June 24, 2016

Three Dimensional Coordination Detailing

The production and execution of the built environment are not separate endeavors, but are byproducts of a truly collaborative relationship between the architect and builder through a common language. Coordination sketches are the vehicles of collaboration, with the power to reaffirm design intent through constructability, stitching the design and construction processes together. Often, these sketches are restricted to the two-dimensional realm of construction drawing overlays, but as technology evolves so can our visual language and ability to communicate three dimensionally. These details respond directly to the growing complexity of building systems in unique conditions where revisions to two-dimensional details will propagate confusion across multiple trades and project teams.

In 2015, Bialosky Cleveland and Walsh Construction Group endeavored to improve coordination through shared Building Information Modelling (BIM) and three-dimensional coordination sketches, when required, at the American Greetings Tech West Building in Westlake, Ohio. As an extension of the American Greetings Creative Studios and Headquarters, the project is located immediately to the South of Crocker Park. Inherent to the large amount of concurrent growth at Crocker Park, the project required intense collaboration between multiple project teams with the same completion date of Summer 2016.

AG-CP Team Divisions REV

In all of these projects, Bialosky Cleveland is the common thread with varying roles, empowering a collaborative attitude on-site. By nature of the project location, adjacency and programming there were a number of items that required a greater level of collaboration which illustrate how project complexities were resolved through three-dimensional coordination sketches.


The project’s primary design gesture includes opening up the corner with glazing, highlighting the planar expression of the brick façade, which is continued through the parapet. To execute the design intent properly, a series of sequencing diagrams were generated and included in the construction documents illustrating how the insulated metal panel wall is to be flashed into the brick wall assembly. These diagrams acted as a tool to guide work in the field without being unnecessarily prescriptive.


A challenge ever present in the design and detailing of Tech West was its siting with two facades bound by a 5 floor parking garage, requiring (2) two-hour fire walls separated by an air space. Both walls bear on a shared foundation with building expansion joints by two separate project teams, leading to a series of critical coordination details that responded to changing project schedules and construction sequencing.


SKA-17 Precast Axonometric Detail
The stair and elevator core of the parking garage provided an added challenge as it rises above the Tech West parapet before falling to a guardrail height precast parapet. The use of three-dimensional detailing helped expedite discussions of scope ownership and responsibility in the field, evolving as agreements were made by all parties to clarify the path ahead.

Concurrent to the resolving of the building expansion joint details was the drainage at the base of the building separation airspace, which was required to be connected to the Tech West storm water. Here, timing was critical as grouting and caulking had to be coordinated by both projects to ensure constructability while maintaining the integrity of the drain path.


Issues related to site/context presented a different set of challenges as Tech West has no true site scope of its own, but is bound by Crocker Park Phase Three to the North and the American Greetings Creative Studios and Headquarters Plaza to the East and South. As Tech West came into being after the Plaza was designed, revisions and site coordination had to be finalized per grading and egress requirements to set the through wall flashing elevation prior to construction of the brick veneer façade. The three-dimensional sketch concisely reconciled information from 3 projects, turning a potentially lengthy coordination effort into a brief conference call without holding up construction progress.


These coordination snapshots only offer a glimpse into a lengthy and complex process, but highlight the critical need for a collaborative approach to the construction administration effort. In all of this, American Greetings and Mark G. Anderson Consultants, played a critical role in expediting the approval process, making comprehensive sketches evermore important in closing the feedback loop. For any language to be universal it has to be legible, and three-dimensional construction details, when required, ensure the designer and contractor are on the same page. The American Greetings Tech West Building is an example of how collaboration can improve in the field throughout the building process as projects and adjacencies grow in complexity to ensure design intent is not lost.

March 19, 2013

Architecture in the “Walkman Phase”

Last week the online design magazine, Dezeen, published an interview with Dutch architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio on his plans to launch the world's first open-source architecture studio. Once launched, this network will hold great significance as it will begin to take the often secretive and exclusive mentality of knowledge sharing between architecture firms and reverse that thinking. As a "knowledge-based organizational" website, van Berkel describes a system "where knowledge can be shared, contributed and collected."

 Diagram illustrating how UNStudio’s Knowledge Platforms reach out to external partners for collaboration - via deezen.com Bialosky + Partners Architects Cleveland Design Blog

Diagram illustrating how UNStudio’s Knowledge Platforms reach out to external partners for collaboration - via deezen.com

This unprecedented system gives the profession of architecture a needed technological and collaborative leap forward. But to do so, designers must be willing to part with the exclusivity of their acquired building & design knowledge and adopt a more open-source mentality. Any creative knows the benefit of working in close proximity with other creatives, as opposed to working independently in a vacuum. Yet on a larger scale, the practice of architecture operates more independently than anything else. Understandably, business-mindedness and competition have led firms to rarely have a sort of academic, open dialog with other firms. Yet it is this same mentality that has kept practice architecture "in the Walkman phase", as van Berkel coins it.

So what does this mean for us? Spurred on by political obstacles in the Netherlands, van Berkel has realized he and his fellow dutch architects must band together to come up with creative solutions to the obstacles before them - so too must American architects, and perhaps more specifically architects in the nation's hard-hit Rustbelt of the Midwest. In times when sustainability and building performance are often leading factors in the design, construction and lasting performance of buildings, architects must be constantly advancing their own knowledge base. It is a task that is simply too great to be done internally. Instead firms must be willing to offer open seminars, write white papers, maintain blogs documenting design and construction processes. While this may seem as a monumental task, efforts are already underway to begin this knowledge sharing. Firms are establishing blogs that are beginning to informally do just what van Berkel aspires to do. Organizations such as the Building Envelope Council are gaining recognition and prominence as a resource to acquire building knowledge. Architects need to fully participate in such dialogues - not simply listen. To gain the credibility and respect of clients and critics worldwide, we must turn to each other to learn from our collective experiences.