By David Seccombe, Director at Gráinne O’Keeffe Architects Ltd

At Gráinne O’Keeffe Architects in the United Kingdom, we are responsible for realizing our clients’ dreams within certain budgetary, structural, and planning limitations. And as a business consistently growing 20 percent a year, we also need to work efficiently. This can be challenging as our clients, who are mainly inthe residential sector, are not always spatially aware or able to make design decisions, requiring the re-issue of complex architectural drawings.

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For 12 years, we have sought to improve the quality of our drawings and our efficiency using Vectorworks software products, which has helped our business grow. We have learned to be patient and respect the tool, knowing that time spent preparing is time well spent. We began designing in 2D for several years, and our adventures in 3D were instigated by one of our recently graduated employees, who quickly realized you could build a 3D model and use it to create perfect sections, plans, and elevations if you took the time to get it right up-front. Our progress in 3D has largely been through self-taught modeling, detailing, hatching, and exploiting the many tools the software has to offer. We have created our own template and style—something any business can achieve.

In order to fully utilize the software, however, I knew we needed some outside support, so in 2012, I called Design Software Solutions, a Vectorworks reseller in the UK, for a consultation. In the space of a day, we saw everything we needed to see, tailored to our business needs and what we could afford. We have enjoyed both their encouragement and support, as well as help from the team at Computers Unlimited, the Vectorworks software distributor in the UK, through our Vectorworks Service Select contract. Together, they helped us continue to develop our unique style over the next several years.

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As our business grew and we took on more staff, I wanted to invest in becoming more efficient. To that end, we met with Tamsin Slatter from Design Software Solutions in 2014, who helped us upgrade our licenses from Vectorworks Fundamentals to Vectorworks Architect with Renderworks.

The speed, advanced tools, and functionality of Architect solved many business struggles for us. For example, the time taken to calculate complex volumetric roof shapes for permitted development has decreased significantly, and the lightning-fast PDF creation pays for the upgrade itself! And the small but significant benefits, like advanced window and door features, make the program a dream to work with.

While I am still a novice with Renderworks, its ability to make our models look fantastic and create realistic shadows has helped us to win planning bids, as well as sell our design ideas to clients. The purchase of Renderworks has been a revelation. We have stopped using other rendering software programs entirely.

We continue to reap the benefits of increased efficiency and create work that our clients can both understand and appreciate. We value the Architect with Renderworks program and have learned that our investment has, and will continue to, help our business grow.

Just like a young adult may struggle to find his or her place in the world, an architectural firm’s early years can be filled with anxiety and challenges. To succeed requires an impressive level of determination and skill, and it’s precisely this success that The Foundation Award honors.

Now in its sixth year, The Foundation Award recognizes young Swiss firms for their design portfolio and creative philosophy, and supports them as they work to achieve their architectural aspirations. The program was created by ComputerWorks AG, the Vectorworks distributor in Switzerland, and is also sponsored by HP Switzerland, web-based culture channel, the online platform swiss-architects, architectural magazine Hochparterre, the Swiss Architecture Museum, and Nemetschek Vectorworks.

The Foundation Award celebration at the Swiss Architecture Museum.

The Foundation Award celebration at the Swiss Architecture Museum.

This year’s winners recently gathered at the Swiss Architecture Museum to toast their future success. Placing third was Liliane Haltmeier and Luise Kister of Haltmeier Kister architecture, a two-person firm that typically produces residential designs in Zürich. The duo believes that a healthy work-life balance allows for architecture to operate every day with “passion, perseverance, and curiosity.”


Wohnüberbauung Schneebeliweg designed by Haltmeier Kister architecture

Runner-up Gerber Odermatt architects (GOA) is also a two-person office. Severin Odermatt and Roger Gerber stress the importance of inspiration as “a gift from the subconscious,” and emphasize the value in a holistic design process.

Second place

Fort House Chopfholz designed by GOA

This year’s first-place winner Alder Clavuot Nunzi architects, received free Vectorworks Architect software with a Vectorworks Service Select membership. Comprised of Matthias Alder, Silvana Clavuot, and Alessandro Nunzi, the office strives to incorporate the rich architectural traditions of the Bergell Mountain region into their work. With each design, they hope to ensure the future of their surrounding environment, from the construction of simple houses to the creation of abstract cable car stations.

First place

Funivia Albigna designed by Alder Clavuot Nunzi architects

Every architectural office was new at some point, and we’re happy to recognize these young, innovative firms for their hard work and resilience. Share this story now if you agree.

What do Japanese art, factories, and protests have in common? Find out as we explore the lives and work of two of the greatest minds of the Art Nouveau movement, Victor Horta and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in the latest webinar of our Art in Architecture series. Now available on demand, “Art Nouveau and Its Influence on Architecture” delves into this short-lived period in the history of design and its effects on the Modern movement that followed. After watching the webinar, you’ll also be able to take an associated quiz to earn 1 AIA Learning Unit.

Understanding Art Nouveau’s roots requires a look beyond the designs of the time to the major industrial developments of the late 1800s. While the turn of the century was still on the distant horizon, it seemed that the future had already arrived for those who witnessed the coming of the Industrial Revolution.

Born from the advances in mechanized manufacturing in the mid-1700s, the Industrial Revolution prompted a division of labor among workers that began a new era of efficiency while devaluing the skills of artisans and craftsmen to a startling degree. The livelihoods of many designers were compromised along the way, resulting in a new and dynamic development we now call the Arts and Crafts movement, devoted to economic reform that would support artisans and practitioners of the fine arts.

However, this wasn’t the only creative movement of the time. As the world grew technologically, routes of trade and consumption opened across the world. In particular, the so-called “opening of Japan” sparked a surge in cultural appropriation referred to as Japonism, where eastern aesthetic was merged with western style to form something totally new.

It is out of these simultaneous cultural and industrial events that we get Art Nouveau, a new way of practicing design that encompassed everything from architecture to interior design to personal styles and jewelry.

“Art Nouveau is a region-based expression of the Arts and Crafts movement, with cities across Europe and even North America reacting to the changing technology of the times in divergent ways,” says Rubina Siddiqui, Assoc. AIA, senior product specialist of BIM solutions at Nemetschek Vectorworks, who cohosts the series alongside her colleague Architect Steve Alden, AIA, NCARB. “One of the most important things to note is that, unlike the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau designers embraced the Industrial Revolution and new means of production to an extent, incorporating them into a unique style.”

Once you’ve learned about Art Nouveau, sign up for our next Art in Architecture webinar, “Four Japanese Architects You Should Know: Kenzō Tange, Shigeru Ban, Toyo Ito, and Tadao Ando,” which airs July 9 at 2:00 p.m. ET and explores how the history of this island nation influenced each designer’s individual philosophies.

While you’re checking out our Art in Architecture series, be sure to explore the rest of our Inspiration page, which is full of videos to help spark your next great idea.

Seventy percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, and Adrian McGregor doesn’t think urban areas are ready to handle this increase. That’s why the landscape architecture and urban design firm McGregor Coxall is dedicated to preparing the built environment for increased population density, as well as environmental and economic changes in the coming decades.

McGC Staff photo“I’m passionate about the challenges that human beings are facing globally in terms of our environment, and I want to help cities grow in a sustainable way,” says Managing Director McGregor. His approach to design is the subject of a new success story video that explores the firm’s design philosophy and showcases some projects including Ballast Point Park, a transformative reclamation of an abandoned oil lubricant production facility that is now home to an engaging, sustainable public park in Sydney, Australia.


McGregor Coxall’s list of accolades includes the Topos Journal International Landscape Architecture Practice of the Year and the Prime Minister’s Australia Award for Urban Design, to name just a few. Their work encompasses over 300 projects from across Europe, Asia, and Australia, from incredible landscapes like Ballast Point to urban revitalizations like the Parramatta River Urban Design Strategy. This project reorients one of Sydney’s largest Central Business Districts back toward the waterway that it’s built on to create a vibrant public and commercial space while also introducing environmentally friendly design features that improve the health of the river’s ecosystem.

337SU_Parramatta City_McGregor Coxall_07Designers at McGregor Coxall didn’t just think of the environment when creating the Urban Design Strategy. They also considered the people who would use the space. “We’re working with the community and the stakeholders to create a very broad, deep conversation with the city as a whole,” McGregor says. “It’s allowing us to deliver what I think is going to be an important and fantastic project where landscape architecture is shaping the urban environment.”

337SU_Parramatta City_McGregor Coxall_01Explore these projects and McGregor Coxall’s creative process, which includes the use of Vectorworks Landmark software, in our latest written case study.


If time is money, we’re about to save you some serious cash. These quick videos will help you pick up a few tricks that will shorten your workflow, increase your productivity, and let you get back to creative design.

Your light plot is already set up with lighting positions, label legends, and focus points—all you need now are the lights! From gel colors to field values, this video has all the information you need to ensure your light plots are accurate and easy to work with.

DWG files containing 2D topographical information may be helpful to designers, but they aren’t very visually appealing to prospective clients. This three-minute video walks you through transforming this 2D data into a 3D model with just a few simple steps. Your workflow just got a whole lot easier.

If ESP Vision software is a part of your design process, you’ll be happy to learn that ESP Symbols for use in Vectorworks software programs are now Renderworks compliant. That’s right, any model you create with ESP Vision symbols can now be used to create Renderworks stills without any modification. Check out just what you can do in the video below.

Finally, we released Service Pack 4 for Vectorworks 2015 today. You can download the update here or go to the About Vectorworks 2015 dialog box in the Vectorworks menu (Mac users) or Help menu (Windows users) and click Check for Updates.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please reach out to us at or tweet at us @VectorworksHelp.

Explore the ingenuity of BIM workflows and the impact of technology on creativity with renowned architects-turned-authors, Richard Garber, AIA, Principal, GRO Architects, PLLC, and Director of the School of Architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and François Lévy, AIA, Principal, Lévy Kohlhaas Architecture.

Business of Creativity

In the latest from Nemetschek Vectorworks’ series Business of Creativity, these accomplished architects present illuminating perspectives that highlight how creativity can flourish within the virtual building platforms provided by BIM-capable software. Listen in as they share insights about architectural education, the ever-evolving world of building technology, and the business of maintaining your inspiration, even in the fast-paced design industry.

Register today!

Watch past episodes of Business of Creativity and learn more about how you can earn continuing education credits and stay inspired here.

Working for a small firm doesn’t mean you can’t make big changes. Just ask Nathan Kipnis, FAIA, LEED BD+C, principal of Kipnis Architecture + Planning. Throughout his career, Kipnis has challenged design paradigms by blending excellence in architecture with a social conscience as part of a five-person architectural team.

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Recognized in his home state of Illinois and across the country, Kipnis has received accolades ranging from the 2011 Green Home Awards from Chicago Magazine to the Home of the Decade from Natural Home Magazine. This year, he was elevated as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a tremendous accomplishment that acknowledges his outstanding contributions to sustainability in architecture.

The honor was unexpected for Kipnis. “To be honest, it wasn’t on my radar. Because my firm is small, I don’t expect to be recognized on a national-level, but I’m proud that my peers have done that based on my sustainable designs and my public outreach work with the AIA’s National 2030 Commitment Working Group.”

A long-time Vectorworks user, Kipnis cites the software’s history of effective modeling capabilities which provides him with a solid platform to create innovative, environmentally friendly designs. “Vectorworks can model so quickly,” says Kipnis, “that we can see how the environment – the trees, the sun, the wind – will affect a structure in real time. A lot companies do it now, but Vectorworks has been doing it for a very long time.”

One of the projects Kipnis is most passionate about is the advanced development of the offshore wind farm concept to be located off of Evanston, Illinois’ shoreline. That’s right, he wants to build a wind farm in Lake Michigan. Evanston is uniquely situated for this innovative sustainability solution because it features a long stretch of non-residential waterfront and relatively shallow waters. Combine that with wind speeds across the lake that average over 20 miles per hour, and Kipnis reports that this would-be wind farm could generate enough power for 50,000 to 80,000 homes.

While the project has yet to set sail, Kipnis has served as a driving force in the push for a reduced carbon footprint for the city. The project moves forward in starts and stops because “it’s incredibly political at the national level,” observes Kipnis. “Despite being one of the most effective measure for reducing our C02 emissions, we’ve experienced varying degrees of push back.”

Some opponents to the wind farm note that its development would disrupt the aesthetic value of Lake Michigan. “At seven miles offshore, the view of the turbines would be very small. Other forms of power generation that rely on extractive forms of energy are much more intrusive,” says Kipnis. “Part of this is that it is an unknown to a lot of people. Once the first offshore wind farms are up and running, I believe this will be much less of an issue. The first offshore wind farm will be operational in 2016, in the waters of off Rhode Island.”

Further, opponents of wind farms often cite the cost of offshore wind as another drawback of wind power. Kipnis acknowledges the upfront cost will be substantial. “Over time, the price will decline,” says Kipnis. “The cost is on a fairly significant downward slope, and it is anticipated that it’ll be very cost-effective within a decade, powering thousands of homes very economically.”

Offshore Windfarm

The final argument against the wind farm is the potential wildlife impact. Older, land-based turbines, in particular, posed serious issues for songbirds and birds of prey. Kipnis states that, based on extensive research, the overall impact is actually quite small.  “Extractive-fueled power plants have extremely serious environmental impacts, such as mercury emissions and deforestation from acid rain at coal plants, and thermal kill from heating up the surrounding cooling waters at nuclear and coal plants. There are a whole lot of potential issues with fracked natural gas as well. In this instance, it’s about the ‘precautionary principle.’ When you look at the various options carefully, wind power is about as benign as it gets.”

Kipnis explains that construction of the Evanston wind farm would take advantage of years of research about how to responsibly integrate the turbines into the environment to mitigate risk. By building taller towers, doing comprehensive analysis for their proper siting, and modifying operation during times of migration, the wind farm would provide substantive environmental benefits while respecting the surrounding wildlife.

Slowly, Kipnis’ work is causing the winds of change to blow across Lake Michigan. “We are at a very interesting time where extractive energy is becoming more expensive and its environmental impacts are finally being acknowledged, while at the same time costs for renewable energy are rapidly falling.  A clean source of energy could be built just beyond our shoreline,” says Kipnis. “It’s time to move ahead.”


By Diego Bermudez, Winner of the 2014 Vectorworks Design Scholarship and Richard Diehl Award

Do it! That’s the best advice I can give to anyone who’s considering applying to the Vectorworks Design Scholarship, an annual program where students from across the design disciplines can submit their best work for a chance to win $10,000. As last year’s grand prize winner, I can say from personal experience that it’s definitely worth it. But if you’re still feeling a little unsure, or if you’re a professional who wants to pass on some advice to an upcoming design student, here are five tips on how to create a winning entry.

Left to right: Scholarship judge David Chadwick, Nemetschek Vectorworks founder Rich Diehl, and 2014 Scholarship winner Diego Bermudez

Don’t Procrastinate

It took me an entire semester to create my project, “Circasia: Engaging the Creeks,” which focused on redefining the relationship between the people and the environment in a coffee-growing community in Colombia. Understanding the site and its ecology, as well as the inhabitants and their perceptions of the creeks adjacent to their town, took a lot of time. If I had put off doing all of the research about the site, I wouldn’t have been able to create the in-depth presentation that impressed the judges.

Circasia MasterplanAsk for Feedback

I met with my studio professors, David Gouverneur and Oscar Grauer, twice a week while I was working on my project, and they guided me through turning my simple idea into a full-fledged master plan. Their knowledge of social and environmental issues was incredibly helpful. With their insight, I was really able to push the envelope and design a paradigm shift in how the people of Circasia interact with their natural resources.

Circasia TopographyPrepare to Lose Motivation

It was very easy to lose motivation during the semester with such a big project. I did a lot of work to shape the project very early, but making the presentation beautiful and planning for the little details took a lot of effort. I spent almost half the semester thinking about how I wanted to convey my ideas. Setting up the framework early helps to prevent burnout because you don’t have to start from scratch after you’re already that far into the semester. Also, it helps to submit a project that you’re already working on for class. Knowing your GPA depends on getting your project done is great motivation!

Circasia DetailsFocus on Your Impact

Since you only have to write a couple hundred words for each question, I knew that I had to excite the judges in a few concise sentences. The most important thing that I conveyed is the impact that my project would have on the community in Circasia. Precisely detailing how my project could improve the ecology of the creeks and the quality of life for the townspeople is what I think gave my submission an edge.

Circasia Street PlanPrepare Your “Elevator Pitch”

Make sure that you can explain your whole project to someone in the time it would take to ride an elevator. Synthesizing all that information into a succinct speech will help you when you’re preparing your submission. Plus, if you win the scholarship, then you’ll know what to say when everybody asks you about your work!

What are you waiting for? The deadline to submit is August 31, 2015. Apply now.

Circasia Public Space

By Martyn Horne, Member of the UK Landscape Institute’s BIM Working Group

There are big changes on the horizon for landscape architects and designers, especially in the UK where all project and asset information, documentation, and data must be electronic and managed within a collaborative workflow by 2016 because of the BIM Level 2 Mandate. While working within the same program isn’t required, the CAD software that each party uses must be capable of exporting to one of the common exchange formats, such as COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange).

COBie specs

In order to meet the mandate, there’s a strong focus on managing and maintaining all of the assets associated with a design in a single dataset that corresponds to a common standard. It’s all about “putting the I in BIM” and getting your data in order from the earliest stages of your project.

While this transition is intended to increase collaboration throughout the design, construction, and implementation processes and decrease costly in-field errors along the way, there is pushback. Often architects and other designers remark that COBie simply doesn’t work or that it stifles creativity.

However, those complaints are rooted in “FUD” – fear, uncertainty, and doubt – and it has bred the misconception that COBie complicates early stages of the design process.

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Rather than being bogged down by COBie, remember that it’s not an all or nothing process. Your BIM workflows are best complemented by “data drops” of increasing complexity and detail, as well as an understanding that this is an evolving process that will improve as more architects, designers, and manufactures come together to get our data in order.

For more information about how COBie and BIM are transforming the UK and beyond, read my recent article at Adjacent Digital Politics.


If the audible gasps from attendees at our Vectorworks Design Summit are any indication, the potential for injecting point cloud data into the design process is awe-inspiring. In fact, when our CTO Dr. Biplab Sarkar delivered his keynote address and revealed how we plan to support the technology in our 2016 release this fall, the enthusiasm was infectious.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.57.57 AMNo longer a science fiction pipedream, point cloud technology provides a real way for designers to model efficiently and affordably with more accuracy than ever before, making modeling, inferring, and referencing data easier. To show off the new capability, we partnered with technology solutions company Trimble to produce a highly detailed 3D scan of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the location for one of our evening events at the Summit, and transport that data directly into Vectorworks software.

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“Scanning technology is being adopted today to increase accuracy, efficiency, and to provide new services to the AEC industry,” said David Burczyk, segment manager-field solutions for the Trimble MEP Division of Trimble Navigation. “As design and construction teams adopt the technology as part of their standard BIM workflow, scanning will become more accessible and continue to evolve.”

Burczyk began the data collection process by setting up a Trimble TX8 laser scanner on a tripod in 29 locations around the museum’s atrium space. Each scan took three minutes, after which Burczyk captured high-resolution color images to create a complete dataset. Next, he registered the individual scans and combined them into one composite point cloud – consisting of three billion data points and representing 15,900 square feet of gallery space – using Trimble RealWorks. This target-less process automatically finds common planes in each individual scan to organize the data. Once registered, the point cloud can be used for 3D modeling and analysis.

point cloud pic 1

Working with Trimble on the museum project is just one way we’re exploring the possibilities of how Vectorworks users might implement such technology in the future. For example, once you import a point cloud into a Vectorworks file, you may manipulate everything from point density to coloration to scale. You’ll even be able to utilize the Clip Cube tool within the point cloud, isolating sections you want to reference within the data. This capability is what really got Summit attendees excited!

“The Philadelphia Museum of Art project provided a great opportunity for us to study the integration of real-world data into Vectorworks software, and our import of the highly accurate, laser-scanned museum point cloud was so real that it felt like we were standing in the middle of the museum with tape measure in hand,” said Steve Johnson, senior manager of user interaction and research at Nemetschek Vectorworks. “Every point in the dataset had color, and we could walk or fly anywhere in the virtual model and measure with great accuracy. It was stunning.”

Stay tuned for more information about our point cloud support capabilities as we get closer to the release of Vectorworks 2016. In the meantime, watch a preview video and learn more about the Nemetschek Group’s recent partnership with Trimble here.