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Award-winning Auckland architectural firm transitions to Archicad and CI Tools in development of visionary supportive living project

Bonnie Wong 19 January 2023

Tasked with creating a visionary supportive living facility for Auckland City Mission, long-established Auckland-based architects Stevens Lawson Architects took the opportunity to transition to Archicad, and in doing so was able to take advantage of Central Innovation’s training, support and CI Tools extensions to enhance the project’s design. Stevens Lawson Architects associate Joshua Warne tells how it came about.

“The Auckland City Mission HomeGround project consists of residential accommodation with integrated health and community services, and is based on the Breaking Ground (previously Common Ground) supportive housing model developed in New York City in the 1990s,” Joshua explains. “But this is a real one-off: it’s the only project in the world to have this level of wrap-around services within the housing structure itself, and as such it was very much a brief-driven concept.”

A large number of the Auckland City Mission’s clients are of Māori or Pasifika descent, and the development of the design reflects and respects this connection, aiming to provide a sense of identity and manaakitanga. A whānau room, Te Manawa Ora, provides a sacred space to acknowledge and celebrate Māori tikanga; artwork and installations integrated throughout create a sense of home, healing and belonging. HomeGround was one of the first projects Stevens Lawson Architects tackled using Archicad – using it as the impetus to transition from its former CAD software.

“I think we needed to make that jump, and it was best to go forward with the software that was looking at BIM as the future of collaboration and architectural drawing as well,”


Joshua explains. “We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for BIM collaboration with the other consultants on the project – so we set up our BIM guidelines and coordination document to identify the level of detail we were aiming for with clash detection systems and so on. I personally have used Archicad since v7, so when I was appointed to the project I was already familiar with the software, as were a couple of others in the office, so it wasn’t too much of a leap, and everyone caught up very quickly. Typically we would create renders in Archicad then overlay them in Photoshop or similar.”

A number of Central Innovation’s CI Tools extensions for Archicad were also employed in the project, including Keynotes, Doors + Windows, Coverings, Sites, and Detail Elements. “I think some of these are just essential,” Joshua emphasises.

“Keynotes we use all the time, with a few graphic tweaks it produces just what we want. Doors + Windows is very helpful in that it has some great styles and scheduling outputs. We used Detail Elements quite a lot, and the Coverings tool was particularly useful for this project,


given the building has a rainscreen – so having a core structure model, with the wall overclad sitting well apart from that, was a very helpful tool to have.” The facility spans 12,500 sqm, encompassing an eleven storey tower, a podium and a restored heritage building, and includes 80 studio and one-bedroom apartments, a commercial kitchen and community dining room, public showers and toilets, a medical centre and pharmacy, addiction withdrawal services, activity spaces for art, carving, music and drama, a rooftop garden and sacred space. The on-site healthcare centre caters for up to 3,000 patients and is open to Mission clients as well as nearby residents and workers.

With the HomeGround project bringing together permanent housing, care and addiction support on the same site, Auckland City Mission aims to substantially reduce homelessness in the community in a sustainable manner. “Stevens Lawson Architects has a holistic focus, we create architecture for people, so we saw this project as a very good fit for our business,” Joshua affirms. The firm has been in operation for some two decades, and specialises in offering bespoke architectural solutions and innovative design across a broad range of project typologies including houses, multiresidential, educational, spiritual and public buildings.

Upon commencement of the HomeGround project, Central Innovation provided training support to bring the Stevens Lawson Architects team up to speed. “Pretty much everyone in our office went through Central Innovation’s in-person Archicad training sessions at startup,” Joshua confirms. “Central Innovation also gave us specific interoperability training when it came to coordination between other platforms, and toward the end of the project we also looked to them for general troubleshooting, including reducing Archicad file sizes.”

With the team at Stevens Lawson Architects having committed to Archicad, Central Innovation’s ongoing support is always available, as Joshua acknowledges:

“We do feel that when there’s an issue, we’ve got the history and the rapport there that we can just contact Central Innovation and say “we have this problem, what can we do”, and that’s good to know.


You can find out more about Ci Tools here.

Joshua Warne, Associate