"The city is created between the buildings"

BIM is not just about 3D but also about the intelligence attached to the model. This is something Fojab have taken on in their urban planning projects. An intelligence - under constant development. The model that handles the calculations and the architect controls the process.

Fojab is an architectural firm dating back to 1971, founded in Lund by architects Keith Foster and Mats Jacobson. An additional office was established 1997 in Malmö and in 2010 the two offices were merged into one and based in Malmö. In 2013 Fojab expanded and started an additional office in Stockholm, and in 2014 an office in Helsingborg was added. There are about 120 of employees in Malmö, ten in Helsingborg and thirty in Stockholm. The Stockholm office is located at Kungsholmen in the central city. This is also the office where we meet Simon Kallioinen, who works with urban development projects.

Template crucial for projects

Simon explains that when Fojab set up an urban development project, the setup and contents of the template file they use are of great importance in order to give the project the intelligence they desire.

"The projects are built up in a template document where a number of properties can be linked to the building volumes. A good example of such an important property is "function", which show whether the building contains housing, kindergarten etc."

"We set logical rules in the template file defining how everything will be displayed. We can for instance, create diagrammatic drawings with a scheme of colours linked to different functions, or based on other properties that we have entered in the file. We start out with a template file that is set up in accordance with how we think the project should be, but there are always specific factors for each project that needs to be addressed so we always adjust the template a little. Our goal is to avoid spending time calculating elements or spaces, but in return we have to spend some time on checking."

Sigtuna Stadsängar – visionary image. This 3D model has really been used for everything: 3D printing, VR models, images, movie clips and drawings. Illustration: FOJAB

The urban development models have different saved views and different drawing modes. The intention is of course to communicate everything of importance in order for the clients to be able to make correct decisions. It may concern floor areas, parking spaces, project specific demands, open spaces, school yards or the time schedule of the different stages. "From the model we can create tables and schedules for every single element and this minimizes the number of errors. But you have to get the programming correct and then make sure that everything is calculated accordingly", Simon continues.

Intelligence, energy and urban construction

Simon says that when delivering to municipalities, they usually request 2D DWG or PDF files. Often, simple volume models in SketchUp are requested as well. "But in all these systems you lose the intelligence we have built into our models. It is a dream for us that the municipalities demand and also are able to use the intelligence that we have in our projects. It could give so much more to the process."

"We often create detail development plans for municipalities, but there are various types of projects. Sometimes a private client finances the project and sometimes there are private clients that need a cost estimate or a preliminary study. Occasionally we initiate projects ourselves and an example of this among others are infill projects."

When you have delivered an urban development project, what determines Fojab’s involvement in the next stages of the designs of the buildings and surroundings?

"It depends on the content. When we do an urban development project, there are often several buildings in the project, and one company - by policy - never gets to design all of the buildings. In a major urban development project, municipalities often want to have several architects involved in order to get a varied architecture", says Simon.

The client or the municipality often want us to draw fairly detailed plans, because they want estimates, solutions or design to be precise. Then we sometimes end up with specific solutions, which means that we are in a better position to get to continue to develop that particular project. If we have succeeded in achieving a really innovative solution that everyone involved approves of, we also have very good chances of continuing to realize it. In the end, the urban development projects often generate projects for the landscape or the building architect colleagues at FOJAB.

The city is also created with VR

With a good 3D model, other technological innovations can also be used: In the project Sigtuna stadsängar the client wanted a Virtual Reality model. When the building permit department in the municipality saw the VR, they integrated it as a decision basis in the building permit process.

From one and the same BIM model we generate a large amount of drawings, diagrams and analyses. Illustration: FOJAB

Most visualizations in urban development projects are created long before the buildings have been granted building permits. A common problem that arises with these images are that they are perceived as buildings with already approved building permits. It is a difficult balance to present something that looks realistic and at the same time clearly states that it shows only sketches or examples of buildings. But the visualizations are also an important tool for being able to communicate with the vast majority that are not used to reading drawings. Describing architecture for the uninitiated is always a challenge.

The fact that everything is created in 3D gives great advantages. We can do solar studies and daylight analyses which is increasingly important today. This is done via Rhino and Grasshopper, which can be connected directly to ARCHICAD. Every apartment has to meet the daylight requirements and in the model we are able to detect problems – and also sketch on the solutions. We are also able to check if the requirements for playground area per child in a kindergarten are meet or how we meet the need for parking spaces.

Simon's basic attitude is that people are more intelligent than computers - but that computers are superior at calculations and data management. Computers should be used at what they are best at and the human intelligence for solutions, design and communication with contractors.

Simon with a building block from the 3D printed model of  Sigtuna Stadsängar. Photo: Andrea Papini

Simon Kallioinen belong to those who think development is exciting and would like to spend more time developing Fojab's CAD system into an even better urban development tool.

"Urban planners must have a systematic, smart and comprehensive working method in order to achieve optimal results. If the work is done manually the hours put into the project would be consumed by calculations and drawing production – an intelligent work process creates more time for the project’s content: problem solving, design and investigation."

"Urban planning is a different form of architecture. We create the city. And the city is created between the houses."

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About Hans Loord

Hans Loord is an experienced Architect SAR/MSA and a seasoned journalist. He began his CAD journey as early as in 1985 and has worked with several different CAD applications over the years. He has also a keen interest for photography, art, politics, communication, design and then some. 
Hans can often be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn.
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