Foreground Architecture: staunch advocate of BIM benefits from use of Archicad and CI Tools
Shrishti Yogaraj • 16 January 2023
Known for a practical and collaborative approach to architectural and interior design, Melbourne-based practice Foreground Architecture, formally known as FMSA Architecture, is a keen proponent of Building Information Modelling (BIM) throughout the design and delivery process. So much so that the firm engages a fulltime BIM Manager. As Foreground Architecture Associate and former BIM Coordinator Brendan Pelham explains,
“We had reached the size where it was necessary to ensure our BIM workflow was streamlined and working efficiently, and we recognized we needed someone to concentrate their time on it fully to get the most out of the constantly evolving tools and software.”
As BIM Manager for Foreground Architecture, Ricki Fritz describes his role as “to educate the team so we all have a minimum level of understanding as to how we’re utilising BIM principles in our software tools across the Studio. The firm has been using Archicad for over 10 years with 95% of the team using it to produce project deliverables, so everyone needs to be proficient in our Studio BIM methodology.” Brendan characterises Archicad as a “highly intuitive tool”: “I’ve used Archicad as my software of choice since uni days, so it’s almost become a second language. All software has its strengths in certain areas, so over the years I’ve familiarised myself with others, but I always tend to go back to Archicad particularly for the design side of projects – it’s very efficient, particularly in the areas of 3D visualisation and documentation efficiency.
We also have a good working relationship with Central Innovation – they’re very approachable and have always been supportive when it comes to upgrade training or customised training as needed,
and they’ve asked for our feedback on ways they can improve their offerings. The addition of CI Tools has been a particularly valuable benefit of our Select Membership subscription. Now that we have Ricki as BIM manager, we’re not using their training as much, but we do keep an eye on their training sessions calendar for when we want to gain some extra skills so we can keep up with the pace of change.”
“The Central Innovation staff have proven to be quite knowledgeable,” Ricki affirms. “If they don’t know the answer to a query they’ll find out and come back within a day or two or escalate as needed. The support services are good – I have a contact with our Central Innovation account manager every month or so to keep tabs, and the online portal is a useful resource as well.”
Asked to describe Foreground’s design philosophy, Brendan says, “We approach our work from a broad perspective of environmental, social and practical parameters – we work to get all those factors in harmony and strive to offer a competitive edge through inventive use of materials. The design process tends to be an ongoing evolution of what our clients want, so we can’t say there’s a Foreground Architecture building style as such. Every project has a different outcome depending on the client expectations and how it evolves.”
As a regular user of various CI Tools in his work with Foreground Architecture, Brendan affirms
“Doors & Windows is really invaluable for us, in that it gives a great level of sophistication and flexibility. It definitely saves time having one tool that can deal with complex door and window arrangements without having to switch to a different object.
Our interiors department love the Cabinets tool – they find it allows them to get a lot of their documentation straight off the model, rather than having to undertake 2D methods, which was previously required in the majority of cases. We’re now able to generate most cabinet elevations almost entirely in 3d.”
Ricki says a key benefit of CI Tools in general is that they’ve been developed specifically for the Australian/NZ market. “This focus on local content is particularly helpful – for example the Electrical tool is country-specific in terms of electrical elements, whereas a lot of similar tools you can access online are North American or Euro-centric. It’s great to have a local developer who can supply those kinds of support features.”
Brendan adds that Foreground Architecture has been expanding its use of Archicad further in recent building work. “When we designed the PICAC Narre Warren campus, which is Victoria’s first Net Zero Energy certified education facility, we found Archicad was a fantastic explanatory tool not only to give flyarounds of the building and detailed room inventories, but also when working in conjunction with environmental sustainability design (ESD) engineers who were running thermal modelling in their compatible programs.” By utilising the IFC file format, which is platform-neutral and can be read and edited by any BIM software, Foreground Architecture was able to minimise the risk of errors and conflicts between these different disciplines.
Looking ahead, Ricki emphasises the focus for Foreground Architecture is to foster further usage of BIM so that “we model more and document less”. As he puts it: “It’s about optimising the process, from modelling in 3D which makes it a lot easier to communicate your design to other people in your team as well as the client and other stakeholders, while also producing your traditional deliverables in terms of drawings and schedules. When you can produce all that from one model, you’re getting more bang for your buck – by reducing the amount of work on documenting individual elements, you get to spend more time on designing.”
You can find out more about Ci Tools Doors+Windows here.