Implementing ARCHICAD – BPN Architects interview

Award winning BPN Architects is ahead of the curve and have seen opportunities in delivering BIM to their clients. Phill Shepherd discusses implementing ARCHICAD across their studio.

BPN Architects was founded in 1996 by Mark Bryant, Larry Priest and Richard Newman, with a collaborative approach to designing buildings and spaces, working alongside clients, end-users, artists, local authorities and other consultants to create better places.

BPN Studio implementing ARCHICAD

Since their formation in the 1990s, they had always used a combination of Vectorworks in a 2D capacity, alongside SketchUp for visualisations. The studio then set out to improve their internal processes in terms of work flow, time efficiency and their ability to offer BIM services to clients.

Phill Shepherd, Associate Architect, commented: “We run Macs, so we ruled out Revit from the start as it would mean changing over to a Windows based server and running Parallels, which we wanted to avoid.”

BIM Requirements

BPN Architects needed a software solution that would deliver their BIM requirements and explored different software packages and they ended up narrowing the selection to Vectorworks Architect and ARCHICAD. The studio spent a year evaluating options for architectural software and trialed a Vectorworks upgrade, however it didn’t deliver the results needed for several reasons:

  • The program started to ‘lag’ as the model developed and grew.
  • In turn, this restricted the ability to manipulate the information quickly.
  • They found issues with exporting IFC’s to other consultants.
  • And finally there was limited support from manufacturers for BIM components that could be integrated into the model.

“We set up an internal BIM working group that included junior and senior members of staff… After nearly a year of exploring different software, we concluded that ARCHICAD was the software for us.”

Implementing ARCHICAD

The strategy has been to utilise ARCHICAD for all new projects, including Silver Blades ice rink in Leeds, their first project fully delivered in the new software.

“Implementing ARCHICAD in a BIM workflow on a project-by-project basis has worked well for us. It has allowed us to finish our commitments on current projects, whilst slowly phasing in ARCHICAD, meaning that there hasn’t been a noticeable drop in productivity.

Initially BPN Architects opted for a phased implementation, training a group of five staff to ensure their competency levels were sufficient for implementing ARCHICAD throughout their studio, develop office standards and assist subsequent groups.

“Working in 3D has huge benefits for information flow and the co-ordinated method of the plan, elevations and sections all working together should cut down co-ordination time. A simple change to the position of the window on elevation would traditionally mean changing the separate plan and separate elevation manually, whereas with ARCHICAD you can trust that it is moved on those drawings automatically, therefore reducing the chance of an error.”

Working as a team

Another key benefit from the transition was the use of BIM Server, a platform for Teamwork projects with multiple members able to work on a model and its documentation simultaneously, both within the office and over the Internet. Unlike other solutions on the market, only changes in the model are synchronised, dramatically reducing the amount of data being transferred, allowing the team to work together in real-time.

Implementing ARCHICAD floor plan cutaway


“Its also worth pointing out that one of the best aspects of implementing ARCHICAD is the BIM Server and Teamwork. We have found this to be an incredible tool as it allows multiple people to work on the same file at the same time. With Vectorworks we had issues where only one person could work on a drawing where as with Teamwork we can have multiple people working on the same plans which increases productivity.”

Client communication

The BIMx (Building Explorer) mobile app for iOS and Android devices allows building professionals to export BIM models and drawings in an interactive game-like environment to take to client meetings.

“We have found clients to be very impressed by this app as many of them are unable to read 2D drawings properly. As a communication tool it is superb.”

The studio continues to demonstrate their talents as their project at The School Yard phase 2 in Birmingham, has won a prestigious Regional RIBA award and an RICS award. A challenging new-build residential development within the grounds of a grade II listed former school building and yard, which showcases the many skills within BPN Architects.