ignite architects + sjb

Real-time collaboration key to New Zealand’s first dual hotel completion

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Image courtesy of Ignite Architects

Setting a new standard for global project collaboration

A complex, unique project, the new and iconic dual-branded Auckland hotel voco™ Auckland City Centre and Holiday Inn Express was designed by SJB in Sydney and delivered by local firm Ignite Architects who worked closely together across the ditch during the pandemic. The use of real-time collaboration and cloud-based tools from Autodesk’s Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection as well as BIM 360 with Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Building Design Suite made timely completion of the project possible.

The voco™ Hotel against Auckland's skyline. Photo courtesy of Ignite Architects.

An iconic New Zealand architectural project

Located at 58 Albert Street in the beating heart of Auckland’s CBD, with panoramic views across the Waitematā Harbour and the Waitākere Ranges, lies New Zealand’s first dual-branded hotel: voco™ Auckland City Centre and Holiday Inn Express (voco-HIE). An iconic addition to Auckland’s hospitality and tourism scene, as well as its skyline, the dual hotel is comprised of a mixed-use podium and stacked hotel towers offering a total 495 hotel rooms split between the two brands, and includes two lobbies as well as hospitality, fitness, and retail areas.

The unique project was designed by Sydney-based SJB and delivered by Auckland-based architecture firm Ignite between 2019 and 2023 – a highly complex and collaborative joint venture between the two firms, who delivered on time and to brief despite unforeseen challenges including COVID-19 travel shutdowns, restrictions and regulations.

Jeremy Benseman, Associate Director and Group Technology Manager, Ignite Architects. Photo courtesy of Ignite Architects.

The architectural teams who worked together across the ditch

Ignite Architects, Auckland
Ignite is a full-service Auckland-based design practice specialising in master planning, architecture, and interior design.

At Ignite, their core belief is that good design can improve human outcomes and positively contribute to collective future. Many of the projects they undertake involve a complex brief, multiple stakeholders or highly-sensitive environments. Regardless of the challenge, their team has the demonstrated ability to deliver design solutions that meet the needs of their clients and users.

Audrey de Filippis, Associate Director and Sector Lead, Ignite Architects. Image courtesy of Ignite Architects

The voco™ Auckland City Centre and Holiday Inn Express project was led by Associate Director & Sector Lead Audrey de Filippis and supported by Associate Director and Group Tech Manager Jeremy Benseman.

SJB, Sydney
SJB is a multi-disciplinary practice based in Sydney and Melbourne that embraces architecture, interior design, town planning and urban design. Architect Nicholas Forward led the project from Sydney, guided by the practices overarching principles. Their passion is the built environment, and the firm is proud to have worked on some of Australia’s most recognisable and innovative projects. Over the years, SJB has built a reputation for bringing enthusiasm, creativity and personal commitment to every project – whether it’s the fine-grain interior of a boutique hotel, or the planning and revitalisation of an entire neighbourhood.

Bringing this unique, complex project to life

The project teams were charged with a unique, multi-layered design brief, required for such a complex project.

“There was multifaceted planning required for the voco-HIE hotel, which is not typical for stacked hotels. This was a unique project. As you progress up the building, you’re effectively dealing with two different designs – one for voco, and one for HIE,” said Ignite Sector Lead Audrey de Filippis.

This complex planning required a high level of collaboration across teams, including SJB and Ignite, who worked together on models in short timeframes, along with the contractors ICON.

With everyone working remotely due to COVID travel restrictions, cloud collaboration was the only option across multiple teams.

Fortunately, prior to the project’s inception, Ignite had already invested in Autodesk solutions, so were able to mobilize and work efficiently within the short timeframes required despite the pandemic’s challenges.

“Ignite had already invested in Autodesk solutions internally, including the AEC Collection and Autodesk Construction Cloud with BIM 360, prior to commencing work on the voco-HIE project,” said Ignite Associate Director and Group Tech Manager Jeremy Benseman.

“We supported its use and the opportunity to collaborate with SJB and external partners, as we had already experienced the benefits. The approval came from the BIM and project teams, with the final sign-off from management. The biggest metric we provided to justify the spend was the return on investment on file exchanges between ourselves and external parties. This aspect alone has proved to save a significant number of hours per project,” said Benseman.

SJB’s Nicholas Forward said, “This was one of the first projects in the office to fully utilise Autodesk’s BIM 360 solution across external entities. Fortunately, Ignite were able to host the model and provide their previous learnings to assist the workflow. The investment into this project was essential and collaboration could not have been achieved without it.”

“The data flow was disjointed and slow, but since adopting the AEC Collection, decision making, coordination and collaboration became much smoother for all parties.”

Jeremy Benseman, Ignite Architects

Nicholas Forward, Architect, SJB. Image courtesy of SJB

Live data enabled fast decision making

With the project teams based in different countries, up-to-date data was required to enable fast decision making to keep things moving onsite, as well as ensuring local compliance and regulations were adhered to during construction.

Prior to adopting Autodesk’s solutions, Ignite would dedicate significant resources to transferring files and data on a regular basis. For example, a Revit file would need to be saved sideways, cleaned and reviewed, uploaded and transferred to the waiting party.

The receiving party would then need to download the file, review, check and save it to a local location to be visible to their team.

According to Forward, for SJB, the major challenge prior to adopting the platform was the speed in which collaboration between internal and external occurred.

“The process of parties packaging models, transmitting and then relinking periodically was prohibitively slow and resource heavy,” said Forward.

Prior to using Autodesk Construction Cloud including BIM 360, all models were hosted on an internal server. Any collaboration with external parties was done by packaging files and sending via email. This was an inefficient workflow as it meant that the progress of models was limited to periodic transmission.

“SJB hosts all Revit projects on BIM 360 to enable a collaborative and stable workflow within the office or remotely. During the recent lockdowns the Autodesk platform was a pivotal tool in enabling the business to continue its collaborative ethos with large teams being able to work together in different locations.”

Nicholas Forward, SJB

Cloud collaboration enabled trust and communication speed

A high level of trust and speed of project communication was integral for project success. Autodesk provided the platform to enable a live model for all consultants and enabled them to be synchronised.

Ignite has five studios across New Zealand and one in Sydney, so they needed a solution that enabled them to operate as a streamlined team and support them as they continue to grow. In 2017, Ignite transitioned to BIM 360 Team (now part of the Autodesk Construction Cloud solution) on a single project with a few users as a pilot, then rapidly increased licensing for the entire business. They had 60+ projects live by the end of 2017, before upgrading in 2018.

According to de Filippis, Ignite uses the AEC Collection and Autodesk Construction Cloud for all projects and has done since before the pandemic. “This is to facilitate the mobility and flexibility of our distributed teams across Australasia and beyond. They have found that the cloud products provide significant time-saving benefits when collaborating with external partners and consultants, eliminating the need for file transfer and handling. Communication is smoother, enabling assurance and strong relationships to be fostered across the project team. All parties have access to the required data as and when required,” said de Filippis.  

An interior view of the voco hotel. Image courtesy of Ignite Architects

Flexibility in remote working moving forward

Since adopting the AEC Collection and Autodesk Construction Cloud, Ignite has a lot more flexibility in terms of remote working, which was a requirement even before the pandemic – for example, with team members travelling to other studios.

“We have seen an increase in efficiency and improved workflows with tools such as the issues function in BIM 360. We are also seeing improved stability of our Revit files, and subsequently our overall project delivery,” said Benseman. “We are now working to improve standardisation through similar toolsets and workflows.”

For SJB, their implementation of BIM 360 was one of the key factors which enabled the team to collaborate efficiently while working on a stable cloud-based platform. “SJB’s Flexible Working policy, which underwent significant review during COVID, was aided by BIM 360,” said Forward. “Moving forward we are continuing to use the Autodesk platform to enable our team to work remotely on projects while still connecting seamlessly.”