Proving that just like fine wine, innovation gets better with age, Itten+Brechbühl AG, a Swiss architectural office and general planner company with almost 100 years of experience, was honored at the first BIM-Prize of Switzerland Awards, organized by Arc Award and Bauen digital Schweiz. Itten+Brechbühl took home the gold in the Innovation/Performance category for their advanced use of BIM in designing the SwissFEL project, one of the most remarkable research buildings in Switzerland.
Technology at the Highest Level
Commissioned by the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), a research institute of the Swiss university ETH Zurich, the SwissFEL building is home to one of four free-electron X-ray lasers in the world. At 760-meters, the largely underground system is also one of the longest buildings in Switzerland. Using X-ray flashes produced in a tunnel, the laser allows PSI researchers to examine materials at the molecular and atomic levels in adjacent experimental areas. Insights gained from this research are used to develop effective drugs, more efficient chemical processes in the pharmaceutical industry, and more sustainable energy generation.
A feat of precision and engineering, Itten+Brechbühl’s creative use of BIM was essential to fulfilling SwissFEL’s extraordinary requirements. The project team had to plan multiple, geometrically difficult, multi-crossing and S-shaped open-tube connections, while also coordinating their distances relative to each other to meet radiation protection requirements. Coordinating these connections would have been impossible without 3D planning and clash detection. The team used Vectorworks Architect to create the complex BIM design, and then our industry partner product Solibri Model Checker to search the 3D building model for possible inconsistencies and clash detection.
An Unrivaled Building
The SwissFEL’s extensive building technology ensures a stable temperature within the structure plus or minus one-tenth of a degree Celsius, and as close to a vibration-free environment as possible. Even the earth’s curvature, though only a few millimeters in variation over the length of the building, was considered and balanced using the latest surveying technology.
Due to the complexity of the installed system, Itten+Brechbühl’s BIM leader, Marc Pancera, said they set out to achieve a high degree of planning security. He presented a comprehensive report on the project at the Vectorworks User Day on November 29, 2016 in Zürich, Switzerland.
In addition to meeting the technical requirements for SwissFEL, the Itten+Brechbühl architects also ensured the building had a high-quality architectural design. They created a modern and pleasant work environment throughout the underground research facility. As the awards jury emphasized, this top-tier research center also has a top-notch architectural appearance.
Discover more notable projects by Vectorworks software users on our case studies page.