[title graphic image: image courtesy of Nikken Sekkei, Architects, Mokuzai Kaikan Building. Photographer, Harunori Noda (Gankosha). All rights reserved.]
A few weeks ago GRAPHISOFT of Hungary held an invite-only press event in Tokyo, Japan, to roll out its new BIMcloud technology and product offering. BIMcloud® is now available, starting in Japan. A significant part of that event was the communication to its gathered press that the company had made significant partnerships with leading AEC firms in Japan, including world ranked, 4th largest architecture firm Nikken Sekkei.
In a companion feature already published, you can read about the global reasons that led up to Nikken Sekkei establishing a strategic partnership with GRAPHISOFT (see, Architosh, “Why one of Apple’s most notable developers is winning big in Japan,” 29 March 2014). This article delves into specific details about that decision and the agreement that it produced, learning in the process about the vast array of software the company puts to use, what connects to what, and what they envision for the future with BIM and GRAPHISOFT ArchiCAD.
Also important is a quick show of some of the excellent works this architecture firm has produced. Despite their gigantic size the firm is innovative like a smaller boutique design-oriented practice.
Press Day at Nikken Sekkei
GRAPHISOFT did a fantastic job arranging for an educational trip for its invited press group at the close of March, when the company took the lid off its new BIMcloud solution. Prior to the BIMcloud press conference we were shuttled around on an informative architectural tour of some noteworthy Tokyo architecture, some of which was also the product of Japanese architects using ArchiCAD and other projects that were just nearby and notable. (see, Architosh, “Graphisoft in Japan: Pictures and Notes from the BIMCloud Trip,” 13 April 2014)
On the second day the US and UK invited press were given a special series of presentations. The first of these was a visit to Nikken Sekkei’s corporate headquarters in downtown Tokyo where Mr. Tomohiko Yamanashi, (Yamanashi-san) an executive officer and principal at Nikken Sekkei gave a presentation titled “Practical Application of BIM at Nikken Sekkei.” (image 01)
Nikken Sekkei is currently ranked as the 3rd or 4th largest architectural firm in the world, according to which numbers you focus on (architects employed or fee income). They have 2,400 staff and of these half are architects. Prior to this trip I had not heard of this firm, which is surprising because they do beautiful and innovative work. (see images 02, 04-05). Unlike Gensler (ranked #2), Perkins & Will (ranked #6) or Foster & Partners (ranked #10) I suppose many European and American readers will not have heard of Nikken Sekkei as well.Yamanashi-san told us that his firm, founded in 1900, has completed 20,000 projects worldwide in more than 50 countries. Its latest branch office is in Moscow, Russia.
Notes on the Agreement
Nikken Sekkei is 10 years into their BIM transformation and three years into making it a standard office practice. This is a very insightful fact, for a firm of Nikken Sekkei’s size doesn’t lack the internal resources to investigate, evaluate, develop and implement technology strategy. If nothing else this ten year number informs you just how progressive the firm was to have started evaluating BIM early as well as how patient and methodical the firm is with making a decision around standardization.
Mr. Tomohiko Yamanashi stated that a key part of the agreement for them is that GRAPHISOFT must understand and respond to their design process. During the Q&A session I asked what made Nikken Sekkei’s design process unique and Mr. Yamanashi stated that one aspect is they use their own developed software tools.
In particular the company uses more than two firm-based proprietary software applications and has several converters that tie applications and data together. Buildings3D is Nikken Sekkei’s proprietary structural analysis software and can work individually or in tandem with midas Gen, another analysis tool that originated in Japan, and these two structural analysis programs tie into both Tekla Structure and Revit Structure via a proprietary Nikken Sekkie original converter.
The firm also has their own original lighting software package called LPER and has developed their own converters to tie Rhino to ArchiCAD 17. The amount of software they use firm-wide between architecture, planning and engineering is quite extensive and includes items such as Gehry Technologies’ Digital Project for rationalizing paneling on complex forms and a variety of visualization tools including Vray and Autodesk 3ds Max. (see the chart above, image 03).
The agreement has several stages (three specifically) that call on GRAPHISOFT to establish a small Nikken Sekkei development team in Hungary to address mid and long term solutions, while another GRAPHISOFT team is placed on-site at Nikken Sekkei to aid in BIM implementation (short term), to support “add-on” development (mid-term) and eventually plan long term solutions via core development into ArchiCAD and GRAPHISOFT’s other BIM solutions.
Uniquely, the Nikken Sekkei and GRAPHISOFT agreement is not a custom software development agreement. The results of all their joint-collaboration will be part of GRAPHISOFT’s products moving forward. This benefits others, as Mr. Yamanashi stated, which is good for all of Japan as well as the rest of Asia.
Mr. Yamanashi mentioned that the firm still utilizes other rival BIM tools but the core reason why they have made this partnership with GRAPHISOFT is because they were more flexible in listening to what they needed in Japan. As was noted in our previous feature article, what matters immensely to firms like Nikken Sekkei is that BIM is “open.”
next page: Nikken Sekkei BIM Implementation