When ContraVest submitted the construction plans last week to the City of Longwood for its latest Addison branded apartment community, it marked a significant milestone for the company and its longtime design-partner, Charlan Brock Architects.
This was the first time they filed plans that were entirely designed using Revit software, a program that allows the architect to create 3D designs needed for BIM (building integrated model) construction. In other words, they can create virtual models of the building structure, framing and MEP systems that allow them to streamline the design process and fix errors in the pre-development phase, as opposed to finding them in the field.
It’s the next wave of multifamily construction design, and ContraVest President Steve Ogier wants to be a the forefront of the transition.
“The feedback I’m getting from our designers and our subs is that you guys are the only ones doing this,” Ogier said. “I’m not looking for a badge of honor. I’m not looking for recognition. I just want a good set of plans.”
CBA Principal Doug Anderson said the software itself isn’t new — large national builders like Hoar Construction and Brasfield & Gorrie use BIM construction for high-rise commercial projects. “They’ve been doing that for years,” Anderson said. “But the multifamily, especially the wood frame, has lagged behind. Steve at ContraVest is trying to lead that sector and relevant industry forward into being more of a Revit-based and 3D modeling based industry, because it has the potential to eliminate a lot of errors.”
The Addison Longwood would rise on about six acres on State Road 434 just east of Ronald Reagan Boulevard. The site plan calls for three buildings with a total of 277 dwelling units.
Anderson said the Longwood project was a perfect choice to go full-on BIM because of the site constraints. “It’s a dense site, and we had to do large buildings to make it work. It’s a podium building with the parking underneath, so it’s a little more complicated than your standard garden-type apartments where you have 10 3-story buildings,” he said.
ContraVest hired a full-time BIM technician about six weeks ago, and CBA is in the process of training its entire staff to design entirely in Revit, regardless of whether the client asks for it. Anderson said the firm should reach its goal by mid-2021. He projects that in a few years, all clients will expect it and local building departments will demand it. The City of Orlando already requests 3D plans of major downtown buildings for a future BIM model, but doesn’t review plans in Revit.
“Everybody has talked about over time with different industries, there’s always a disruptor out there,” Anderson said. “People look at Uber and how they disrupted the taxi industry and how Amazon disrupted the retail industry. The architectural, construction and development industry really is operating fairly much the way it has for 15, 20, 30 years. And we’re due for disruption within our industry.”
For the time being, CBA and other architects who use Revit are printing out 2D PDFs of their plans and submitting them electronically to local governments. The value of the plan comes in the collaboration between the architect and developer during pre-construction. In the future, the hope is it can expedite construction by allowing for off-site construction of building components beyond roof trusses, to include wall panels and framing for doors and windows.
“If we have a very thorough BIM and BIM process and coordinated drawing, we potentially could also prefabricate off-site,” Ogier said.
Anderson said getting to that point would improve the quality of the build and save the developer time and money because the factory could start building components while the project is still in permitting.
“You can lose four or five months of time where you’re just waiting for the permit to be issued,” Anderson said. “You can actually get that stuff on their way and being built while permitting is being done, and so once you do get your permit you can begin shipping stuff to the site. You still have to get it inspected, but it’s more and more of it is coming fully erected. So now you’ve shortened your constructions time, which can save an extraordinary amount of money if you cut a month or two off the time it takes to build a job.”