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A pragmatic approach to BIM

Consulting engineers ACTING Bygherrerådgivning started their BIM journey 6 years ago when Christian Hellström joined the company as a partner. The consulting engineering company has a pragmatic approach to all their tasks, which is also reflected in their approach to BIM.

"Basically, it’s about delivering the best client advice we can", says Christian Hellström, partner in ACTING, at the interview in their office in northern Copenhagen. The company has 12 employees that cover a variety of tasks ranging from traditional client consulting to design of smaller projects within all engineering disciplines. "We are a slightly strange round of mixed sweets, which sets us apart from many of the larger engineering companies. We also have some competencies from architectural studios, which means that we can understand our customers' tenants, when they state that they don’t want a huge ventilation system, but rather express New York-style rawness, while we help them to understand that they probably need one when they install a charcoal grill in their food shop".

BIM requires an effort

Christian Hellström is a construction architect and one of three partners in ACTING, which originates from a classic engineering company. There are two other partners, Andreas B. Søndergaard, who is a construction engineer, and Louise Torp, who is an installation engineer, so together the partner group covers a wide range of the crucial disciplines. It was Christian Hellström that introduced BIM, which he had experience in from working at a Copenhagen architectural studio.

"It was a little harder to implement Archicad, than I immediately expected. I had experience using BIM delivering only one discipline, but having to transfer BIM to 3 disciplines, that work in the same model, had its challenges initially", Christian Hellström recalls, "We have had to develop a number of our own templates to get the structure in place. It requires a lot of management and continuous development, and everything is not quite in place yet. However, meanwhile some parts of Archicad have also been more strongly implemented in the software, such as installations that have received an extra update this year”.

A young and close-knit team

Although the implementation of Archicad has required a little extra work, it’s definitely worth the effort, Christian Hellström explains, "Our employees – especially the young ones – have embraced Archicad very well. Many of our employees used to design in Revit before they started working with us, while the construction architects are trained in Revit as part of their education. The young people are quick to adapt, while the older ones shout a little more into the screen, and as a partner you can no longer stay a super user. But nonetheless, one of our less digital native employees, who usually works with construction management, has designed his own house in Archicad. So, some of the difficulty is about working in a structured way when many employees work in the same file and with many different professions".

Collaboration across disciplines and software platforms is no problem

Building is a collaborative discipline, and BIM collaboration – neither internally nor externally – is a problem. "On many projects we do it all ourselves. But sometimes we collaborate with other design studios –as we did on the Kronen shopping center project in Vanløse, where we transferred the entire Revit model to Archicad to perform collision control, among other things. We were client consultants on the design of all the shops in collaboration with the architect and engineers on the center project itself ", Christian Hellström says, and continues, "On many projects we do not do ordinary detail design, although of course we also have smaller projects where we design everything. However, this does not mean that we don’t design, but usually only enough for the contractor and the suppliers to complete the design and erection themselves."

To make Archicad work well for engineers, ACTING has developed a template with many favorites for the standardized building components they frequently use. "We have many special tasks with few repetitions that standardized building parts are the most common, so we have drawn our own electrical symbols just once, even though there are quite a few", he says and continues, "With Archicad 24 we can now open Revit families, where many manufacturers have made standard objects for eg. installations, which we sometimes miss it a bit in Archicad, even though we now have managed to get it very well up and running, so it is not a problem that takes too much time".

Client and technical advice at The Audo across two BIM platforms

One of ACTINGs newer projects is The Audo in Nordhavn, which is a redevelopment project where a former grocery store in Nordhavn has been transformed into a new hybrid in form of a combined work and event space, boutique hotel residence, restaurant, cafe and concept store. Aartiderne Arkitekter are responsible for the transformation of the building, while the showroom, café, office and hotel rooms have been designed by NORM Architects. ACTING has assisted NREP – which have their head office in the neighboring building Riffelsyndikatet – with the regulatory procedures and are consultants on all technical installations and constructions.

ACTING didn’t experience major problems collaborating with Årstiderne that was not just between two companies and a wide range of professions, but also took place across two BIM platforms. "We made a 3D model of the entire building in Archicad, which we passed on to the architects as an IFC file. We have mainly designed the constructions, while the contractor has designed and carried out the ventilation project," says Christian Hellström, noting that they are aware of being able to deliver a high quality regardless of the delivery format. "We have never been met by Revit requirements, but we do have a license for Revit to be able to convert files, and so we can check that the output in Archicad is exactly the same as in Revit. We can easily get that to work so we mostly have the Revit license for double checking".

No ambitions to become a large company

Today, ACTING consists of 12 employees, and Christian Hellström says that they would like to be a few more, but that they don’t have ambitions to become a large engineering company. "At Kronen in Vanløse, we were five people working full time on the project, and when we are only 12 persons, it consumes a large part of the resources of the company. We solve most of our projects by the hour, so they can basically stop tomorrow, which makes it vulnerable to have a majority of our employees tide up to one particular project. With our small size, we are flexible and agile, and we have no desire to be much bigger than we are today".

"We're best at getting in when projects have gone a bit awry", Christian admits. The dream tasks are those that involve all the professions represented at ACTING, and Christian Hellström highlights this as one of their strengths: "Our internal coordination is difficult to match, which benefits the builders. Another strength is the office's staff composition. We are a young team. We want a nice and flat structure in a friendly environment, where we can also travel together and have some things in common. You may not get rich from that, but it makes a profit on another account".

A nice atmosphere

Before we leave ACTING, we are allowed to take a closer look at one of the studio's projects, which is a 3,700 sqm cargo terminal for WFS (Worldwide Flights Services). Constructions and ventilations are drawn in 3D, while water, heat and electricity are drawn in 2D. This is a sensible solution for many projects.

We thank for the time Christian gave us, and leave company HQ on a cold autumn day, which in no way reflects the warm atmosphere and professional pride that is at ACTING. It’s nice to see a company that has such a positive and calm approach to digitalization, where no challenges are greater than they can be solved, and where the benefits overshadow what might be teasing. Collaboration is natural – even across systems that elsewhere might cause problems. Whether it is the approach, the team, the software or the competencies that is the reason, remains unanswered, but ACTING certainly know how to make it work.

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About Pawel Antoni Lange

Pawel Antoni Lange has worked with communication within the AEC industry for more than a decade. Pawel has a MA in Modern Culture and Dissemination of Culture from The University of Copenhagen as well as a B.Sc. from Copenhagen Business School.
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