To convert their 2D design and construction projects to 3D delivery, the UK-based engineering firm Max Fordham switched from 2D AutoCAD to Revit, and then leveraged Revit’s open APIs to extend Revit’s platform capabilities and create more integrated project workflows specific to their business. The tools developed by the team have saved approximately 14,000 hours of labor, translating to estimated salary cost savings of £250K and £300K. These new tools, along with the development of a company-wide Revit family library, project template and Revit standards, have contributed to an impressive 23% increase in worker productivity per engineer since their move to Revit in 2015.
Academic Hub & Library in Grangegorman. Photo courtesy of O'Donnell and Tuomey and ZOA 3D.
Max Fordham is an engineering firm with 175 engineers and over 220 staff spread out across five offices in the UK. Engineers work on a variety of projects, including high-profile buildings across all sectors. Launched in 1966, the firm started out designing MEP systems by hand, with pencils, pens, paper and drawing boards. Then in the 1980s, with the advent of the personal computer, the firm moved to computer assisted design with AutoCAD.
Six years ago, looking to digitize their processes, Max Fordham decided to transition fully from 2D AutoCAD-based designs to 3D project delivery using Revit. At this time, they saw an increase in the number of client requests for design work to be delivered using 3D models and in accordance with the UK building information modeling (BIM) standards.
The Twist Gallery at the Kistefos Museum. Photo courtesy of Laurian Ghinitoiu.
Today, at any given time, the firm executes approximately 200 different projects using Revit. “Revit content and tools have increased productivity on projects delivered in 3D,” says Kathryn Donald, Digital Design Leader at Max Fordham. “Although the investment in training and development has been significant, we are now beginning to see improvements in efficiency and profitability on projects and we expect to see this increase even more as legacy projects in 2D CAD are replaced by those delivered using Revit.”
The transition to 3D delivery has also offered new opportunities, allowing greater coordination, a greater level of detail and enabling the delivery of projects from conception through to fully coordinated construction information with asset information.
To ensure consistent and high-quality output, and to make engineers’ lives easier, the Max Fordham Digital Design team leveraged Revit’s open platform to develop new templates, libraries and other tools that help them better integrate their workflows.
Every new engineering project is set up using a Revit project template with all the logical views and elements needed to create designs. The most commonly used MEP systems are pre-populated in the template, making it easier for engineers to get started.
Views are designed so that only the system being worked on is in color; everything else is grayed out in the interest of clash avoidance. More than 100 view templates follow strict naming conventions, which makes them easier to find and use.
Autodesk’s commitment to an open platform and interoperability helped Max Fordham develop custom tools and libraries on top of Revit to address specific workflows and challenges.
“Revit content and tools have increased productivity on projects delivered in 3D.”
—Kathryn Donald, Digital Design Lead, Max Fordham
Image of the Twist. Photo courtesy of Laurian Ghinitoiu/BIG
The transition to BIM has also led to optimized design solutions that consistently meet the clients’ needs.
Engineers now follow a better design review workflow, which is transparent to all and gives a clear audit trail. Meeting customer and design requirements this way helps reduce risk in projects. Max Fordham engineers routinely work on complex projects with international architects. A recent example involved working with BIG to design a new international contemporary art gallery at Kistefos Museum known as the Twist.
MEP systems for the Twist. Photo courtesy of Max Fordham.
The complex geometries involved in the twisted shape of the building, combined with the lighting requirements for the art displays, necessitated extensive daylight modeling, parametric modeling, computational fluid dynamics modeling, and digital collaboration tools. The team used Autodesk Revit to check the validity of proposed service routes, among other tasks.
“Due to the complex nature of the architectural and structural designs, 3D modeling was crucial to establishing appropriate service zones,” Donald says. “The services distribution throughout the building involved a great deal of close coordination with the other design team members. This would have been impossible in 2D due to the complex geometry of both the structural frame and the internal and external finishes. Working in 3D we were able to easily generate design drawings from a single model consisting of a combination of plans, sections and selected 3D images that clearly communicate the complex coordination of the MEP systems.”
“Revit has given us the ability to standardize this and make it more consistent,” Donald says. “It made a very complex project more manageable and efficient.”
Equally important, Revit has helped them eliminate discrepancies between information stored in different places and in different formats. In the case of product specification schedules, for example, data in the model is directly connected to data in the schedule. There’s now a single source of truth.
And clash avoidance doesn’t have to wait until later stages, when they’re more difficult and expensive to fix. A custom in-house clash detection tool in Revit helps engineers keep these challenges in mind from design to execution. The quality of final tender drawings is also very high, Donald says.
“Our new tools and templates ensure our engineers can focus on what they are good at by avoiding repetitive drafting activities and drawing administration.”
—Mark Palmer, Senior Partner, Max Fordham
Project Leigh. Photo courtesy of Jack Carter Architects.
The culture among employees has also been further enhanced by the development investment. “There has been a greater enthusiasm to adopt 3D modeling across the practice, even for projects where the rest of the design team is working in 2D,” Donald says.
Engineers are less frustrated because they can work more quickly and easily, producing better designs. And this is good news for talent retention.
“We want our engineers to spend their time engaged in creative design, MEP engineering and problem solving. Our new tools and templates ensure our engineers can focus on what they are good at by avoiding repetitive drafting activities and drawing administration,” says Mark Palmer, Senior Partner at Max Fordham. “Our Revit tools have helped improve engineers’ jobs by cutting down on monotonous tasks while delivering better outcomes to clients.”
Max Fordham expects to do more with data in the future and create more efficiencies. “Now that we are starting to collate structured data, we want to look at how we can aggregate and use this data to inform future design decisions, and automate processes such as reviewing technical submittals supplied by subcontractors,” Donald says. As Max Fordham looks to the future, they’re confident that Revit’s powerful features and open platform will help them get there.