Dreamstones Chalet in the French Alps

A cosy chalet tucked away in the French Alps was a design challenge that produced fantastic results for Dreamstones and for their client.

Dreamstones Team

Dreamstones is a design and build company that works with international clients looking to build or renovate in France. The team comprises surveyors, architects, engineers, project managers and offers clients complete design and build solutions. Dreamstones has completed numerous projects across Europe, including renovations and new builds as well as small-scale home improvements.

The company’s headquarters are based in the UK, with model-based design workflows and ARCHICAD an essential tool in all of Dreamstones’ projects. The model-based design process allows the team to engage with clients wherever they happen to be, and facilitates collaboration with specialists on the technical aspects of the project.

Dreamstones Process

For the Dreamstones team, all projects begin with the client, their concept, their ideas, their vision but of course there’s much more to a great design than this. The client’s initial desires must be balanced with what’s achievable and practical, in terms of design, build, materials, aesthetics as well as cost.

Projects are carried out in three stages.

  1. Prepare

This phase starts with simple information-gathering, where they compile and review every scrap of information pertaining to the project. Following this they discuss the project with the client to get the design process up and running.

After site inspection, they produce a gross estimate to give the client an idea of the scope of the project and its projected costs. This helps them decide where to spend their funds, and set a budget. Finally a specifications listing is created, to detail the client’s requirements in terms of space, facilities, and equipment.

  1. Design

First come concept sketches of the interior and exterior, followed by full-scaled 3D model development. Sophisticated design software now makes it possible to get a realistic 3D model within a virtual reality environment. Once all details are finalised and approved, the architectural plans are drawn.

Dreamstones section

Obtaining planning approval typically takes one to three months in France. This time is used to develop a detailed set of lists of tasks and materials to produce a detailed quotation for the project.

Another pre-building requirement are technical drawings, which include structural plans as well as plumbing, ventilation, electrical and other systems.

  1. Build

With all details finalised and planning permission obtained, the build is ready to start. Materials and equipment are selected and purchased, building contracts are signed, and the work begins. Throughout this phase ARCHICAD and BIMx are used to communicate design details to on-site engineers when necessary, to ensure the build proceeds smoothly. BIMx is a mobile application that allows for the transfer of 3D models from ARCHICAD directly to mobile devices, including phones and tablets.

Design Environment and Software

At all stages of a project, good communication is a key aspect of success, both in terms of hitting the design specs, collaborating with team members, specialists and fulfilling a client’s expectations. Every stakeholder involved in the project should have free and easy access to all the information they need to do their job.

“The accessibility of portable 3D models is vital when it comes to communicating design proposals with international clients, collaborating with engineers remotely, and tracking on-site progression with builders”.

To that end, Dreamstones makes use of the ARCHICAD 3D model environment both in and out of the design studio. While ARCHICAD can handle all kinds of large-scale construction projects it’s also ideally suited for residential work thanks to a range of built-in features such as walls, windows, doors, stairs, furniture and roofs. This makes it easy to create quick plans and layouts when developing the building shell in 2D and in 3D. In addition, accurate detail can be created by implementing surface textures and custom construction compositions.

Dreamstones BIMx


The Project

The project is a three-story chalet where the bottom floor consists of a garage and laundry facilities, and the top floor a master bedroom. The middle floor comprises the main living and dining areas. Adjoining the main chalet is a smaller guest residence. Natural materials feature prominently in the design, with rich wood tones throughout both the interior and exterior.

Building new construction in the French Alps comes with some inherent obstacles; for instance, site access, weather conditions and planning permission, are all potential obstacles that can be difficult to overcome or work around. For this project, the intent was to develop a stylish, modern design that worked well within the difficult existing terrain. This included some unexpected delays, as planning consent was initially denied. In order to obtain consent it was necessary to make a number of adjustments to comply with height regulations and other planning requirements.

ARCHICAD’s automated drawing coordination help the team revise the changes requested by the planning department especially with vertical levels on all 2D planes (plans, sections, elevations) and visualising its subsequent spatial impact on the design in 3D. For example, to comply with the height regulations any changes made on the elevations were instantly updated on a series of sections to visualise its impact on the interior design.

Another major change was that the roof design was altered to be divided into two different levels, in order to accommodate the height of the first floor.

The Result

Although planning permission was initially declined, with the help of ARCHICAD they were able to make all of the changes requested by the planning department. And the use of BIMx allowed Dreamstones to have inclusive discussions with the client, to review the design proposal at various stages of the revision process. The end result, an approved design and construction expected to be complete by the end of 2018, allowing the clients to enjoy their first Christmas in their new Alpine chalet.