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If you want to win big, go BIM.

One would expect to learn a wealth of information during a meeting of great minds. And our attendance at the Apéro Prescription meeting did not disappoint. The event was hosted by BIMobject and Polantis along with a handful of manufacturers, architects, engineers, construction and operations (AECO) professionals at Abvent Group offices (ARCHICAD’s parent company). Running the meeting was Damien Cordier, an associate architect with DRLW Architectes in Mulhouse, France. The focus of the meeting? The Merck Millipore project—which is the construction of a showroom, laboratory and office building in Molseim near Strasborg. Oh and it’s a 100% BIM project by the way.   

The result of inspired collaboration. 

Let’s rewind for a minute and see how it all started for Damien. After receiving a DESS in Architecture and Archaeology from the Marc Bloch University 2005, he obtained a diploma of Architect DPLG in 2006. For the next eight years, Damien gained hands-on experience working for several agencies and even became a sole proprietor for a bit. But his outstanding collaborative efforts with Denis Dietschy, Jean-Marc Lesage and Christian Weinmann led him to DRLW Architectes.   

Adds up to an environment of excellence. 

DRLW architectes

Damien believes each building needs to be functional, image-bearing and environmentally friendly. The rigour and precision that he learned from archaeological sites during his university years, still inspires him to this day. However, the advanced technology of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is his current focus at DRLW. 

Since its creation in 1979, DRLW Architectes has developed a wide range of expertise in a variety of industries and scales. The agency consists of four partners and about 30 employees. They’re known throughout France for their work in both the public and private sectors in rehabilitation and new construction. From international stations and airports to housing programs to the project of today’s discussion—the Merck Millipore in Molsheim.  

We aim for the utmost accuracy. 

The Merck Group wanted to create a showroom to welcome customers from all over the world. However, the project was no small undertaking. In addition to the showroom, they wanted a customer reception area, laboratories, conference rooms, offices and storage space. In fact, here are some of the numbers in a nutshell:

  • Surface Area—4,100 m2 
  • Total Cost—€9.3 million
  • 1st Master plan file created in 2017
  • Construction Time—13 months
  • Completion Date—2019

For DRLW, the key to winning this project was strictly due to their use of BIM. From the very start, they expressed the desire of working in BIM and how it would be beneficial for both parties. Once they designed the project in 2D, they proposed a project study and made a location recommendation—in 3D. This proved to be a critical decision-making tool for the project owner, who now had a better understanding of the project, was able to virtually walk around the model and make decisions more quickly. 

DRLW architectes

During the Apéro Prescription meeting, Damien showcased PDFs and models in ARCHICAD. 

We’ve spent years preparing for this moment. 

The Merck Group project isn’t the first time DRLW Architectes has conducted feasibility studies. In order to properly prepare, a space planner studied the employees’ work environment and the storage space needed for each job. The planner is required to create a synthesis of needs to optimize the well-being and comfort of all staff members and rationalize the workspace. The BIM modeling of the building also contributes to the optimization of the premises.

Secondly, sunlight, thermal and exposure performances were conducted with OTE agency. On this particular project, it was necessary to manage the building’s micro-perforated double-skin, the south-facing patio and the fully-glazed laboratory. Thanks to all these studies, the patio is well-oriented and designed—from the trapezoidal shape, the dimensions, the quality of the glazing and even the well-chosen sun protection. DRLW was able to produce studies quickly and provide 3D models so the client could validate each step along the way and keep the project on schedule. 

Here’s how BIM enriched each stage of development:

Concept Design (APS stage) 

  • Validation of the complete program
  • Location of the showroom
  • A larger than expected laboratory with real cold rooms, seminar rooms and offices accommodating 120 people on the first floor
  • The introduction and validation of a patio in the building
  • DRLW used the image of molecules and neurotransmitters between the synapses to design the skin of the building—which reflects the Merck Group’s business. 

Already in the Concept Design phase, it was beneficial for the project owner to be working with BIM. They’re able to browse inside, identify all the space, its size and furniture details. From this phase along with the OTE studies, DRLW Architectes was able to determine real figures with surveyors and not just establish ratios “by the ladle.”  

Developed Design (APD stage) 

In this phase, the design of the structure is carried out by the engineer to optimize the size of the space and to define the skeleton of the building. 

  • HVAC manufacturers can model their products in BIM, so engineers have the objects right away to facilitate the work of property information. 
  • Before this stage, DRLW often uses static diagrams and studies but rarely have 3D models. Structural modeling is carried out in Concept Design, but rarely for fluids. Developed Design is used as a support to make the planning permission and to make all the views.  
  • With the project being built as a model, the studies were precise, quantified and the reality of the project validated the view. It showed all signage, micro-perforated ceilings, types of luminaires and touch tables. 

In the Developed Design phase, working with BIM requires a lot of methodology and well-standardized graphic charters. The 3D model is highly-detailed to display what’s integrated into the structure such as HVAC and electrical. The digital mockup shows locations of switches and sockets. The client can literally visualize all details of the finished project.   

Technical Design (DCE stage) 

What’s interesting about this phase, the building owner begins to identify what’s beyond the false ceiling—there’s lighting and ventilation that requires space. Now visually, the owner can see the issues and requirements needed to fulfill the project. If need be, DRLW Architectes can cut out a section of the model and walk completely around it. This is fascinating for the construction engineer, who is usually new to the BIM process. For example, in the laboratory every single element is modeled; sockets, air and water inlets, the layout of the false ceilings, etc. With the 3D model, the firm knows precisely if the fluids are well placed. Finally, Solibri software runs highly advanced checks on the model against BIM requirements for clash detection.   

Construction (Site phase) 

DRLW Architectes believes it's their responsibility to design beautiful, pleasant spaces with all the models for shapes, textures and surfaces. Then the engineer defines the skeleton of the building with everything necessary for it to function properly. But once on the job site, the majority of the elements specified in design phases have been retained through to the construction phase. 

DRLW architectes
DRLW architectes

Providing the data needed to make decisions. 

With DRLW Architectes being four decades old, they’ve worked in various programs from AutoCAD to SketchUp. However Damien fell into ARCHICAD early on and feels the software meets their needs in an intuitive way. But regardless of which BIM software is used by other stakeholders, it’s important for the original 3D model to possess parametric-rich metadata. All the main players involved in the project—architects, fluid engineers, structural engineers, etc.—must be able to communicate with each other during each phase. There is no exact methodology. DRLW Architectes uses the ARCHICAD file and the owner uses the IFC, if there are going to be several stakeholders possessing various software programs. Then all parties involved have access to the original data with the IFC file. The stakeholders can use Solibri software to check if there are no clashes and to do the synthesis. 

Best possible results will be achieved. 

In conclusion, the Merck Millipore project was a success. Working in BIM enabled the client to plan ahead, make quick decisions and validate each step of the build. There were fewer surprises on the construction site thanks to BIM. Everything was anticipated, making it possible to work efficiently through the construction phase and DRLW Architectes was able to meet and exceed all of the client’s deadlines. BIM to win! 

Learn more about DRLW Architectes click here.  

Ana Patricia Martínez Menéndez • Sep 22, 2020

Elise Monot • Sep 16, 2020

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