Designing a building should be easy. A few walls, some floors – don’t forget the electrics. Actually designing a building that is fit for purpose and balances the demands of town and city planners against the demands of the actual owners and users of the building is extremely hard. Which might be why Britain has such a legacy of poorly designed buildings.
Modern building design has come a long way, and there are now some stunning examples being built that combine modern building techniques in ways sympathetic to their surroundings and that create functional spaces that are a delight to enter. So what should you know before you start your next project?
1. Every site is unique
For companies offering CAD services, London is a particularly interesting city as there are many constraints on foundations and sight lines. Other cities such as Manchester or towns such as Stockport have equally unique combinations of features that need to be reflected in the design of their buildings so it can be wise to employ a firm with local knowledge.
2. You need BIM
Buildings Information Management brings together everything you need to know to build your design into one single information portal. From the information given to it the computer generates whatever views or reports are required – from lists of materials to energy efficiency statements. BIM allows coordination of design development and engineering so that everyone involved in a project is working from precisely the same information set.
3. There’s more to a building than meets the eye
Modern buildings are incredibly intricate structures, and the bigger they get, the more elaborate they need to be. Accurate CAD is required in order to make sure that all the building infrastructure – the HVAC conduits, plant room, IT cable runs, server rooms, plumbing and so forth – are included and to ensure that operational constraints can be adhered to.
With modern materials and architectural ideas opening up spaces with glass and curves it can sometimes be a bit like playing Tetris fitting everything into the space available. CAD allows the design to be tested electronically, thus minimising issues during building. Modifications can be made without tearing down walls or wasting materials, and the end result is a smoother process, less snagging and a building that works efficiently.
4. There are a lot of regulations…
…and some of them have unintended consequences. Take, for example, the British Standard 8213-1:2004 for the cleaning of windows which, in the interests of improving the independence of the elderly, says that windows should be cleanable by a woman aged 64-75. As woman are, on average, shorter than men and therefore have shorter arms, and because older adults often have poor balance, this regulation has encouraged the inclusion of small, low windows in many new houses.
There are 16 different “Parts” to the full set of Building Regulations in England and Wales, to say nothing of regulations that govern gas safety, and any local legislation that may be applicable such as in conservation areas or to protect sight lines to essential buildings or other landmarks. This makes modern building design an incredibly complex subject and is part of the reason that merely getting far enough in the planning stages to submit a planning application is a lengthy and costly business. Good CAD can assist in the process, partly through encouraging the use of a compliant framework and partly by allowing the unintended side-effects of regulations to be explored, quickly and cheaply thus ensuring that the final design is the final design.