4 BIM Tools That Make Accessible Design Easy

Posted by Joanna Weedlun on 6/16/16 10:40 AM  |  4 min read time

François Lévy, AIA, is on a mission to change the status quo of BIM use. According to Lévy, who is co-founder of Lévy Kohlhaas Architecture, BIM is too often employed solely for documentation purposes, and the design capabilities of the process are not realized. We talked with Lévy to highlight four tools to leverage in Vectorworks software that make the job of designing for accessible spaces easier and less prone to error.



Symbols are basic but undervalued tools. When designing for accessibility, you can create 2D symbols that check ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance for turn radius, T-turns, clear floor space, etc., when overlaid on your drawing. While helpful in 2D documentation, symbols can also play a significant role in the modeling process. For example, if you’re designing something around a sink in a bathroom, it may be helpful to have a 3D symbol that demonstrates ADA compliance for knee and toe space and reach. By using these types of symbols, you can design for code compliance from the start rather than going back and changing your design to meet standards.



Another underappreciated tool, objects can contribute a great deal to the design process, particularly for accessible design. Vectorworks software comes loaded with libraries full of useful objects like ADA-compliant fixtures, grab bars, ramps, and handrails. You can easily design ramps by editing the object’s parameters to meet the requirements of the application and ADA standards. When designing a ramp, you can then drop in a handrail object and edit its rise to match that of the ramp. The ramp’s upright and horizontal spacing can also be altered in the object parameters, making designing compliant handrails efficient.


Associative Dimensions

Associative dimensions work bi-directionally, meaning that the dimension responds to changes in geometry; conversely, the dimension string can drive changes in the geometry. By drawing an associative dimension string between an object and geometry, the string is stuck to the object, so when you move the object, the dimension changes with it. If dimensions are not ADA-compliant (e.g., you need 18 inches of clear space when you only have 17 inches), you can edit the dimension string to the necessary value and the geometry will make the appropriate adjustments in relation to the object. By allowing associative dimensions, you can turn a tool traditionally used for documentation into a tool for design.


Site Modifiers

When site modeling for accessibility with Vectorworks software, site modifiers and their options make the process painless. A walking surface with a slope greater than five percent, that is not a ramp, is not ADA compliant. The option to display the slope of a pad is a helpful tool in both the design and documentation phase to address this issue, as you can edit these slopes to be compliant and then demonstrate that in your documentation. A common problem for a lot of designers is that surfaces cannot have a cross-slope greater than two percent to meet ADA standards. In addition to the capabilities of editing the slope and elevation of a site modifier, Vectorworks software gives you the capability to edit the the cross-slope, or “Slope B,” allowing designers to easily create slopes and sites that are ADA compliant.

To learn more about the BIM capabilities of Vectorworks software, visit our BIM in Practice page. And now that you’ve read some of Lévy’s insights on accessibility, be sure to register for his upcoming New Technologies webinar, "Introduction to Energy Modeling Using Energos," on July 28, worth 1 AIA LU.

Topics: Academic, Resources, BIM (Architecture), News

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