DSA drives challenging Digitisation across continents

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Using Autodesk’s BIM-equipped solutions, DSA Architects International have successfully implemented three major digital transformation projects, spanning multiple time zones and varying levels of complexity. Across their projects, DSA used BIM to drive efficiencies throughout their projects, implemented common data platforms to allow for greater ease when designing for a sustainable ecosystem and leveraged collaborative design solutions to bring remote teams together.

The globally recognised architecture firm has been delivering exquisite architecture projects for over 35 years across more than 30 countries. Renowned for its award-winning multi-disciplinary design consultancy and management services, DSA Architects International is a formidable force that delivers results and customer satisfaction.

BIM drives efficiency

The Swiss International School in Dubai (SISD) is a top international boarding school that caters to pupils from kindergarten to the 6th grade. The construction brief for the school and sports facilities demanded the highest building specifications, the best materials, and the most efficient green energy solutions. This included the unique and innovative construction standard called Minergie. This Swiss construction standard focusses on the comfort of the occupants who will be working or residing in a building. It also considers the energy efficiency of the building, quality of the construction and the preservation value of the building as a whole.  The Swiss International School in Dubai (SISD) has proudly achieved this coveted certification and is the first to do so within the UAE, in fact, it’s the first such certification for any such cooled environment worldwide.

The DSA were the design architect and lead consultant for this project, which meant that they were ultimately responsible for every stage of the project. This included all disciplines such as engineering, landscaping, interior design (from concept design through to fully detailed documentation), site supervision, and, ultimately, the handover to the Swiss International School in Dubai.

"The design and construction were carried out in phases under a design and build procurement model. Phases 1 and 2 were both completed in just 10 months. Impressively we also saw massive efficiencies in design and coordination thanks to the design team's full collaboration through BIM software combined with the materials and construction methodology used." Peter Davison, Managing Director (Middle East).

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From early on in the project’s design phase, BIM was used by the stakeholders as the base for the workshop drawings. This also meant that the documentation could be developed into the 3D models from very early on in the project. Moreover, by having the project stakeholders work on a single model in a structured and planned manner from the beginning of the project, it allowed the project team to get input significantly quicker. Any potential issues were identified early on in the project while allowing the design team to assess their options and the potential solutions available to overcome them. A lack of clashes between architecture, structural design, and the MEP proposals allowed the contractor to construct far more efficiently

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Thanks to implementing the BIM process so early on in the project, the design teams were able to present complex ideas in 3D, often to clients and other stakeholders who are not tech savvy enough to understand technical drawings or concepts. This resulted in feedback from the client at a very early stage in the project and allows for issues to be identified before it becomes costly to rectify. This also gives the design team more time to assess their options and propose various solutions available to overcome any challenges.

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"Combined with the skill, knowledge, and experience of the team, we were able to achieve a massively successful end product which is not only fit for purpose, well ordered, and highly functional but sets a new benchmark for educational institutions across the region," adds Davison.

Adhering to the intricate requirements set by the Minergie standard was particularly challenging considering the environmental challenges of construction in Dubai. The DSA needed to achieve high levels of comfort with efficient protection from the harsh middle eastern sun. Achieving high levels of insulation was critical while still ensuring natural light throughout all the buildings.

For the DSA, the use of cutting-edge collaborative BIM software packages helped achieve a quicker design schedule and a far more efficient process overall. For the Swiss International School in Dubai this meant that the staff and students who will live, work and go to school there, will enjoy a comfortable environment inside while the building will consume less energy to combat the external environment. In fact, early studies showed that the primary school building alone consumed 80% less energy than a conventional building in Dubai.

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Common data platforms protect the environment

Another stellar example of BIM implementation from DSA was showcased with the Anse La Mouche Resort development in the Seychelles, where the team at DSA had to tackle complex topography and wetland challenges to develop a 5-Star resort along the curved bay in the south-west of Mahé, Seychelles’ largest island.

The project was conceptualised on Autodesk AutoCAD to facilitate the integration of the initial pre-concept designs as well as the interior and landscape designs. Autodesk Revit was the applied package with all documentation issued and facilitated through Autodesk Docs. The seamless evolution from AutoCAD to Revit allowed the team to integrate building services, structures, and civil engineering with architectural design at an early stage. Autodesk Docs became the common platform for documentation transfer and sharing for coordination purposes amongst the client team, architects, and engineers.

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One of the significant challenges that DSA faced on this project was optimising civil earthworks on protected wetlands. The conservation of these wetlands was critical for all stakeholders involved and the teams used the modelling software to simulate various flood scenarios to guide the design of the earthworks. Not an easy feat considering this was an international project that brought together consultants from various corners of the world. So, implementing a common data platform was essential in hosting and sharing project models.

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Collaborative Design Solutions that bring remote teams together

The Torres Rani Towers, located in Mozambique, was inspired by the rolling hills and undulating coastline of this beautiful Southern African country.  It is a mixed-use development with two towers comprising serviced residential apartments and an office tower that is supported by retail and conference facilities on the ground floor. The building features an unusual design and shape which required the use of Autodesk’s software suite from concept to inception. Autodesk Revit was the primary tool used to develop 3D renderings of the building while AutoCAD was also used for some of its 2D detailing packaging which integrated seamlessly with DSA’s workflow.

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With various client changes and updated requirements throughout the project, there was a need for specific graphic and production outcomes that reflected the complex building shape and articulation. The biggest design challenge was manipulating the unique oval floor plates to create an efficient use of space.

"We found Revit’s massing tool able to quickly calculate these areas while maintaining the overall form we wanted to achieve. While in the implementation, we modelled the tapering facade of the office building fenestration to optimise the cost by maintaining an orthogonal module for the unitised glazing,” says Zinon Marinakos, Managing Director (Africa). 

This allowed DSA to interrogate the fixing and jointing systems to ensure that they avoided any negative slopes in the junctions of the tapered vertical profiles.

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These improved processes allowed the team at DSA to realise and deliver a unique and award-winning building that captured the essence of the clients' very particular vision and design.

"Our design and construction models were done in Johannesburg, and handed over to the facade contractor, Martifer, in Maputo, Mozambique who had their design office in Lisbon interact with SAPA Aluminium systems, in Germany. The brief was to design, manufacture and fabricate a thermally efficient, reliable, and innovative curtain wall system that captures the essence of the design".

[Zinon Marinakos], Managing Director (Africa), DSA Architects International

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Thanks to Autodesk’s software suite, the teams were able to collaborate remotely and work efficiently across the project. All presentation material for the project and 3ds Max CGI images required were extracted from the Revit models. The planning and façade were developed in 3D from the start of the project which made all changes and amendments easy to implement as it was fully understood by the cost management and client teams. For the detail design stage, DSA brought in the use of Navisworks for client integration and clash detection, specifically for MEP and Structural coordination. When it came to the construction phase, the contractors and all consultants were issued with 3D reference models that where available on portable devices.

This integrated all the consultant's information for quick verification and on-site reference when needed. These improved processes allowed the team at DSA to realise and deliver a unique and award-winning building that captured the essence of the clients' very particular vision and design. Although cloud collaboration was not used on this project, the Autodesk Docs platform became a crucial tool when the COVID19 pandemic struck as coordination had to be done from remote locations and sometimes for extended periods of time. With Autodesk Docs, DSA where able to execute their projects with minimal impact to clients or construction timelines.

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Effortless solutions deliver a positive ROI

As a highly competitive industry, the real estate market continues to push architecture professionals to meet the high demands of the industry. Creating visually stunning, environmentally conscious, and practical spaces is a hard juggle to maintain, especially when the client and design teams are sitting in different time zones.

With DSA's adoption of Autodesk design solutions, the company is able to foster a strong level of collaboration with teams, mitigating any issues that might arise from working in remote locations. Thanks to Autodesk's collaboration tools, the project stakeholders where able to easily bring their ideas and design requirements to the project with minimal effort.

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The time saved from these improved workflows translated into significant cost-savings for the client as the projects were delivered on time and within budget. This also increased client satisfaction as it ensured a positive return on their investment. With numerous successful projects completed, the benefits of Autodesk's BIM and collaborative tools such as Revit, and Autodesk Docs far outweigh the risk of investing in design software, according to DSA.

Thanks to their regional Autodesk Gold Partner, Baker Baynes (Pty) Ltd, DSA have been able to overhaul the way their architectural teams deliver projects which have a direct impact on the company’s profitability. 

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