the steel detailer, both used Tekla Structures allowed for solutions to come later in the process than ever before while still allowing for an extremely aggressive shop drawing production, review and fabrication schedule. Standard 2D drawings could not have produced the same building in the same time frame without lots of rework based on in-field realizations. I personally would not hesitate to work with a structural engineer using Tekla, as I saw great benefit from its use.

Also, the unmatched model performance and small file size of the highly detailed Tekla models proved beneficial to all project team members. On the Solaris project, it allowed the project team to collaborate effectively in 3D: “Solaris is a very complex building. It would have challenged the design team even if the financial and schedule pressures had not been present. The use of BIMs allowed the design team and the owner to more accurately understand the geometry of the structure.

Benefits to the owner

The Solaris project implemented a highly collaborative work process where SCI modeled the structural steelwork frame in Tekla Structures during the design phase of the project for the purposes of design coordination, constructability review, and the pre-contract detailing of the frame for the successful steelwork contractor. A structural steel model was then passed onto the steel detailers who used the model to generate the detailing model on Tekla Structures. This process brought many benefits to the owner, including accelerated construction schedules, cost savings with tighter bids from subcontractors, and a more construction-friendly design having fewer field fixes.

How collaboration was a success

Each week, SCI and DPA exchanged 3D design models between their respective software, Tekla Structures and Revit Architecture. Project data was shared using the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) data exchange standard. IFC, supported by the international organization buildingSMART, comprises interdisciplinary building information as used throughout its lifecycle. IFC allows designers, contractors, builders and owners to use their BIM solution of choice to meet their project needs and yet collaborate effectively with project team members.

SCI shared their Tekla model by exporting an IFC model into Revit Structure, which they then shared with the architect as an .rvt model. This way, the architect could link directly with the structural model just as if SCI was using Revit Structure. Information such as geometry, section and material properties was transferred into Revit Structure. In addition, Global Unique IDs (GUIDs) were included in the exchange so that changes and updates to the structural model could be tracked within the architect’s Revit model using the copy and monitoring tools.