Why landscape architecture companies are abandoning 2D CAD

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Why landscape architecture companies are abandoning 2D CAD

The notable change from 2D CAD in landscape architecture is partly due to external pressures, such as the UK’s requirement for a BIM Level 2 framework for government-funded projects. Even when there is no BIM mandate, there is an inherent pressure to deliver BIM files when working with consultants who have already matured their workflows with BIM.

Clinging to 2D tools like AutoCAD for information modeling leaves landscape architecture firms with a dilemma. And it’s a dilemma that more practitioners need to address, especially if they want to follow the BIM methodology that various other industries champion.

To properly integrate 3D modeling with on-board data, 2D-focused companies must use several separate pieces of software (note: “programs” is plural!). It’s not uncommon for these companies to use 3 or 4 apps to put together a 3D concept and paying for 3 or 4 programs isn’t exactly best for your wallet. Not to mention the cost of staff when considering the time spent working on multiple applications. It all sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?

Hub of the city of Nottingham.  Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.
Hub of the city of Nottingham. Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.

The advantages of 3D and BIM with Ares Paysagistes

Ares Landscape Architects found themselves in this difficult situation as part of the BIM level 2 mandate for their Nottingham City Hub project. After years of an AutoCAD-based workflow, the company needed a BIM-ready application and landed on Vectorworks Landmark for its cohesion between design and documentation, huge appeal as they started to work with BIM requirements.

Ares Principal Landscape Architect Sam Bailey explains that the project involved working with architects using ArchiCAD and engineers using Revit. It was therefore crucial that the teams set expectations for file transfer. They relied on IFC.

“It just helps ensure everyone is on the same page going forward, and it speeds up the coordination process,” Bailey said.

Hub of the city of Nottingham.  Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.
Hub of the city of Nottingham. Image courtesy of Ares Landscape Architects Ltd.

The collaborating teams established these standards in a BIM execution plan. Ares modeled the site in 3D, using the architects’ building model for context. The 3D model automatically generated 2D plans, much like the ones Ares used to produce in AutoCAD. Bailey said they worked in 3D from the start of the project because they knew they would need to deliver 3D models anyway.

Designing with data was instrumental for Ares throughout the creation of the model. “All the information is embedded in the object,” Bailey said. “If something were to change, like a plant species, it can be replaced easily.”

To illustrate: if Bailey were to come up with a hardscape whose materials exceeded the budget, he would be able to see that information in the linked hardscape worksheet. It would then be a matter of changing the hardware to something more cost effective, in which case the hardscape documentation would be automatically updated to reflect the change. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of budgeting and also speeds up change management. He would only need to make the change in one place.

Once the site model was ready to share, Ares used Vectorworks’ built-in IFC specs to label the geometry for export. The project architects then collected all the models in Solibri to check for conflicts. The project’s information manager used the Ares model to generate Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) data, another project requirement.

Ultimately, the Ares 3D model became the source for a variety of outputs – 2D plans, factory and material schedules, IFC specs, cost estimates, the list goes on – all without having to leave Vectorworks design space.

Undeniable efficiency with specially designed tools

Ares was able to centralize their BIM process with Vectorworks Landmark and eliminate the need for multiple software to complete the job. That’s the beauty of this project: it highlights the many latent forces in the evolution of landscape architecture.

Courtesy of Vectorworks
Courtesy of Vectorworks

The need for 3D modeling, landscape-specific tools and intelligent documentation stems of course from the pressures of BIM, but the story extends even beyond BIM. Simply put, using design software specifically designed to negotiate these forces just makes sense.

See for yourself – Click here for a full overview of Ares’ Nottingham City Hub project with commentary from Senior Landscape Architect Sam Bailey.

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