AECbytes Feature (January 17, 2013)

AEC Project Presentations from Bentley’s “Be Inspired” Awards

Recently, I published an overview of Bentley’s Be Inspired 2012 conference, that was held in Amsterdam on Nov 13 and 14. Unlike Bentley's user conference, Be Together, which is typically held in the summer in the US, open to anyone, and is more product-focused, the Be Inspired conference is an invitation-only event that is intended to allow senior-level executives of AEC firms to learn more about how Bentley’s solutions are continuing to be implemented in cutting-edge projects around the globe. Also, it is typically held in an international location, reflecting the growing international footprint of the adoption of Bentley solutions.

The November article provided a dedicated look at the key business and technology updates shared by Bentley executives at the recent Be Inspired event. In addition to these updates, the bulk of the event was focused on Bentley's annual Be Inspired awards, which were presented in an Oscar-like fashion on the final evening of the conference, in the growing number of categories that Bentley solutions cater to. The preceding days of the conference featured all the Be Inspired finalist presentations, so that attendees could learn more about the different projects that had made it to the finals in each category. In this article, we will look at all the finalists’ presentations in the building-related categories, including the winning projects. A complete listing of all the categories and winners of the Be Inspired Awards can be seen in this press release from Bentley.

“Innovation in Building” Category

This category featured projects that had used advanced technology aids in the design, delivery, or operation of high-quality buildings, in aspects such as adherence to program, meeting the budget, environmental sustainability, operational performance, compliance with regulations, and aesthetics, demonstrating a clear return on the technology investment.

One of the finalists in the “Innovation in Building” category was Arthur Golding and Associates, a small design firm in LA, for its entry for the new Helsinki (Finland) Central Library international design competition, which was restricted to conceptual design only The design brief called for an iconic building, and the key challenge was the project site, which was long and narrow as well as very public. The design concept proposed by Arthur Golding and Associates was that of a “building within a building,” achieved by creating a translucent outer skin that forms a veil independent of the library floors within (see Figure 1). This outer skin has a dramatic profile, with its sculptural form made up of a curved diagrid roof and a multistory climate wall, with the glass providing daylighting as well as views. Another key technological innovation in the design is an advanced structural system that creates the outer structure without perimeter columns, beams, or mullions. MicroStation was used to model this project in detail in 3D, and its integrated Luxology rendering engine was used to generate photorealistic images. A BIM model was not created as the firm was more comfortable using MicroStation rather than Bentley Architecture (now part of AECOsim Building Designer).

Figure 1. The conceptual design submission by Arthur Golding and Associates for the Helsinki Central Library international design competition. (Courtesy: Arthur Golding and Associates)

Another finalist in the “Innovation in Building” category was Morphosis Architects, well known for its advanced technology implementation and use of Bentley solutions (see the article on the AIA 2005 National Convention where Thom Mayne, principal of Morphosis and that year's Pritzker Prize winner, participated in one of the main general sessions that was focused on use of BIM), for its Giant Interactive Group headquarters in Shanghai, China. The design concept was that of a compact campus on the outskirts of the city, defying the current trend toward vertical urban development (see Figure 2). Morphosis works in 3D in all design phases, and this project was no exception—it created a highly detailed, complex 3D model using Bentley Architecture that was used for the exploration of complex architectural spaces, communication of the design intent, and the coordination of building systems. It was subsequently also provided to fabricators, as well as used in the field. A full frame structural model of the project was also created in Bentley Structural, allowing the designers to take a holistic view of the project and address singular building systems. (In fact, Morphosis always creates a structural model for all its projects, as it considers the structure an integral part of architecture.) Morphosis has found that the advantage of modeling using the Bentley tools is that they are solid modelers and yield true geometry that can be fabricated, which allowed 3D printed models to be created for the Giant Interactive Group headquarters project.

Figure 2. The Giant Interactive Group headquarters in Shanghai, China designed by Morphosis Architects. (Courtesy: Morphosis Architects)

The winner in the “Innovation in Building” category was John McAslan + Partners for the King’s Cross Station Redevelopment project in London. John McAslan + Partners is an A/E firm that specializes in historic architecture. The brief for the redevelopment of King’s Cross station was to transform the historic rail station into a modern transport interchange and iconic gateway to London—it was the regeneration of one of the largest areas of Europe. The challenges faced by the design team included the congestion that came with being a major transportation hub, the gritty and depressed ambience of the existing structure, and the tight space constraints that left little room for expansion. As part of the redevelopment, John McAslan + Partners restored the historic façade, vaulted train shed, and some other features, but replaced the old concourse with a new structure (see Figure 3). MicroStation was used to produce an accurate 3D representation of the project at all stages. Other design tools that were used were Bentley Architecture, GenerativeComponents, and SketchUp. Energy simulation done using Ecotect allowed balancing of natural lighting versus artificial lighting. A very accurate structural simulation of the project was done by engineering partner, Arup, which is another leading user of Bentley solutions. The project took 14 years and was completed in Spring 2012.

Figure 3. The new concourse of the King’s Cross Station Redevelopment project in London. (Courtesy: John McAslan + Partners)

“Innovation in Generative Design” Category

This category featured projects that had used associative and parametric modeling to automate design processes, accelerate design iterations, and generate documentation more efficiently. The use of generative design, best exemplified in the Bentley universe—and the AEC technology industry in general—by GenerativeComponents, enables designers to efficiently explore alternative building forms without manually building the detailed design model for each scenario.

One of the finalists in the “Innovation in Generative Design” category was LAB architecture studio for its design of the Guardian Towers in Abu Dhabi, UAE. LAB is a 45-person studio that has been using Bentley products since 1996. For the Guardian Towers, it worked with a local architecture firm, ERGA Progress, which is based in nearby Dubai. The project is a mixed-use complex comprised of an 18-story residential tower, 18-story commercial office tower, and a two-level retail podium. While the project site called for rectangular forms, LAB broke the static tradition of extruded, rectangular tower blocks by creating two crystalline forms that included splits and offsets, which brought a sense of dynamism to the project. The folds are illuminated at night, making for visually striking images, as shown in Figure 4. The split façade, with the size of the aperture varying across the height of the towers, created a varying footprint for each floor of the design, ensuring that the monotony of repeating floors was avoided. The form of the project posed many challenges, and LAB had to make extensive use of physical models to conceptualize and visualize the design. Bentley’s GenerativeComponents was the key design tool that was used, allowing design iterations of the concept to determine which one worked best, as well as yielding the individual floor plates of the design. It was also used in the design of the double-skinned façade elements and glazing, enabling them to be extensively tested and accurately visualized. GenerativeComponents was used for generating the construction documentation for the project as well; in fact, many of the changes to the design required by regulatory agencies could not have been efficiently made without it.

Figure 4. A night-time view of the Guardian Towers in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Courtesy: LAB architecture studio)

Another finalist in the “Innovation in Generative Design” category was the architecture firm, Stanley Beaman & Sears, for the Atlanta History Center Design Competition in Atlanta, Georgia. The brief called for a redesign of the existing building—which contained a series of outdated, darkened galleries and undersized public areas—to reinvigorate and energize it. The redesign was primarily focused on the interior spaces, to make them more exploratory, intuitive to navigate, and more open and expansive. The redesign proposed by Stanley Beaman & Sears was a light-filled space featuring a dynamic wing-like ceiling with a gently swooping form (see Figure 5), which was inspired by the phoenix, a mythical bird that is also the symbol of Atlanta. The ceiling element was made up of a series of dynamic panels, which were designed using GenerativeComponents. Other Bentley products such as MicroStation and Bentley Architecture were also used to draw and model the existing space as well as the proposed remodel, and the built-in Luxology rendering engine yielded the required visualizations.

Figure 5. A rendered view of the redesigned interior of the Atlanta History Center Design. (Courtesy: Stanley Beaman & Sears)

The winner in the “Innovation in Generative Design” category was Robin Partington Architects for the Park House project in London. This is a mixed-use 1.04-acre city block redevelopment, primarily for retail and office space, with some residential apartments as well. In fact, it is London’s most talked-about retail development, situated in a world-renowned location on the edge of Mayfair in London. The unique form of the building, shown in Figure 6, was developed in response to neighboring buildings and shading considerations. The corners of the curved form were softened by filleting the edges, which also helped to smoothen the transition from the curved wall to the curved roof. The unique façade was made up of curved glass panels, the design of which was enabled by the use of GenerativeComponents, allowing many iterations to be explored. For the final design, GenerativeComponents yielded the precise dimensions and location of each panel, and also helped to determine which panel could be manufactured from regular glass that was bent (98% of panels fell into this category) and which panel needed special glass (of the remaining 2%).

Figure 6. A model view and a live webcam of the Park House project in London. (Courtesy: Robin Partington Architects)

“Innovation in Structural Engineering” Category

This category featured projects that demonstrated excellence in analyzing, designing, or delivering high-quality structures through the use of technical innovation. It also showcased improved structural project workflows that could enhance a structure’s functional performance, delivery process, or quality of service.

One of the finalists in the “Innovation in Structural Engineering” category was Arup for the South Morang Rail Extension in Melbourne, Australia. As mentioned earlier, Arup is a leading structural engineering firm noted for its use of Bentley solutions, and this project was no exception. It involved the redevelopment of two existing stations, 3.5 kilometers of new double track extension, and the new South Morang Station and modal interchange (see Figure 7), all of which would help to improve access to public transport for the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Arup provided the structural, mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic engineering for each station, using MicroStation and Bentley Structural to model and document the stations and pedestrian footbridge. It turned out that for this project, Revit Architecture was the main application used by the architect, along with conceptual modeling applications like Rhino and SketchUp. A major part of Arup’s presentation for this project was focused on the interoperability of Bentley solutions with these applications, which turned out to be very good: Bentley Structural could open Rhino and SketchUp files natively; Bentley files could be exported to Revit using Bentley’s ISM (Integrated Structural Modeling) Revit plug-in, which yields better fidelity than the IFC; the Bentley Structural model could be linked to GSA, which is Arup’s internal structural analysis software; and finally, the design model could be exported using the SDNF format to create a fabrication model in detailing software such as Tekla or StrCAD.

Figure 7. A rendered view of the new South Morang Station in Melbourne, Australia. (Courtesy: Arup)

Another finalist in the “Innovation in Structural Engineering” category was Fitzpatrick Engineering Group for the Rehabilitation Center project in Concord, North Carolina. This was an inpatient rehabilitation hospital designed as a two-story, 65,000-square-foot steel building (shown in Figure 8). In addition to paper deliverables, the client required Revit deliverables from all design disciplines and expected the structural model data to be shared with the fabricator. Fitzpatrick Engineering Group, which had been using Bentley solutions since their Intergraph days, used the structural module of Bentley’s integrated BIM solution, AECOsim Building Designer, to create the structural model of the building, and its RAMsteel tool for structural analysis. It made use of advanced features in AECOsim, such as parametric cells and DataGroup systems, for the detailed design of the structure, and created a link between Excel and AECOsim that allowed components to first be defined in Excel and then placed in the model. Like Arup, it also relied on Bentley’s ISM Revit plug-in to provide a Revit deliverable. Additionally, it used the CIS/2 format to export the model to detailing software.

Figure 8. The structural modeling process followed for the Concord Rehabilitation Center project by Fitzpatrick Engineering Group. (Courtesy: Fitzpatrick Engineering Group)

The winner in the “Innovation in Structural Engineering” category was John A. Martin & Associates, Inc. for its work on the LAX International Terminal Expansion in Los Angeles, California. The project involved the modernization of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal that would also add close to 500,000 sq ft of new concourses and 475,000 sq ft of new terminal space adjacent to the existing international terminal and concourses. The proposed design (shown in Figure 9) posed several structural challenges with its curved, sloping roofs containing clearstoreys and column-free concourse interiors. The complex geometry necessitated BIM modeling, and the firm relied extensively on structural modeling and analysis tools like Bentley’s RAM Structural System, RAM Concept, STAAD.Pro, and SAP 2000 for the evaluation, analysis, and design of beam sizes, column loads, framing schemes, and framing and loading configurations. The structure includes complex elements such as vierendeel trusses for the clearstories and non-orthogonal sloping moment frames. The latter were actually against the area’s seismic regulations, but the detailed structural analysis done by the firm showed that they worked. The project broke ground in early 2012, and the first terminal has just been opened.

Figure 9. The structurally challenging design for the modernization of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX airport. (Courtesy: John A. Martin & Associates)

“Innovation in Construction” Category

The focus of this category was on the construction phase of a project. The finalists in this category were those that demonstrated the application of technology for advanced work processes within the construction workforce to benefit all stakeholders, shortened project schedules, and avoidance of budget overruns.

One of the finalists in the “Innovation in Construction” category was HNTB Corporation for its “Firm-wide Design-Build Quality Plan” rather than a specific project. HNTB has been one of the world’s leading infrastructure companies for nearly a century, designing highways, bridges, stadiums, convention centers, passenger rail lines, levees, and so on. With a vast workforce of over 3,600 employees spread out across 60+ offices across the country, collaboration was a particularly important challenge, leading HNTB to start an Incubation Center focused on developing technological solutions for collaboration and the aggressive schedules and 3D deliverables associated with alternative delivery projects. The impetus was the long delay in traditional design-bid-build projects and even in more recent design-build projects. The Incubation Center is looking at model-based design and delivery, 4D tools, the use of laser scanning and point clouds, machine-controlled fabrication, and other AEC technologies. One of the important techniques HNTB has adopted to meet various infrastructure design and construction challenges is standardizing on specific applications, namely: MicroStation for displaying data from all applications; ProjectWise as the central data store and Bentley Navigator for mark-up checking and conflict resolution (Figure 10); ProjectWise to capture mark-ups in a managed environment; and Bentley Navigator for 4D construction phasing. The results have been tangible: conflicts are identified early on in the process, the overall review time is shortened, construction can start sooner and can be fast-tracked, and there are savings upfront as well as during the course of the project.

Figure 10. A model-based review session of an infrastructure project at HNTB. (Courtesy: HNTB)

Another finalist in the “Innovation in Construction” category was the firm, Shawmut Design and Construction, for the Dudley Square Municipal Building in Boston, Massachusetts (shown in Figure 11). Shawmut is a general contracting firm with 650 employees located across 7 offices in the US; it was established in 1984 and focuses on academic, healthcare, and lifescience buildings. Dudley Square Municipal Building is a USD 86 million project that will occupy the site of a previous historic landmark in Boston—the Ferdinand Building. In addition to preserving three historic facades, there were several other significant challenges facing the project, including complexity of the site, the tight footprint with practically zero lot lines, and a very busy bus station at the back of the site that caused over 35,000 commuters a day to pass through it. The hybrid project type—more specifically 149A in the state of Massachusetts—also posed challenges, with two architectural design teams, a mix of contractors, and dozens of subcontractors, many of which were unknown. Information mobility was critical to the success of the project, and the project team evaluated many traditional communication platforms before deciding to go with ProjectWise for collaboration, which is where all information related to the project is located. The team also used Bentley Navigator for coordination and review.

Figure 11. One of the views of the model of the Dudley Square Municipal Building. (Courtesy: Shawmut Design and Construction)

The winner in the “Innovation in Construction” category was the Taylor Woodrow-BAM Nuttall joint venture for the Jet Grouting project in London’s Victoria Station upgrade. Each year, eighty million people pass through Victoria station on the London Underground. The station is currently being upgraded to address the heavy traffic congestion through it, reduce wait times, improve the overall ambience, and provide better emergency access. The upgrade also hopes to act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the entire area. It includes a new ticket hall and new passenger tunnels, as well as “step-free” access for those passengers arriving from the nearby Gatwick airport with luggage. All these improvements had to be done while keeping the project open and minimizing disruption to commuters. The upgrade included a series of concrete tunnels connecting the new and existing parts of the station. In order for these tunnels to be built, the gravel substrate had to be first treated to make it suitable for tunneling. This was done by installing 2,500 jet-grout columns, which was a project on its own, undertaken by the Taylor Woodrow-BAM Nuttall joint venture in a GBP 37 million work package. Jet grouting is essentially a series of vertical and inclined cylinders that strengthen the ground for tunneling (see Figure 12). While installing a column might not be such a big deal, the sheer number of columns was unprecedented. Also, the sequencing of the installation was a challenge, as work could only be done on a small section of the ground at a time. Each jet-grout column was tagged with a unique ID, to keep a full record of which ones were being installed and which were already on the ground. The initial design of jet grout column orientation was carried out using MicroStation.

Figure 12. A model of the jet-grout columns that needed to be installed to make the ground suitable for the tunnels connecting the new and existing parts of Victoria station. (Courtesy: Taylor Woodrow-BAM Nuttall joint venture)


This wraps up the two-part AECbytes coverage of Bentley’s 2012 Be Inspired event. It was fascinating to learn in depth about leading AEC projects from all over the world that were using Bentley solutions, and it brought into renewed focus the global reach of the company. Bentley has, in fact, been increasing the number of its solutions as well as the different industries they cater to, and it seems to be very much a stable and strong player in the AEC technology market.



About the Author

Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at


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