By Nathan Kipnis, AIA, LEED BD+C, Principal at Kipnis Architecture + Planning

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is challenging designers to evaluate the impact their design decisions have on a project’s energy performance with the goal of producing carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. While this ambitious program may seem intimidating, particularly for smaller-scale firms, I’ve outlined how to participate in what AIA has called their 2030 Commitment initiative.

The Four Parts of the Commitment

Designers must meet four requirements to sign on to the Commitment. First, download and sign AIA’s official commitment letter, which outlines your plan for meeting the goal by 2030 and identifies your firm’s team leader. Second, draw up an Immediate Operational Actions plan, focusing on actions your office can take to make a difference today. This includes items such as reducing energy use by shutting down monitors at night, switching to LED lighting, and purchasing climate offsets to help your firm become more environmentally friendly. Third, submit a comprehensive Sustainability Action Plan that addresses your firm’s approach to operations, management, and design, and reflects your aspirational goals. Examples include having at least one project a year attain LEED Gold or higher certification or be a true Net Zero design. The fourth step is to report the results of your project designs each year.


Firms are expected to report their projects’ annual Energy Use Intensity (EUI), which is compared against baseline averages for various building types. Many of these baseline EUI numbers have regional averages. You can determine EUI using energy modeling software programs ranging from free and simple programs such as HEED, to more complex programs such as Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) and Sefaira. All of these programs allow you to input the project’s site information, the building’s geometry, and its component characteristics such as R-Values, glazing specifications, and mechanical systems.

These programs output a series of results that can aid in the early design process. The goal is to model early and often, doing iterative analyses to figure out what’s positively impacting the building’s performance and seeing what’s doing that cost-effectively. Be sure to avoid only checking the energy modeling results after the design is complete.

Each firm then anonymously submits their results to the AIA’s 2030 Commitment website. The goal is that designs will be 70 percent better than the baseline EUIs, starting with the 2015 reporting period. Keep in mind that there are no “green police” who will fault you for not meeting the EUI goals. Rather, the intent is to have firms model their projects and to gain an understanding of which design strategies reduce a specific project type’s EUI and continue to share knowledge that helps to increase building efficiency.

By following these four steps, designers can gain a working knowledge of what it takes to create carbon-neutral projects by 2030. This is good for people, the planet, and profits!

Since we launched the English version of Vectorworks 2015 in September, we’ve shared a lot of information about the new features and tools that will help you transform the world. Designers around the globe are sharing their excitement for the new release, too!

Left to right: Michael Klaers, Rob Glisson, and Todd McCurdy

“I like organizing everything into worksheets,” says Michael Klaers, founder of The Small Group and leader of the Santa Barbara Vectorworks User Group. Klaers, who lights everything from theatre stages to concert halls and events, says, “My paperwork can be an absolute mess with wrong data and misspellings while I’m figuring out the design, but I can quickly clean it up in worksheets. In addition, 64-bit is amazing. I’ve done three or four projects in Vectorworks 2015, and it handles large clouds of mesh objects so much better. Finally, I’m excited about the MA Lighting plug-in. I hope this is a wakeup call for other manufacturers that they should have a Vectorworks plug-in, too.”

Rob Glisson, AIA, also enjoys how the new release is making a positive impact on his workflows as the founder and principal of Florida-based Rojo Architecture. Glisson adopted a CAD design workflow in 1985, and has experienced the evolution of design software firsthand though his work on projects ranging from hotels and restaurants to medical facilities and residential work.

“One of our big selling points is 3D presentation,” says Glisson. “The more we can make it real and virtual, the more likely that our clients will buy into it. The enhancements to the graphics module let us move our clients through a building almost like we’re walking through it. The new Deform tool and the rendering improvements are also really helpful. It’s easier to make complex forms and curves, and Vectorworks has really opened up new design possibilities and allowed us to bring new concepts to the table.”

Todd McCurdy, FASLA, is another Florida designer who is reaping the benefits of Vectorworks software. As the vice president and director of landscape architecture and planning at MORRIS in Orlando, McCurdy has worked on projects from LEGOLAND® Florida to Universal Studios, fusing his knowledge of tourism with urban planning in all types of environments.

“I really appreciate how Vectorworks listens to designers and makes tools that are a part of our daily workflow. Things we’ve asked for you’ve built, which helps us do some really great things. Vectorworks 2015 has a lot of improvements for the landscape architecture industry, like better site modeling and calculations, particularly with slopes, and a lot of new plant feature libraries and materials. I also like how easy the transition is between 2D and 3D. We do a lot of work in 2D, but many elements need 3D aspects, so being able to fit 3D and 2D together in one project is really helpful to how we work.”

Discover new ways to imagine and construct your projects with Vectorworks 2015 at

Some architectural awards recognize a single building, while others distinguish designers for their work in a specific area, such as the use of natural light, skylights, façades, or even using architecture as a marketing tool. However, as award juror Juho Nyberg points out, for younger architects looking to make their mark in the industry, the work they do to support themselves early on in their career might not be reflective of their true talents because their work isn’t always built.

The Foundation Award, therefore, was created to honor young Swiss architects and was instituted by ComputerWorks AG, the Vectorworks distributor in Switzerland, as well as HP Switzerland, web-based culture channel, the online platform swiss-architects, and Nemetschek Vectorworks. In the five years since its inception, the award has grown in prestige. Plus, the addition of architectural magazine Hochparterre and the Swiss Architectural Museum (S AM) to the funding body further validates the already esteemed award.

The up-and-coming Swiss architects at Focketyn del Rio Basel Studio won this year’s prestigious Foundation Award.

This year’s winner, Focketyn del Rio Studio Basel, embodies the visionary qualities that the judges look for in the vibrant young architectural scene in Switzerland. Their project, the Kaserne Basel, impressed the panel of judges with their design principle of “soft radicals,” which entails incorporating the existing values of a building or area into project while simultaneously destroying what existed before to create something new. By tempering their radical changes with influences from the past, the designers utilize their philosophy in constantly evolving ways.

The architects describe their design for the Kaserne Basel as a “breaking” of what was there before in order to build a better building.

To learn more about The Foundation Award, check out their website.

It’s time for another tech roundup where we highlight some of our best tech tip videos from our YouTube channel to help designers get the most out of their Vectorworks software, as well as share recent tech news you may have missed.

First, we have released the first Service Pack for the Vectorworks 2015 product line. This Service Pack fixes problems when rendering viewports in OpenGL, opening Mac files that contain special characters such as / or : as part of the file name or file path, and displaying a black screen when creating animations. We also corrected multiple issues with exporting to image files, centering the drawing on internal origin, and using the Publish command, as well as problems running Vectorworks 2015 in Windows XP 64-bit.

This Service Pack is available for all non-localized English language licenses as a downloadable updater. To install the Service Pack, please click here or go to the About Vectorworks 2015 dialog box in the Vectorworks menu (Mac users) or Help menu (Windows users) and select Check for Updates.

Next, we continue to publish great videos on our YouTube channel. For example, here’s a video that covers the basics of preparing a 3D model created in or imported into Vectorworks to export to the STL format, the standard 3D file format for 3D printing.


This second video reveals how to best utilize freely available 3D object library resources.

If you have any technical questions or problems, please contact us at or @VectorworksHelp on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

After five years of construction, the newly renovated Toni-Areal officially opened its doors last month. The site of the former milk processing facility is now home to the Zürich University of the Arts and the Zürich University of Applied Sciences. The Toni-Areal is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken in Zürich and is considered one of the largest sites in Switzerland.

The Toni-Areal was designed by architects Mathias Müller and Daniel Niggli of EM2N and encompasses nearly a city block. The facility combines educational facilities previously distributed in 35 separate locations under one room. By merging the Zürich University of Arts and two departments of the Zürich University of Applied Sciences, EM2N was able to optimize their space requirements and cut operating costs. The cost of the completed project totaled at 500 million Swiss francs.

Visit our success stories page to learn how EM2N utilized BIM with Vectorworks Architect software to design the Toni-Areal.

With an American broadcast history spanning more than 45 years, NBC’s “Meet the Press” has seen a lot of changes, including those to its set. So when Chuck Todd was named as the new host for the Sunday morning talk show, producers and executives sought a fresh look as well, which is why they turned to The Lighting Design Group (LDG).

LDG’s Emmy® Award-winning Lighting Designer Niel Galen has been doing work for NBC since 2000, creating lighting designs for coverage of the Olympics, as well as for national election commentary over the past decade. “It’s always a pleasure to work with NBC because they understand that good lighting is more than just flicking on a switch,” says Galen.

After working with NBC to determine how they wanted the lighting to affect the audience’s perception of the show, looking past an ultra-modern feel and deciding on warm, cozy atmosphere, Galen had one week to provide a sense of hominess in a distinctly un-homey setting. He notes that not only is the set itself fairly large, but it is also dark, which created deep shadows. Galen compensated for this imbalance by incorporating LED lighting fixtures to the existing incandescent studio equipment. He also relied on profile fixtures and careful camera placement to create a sense of closeness between Todd and the show’s guests.

Producing exceptional results in such a small time frame is just one of the reasons that NBC continues to work with Galen and LDG. “We provide a very high level of service for our clients, and we’re very competitive and aggressive for them,” he says. “We do beautiful work, and we tailor it to the people we work with.”

Galen remarks that LDG uses Vectorworks Spotlight software for all of their projects, citing its interoperability and industry-specific tools as reasons why it’s their design platform of choice. In particular, Galen enjoys the fluid symbiosis between Lightwright and Vectorworks Spotlight software, toggling between the two in his workflow to synchronize each show’s design. “The fact that Spotlight exists with its current range of flexibility is pretty amazing,” says Galen. “I’ve always been a champion of Vectorworks, and I’m so glad that so much thought has been put into this industry-specific application.”

Consult your local NBC station’s schedule for the airing of “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, so you can see the new set, new host, and new lighting designed with Vectorworks Spotlight. For a preview, watch a time-lapse video of the set installation.

To preserve its iconic skyline, Paris’ 13th arrondissement once limited the construction of housing blocks to 37 meters. But a new law raised the height limit to 50 meters, enabling architecture firms like HAMONIC + MASSON & Associés to transform the face of the City of Lights forever.

The ZAC Masséna Paris Rive Gauche high-rise “will be the first 50-meter-tall housing solution to be built in Paris since the start of the 1970s,” says HAMONIC + MASSON Director Jean-Christophe Masson. “It is symbolic of a willingness to question the possibility of height in Paris. Functioning as one single building whilst offering social housing and home ownership opportunities, the project links the strict rigidity of the Avenue de France, the railway landscape, the entrance to Ivry suburb, and finally the transition of a linear city toward a vertical one.”

The high-rise is a twist on the traditional skyscraper structure, with each story in the dual-towered building aligning differently from the one above and below it. This swirling prism is a new way of thinking of urban space, and is a design that the architects think has a lot of potential in the future. The design also helps to change the image of what public housing can be in the eyes of Parisians, both conceptually and visually.

Read the full success story on our website.

Design is all about finding unique solutions. So, how do you stand out in a world where uniformity is rewarded? Join the online, interactive discussion that will connect the dots between vision and reality in The Business of Creativity Google+ Hangout on Air October 9, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. This hour-long discussion, led by Steve Alden, AIA, architect at Nemetschek Vectorworks, will define what it means to be visionary and how flexible workflows help designers discover new ways to imagine and construct their projects. From small firms to large, the panel of practitioners will share details about their creative workflows and perspectives on the future of technology.


“Great design begins with ideas that run against the grain, shake the status quo, and lead to unexpected and inspiring solutions,” said Steve Alden, AIA, architect at Nemetschek Vectorworks. “But it takes a keen awareness of emerging market trends and an ability to steer one’s creative workflows and perspectives in just the right way to improve and transform the world. The Business of Creativity will address these topics and more, sharing what some of today’s award-winning designers and industry professionals think about the future of technology and design, as well as how they stay ahead of the competition.”

Panelists include Todd McCurdy, FASLA vice president, director of landscape architecture + planning at Morris Architects, Inc.; Aurora Meneghello, marketing and social media manager at Novedge; Michael Klaers, lighting designer at The Small Group; Ron Kwaske, architect at Office Ron Kwaske, Architect; and Rob Glisson, AIA, principle and architect at Rojo Architecture.

“The hangout will be a forum to stimulate ideas that should, in turn, lead to best practices that we can then implement, so I am excited to have the opportunity to be an active participant in such a dialogue,” said Kwaske. “By contributing as a panelist, I can open up that dialogue with my colleagues during the event, and hopefully with members of the audience during the Q&A session, so we can all learn and advance our understanding and use of technology in our firms.”

Viewers are encouraged to ask questions and engage with panelists by posting their questions to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ using #DiscussDesign. To register for The Business of Creativity discussion, please visit

By Kevin Lee Allen, Scenic & Lighting Designer, KLAD

I’ve been beta testing Vectorworks 2015 since the spring, and it’s so feature-rich that I can’t decide on a favorite. Many enhancements have become integral to my workflow, and I can’t remember life without them. For example, I do a lot of modeling and rendering. The 64-bit speed of Vectorworks 2015 has seriously cut back on my time for coffee. I no longer remember what was like to work in 32-bit mode anymore than I remember what it was like to work on my Mac Quadra 800. However, I do know that I can produce great work in less time than it takes to get that cup of coffee.

Kevin’s client commissioned this design, which literally is a set for a meeting, to impress a potential celebrity partner.

Renderworksartistic edge effects can stylize renderings, offering a realistic, hand-drawn overlay to a normally more photographic rendering. Artists and designers can customize these looks to their taste or to reflect a style developed over many years. The artistic edges feature can also humanize a rendering, giving clients and collaborators the sense that the design is a work in progress to which they might contribute. Often, a photographic rendering can appear too finished for clients to sign on to the design. It’s psychological, but clients need to take ownership. Artistic edges therefore help designers sell their ideas.

Another feature I love is the new 3D Hatching for Hidden Line Rendering. Texture definitions can now automatically include hatches showing, for example, a brick hatch on a 2D elevation of a brick wall. This is just one more way to clearly communicate design ideas.

Kevin’s rendering portrays a fantasy fashion environment.

Before rendering, the new Deform tool can create objects that will cause carpenters, sculptors, and welders to seriously hate you. The Deform tool includes the Twist Solid tool, which was introduced in 2014 as a tool mode. Additionally, the tool will twist the face, taper, bulge, and bend 3D solid objects. This is fast, easy, and very cool.

Designers in the entertainment field will appreciate new stage objects in Vectorworks Spotlight that are incredible for creating camera platforms at fashion shows, concerts, meetings, houses of worship, and special events. These tools can maintain a database of inventory. Soft goods, speaker objects, and video/television/LED screens received improvements, too, and the Stage Lift object has been added.

Those of us who also design lighting feel some love from the folks at Nemetschek Vectorworks with this release. Lighting positions no longer have to be saved as symbols, and the geometry of a lighting position can now be directly edited. Plus, the new Curtain Wall tools in the Designer and Architect packages allow for the rapid creation of event spaces, theatre spaces, and/or sets.

Last, but certainly not least, I cannot live without the new Vectorworks Remote App that connects mobile devices to Vectorworks. The app lets you view, navigate, and present your designs without having to be at your desktop. It is also terrific for navigating while designing.

Have fun exploring these and all the new features in Vectorworks 2015 at

When a community of quirky, mischievous creatures hits the big screen in the nationwide US opening of The Boxtrolls this weekend, you’ll have Oregon-based LAIKA to thank. Known for its Academy Award-nominated films ParaNorman and Coraline, the animation studio has created a stop-motion, hand-drawn, and computer-generated movie in which young people discover who they are and what they want to be, learning that the things that define us most are the choices we make and the people we touch.

Based on Alan Snow’s book Here Be Monsters, and created with 79 sets and over 20,000 handmade props, The Boxtrolls is the biggest production ever made in stop-motion animation. “I love the medium, and this art form, because it combines so many artistically wonderful elements: illustration, painting, photography, lighting, sculpting, and music,” says Lead Animator and Producer Travis Knight.

Joining a star-studded cast of voice talent including Sir Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Elle Fanning, Vectorworks software plays a role in the film, too. Set designers used the program to construct 3D models and develop them into construction plans.

A stop-motion feature is comparable to a live-action feature in that there are physical sets that must be built and dressed, as well as performers who need to be properly coiffed, clothed, and lit – and given proper direction. Art Director Curt Enderle says, “Set designers work from 2D illustrations and develop scale and style within Vectorworks to generate drawings for the construction shops — just like the real world, only smaller, about one-sixth of human size.”

“We aspire to tell stories that are visually stunning, that have a patina of beauty, but more importantly have a reservoir of meaning,” adds Knight. “Our films are thought-provoking, keenly felt, progressive, and just a wee bit subversive. We tell stories that speak to us, and that we hope connect in the same way with audiences all over the world.”

We’re currently developing a case study with the artisans at LAIKA and have no doubt that we’ll all feel wonderfully connected with The Boxtrolls as we discover the magic behind the studio’s success and how Vectorworks software supports their creative endeavors. Stay tuned, and we’ll see you at the movies!