Open side-bar Menu
 AECCafe Guest Blog
Andy Knauf
Andy Knauf
Andy Knauf has been with Mead & Hunt for 29 years, in roles of increasing responsibility and currently holds the title of Chief Information Officer. He also serves as a member of the company’s Executive Committee. Andy is responsible for providing Leadership and Strategy for all technology … More »

Defying Coronavirus Disruption

April 16th, 2020 by Andy Knauf

The global healthcare crisis has changed the world of work, perhaps forever. Organizations are facing sweeping changes to business continuity planning/disaster recovery requirements, remote working policies, software and hardware investment, data center management, and employee engagement as the world battles COVID-19. This so-called Black Swan Event is the very definition of disruption.

But this disruption varies from industry to sector, to organization. The construction industry sits with empty, non-essential job sites and canceled jobs; architecture and engineering firms are scrambling to find a way of moving into the virtual office; and the hardbound on-prem organization is suddenly rethinking its infrastructure to cope with virtualized working. Even those organizations that have made the cloud and digital investments are facing unexpected stress tests of IT infrastructure and capability.

Andy Knauf, CIO of Mead and Hunt, spoke to AECCafe Voice about how the business managed the disruptive impact of the coronavirus just weeks after completing an IT solution and workstation migration that was capable of handling it.
Read the rest of Defying Coronavirus Disruption

How Women Can Thrive in Architecture

January 30th, 2020 by E. Jane Wilson

By Jane Wilson, Architect and Owner at E. Jane Wilson, Architect

When I was younger, I thought about becoming an architect. However, sexism in the industry steered me away. After beginning my career in two other male-dominated fields by teaching rock climbing and then working in corporate IT, I thankfully made my way back to architecture, focusing on projects including apartment complexes, educational institutions, offices, to name a few.

I’d like to share advice from what I’ve learned along the way — for women in particular — on how to be successful in the field. It’s time for this tired question to be put to rest: Why aren’t there more female architects?

Embrace the Uncommon Career Path

It’s never too late to join the party. When I was in IT, I was fortunate enough to work in Eastern Europe to develop new offices, companies and factories. When I moved back to the states, I realized what I missed was the actual design part of my job — creating something.

So, I returned to school and graduated from Temple University, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a degree in architecture in 2005. I began working in architecture the moment that I started at Temple and, being an older student, I could manage my time much better at this stage in my life. Soon after, I started my own business in 2010 in Pennsylvania before later moving it to Ontario, Canada in 2016.

The point is: it’s ok to have a unique career path and to make a pivot at any time.

Read the rest of How Women Can Thrive in Architecture

How Modeling and Presentation Qualities Bring Unique Characteristics to Vectorworks

January 22nd, 2020 by Dr. Biplab Sarkar

By Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar with support from Vectorworks staff Lauren Meyer, Rubina Siddiqui, Assoc. AIA and Luis Ruiz.

Anyone familiar with Vectorworks knows our business is building design and BIM software solutions that are intuitive, powerful and practical for professionals around the world. It’s the unique and versatile workflows we offer for all phases of design that separates us from other BIM authoring applications. Using best-in-class 3D technology, intuitive data management and unmatched graphical representation, our products provide architecture firms the freedom to model anything while seamlessly documenting and presenting it with the precision and artistic touch they require.

Courtesy of Vectorworks, Inc.

Courtesy of Vectorworks, Inc.

The Many Types of Modeling in Vectorworks

3D modeling is at the center of what enables BIM workflows to pay off for the design process, and when 3D modeling techniques are coupled with intuitive software interfaces, you gain true modeling freedom for your projects. Let’s take a look at the seven types of modeling in Vectorworks that help you model any project.

Read the rest of How Modeling and Presentation Qualities Bring Unique Characteristics to Vectorworks

Digital Pattern Books Disrupt Construction Industry

March 26th, 2019 by Andrew Watts

Building-design pattern books that have been out of favor for decades are now finding a new digital life that is disrupting the global construction industry. Andrew Watts, CEO of building design engineers, Newtecnic, discusses the trend for digitalization.

In the past, construction pattern books that allow designers to develop and popularize building styles, were widely used to let clients see what they were buying. With easy to understand images, customers could request changes to layouts and finishes to get a ‘mass customized’ building to suit their needs.

The great advantage of pattern books was that the designs were tried and tested – known to work. There were no surprises, and each stakeholder understood exactly what the outcome would be. Mixing and matching details was simply achieved.

Pattern books fell out of favor especially with architects who saw them as un-creative and limiting their design options. Digitalization however has changed pattern books updating the concept and positively disrupting the processes of designing, engineering, constructing and maintaining 21st century buildings.

Read the rest of Digital Pattern Books Disrupt Construction Industry

Automated Facilities Audits Drive Bottom-line AEC Benefits

February 7th, 2019 by Ed Bartlett

If you’re with a full life-cycle Architectural, Engineering, & Construction (AEC) firm, you might view facility condition assessments (FCAs) as a boring but necessary evil.

Whether designing new structures to fit an existing campus, slogging through backlogs of deferred maintenance or planning capital budgets, full life-cycle engagements can’t be done correctly without an accurate, current assessment of existing assets. That’s where your FCA comes in.

Yet FCAs are no simple matter. While they start with tripod crews in visibility vests taking field elevations, there’s much more. They need to include all systems and components from HVAC to exterior facades to fire doors, drainage, and structure. These audit reports include detailed assessments of each asset’s condition and future replacement costs, on a room by room basis

There are three major challenges to FCAs. The first is that they don’t happen every day. While some organizations audit a portion of assets every year, FCAs are more often done on a reactive or episodic basis. The audits might be triggered as part of discovery for of a major new project, or the kickoff of a once-in-a-decade capital fundraising drive.

Read the rest of Automated Facilities Audits Drive Bottom-line AEC Benefits

Talking to Machines

October 8th, 2018 by Andrew Watts

The construction industry can increase productivity and quality while reducing energy consumption, lowering costs and saving time through creating strong links between designing and making.

By Andrew Watts FICE FIED FIET FRSA RIBA, CEO of international building engineers, Newtecnic

Throughout history, to understand the complexities of buildings, models have always been made.  For centuries, these were physical scale models that allowed a close examination of the proposed structure. More recently digital models perform the same function. These not only allows stakeholders to comprehend the project but also provide the ability to ensure that crucial decisions are based on the fullest and most detailed information available.

By committing designs and associated information and data to digitalization it is possible to achieve total quality assurance for each component of the building, and of the entire finished entity. This occurs because by designing and then manufacturing components digitally, any technical, structural and aesthetic issues can be resolved in advance of physical work commencing.

This is not news to engineers and architects, who are often highly digitised. But the digital chain is often broken between building designers and contractors. However, when links are strengthened through the whole supply chain, the results are spectacular.

Leading the World from Morocco 

As part of the programme of cultural development in Morocco, and inspired by the Bouregreg River, the dramatic sculptural form of the Grand Théâtre de Rabat in Morocco incorporates an 1800 seat theatre, a 7000-seat amphitheater and a smaller specialized performance space. Clever use of GRC panels meant the fluid design envisaged by architect Zaha Hadid was successfully interpreted, resulting in the addition of a cultural venue of the highest standards for the city of Rabat in Morocco.

The main envelope system for the Grand Théâtre project is based on an opaque glass-fiber-reinforced concrete (GRC) rainscreen cladding, fixed to the primary structure, which is a mix of reinforced concrete and steel. The main driving parameter for the design of the GRC system was the required 60-year life-span of the envelope system. This required the use of monolithic GRC panels, up to 4 × 2m in size, which did not require the conventional steel backing frame to be cast-in underneath the panel.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis for cladding pressures was undertaken and subsequently validated by a series of wind tunnel tests. This analysis allowed the use of realistic values for wind loads, which drive stress and deflection analysis of the panels while taking into account the effects of the geometry of the building.

Structural calculations for each component were undertaken for each project-specific configuration using finite element modelling and scripting to automate the structural analysis process for all panels. The design of the adjustable steel fixing bracket was conceived so that only one fixing type was used across the whole project, which would minimize cost.

Physical tests were designed to validate a single design for the connection between GRC panels and steel fixings, which could be used safely across the entire project.

This spectacular building produced at a very reasonable cost is an exemplar of how early stage deep analysis and thorough testing before the tender stage delivers a guaranteed result. It was important in this project to ensure that local fabricators and contractors were deployed.  Digital simulation of all processes resolved any potential problems prior to physical work commencing and 3D printed GRC panels were thoroughly tested to validate computational analysis.

Flexible Decision Making

By considering and studying everything in advance of physical work it is possible to understand the true implications of project choices and decisions. Digitizing projects enables flexibility because general properties can be analyzed in relation to fine details. This means that decisions over materials can be made with a full understanding of their cost, aesthetics and construction technique implications.

Working this way means material parameters can be better understood and designers can go beyond simply claiming that a certain component or finish is better. They can prove it in terms of material or fabrication cost in addition to visual considerations.

Using digital models to explain building techniques to contractors and work with them to develop and optimise strategies can be done at an early stage to improve outcomes.

Adding these types of services to the production of buildings is new for many contractors but those that that we work with discover that the application of engineering design becomes their ‘service element’ and allows them to present fully validated solutions to their customers. This in turn lets them win more contracts in the confidence that they can be fulfilled on time and to budget.


Computer code is the shorthand that delivers the robust instructions that solve complex engineering problems. Computer code also provides the living user manual to operate the building for decades to come.  Every design, test and action related to a building’s genesis, construction and maintenance is captured. This record becomes available to anyone who needs to engage with the project.

One use of this data at the Grand Theatre de Rabat involved using a Total Station to pinpoint component locations and their fixing points with a laser. The coordinates were fed to the Total Station from the optimised engineering design and, by following this simple guide, costly mistakes and misalignments totally avoided.

Across the globe in Australia the advanced structure that forms the facade of, Botanica, an innovatively conceptualized residential block in northern Queensland could have been made from either steel of concrete. By simulating the design and fabrication of both options the cost was calculated with a high degree of precision and concrete was selected. In the past, this decision would have put more emphasis on material cost but because every aspect was considered in advance the true cost was revealed. This strategy assesses and addresses risks in new ways that seek to define all parameters so that risk can more easily be understood, calculated and managed and costs and schedules guaranteed.

Accelerating Productivity

Deploying these techniques means that amazing buildings can be delivered at ordinary prices. Designs can evolve smoothly to suit all parties and various design options considered and proven.

An example of this is the KCTV Tower in Istanbul where early stage investment in design engineering has paid a massive dividend at the current building stage. All the big decisions have been made and the building is progressing as predicted with pre-made components that are exact representations of their digital equivalents. This is very different to many projects where late stage changes contribute to dysfunctionality and defects.

Top ten tips for smooth building delivery:

  1. Invest in early stage problem solving to avoid late stage issues
  2. Use engineering as a service that seamlessly joins construction disciplines
  3. Break down the barriers between thinking and doing
  4. Apply rigor to design and management processes – keep looking for what’s been missed
  5. Use data to introduce flexibility into decision making
  6. Take problem solving back to first principles – conformity is dangerous
  7. Connect contractors and fabricators with designers and clients through shared data
  8. Deploy technology that allows everyone to understand their project role and responsibility
  9. Think about production machinery at the earliest stages of the project
  10. Improve processes through learning


About Newtecnic:

Newtecnic is an international world leader in the engineering design of complex highly ambitious construction projects and advanced building envelope systems. The company is an engineering design house that undertakes the engineering design of building structures, façades, and MEP (Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing) installations in partnership with leading international developers, architects and contractors. Founded in 2003, Newtecnic’s design professionals team is completely and solely dedicated to the design and engineering of structures, façades and MEP. In partnership with the Engineering Departments of Cambridge University, and UCLA in Los Angeles, Newtecnic’s R&D team analyses, develops, tests, validates and specifies new building technologies and methods. Newtecnic has offices in the USA, UK and Saudi Arabia. The company is owned, directed and managed by long-established and experienced engineers. Newtecnic holds the ISO 9001:2015 certification with the British Standards Institution (BSI)

For further information:

When Spirit of Place Intersects Globalization

August 21st, 2018 by Antoine Predock

As an architect who has kept busy over the past six decades since beginning of my studies in architecture at the University of New Mexico, people often ask me: “Where do you get your inspiration?” I tell them that place dictates everything that I do. Gaining a deeper understanding of the environment I’m working in, poetically, culturally, geologically and environmentally leads to greater expression through design.

Making architecture demands a deep, timeless connection to a place. I’m based in New Mexico and practicing for 50 years I’m deeply inspired by the power and beauty of these landscapes – especially exploring them on my motorcycle. “Soaking up” the essences of New Mexico, translates into my architecture no matter where I work and is transferrable to wherever I am working, for example; a house in Provence, France or a mid-rise urban condominium in Taipei, Taiwan. This profound connection to place is universal.

Although it’s a challenge to narrow it down, if I had to summarize my design philosophy in one sentence, it would be: Develop a deep understanding of place the people who inhabit it and its physicality and express it as a poetic/artistic encounter.

One example that embodies my approach is my design for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is now featured on the Canadian ten-dollar bill.

The project focuses on the commonality of humankind and serves as a timeless landmark for all nations and cultures. The visitors’ entrance carves between two protective stone arms, or roots, to symbolically recognize the earth as the spiritual center for many cultures. Roots clutch the earth and then there is an ascent to the light. It was important to perceptually go from darkness to light. The starting point of the experience — the Great Hall — is carved from the earth and evokes the memory of ancient gatherings of the Forks of First Nations peoples, and later, settlers and immigrants. Alabaster rampways glow and crisscross the galleries – and wrapping around the centralized Garden of Contemplation is a glass “cloud” creating a light-filled buoyant space. This contrast of darkness and light is a visible reminder of the power of hope.

The galleries describe horror stories as well as uplifting stories of human rights heroes and heroines. Visitors can assimilate what they’ve seen as they proceed on their journey through the museum. And while proceeding, there is an ever-present focus on the working office spaces reminding visitors that this is not just a museum but is also a clearing house for activities supporting global issues of human rights.

I’ll be speaking about this project and my deep connection to place, starting with my deep connections to the American Southwest, as the keynote speaker for the Vectorworks Design Summit this coming November at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona.

I have a strong personal connection to Phoenix — winning my first national competition at Arizona State University for its Nelson Fine Arts Center. The silhouette of the project alludes to the rugged horizon lines that are omnipresent in the Southwest while intimate zones of lacy shade provide respites from the sun.

The Nelson Fine Arts Center

The Nelson Fine Arts Center at Arizona State University designed by Antoine Predock

In 1992, Vanity Fair published a story about me called, “The Rise of The Desert Rat.” It’s an apt description, as I take lessons learned from the desert and apply them anywhere in the world. In desert regions, architecture must defend against the climatic assault. I take this into account by considering wind and sun directions, and of course, the cultural strata, overlaying vast geologic depth. Since personal desert experience is profoundly a part of my design process, I’m looking forward to returning to Arizona to speak about it this November.

The Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Arizona, designed by Antoine Predock

The Science courtyard

The Science courtyard in the Arizona Science Center, designed by Antoine Predock


The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is now featured on the Canadian ten-dollar bill to be released in late 2018. Photo from Canadian Museum for Human Rights website, One Woman’s Resistance article.

The alabaster rampways

The alabaster rampways in The Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Image by Aaron Cohen, courtesy of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

In addition to speaking about my design philosophy, I will share my experience of creating a balance between the physical and digital sides of my design process. Although I draw by hand, and make clay models to begin each project, we also use sophisticated technologies in project realization. As a Vectorworks user for 25 years, I will explain how the software has played a role in my projects. While at times I feel like a dinosaur sticking his head up in the digital world, my team focuses obsessively on getting everything exactly right — and multiple technologies in a design, and technology and Building Information Modeling (BIM) help us handle that goal.

The title for my Design Summit keynote address is “Site Specificity and the Aura of Globalization.” Globalization, as well as technology, shrinks everything, and architects can easily detach from the spirit of place. To hear more about how to maintain that most essential connection, please join me at the Vectorworks Design Summit.

All images courtesy of Antoine Predock.

About the Author

Antoine Predock and his team have planned more than 200 buildings and projects, including Austin City Hall and The Turtle Creek House in Texas, San Diego Padres Petco Park, The College of Journalism and Communication in Doha, Qatar, A Gateway Art Center in Chengdu, China, Stanford University Center for Integrative Studies, The Museum of Science Technology in Tampa, Florida and The Ohio State University Student Activity and Recreation Center, among others. His firm’s work has been featured in more than 60 exhibitions, 250-plus books, over 1,000 journal and newspaper articles, as well as films such as “Gattaca.” He was also featured on “Good Morning America” as a “Green Architect.” Predock has been honored with more than 100 national and regional design awards including the AIA Gold Medal in 2006 and the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He also was a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome and is a Fellow of the AIA, RIBA, and RAIC and was a William Kinne Fellow at Columbia University.

About the Vectorworks Design Summit

Global design and BIM software solutions provider Vectorworks, Inc. invites professionals, educators and students in the AEC, CAD, and architecture industry to attend the fourth annual Vectorworks Design Summit from November 4 to 6, 2018. Hosted at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Ariz., the conference includes industry sessions, tech support, networking events, inspiring keynotes, and hands-on training. Multiple sessions will offer continuing education credits.

Receive $100 off your 2018 Vectorworks Design Summit registration by using the promo code: AECCAFE18

Register today at

Building with Numbers

June 13th, 2018 by Andrew Watts

How the construction industry is reducing cost, risk and waste – with math

Andrew Watts, CEO of international building engineers, Newtecnic, looks at new research and practices that deliver construction industry innovation from concept to fabrication and operation.

Because industry players perceive it as increasing risk, the construction industry is notoriously resistant to change through technology adoption. The idea of following tried and tested solutions is almost universal because ‘if it worked before it will work again’.

This attitude has restricted industry progress producing waste of up to 50% on many projects. And, negative environmental impacts, caused by easily correctable inefficiencies persist as long as the building stands.

Riskier Business?

Industry players and stakeholders are mistaken in the belief that new methods and technologies present increased risk. In fact, the opposite is true because by using technology it is possible to reduce risk while creating more imaginatively conceived buildings at lower cost that use less energy, are more durable, look better and are interesting to inhabit. They also take less time to make and on completion appear effortless. This seemingly impossible list of advantages has been proven across the world where, in partnerships with developers, architects and engineers, collaboration over data reveals absolute truths about buildings.

Read the rest of Building with Numbers

Empower Your Design Process with 3D Modeling

February 26th, 2018 by Dr. Biplab Sarkar

Today, architects are challenged to meet compressed project schedules with tight budgets. Depending on your perspective, they are either fortunate or a bit cursed by the number of software products available to them as they face these challenges. With continual advances in technology, it can be intimidating to keep up with the latest developments and navigate what’s best for you and your team. How can architects adopt new workflows and meet those challenges — all without sacrificing their creative processes?

One of the most straightforward ways to improve your design process change is to incorporate 3D modeling. 3D modeling facilitates a streamlined design process while allowing designers to express their creative visions, rather than solely producing documentation. Because 3D workflows utilize intelligent, parametric objects, as well as expressive free-form modeling, they can be used for design exploration, as well as documentation.

Make the Most of 3D Modeling

Most of the 3D architectural models will consist of either solids, NURBS surfaces, NURBS curves, meshes, subdivision surfaces, and more. Not only is it important to support these different types of 3D, but its equally as important to have the ability to create one form of 3D model from another. This supports the design process and helps architects explore one form against the other to study different design schemes.

Unfortunately, many design and modeling software don’t offer all the different types of 3D objects that are required to efficiently represent an architectural project. To get the biggest return from your design software investment, it’s best to look for a program, like Vectorworks Architect, that provides a comprehensive solution by allowing all of these types in one single platform.

What can be accomplished with 3D modeling.

In Vectorworks, solids are accurately represented by the B-rep or boundary representation. Modifications on solids can be performed to create shells, edge fillets/chamfers, sections, additions, subtractions, and intersections, among others.

Read the rest of Empower Your Design Process with 3D Modeling

Building Virtual Houses, Bridging the Gap between Millennials and Home Buying

January 1st, 2018 by Chantale Pitts

We are in an era obsessed with technology. My neighbors wait hours in line for the latest and greatest smart phones, their idea of modern day camping. My father-in-law is giddy when he gets a glimpse at this year’s high end automobile model. He doesn’t look that excited when we all arrive for Thanksgiving. This is an era where, strangely enough, we also see masses of people walking around in search of Pokémon™. There go those millennials tripping over the sidewalk again. Technology, augmented and virtual reality are now a part of life. With technology moving so fast, how can we embrace the newest VR technology in the home building sector and use it to capture the elusive millennial market?

Emotional Connections…
Virtual reality is an immersive experience that gives you a dry run at reality. Using VR hardware, both Oculus™ and HTC Vive™ have gear that includes a helmet, you are transported to a virtual space. Each of the two systems include sensors that track your movement as you make your ay through an environment and make the space feel like it surrounds you. This sense, that you are part of that environment, is what appeals to the home building sector…making that emotional connection with the home buyer while they are walking through their new home, before they even break ground.
Read the rest of Building Virtual Houses, Bridging the Gap between Millennials and Home Buying

© 2022 Internet Business Systems, Inc.
670 Aberdeen Way, Milpitas, CA 95035
+1 (408) 882-6554 — Contact Us, or visit our other sites:
TechJobsCafe - Technical Jobs and Resumes EDACafe - Electronic Design Automation GISCafe - Geographical Information Services  MCADCafe - Mechanical Design and Engineering ShareCG - Share Computer Graphic (CG) Animation, 3D Art and 3D Models
  Privacy PolicyAdvertise