A technical advantage

17 Jun 2011

WAN examines one of the earliest and most successful examples of property designed using Autodesk's Revit software

Nestled amongst Chesapeake Bay’s native loblolly pines, Kieran Timberlake’s Loblolly House is one of the first examples of a structure built solely using Building Information Modelling (BIM); in this case, Revit. The Philadelphia-based firm took the brave step of realising the 1,800 sq ft single family residence despite the fact that ‘no client would consider it’ due to the advanced nature of its active and adjustable double-skin façade.

Using partner Stephen Kieran’s summer house as a laboratory, the design studio utilised Revit to envision a home consisting of 70% prefabricated components that would see the concept come to life in only six weeks. It was imperative that the completed structure remain at one with its densely wooded setting, therefore an irregular pattern of vertical board rain screens was proposed for the east wall, with some elements overlaying a solid wall and others lapping over the glazing to replicate the fluctuating densities registered when one views the forest wall.

In direct contrast, the property’s west wall comprises an adjustable, double-layer system with folding glass doors which provide protection from the harsh sun and occasional storms yet can be thrown open to establish a closer relationship between inside and outside space.

To allow for a swift and smooth construction process, the structure of the design was split into four key elements: the scaffold, the cartridge, the block, and the equipment. The aluminium scaffold system, coupled with an array of connectors, provides both the structural frame and the means to connect cartridges, blocks and equipment to that frame with only the aid of a wrench.

All floor and ceiling cartridges were formed offsite and prewired to distribute electricity throughout the Loblolly House. These plywood and laminated veneer lumber panels were also designed to deliver radiant heating, hot and cold water, waste water, and ventilation throughout the completed structure. Kieran Timberlake explains: “The design team navigated through the (BIM) model to detect possible conflicts and resolved them virtually to eliminate delays, wasted resources and rising costs.”

The success of the Loblolly House is well known within industry circles, and it is no surprise that Kieran Timberlake has gone on to receive three awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for its use of BIM. Looking towards the future the firm explains: “The methodology [of the Loblolly House] confronts not only the question of how we assemble our architecture, but our obligation to assume responsibility for its disassembly. Instead of a stream of decomposed debris that comprises much of what we are left with to recycle today, this house poses a far more extensive agenda of wholesale reclamation. It is a vision in which our architecture, even as it is disassembled at some unknown moment, can be relocated and reassembled in new ways from reclaimed parts.”

WAN spoke to lead architect on the Loblolly House project Marilia Rodrigues and Autodesk’s Erin Rae Hoffer about the use of Revit in the design process. See below to listen to the discussion.

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