Sustainability isn’t just wind turbines and carbon emissions legislation. Design professionals can have a positive effect on the environment by taking the local climate into consideration when modeling their projects.

Slotnick House rendering by Nathan Kipnis

Glencoe LEED Platinum Home by Nathan Kipnis, FAIA

“Architecture was originally all about responding to the local environment and climate,” says Nate Kipnis, FAIA, LEED BD+C, founder and principal of Kipnis Architecture + Planning. “Classic styles of architecture are in fact the result of generations of trial and error responding to a series of local challenges, the biggest one usually being climate.”

Solar section study by Nathan Kipnis

Solar section study of Glencoe LEED Platinum Home by Nathan Kipnis, FAIA

Kipnis points to the shape, orientation, exterior detailing, and floor plans of older homes as an example of this climate-sensitive design approach. “The location of the kitchen, which traditionally was the only room that produced heat, was typically located in the northeast corner of the house, where it would get early morning sun to warm up the space but was naturally shaded for the rest of the day,” Kipnis says. “The shotgun houses of the American South allowed for breezes to flow though the floor plan from the front to back and the wrap-around porches of Spanish Colonial homes provided relief from the direct sun while still encouraging natural ventilation.”

Glencoe House rendering by Nathan Kipnis

Glencoe LEED Platinum Home rendering by Nathan Kipnis, FAIA

If taking the climate into consideration makes structures so much more energy-efficient, why do many modern houses seem so unsuited for their environment? François Lévy, AIA, co-founder of Lévy Kohlhass Architecture, notes that some architects take a “band-aid” approach to their projects, only thinking about climate-related features, like insulation or window performance, after the fact. “A more beneficial approach is to be aware of your climate and take cues from it to optimize a building’s form and orientation from the very beginning,” Lévy says. “Designers should use analytical tools, like the Heliodon tool in Vectorworks with Renderworks software, to visualize and quantify how the sun affects the building, how much glass is appropriate for a given orientation, how to mitigate heat gain depending on climate, and so forth.”

Solar study by François Lévy

Solar study by François Lévy, AIA

Beyond solar studies, Vectorworks software also allows designers to create customizable, powerful worksheets for sustainable design needs. “I use a custom rainwater harvesting tool that calculates the optimum rainwater tank size for a given project based on derived roof area and rainfall data,” Lévy says. “Similarly, I use a worksheet tool to calculate approximate airflow for a thermal chimney, passive ventilation, and cooling based on the stack effect.”

Rainwater collection study by François Lévy

Rainwater collection study by François Lévy, AIA

Combining passive systems with active measures is a simple way for designers to impact carbon emissions, one building at a time. “Designers should look to reduce energy needs as much as possible first, and then look for alternative methods for meeting those needs,” Lévy says. “Once I’ve taken the climate challenges into account and envisioned what could be done to lessen those impacts, I look at applying alternative energy measures, like solar cells or ground-source geothermal cooling systems. As a general rule of thumb, every $1 spent on passive measures like insulation is equivalent to roughly 10 times that amount spent on alternative energy generation, like solar or geothermal.”


Passive thermal controls by François Lévy, AIA

Kipnis echoes this sentiment, adding that designers should look to the past for examples of best practices when it comes to passive systems. “The challenge today is to take the best parts of historic sustainable design and merge them with modern conveniences,” Kipnis says. “To start designing in this way, gain a solid understanding of how homes in the area historically resolved various issues such as natural ventilation, daylighting, heating, and cooling. Start with a logical design response to the local environment and modifying from there, as opposed to designing in a vacuum.”

Slotnick House rendering by Nathan Kipnis

Glencoe LEED Platinum Home by Nathan Kipnis, FAIA

If you’re ready to start designing with climate sensitivity in mind, check out the new Energos module coming in Vectorworks 2016. Based on the respected Passivhaus calculation method, Energos give you a dynamic gauge of your models’ energy performance as you’re designing.

Know a student who’d like to attend a major tradeshow? Through our Conference Pass Giveaway program, three lucky students can win a free registration and hotel stay, as well as have the opportunity to build their resume, network like a pro, and have some fun with us at one of these major industry events:

  • Live Design International (LDI) 2015, October 19-25, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV, attracts over 10,000 design professionals working in theatre, concerts, clubs, theme parks, and houses of worship. More than 350 companies exhibit, providing live demos and the opportunity for face-to-face discussions.
  • ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo, November 6-9, 2015 in Chicago, IL, is the largest tradeshow in the landscape architecture industry. With more than 500 exhibitors each year, it provides the opportunity for attendees to experience new products, services, technology applications, and design solutions.
  • Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, November 18-20, 2015 in Washington, DC, offers three days of inspiring speakers, industry showcases, LEED workshops, and tours of Washington, DC’s green buildings. The event is the largest green building conference and expo in the world and is the premier event where designers renew their commitment to sustainable building.


For a chance to win, students must “Like” Vectorworks on Facebook, as well as write a compelling 300- to 500-word statement about why they want to attend a specific conference and how they believe it will benefit them professionally. The program is open to U.S. students only. Applicants don’t have to currently use a Vectorworks software program in order to be eligible. Entries are due September 7.

“LDI, ASLA, and Greenbuild are the perfect platforms for students to deepen their knowledge of their chosen craft while networking with world-renowned experts,” said Alice Lowy, U.S. marketing manager at Nemetschek Vectorworks. “We therefore provide a fun, easy way for students to attend these events for free and enable them to propel their skills forward while learning about exciting developments in the design industry.”

Ry Burke, one of our 2014 Student Conference Pass Winners with two Vectorworks Employees, Pablo Lora and Alice Lowy.

Our 2014 LDI Conference Pass Winner, Ry Burke, with two Vectorworks employees Pablo Lora and Alice Lowy.

Apply now before it’s too late and be sure to check out all of the other opportunities available to students on their road to design success, like the Vectorworks Design Scholarship and our free students software downloads.

For the landscape architects at The Office of James Burnett (OJB), each project is about creating spaces that are individually suited to their unique environments and end users, which is a creative philosophy that 18-year OJB veteran Ronald “Chip” Trageser, ASLA, knows inside and out. In his 25 years of experience in the landscape architecture profession, Trageser has refined a design technique that combines this placemaking approach with an environmental consciousness.

Photo by Liane Rochelle and Aerial Photography Inc.

Klyde Warren Park, Photo by Liane Rochelle

When it comes to putting this design approach into practice, some of Trageser’s favorite types of projects are campus landscapes, both corporate and educational. The challenge when it comes to designing campuses, he says, is making them feel like they’re just the right size for the people who experience them, whether the site is large or small. “Having a space that doesn’t feel too large if you’re alone but that still gives you the room to meet in a group is an important design consideration,” Trageser says. “This ties back into OJB’s placemaking approach. You can create a beautiful environment, but if people aren’t actively engaging with it, then you’ve missed the mark.”

Park at Lakeshore East, Chicago - 04

Park at Lakeshore East, Photo by Hester+Hardaway

At the Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University, OJB’s landscape design fused these principles with elements of sustainability. The landscape at the Pavilion features a 10,000-square-foot outdoor terrace under a canopy of elm trees. In this shady space, two simple, black concrete water features were envisioned. Conscious of the need for smart water-use strategies from both environmental and economic standpoints, the features were designed so that they not only use less water, but also waste less, as well. The twin rectilinear water features contain slowly moving water that glides down on all sides into a bed of pebbles. No water leaves the basin, and little to no evaporation occurs since the site provides ample shade. This low-usage, low-evaporation technique conserves significant amounts of water. The water features can also be turned off and drained if necessary, while still acting as the sculptural focal point of the terrace. Trageser’s technical skill and artful hand in this space produced a landscape that provides low environmental impact with high-impact design.

Photo by Hester+Hardaway

Brochstein Pavilion, Photo by Hester+Hardaway

It’s these sustainable design practices, as well as his impressive body of work, that earned Trageser a place among the ASLA members being elevated to Fellow in 2015. “I’m honored to be recognized by ASLA and become a part of this esteemed group, many of whom have been my mentors and past colleagues,” Trageser says. “I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who’ve led me to incredible opportunities. When I started at OJB, there were just three of us, and every project that came in seemed career-defining. But we just kept getting better and better projects. When you work with exceptional people, you get exceptional work.”

Brochstein Pavilion, Photo by Hester+Hardaway

One of the cornerstones of this exceptional work is Vectorworks Landmark software. “I was the first one at OJB to do a project with Landmark, and that was almost 20 years ago,” says Trageser. “Our firm has been built around it. We used it from day one on our projects, and it’s a part of our daily operations. The quality of the graphics always impresses our clients.”

Houston City Centre

CityCentre, Houston, Photo by Midway Co

So what advice would soon-to-be FASLA Trageser give to an aspiring landscape professional? “I would tell them to find their niche. The landscape industry is so diverse, from small residential design to regional planning. Find the best professional in that field and work with them, but also be sure to work with someone who has lots of passion for what they do. It’s contagious.”

Halliburton North Belt Campus

Private Campus, Photo by Hester+Hardaway

The new class of ASLA Fellows will be recognized at the 2015 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO on November 6-9 in Chicago. To learn more about all of the upcoming Fellows, check out the ASLA website.

Every great design starts with a spark of imagination. However, with encroaching deadlines and shrinking timelines, busy designers can find it difficult to make time for creativity. That’s why we made the Inspiration Page, a space full of original content designed to help you discover your next visionary idea and transform it into reality.

Want to know what’s next in the world of design? The Inspiration Page is home to insightful content like The Business of Creativity series, a program that brings together innovative designers to discuss emerging trends and share industry wisdom.

And if you still need a few AIA LUs, we’ve got you covered, as well. The Inspiration Page houses our Art in Architecture webinar series, where Architect Steve Alden, AIA, and Rubina Siddiqui, senior product specialist — BIM solutions, explore the great design movements of the past through the lens of some of history’s most renowned architects. Not only do viewers walk away with a greater understanding of their design predecessors, they also gain an appreciation for the impact that past creative trends have on their work today. From Art Nouveau to the atomic age, the Art in Architecture series has a topic for everyone. Register now for the next episode, Purpose-Driven Design: The Impact of Social Responsibility on Architecture.

Purpose Driven Design HeaderBookmark the Inspiration Page now and open your mind to the luminaries of the past, as well as contemporary visionaries who share your passion for design.

Tackle your time-consuming tasks with tools from this month’s tech roundup. From complex patterns on surface arrays to common cabinets, we have the tips you need to streamline your workflows without sacrificing attention to detail.

Creating a pattern, framework, or other repetitive geometry is as easy as selecting a base surface object and applying any valid array item, which can include solids, sweeps, extrudes, meshes, 3D polys, and even 2D objects. This quick video will walk you through the ins and outs of using the Create Surface Array tool in under five minutes.

No matter what Vectorworks software program you use, you can give your model a realistic touch with base cabinets. In this video, you’ll learn how to customize everything from the style and size of your base cabinets to their placement and orientation, giving your models a lived-in feel that will help your clients imagine themselves in the space.

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

Want to win $10,000? The deadline for the Vectorworks Design Scholarship is less than a month away. As you finalize your application, get some advice on crafting the perfect project from two of the program’s judges: Michael Klaers, lighting designer and founder of California-based design firm The Small Group, and David Chadwick, editor of CAD User Magazine, a trusted news source for the AEC industry in the United Kingdom.

What aspects of a design stand out most when reviewing a scholarship entry?

Klaers: I always focus on the designer’s point of view. What does this student have to say about their project? I want to know about what they’re trying to accomplish and the problem that they’re trying to take on, which I think is almost more interesting than how they would accomplish their goal.

Chadwick: I look at two areas: the originality of the design and the technical issues that it addresses. I like to see interesting, new ideas, unusual uses of material, the exploration of new concepts — and how these are brought into play within the project.


“Human Tower” by regional scholarship winner Judyta Cichocka, Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland

What is the most important thing for students to highlight in the written portion of their submissions?

Klaers: I want to know how your design is going to fill a need. Too many submissions focus on budget or timeframe limitations, but no project is ever going to have as much funding as you’d like. You need to focus on refining the clarity of your design concept.

Chadwick: The source of their inspiration. The whole project should unfold like a story, for both landscape and architectural submissions, and even for stage design. Students should briefly state what they are trying to achieve, relating how different elements added to their inspiration, and then surprise the judge with the presentation of their vision.


“Carrie: The Musical” by regional scholarship winner Enoch (Wes) Calkin, University of Cincinnati, USA

What advice would you give to the students who are currently preparing to apply?

Klaers: Look at design as a verb, not a noun. Don’t get caught up in all the little details without focusing on what you’re actually doing with your design. Your submission could be a light plot made out of animal crackers glued to a piece of cardboard, as long as that clearly communicates your design intent.

Chadwick: Be bold! Have fun! Try out something new and surprise yourself as much as the judges. You won’t get a ‘fail’ if you don’t reach the final cut, but you will have learned something, explored some new ideas, and had some good practice at putting projects together in the best way you possibly can. Check out last year’s winners, as well. The PDF submission format gives you a lot of room — use it!


“River Thames Tourist Activity” by regional scholarship winner Daniel Sweeting, Westminster University, UK

The deadline to submit your entry is August 31, 2015. You can use projects that you completed for class last semester, as well as work you completed as a group – and there is no limit on how many designs you can submit! Apply now for your shot at our $3,000 regional scholarships, plus, once you advance past this first stage of judging, you could win an additional $7,000 with the Richard Diehl Award for a grand prize of up to $10,000.

By Eric Gilbey, PLA ASLA, Prof. APLD, Landscape Architecture Industry Specialist at Nemetschek Vectorworks

When designers seek to improve their workflows, they sometimes think it requires a time-consuming overhaul of their existing processes. That simply isn’t true. Shortening the time it takes to complete your usual tasks can be as easy as using different tools to accomplish the same actions. That’s why this Landscape Lesson focuses on how to make a swale, one of the most basic landscape features, in just four simple steps.

Step 1: With a site model (Digital Terrain Model) and surrounding grade limits in place, select the Grade tool and place the first point where the high point of the swale will originate.

Landscape 1 Image 1Step 2: Place the second point where the lower point in the swale will be.

Landscape 1 Image 2Step 3: In the Grade Settings dialog box, select the Change Site Model option for the Grade Object Mode, so that the grade modifies the site model. Set the second point to Downward Grade in % at the desired slope percentage, and click OK.

Landscape 1 Image 3.1Landscape 1 Image 3.2Step 4: Select the site model. In the Object Info palette, update the site model with a proposed (or existing) 2D view set to see the revised grading. The new “valley” contour pattern reflects the new swale. The image below shows a completed swale on either side of the site pad.

Landscape 1 Image 4You can place additional grade objects to create a more extensive path for your swale. Just note that each subsequent object that you place will continue from the second elevation point of the prior grade object.

Also, each grade object can be adjusted to reflect a new slope percentage. Remember to update the site model each time you adjust the slope, so that it reflects your revisions.

Look forward to my next Landscape Lesson where I’ll show you how to make berms in just a few steps, as well. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see in a Landscape Lesson, reach out to me on Twitter @EricGilbey, and you can also reach out to me for more information about creating swales. I even have a training video that I can share if you’d like to see this process in the context of a larger project.

About Eric

Eric utilizes his professional experience and CAD skills to assist in the development of Vectorworks Landmark software. He currently serves as the trustee for ASLA’s Maryland Chapter and chair of ASLA’s Professional Practice Committee’s Firm Technology Subcommittee. Eric’s unique experience as a practicing landscape architect allows him to help landscape architects and designers develop best practices, including sustainable site design and site information modeling via new and existing user training.

Is that a modern-day bus station in a Van Gogh painting? Students at Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences’ Landscape Information Center utilized the CameraMatch plug-in for Vectorworks software packages, and their imaginations, to insert a typical bus stop into an environment of their choice.

CameraMatch 7As part of a CAD internship under the guidance of Lecturer Mathias Rauh, these students from one of Germany’s premier green engineering universities unleashed their creativity, using the assignment as a chance to merge their knowledge of design software with playful and iconic scenery.

CameraMatch 4CameraMatch 8CameraMatch 6CameraMatch 3CameraMatch 5CameraMatch 2CameraMatch 1The CameraMatch plug-in allows designers to incorporate real photographs into their models created in Vectorworks software programs. To learn more about CameraMatch, visit our Partner Products page.

Coming this fall to a location near you (virtually, that is): Build New York Live! Organized by cloud technology company Asite, this 48-hour BIM design competition begins at noon ET on Monday September 21, 2015, and is the latest event in the Build Earth Live series, following other successful competitions in New Castle, London, Qatar, and Sydney.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 7.48.52 PM

Commenting on our company’s commitment to openBIM as the event’s headline sponsor, Nemetschek Vectorworks’ Director of Product Marketing Jeremy Powell said, “Build Earth Live validates openBIM’s efficacy as a way for geographically disparate firms to coordinate BIM projects using an array of technologies through collaboration with an open standard format like IFC. We’re honored to be a part of such a highly anticipated event, and we look forward to the results from all of the teams participating.”


Build London Live 2012 “Best Use of BIM for Design, Drama, and Excitement” designed by BIM Unlimited.

Show off the power of working collaboratively in the cloud and gather some design colleagues from around the globe to form your own team. Participants can form their own teams or connect with potential team members when registering to participate.

Your team could walk away with a prestigious Build Live award and bragging rights for exhibiting the “Best Use of Design for BIM.” Register today.

Build Qatar Live 2012 "Best Use of BIM for Technical Assessment" by BIM Unlimited.

Build Qatar Live 2012 “Best Use of BIM for Technical Assessment” by BIM Unlimited.

The dance floor is packed from wall to wall, the three-tiered, kinetic chandelier is tilting wildly, and A-List DJ Calvin Harris is blasting music; this is OMNIA’s opening night. The 75,000-square-foot OMNIA Nightclub, the newest attraction inside the Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, is one of the hottest venues on the strip, drawing in celebrities from Miley Cyrus to Justin Bieber. And while club-goers are dazzled by the elaborate theatrics and decadent décor, the real star of this show is the intricate, technical design process that brought this dream-like space into reality.

© Al Powers, PowersImagery.comOne of the people responsible for OMNIA’s stunning visuals is Jim Rood from DMDS7UDIOS, a production design company that specializes in creative programming solutions for media servers, lighting, and complex entertainment venues like OMNIA, as well as concerts and stadium events. Rood and the team at DMDS7UDIOS created a 3D visualization of the club using Vectorworks Spotlight software and then optimized the design for programming within grandMA lighting consoles. And while Rood was used to working with large entertainment spaces, this innovative club still proved to be a distinct challenge.

r3 WM“None of the people involved in the project really knew how deeply we were going to go creatively with this space until we got there,” Rood says. “But as we were setting things up, we came up with new, imaginative solutions, which was a lot of fun.” This process required many steps, starting with taking the original schematics produced by AudioTek and The Rockwell Group and importing them into Spotlight via DWG files. “We weren’t asked to design the venue itself; another company did that,” Rood says. “We were asked to bring the room to life and integrate all the entertainment technology systems.”

OMNIA 3D RenderRood began by extracting vital data from the DWG and then creating geometry in Spotlight to flesh out the designs, as well as adding custom fixtures, which allowed him to experiment with the model and find the best way to seamlessly integrate OMNIA’s lighting, automation, and visual systems. The client, The Hakkasan Group, approved the resulting 3D model, from which the automation data was exported to the club’s multiple grandMA consoles and Ai media servers

OMNIA Light Plot“The work for OMNIA’s environment was done in Spotlight, and I imported it into MA 3D to program the movement of the chandelier, the centerpiece of the club,” Rood says. “That way, the clients could choose the positions they liked the best, and we were able to collaborate directly with Willie Williams and Tait Towers, who designed the overall lighting and chandelier itself, and streamline the cues for its different effects.”

r11 WMCollaborating among Spotlight and other software programs not only allowed Rood to bring the chandelier to life, it also facilitated the fusion of automation controls for all of the club’s connected AV and lighting systems into one master file.

5.1.15.OMNIA-Nightclub_Photo-Credit-Aaron-Garcia“Using Vectorworks Spotlight to create data sheets with fixture positions, nodes, and IP addresses, which can translate into a wiring diagram, is incredibly valuable,” Rood says. “I use the Extract Face tool time and time again to combine the faces of 3D polygons and optimize the geometry for our process. I also frequently use the Attribute Mapping tool to quickly map textures to objects, and I use duplicate array all day long. With any project I get, my mind focuses on the tools I have available in Spotlight. It’s my software of choice, and I’ve been using it for years.”

© Al Powers, PowersImagery.comRood used his abilities with Spotlight and his experience with this new Vegas nightclub to help integrate and program OMNIA San Diego, too, but exciting nightlife attractions aren’t all he’s up to. Check out their website to learn more about what the creative minds at DMDS7UDIOS are working on now.