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Firm Profile: Levi + Wong Design Associates—Virtualizing Healthcare Architecture

We continue our Firm Profile series for the second time this month with a feature on the mixed practice design firm Levi + Wong Design Associates, a Boston area architecture, landscape architecture, planning and interior design firm serving national clients through a highly-developed 3D ‘virtual design’ process using GRAPHISOFT’s highly noted ArchiCAD and BIMx platforms.

Continued from page 1

Industry Under Pressure—BIM for the Healthcare Industry

If time is money then the ability for an architecture firm to move a healthcare project from conception to completion faster than in the past is of obvious benefit to the institution, and theoretically healthcare in general. But that’s only one part of the bigger BIM story for healthcare architecture.

Thomas Levi reiterates that what’s even more important to the professionals treating patients every day is their ability to raise the level of care. “The US already has some of the best healthcare in the world, but’s that’s not stopping our nation’s leading hospitals from advancing,” remarks Levi.

quote_1_levi

“Healthcare is under tremendous pressure as an industry,” he adds. “Everything you hear in the press is real. They are under massive financial pressure to re-align their own business. By involving the client in our 3D virtual design process from the beginning and throughout the project they are able to understand the project more clearly and make better informed decisions.” 

Boston Medical Center—Case Study

Recently Levi + Wong has applied some of their latest ‘virtual design’ workflow processes to three key projects at Boston Medical Center, Boston’s academic and community hospital. In each of these projects the firm utilized Graphisoft’s BIMx software to enable the ‘virtualized building’ experience so both design staff, project managers, and the hospital’s decision-makers could experience the project virtually—as a digital prototype—in immense detail.

03 - Boston Medical Center, Yawkey, Entrance & Cafeteria design visualization sequence. Mid-Schematic Design.

03 – Boston Medical Center, Yawkey, Entrance & Cafeteria design visualization sequence. Mid-Schematic Design.

03.1 - Boston Medical Center. Yawkey, New Entrance & Cafeteria, design visualization sequence. Early Design Development.

03.1 – Boston Medical Center. Yawkey, New Entrance & Cafeteria, design visualization sequence. Early Design Development.

03.2 - Boston Medical Center. Yawkey, New Entrance & Cafeteria design visualization sequence. Post-Design & Fundraising.

03.2 – Boston Medical Center. Yawkey, New Entrance & Cafeteria design visualization sequence. Post-Design & Fundraising.

“Using BIMx has helped our clients because they can spend more time with the design in a way you can’t do with drawings or static 3D,” says Levi. From ArchiCAD the firm can export what is known as a BIMx file, which can be viewed on a desktop or a mobile iOS device like an iPad. With video game-like 3D navigation anyone, no matter what their computer experience level, can quickly learn to roam around inside a virtual building. (see images 03 – 04.2)

Passmore notes about BIMx that the technology takes out “the discrepancy between the firm’s presentation documents and their construction documents, as the information all comes from the same file.” This is very easy to see and understand when viewing BIMx on an iPad device, for example.

“We can take them into the BIMx model environment and say, ‘this is your workspace,’ so it’s like a virtual approval of the project,” says Levi. In one of the projects for Boston Medical Center, Levi + Wong redesigned the hospital’s critical NICU or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The NICU features private NICU rooms and, as can be seen in the images in this article, every single device, along with all the electronics and lighting within the device is modeled in 3D.

04 - Boston Medical Center, Maternity Unit, Lobby View.

04 – Boston Medical Center, Maternity Unit, Lobby View.

04.1 - Boston Medical Center, Maternity Unit. Headwall in Postpartum Room.

04.1 – Boston Medical Center, Maternity Unit. Headwall in Postpartum Room.

04.2 - Boston Medical Center, Maternity, NICU Room.

04.2 – Boston Medical Center, Maternity, NICU Room.

This level of interactive work has led to some clients being asked to come to the firm to participate in real-time or interactive design meetings—another added value that healthcare clients are not used to receiving from working with other firms. “Vincent has sat with a couple of our clients, making some changes in ArchiCAD in real-time. They thought it was normal to work that way and we said ‘oh no, this is what Levi + Wong does but this isn’t normal.'”

Solve Complexity with Simplicity—The One Tool Paradigm

While Levi + Wong may be enthusiastic about the use of advanced computer technology in their practice, they are not interested in “tooling up” in order to appear overly sophisticated or techie. Levi stated that the firm seeks to simply software complexity as much as possible and work with tools that are accessible and easy to use.

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For example, Levi noted that he himself isn’t a BIM user and can’t really do much inside ArchiCAD. “A lot of the project managers and principals here, in their mid-50’s or early 60’s, like myself, don’t know CAD. But when they see this—BIMx is a tool they can use to design and review projects with.” Levi notes that for project managers and principals using BIMx on their own allows them to explore the latest state of an ArchiCAD BIM model so they can evaluate design decisions, technical and lighting decisions, independently.

And “BIMx is a great way to present the model without separating the ArchiCAD BIM workflow from the presentation itself,” notes Vincent Boutaud, Assoc. AIA, “because a lot of times there are people working on the BIM model live. BIMx gives you a way to control the presentation as well, something you can’t get with flyby animations per se.”

The firm’s main tools are Microsoft Excel for data intake and manipulation, ArchiCAD for design and the BIM workflow, Cinema 4D for advanced visualization and animations, plus BIMx for creating self-directed or presentation-led BIM model walk-thrus. Levi also notes that the firm has a solid history of using Trimble’s SketchUp for early design work as well; but “year by year its use is dwindling” notes Levi as ArchiCAD has taken over as the primary design tool. Additionally, the firm uses Apple’s Keynote because it presents animations very well and can create them interestingly among slides in a presentation.

next page: US Realities—Getting Along with Revit

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Reader Comments

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