KHouse Modern Progress Update 05

February 3, 2014 — 26 Comments

It’s been a long time since I have provided an update on the KHouse Modern so I thought I wold take this Superbowl Sunday and put together a post that brings you up to speed. We received our permit at the end of October of last year so I know what you’re thinking … why haven’t you started construction?

I don’t have a good answer for you to be honest. Our owner is crazy awesome in that he really cares about the design process and keeps asking questions that pushes the design and invariably causes changes. Even thought this is a cost+ project, the contractor has prepared a budget bid price and we have made some revisions to save some money – most of which were structural changes. In addition, we made the deck both bigger AND smaller at the same time (that’s the kind of architectural magic we perform at my office).

So, let’s kick this update off but for those of you who are new, you can find all the KHouse Modern updates and articles here … they will change your life.

[and by “change your life” I mean, “distract you for 10 or 15 minutes” at most]

Today’s post is really going to be a comparison of how things have changed from early August of 2013 to our most recent construction issue towards the end of January 2014. I have taken the old BIM rendered images – the first from the beginning of August 2013, followed by one from the end of October 2013, finally ending with one that we rendered this weekend (January 2014) so that you could easily see how things have changed and evolved. I think it’s pretty interesting and I hope you do as well.

KHouse Modern Architectural model

This is the original site model that we built – this dates back to July of 2013. I am amazed at how little the original concept actually changed despite all the tweaking we have done to the plan.

KHouse Modern BIM site model Aug 2013

This rendered site plan still shows the vegetative roof – something that we were pursuing since this will be a LEED for Homes certified project. In the end, we removed this feature because the expense didn’t warrant its inclusion into the final product.  KHouse Modern BIM Site Plan Jan 2014

This is the latest and greatest site plan. Make a note that we are showing a fence that rings the property … but there really isn’t a fence, at least not a proper fence as most people would think. We ended up removing the wood board fence and decided to go with a chain link fence that has shrubs planted on both sides so that it provides the security of a proper fence – but will visually disappear. Keep this in mind as you look at the rest of the pictures in this post.

KHouse Modern BIM side perspective Aug 2013

In this image, you can see that the original design included a 4′ tall cast in place concrete wall that ran along the front yard setback line. We also have a cantilevered ramp along this elevation. One of the items we spent time thinking about was how the client would age in place at this house. Being able to incorporate a ramp to access the hour was important to us.

KHouse Modern BIM side perspective October 2013

In this image, the cast in place concrete wall has actually been enlarged to 6 foot due to privacy concerns that the owner expressed. We also redesigned the deck off the master bedroom so that there was a generous seating area available.

KHouse Modern BIM side perspective Jan 2014

The cornet wall has been removed, we didn’t show the vegetative chain link fence in this final render (not much value as a communicative render if we had…). We also came back in and added the trunks of trees to the model. One of the things that was throwing some people off was that there weren’t any trees being illustrated in these renderings – you can thank me for that. I always turned the trees off on these images because the landscaping is so think you wouldn’t actually se any of the house if we turned them on. Showing the trunks was  my way of letting you know that there are in fact, a lot of trees on this site … and we avoided all of them.

KHouse Modern BIM terrace view Aug 2013

This is a view right off the master bedroom – with a small gathering space at the top of the ramp. Architecturally it worked but we always thought we were missing something that could make this area far more useful.

KHouse Modern Bim Terrace October 2013

And in this image, you can see how we changed things up. We made the deck area here considerably larger and added a seating area. This makes getting in and out of the sliding door at the master bedroom far nicer. At the end of the deck, there is an outdoor dining room that is completely screened in … the mosquitoes are rather larger here in Texas but the weather is nice enough for 6 months out of the year that dining al fresco is something worth accommodating.

KHouse Modern BIM terrace view Jan 2014

You can see the enlarged deck was reduced again – we relocated the outdoor seating area off the main living area and added a set of deck stairs to make accessing the rear yard a bit more direct. Yes, I know these stairs aren’t anything to write home about, they’ll change before we’re through with things.

KHouse Modern BIM Rear Elevation Aug 2013

Here is a view looking back up towards the house from the era of the yard. You can see that there isn’t easy access to the yard in place and the concrete retaining wall (shown on the right hand side of the image) is still fairly awkward. The client thought there was simply “too much concrete” in this area for his tastes.

KHouse Modern BIM Alley view Oct 2013

We got rid of a bunch of the concrete and added a bunch of large windows in the guest bedroom wing of the house (the right hand potion of this rendering). Much better in my opinion and the client still wanted “less concrete”.

KHouse Modern BIM Alley view Jan 2014

Turns out the client was right and in this last image, you can see that we got rid of even more concrete retaining wall. We also connected the wood deck from the left hand side (Master bedroom) around the outdoor dining area, and connected it to the guest bedroom wing.

KHouse Modern BIM Alley view Jan 2014

Finally, I thought I would add a bonus image that looks up towards the house from the rear yard … I think it is a fairly dynamic view. Of course, when I look at all of these images, I don’t see just see a cool house, I see opportunity for improvement – particularly in the size and scale of the retaining walls around the project. One of the really amazing things that working in BIM (Building Information Modeling) is that you are taking the time to create a real 3-dimensional model of the house and there are few things that you can’t discover. Knowing how the house will come together while we are still working on paper (rather than the contractor working on site) is a powerful tool that can not be ignored for long – at least not to your own peril. I know we are not the cheapest firm in town to work with, but I can promise you that we can solve problems during the drafting stages for far less money than discovering the problem when the contractor calls you from the job site.

These renderings were created using Revit and to  be completely honest, they are a total pain to generate. Some of these images took over 12 hours to rendered and half the time, we discovered that something wasn’t right after we had already invested the time. I’m sure – like all things – we’ll get better the more frequently we create them. We aren’t giving up on them because we can see the value in preparing them even if no one else can … yet.

Cheers – and thanks for following the KHouse Modern project. We should be breaking ground any day now.


Bob AIA signature

Print Friendly

even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Pingback: Weekly Job Site Meetings | Life of an Architect()

  • pandix

    Great looking house! I love to see other architect’s process. I also use BIM, and sometimes I think I spent way too much time perfecting the model, so I’m glad I’m not the only one. I have a hard time letting go and not draw every detail. My choice in software was VectorWorks, mostly because I learned it in school in the early 90’s when it was called minicad (it was BIM back then!) and I love apple computers. I have some compatibility problems since most consultants want dwg files, but I manage to convert them OK. Clients love to be able to see the models. My problem is they don’t understand how long it takes to create a nice render, I get asked for additional views a lot. I have thought of switching to Revit, because I can’ find too many drafting help in VW, but is hard to switch once you master a software. I still think sketch up is way easier, but just for 3d views. If I had staff, I would probably design in sketch up, and have “them” do the plans… too bad my staff can’t draw. I attach a photo of my staff

  • Kyle J Marsh

    I love seeing the design come together like this. Often times I think it’s easy to be initially resistant to client suggestions but sometimes they are really on point, as in the concrete walls suggestion. My question is, how does the cost of the sloped top concrete wall compare with a stepped design? I’m playing around with the pitched look myself and keep wondering if it’s a budget buster or is similar in cost or even saves money. Thanks and great blog!

    • it is significantly less expensive. We made this modification because a) it was a lot of concrete, and b) required a different technique in forming up the walls (once you get over 4′, cast in place concrete costs start going up quite a bit. Another consideration for casting walls that are over 4′ is that some concrete companies are equipped with the right experience or equipment to build them.


  • Elissaveta

    Hi Bob,

    Funny that you mention difficulties with Revit – so many companies now require knowledge in it and yet, so many programmes are easier, quicker at rendering times, and from what I have seen, so much more effective too.

    Surprised that nobody has mentioned Cinema 4D as a rendering software in the comments. Beyond SketchUP (which my tutors used to criticise big time for some reason) I have always used C4D and the results are absolutely fascinating – fairly easy to use too, almost self taught myself and can humbly say I’m very glad with the outcome…

    That being said, look forward to seeing more progress on the KHouse Modern project. 🙂

    • I’ve never heard of Cinema 4D – not that that means anything. One thing as a owner of a small business is that there is a limit on the money spent to solve a problem. As is true in almost all things, I don’t want a tool in the drawer that only performs a single task (part of the reason we have Xacto knives rather than scissors). It makes far more sense to make a tool do as many things as is reasonably possible and it it can’t maybe it’s time to rethink it’s value. The alternative is which additional tool can get me there for the least amount of expense (which not only includes the cost of the software but the time for people to learn it).

      I’ll go check Cinema 4D, thanks for sharing.

      • Elissaveta

        Really? Actually coming to think of it, I think it is much more popular in the UK along with Vectorworks as opposed to the AutoCAD + 3ds MAX/REVIT combination which I am much less familiar with!
        Truth is they all share pretty much the same skill-set and I definitely agree with you – the more multifunctional a tool is, the more practical it gets, hence why we all love Swiss knives!!
        BUT, there is only so much that a programme can do while giving great results and though I’d love to have it all in one, I prefer combining the best features of 3 programmes (personal favourite routine is drafting in Vectorworks, rendering+lighting+materials in C4D, finishing textures+effects in Photoshop)
        I find taking the time to learn will most often save time in the long run (as for software costs……. that is an undeniable issue!!)

        • fair enough – I can’t say we don’t have single purpose tools in the office but I would like to keep them at a minimum. My skill set (given my advanced years) know includes less items that technological in nature, I let the younger folks tell me what I need to know and I in turn, tell them what they need to know – symbiotic learning environment.

          • Jack Abrams

            I think Cinima4D is more commonly used to make 3d animations, graphics, and logos. It can definitely work with architecture though.

  • Wanda Madrid-Diaz

    Bob, the renderings are great, but you should consider using Vectorworks. It is less expensive than Revit, and the staff tech support is great. The lead sales person is Steve Alden and he is an architect. I have used Vectorworks for many years, and the modeling is easy to learn. They also have cloud services. It really a great company, No I am not on staff at Vectorworks , it has just made working by myself very easy, I can go through design to CD’s quickly, and my clients love the 3D models, Which most residential clients are demanding. Just my thoughts. Love your posts!

    • Thanks Wanda,
      If this office wasn’t already heavily invested in the path we are on I would probably pursue your recommendation with a bit more vigor. As it is, renderings in Revit are decent enough to have some value but I am going to explore my options for what I can do with the Revit model within a separate platform.
      Cheers – off to the Vectorworks website (I already changed my mind…)

  • Frederic Herbere

    Bob, great post again.
    I can feel your pain while using Revit for Rendering, while Revit is a good software for designing and documenting your design, it fail in the Rendering area. Using the cloud services as suggested in another post if you are happy with the render quality and look for speed increase only.
    I personally don’t use Revit for rendering at all. My workflow is, export to 3D dwg, open in sketchup, apply material in sketchup, render “live” as I adjust my material using the powerful and low cost THEA Render engine. This process give me more flexibility in my design process and allow me to allocate time on Revit for what it’s good for. Now days, you should not wait 12 hours for a rendering to complete!!

    • Hi Frederic –
      The process you describe is the one I am moving towards, just didn’t make it happen this past week. I really miss the flexibility that SketchUp has afforded me in the past, that and I am extremely quick at SketchUp and I still require the staff to manipulate things for me in Revit. None of this is billable time to the client so we squeeze in what we can when we can.

      Cheers – and thank you.

  • Matt Green

    Bob, great update. I apologize in advance if this question I am posing has been covered in one of the previous updates, but I would love to hear more about the construction and materials of the “flat” roof design after the removal of the vegetative roof components, my partner and I have a res. project coming up where that kind of assembly may be of real value to us. It looks like you guys were able to achieve a very nice low slope to the roof line, inquiring minds want to know! 🙂

    —Matt Green, AIA

    • Thanks Matt –
      There isn’t all the much to relay at this point, we have a 1/4″ pitch 60mil PVC membrane roof going on this project. Once the project breaks ground, I will be going into considerable depth on the materials and construction details … hopefully the groundbreaking will take place any day now.

    • Ross

      Thanks Matt,
      I was going to ask the same question.
      The roof structure,membrane,insulation info will be noteworthy if you could share that in the future Bob.(I imagine the vegetated roof would have required a concrete slab,but the omission of this roof garden would have allowed some cost cutting in the structure,only guessing)
      Thanks for sharing your journey

  • Paul Scharnett

    Bob, great post. The project certainly is coming along nicely.
    I agree with one of the other posters here in that your renderings really could be taking a lot less time with a few tweaks. One of the things I continually find useful is doing a horribly low res rendering in the first place and then building up each time you resolve the issue. The other thing to consider is turning off absolutely everything that won’t show in the view. Revit is still trying to render that leather furniture in the front room that you can’t really see, and it has a heck of a lot of polygons in it. Those are the calculations that take forever to complete and are easily removed.

    The other thing I might suggest: add some RPC people for scale. You can always make them silhouette people. Just a thought. I think it does wonders for the client.

    Again, great project and best wishes!

    • Great tips Paul – I really appreciate them. I pointed Ryan (the guy who actually did these renders) to your comment for further exploration. Other than creating images to show the project’s progress on my site, we don’t use these images for anything (that and Instagram fodder)

  • Chris

    I’m not a Revit genius. However, try rendering in Autodesk Cloud and you’ll save 75% of the render time and see better quality images.

    • don’t I have to pay to render in the AutoDesk Cloud? Currently we set up an image to render as we leave work for the day. The outputted quality is pretty good, I trash them a bit to reduce the file size when posting them here on the site – page load times would be brutal if every image was 5 mg

      • Chris

        The registered Autodesk account receives 200 credits. Each image you download is 5 credits. I’m not sure how new credits cost. You are only charged when you download a final image – and this is the key. You can create as many test images as needed to achieve your desired look. Revit uses Mental Ray as its render engine. The cloud based render engine is a little more advanced. I recommend giving it a shot. Otherwise, export your model to 3DS and render it from there using the VRay render engine.

        • something to look into – thanks, I really appreciate it.

  • Micah Morgan

    It’s true Revit really isn’t designed for rendering, but you can get a lot more mileage if you use custom settings: dial up the image precision to 8-9 and keep the other settings (reflections, light bounces, etc..) very very low. For these type of renders you won’t tell much difference, and you should be able to speed them up. Also use default render materials, rather than those with plastic or metallic reflections. Anything with reflections will slow you down.

    • solid tips – I sent your comment on to Ryan, the guy in my office who I had working on these renderings. He agreed with everything you said … now to put things in action.


  • Love seeing the iterative process. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Mike – I am excited to get this project under construction!