May 3rd, 2010

As always I am two jobs and a life time down the road from this landmark 3D project by the time I find the time to blog about it. Even as we were landing the job I was thinking…..”gotta blog about this one!” A huge portion of my steam for the blog was taken out when our client beat me to the blogosphere with the kind of complimentary review that you could pay a marketing firm thousands of dollars for and still not get as catchy a quote as Josh came up with.  Obviously a senior pro in the blog world…..A big tip o’ the hat to Josh Mogal at Ecohistorical for his encouraging words.  Please check his blog out at  to see the interesting work he is involved in.

I was very excited to land this job because it represented the first time an architectural firm had come seeking a Revit job. Before this it had been me pushing for opportunities to do the 3D BIM without the clients really caring. Being forced to convert to CAD at the end of the project so they could convert to ArchiCAD or Rhino or Vectorworks or having them say helpful things like…..”a photo would give me as much detail”……..At last we had an company on the same page as us…..thank you to the team at Feldman Architecture for wanting to go on this journey with us. I think that Josh’s excited feedback is a clue to the power of 3d as-builts in providing a platform for our homeowner base to be involved in the creative process from the start. Everyone that has seen the 3d as-built in all its glory understands the power of this package.

Working with Feldman to get a BMI only quote together was a new experience for both companies. We had to get our head out of the 2d CAD scene to provide them with the package they needed. Suddenly quoting a company for sections and elevations seemed redundant when they can generate all those working drawings themselves. We quickly settled on a BIM model only package which suited them and will probably end up becoming a standard package for us.

Anyway that’s the boring back room stuff….for the measuring geeks out there I want to say…..YES WE CAN…….. measure on site and build a stylish 3D model of a SF Victorian in about the same time frame as the 2D would have taken…and boy o boy the results are way more sexy! With Feldman requesting a 3D site plan with basic massing of the adjacent structures and a topo of the site we were able to fuse our Total Station measuring techniques with the Revit tools to smash and bash our way through a project that now contains a stunning amount of data for a 4 day job. I was on cloud nine for about 3 days after this project and couldn’t help spinning the model and setting cameras to check it out all the time. What energizes me is that most of the people you talk to seem to see 3D asbuilts as a tool that is only worth while using for super big commercial projects BUT I think that our speed of measuring and drawing plus the reaction of the layman to these kind of drawings make a powerful argument for more architects to move into this service. Fingers crossed…….


April 1st, 2010

It’s a strange part of our industry that we always come to buildings before the work begins and rarely see them at the end of the project. We see buildings in all states of disrepair ; abandoned buildings where the gangs and homeless people fight for space with the fleas, rats and pigeons, multi-family units where the tenant doesn’t want us to come measure and the client won’t tell us why we are measuring, swanky homes that you can’t even imagine need re-modeling , nice family homes where the momma has so many excited dreams of expansion for her growing family and retail spaces where all the shopkeepers eye us suspiciously or straight out accuse us of being responsible for the next hike in their rates.  Hundreds of as-builts a year that blaze through your memory, building after building – we meet so many  people,  hear their stories and pick up the vibe of being in a place for a week at a time and then it as all just shelved in the job completed folder as we forge ahead to the next as-built project.

That is why it is so fun when we do see a place we measured at the end of its remodel.  We recently had a client from 2009, Amod Chopra, send us his link (listed here), a review of the launch of his new restaurant “Vik’s Chaat Corner” in Berkeley.

For me it was very exciting to see the remodeled building looking so good and classy. I looked in the photos staring past the intended focus of the photos to see the building elements that still remained and to try and relocate my brain into the building I remembered. I can’t wait to drop in on Amod to say hi, so I can sit there and do even more of this. It is also very fun to see that the remodel worked out for him. He was a very nice man, super enthusiastic about the process and (as they all are) in a mad rush to get the as-built portion completed, so he could get on with the remodel and  finish and get on with the real business of running an expanded and already successful eatery. The good thing is that it seems he made his timelines – as-builts, architects and contractors all in a year! I encourage everyone to go and check his place out – very tasty authentic Indian food that he tried to feed me complimentary every day I went to measure and left him disappointed when I only took him up on it twice!

As-builting along!

March 28th, 2010

Please let this busy vibe keep on rolling…….I am here to tell you that it feels like the economy really is moving again. In the as-built industry we are at the front end of a lot of action in the construction/ remodel industry. You can’t get going with a remodel until your architect/contractor has your existing plans. Well judging by our piece of the market – homeowners and commercial landlords alike are definitely getting their confidence back.

We are enjoying the old feeling of “all hands at the pump”. It is so much fun making business plans at busy times. Nathan who has been straining at the leash in his role of apprentice has now made journeyman status with a 5,000 sqft building in the Marina under his belt. A new draftsman has been taken on and is getting dirty handling the wide variety of drafting jobs we have – from servicing an architect’s need for proposed drawings to drawing stone layouts for a masonry company working on a 40$ million Hillsborough home. Lastly we are successfully assisting Design Concepts in Kauai as they transition from CAD to Revit. Work life is busy and varied – as-builts are still the bread and butter but there are lots of other projects keeping it fresh and fun.

Shasta Recap

March 18th, 2010

The Shasta Valley Ranch farm was a wonderful road trip as-built session. As expected it was a grueling work flow for Nathan and me. No bad thing that we were so busy because the “night” life in the sad town of Yreka only seemed anything to miss after we spent a night hiding from the “meth’d out” truckers in the even sadder town of Weed. Our nights were spent working on our beds with the Olympics in the background and a three night stint at a local Diner which got progressively more awful each night we went.

The ranch house was a real treat to measure and draw. With a set of base plans from Chris I was able to put together a 3d model in two days whilst Nathan added all the details to the floor plan and built an electric plan. With Nate holding the extension cord we went deeper into a roof than I have ever been – using over 60’ of extension cord as I gathered the data for some intense section data. The 3d model was unnecessary in terms of the final deliverables but with the angled nature of the building I couldn’t resist in allowing the 3d tools to create my orthogonal elevation views for me.

The highlights of the trip are easy to recount. Firstly – nailing an awesome 3d model of this building. Secondly – eating lunch on the back patio in the winter sun looking across the valley at a view of the snow capped Mount Shasta (a view that looked like the valley had been created to provide the ranch with that view of the mountain). Thirdly – the end of the third day we took some beers and our guitars and sat on the back of a parked cattle train and had a jam session with the sun slowly fading behind the mountain…….it’s not all Work! Work! Work!……..oh yea and Shawn White really needs a mention for taking snowboarding to a new level (once again).

FCA Current Events

February 9th, 2010

The end is in sight. The 100,000 square foot mall became a much bigger project when the client requested floor plans in addition to the 30 plus elevations, reflected ceiling plan and sections we were contracted for. With a brutal timeline promised it has forced us to be measuring and drawing in all weather conditions (actually mostly down pouring rain} and working all hours.

All big jobs seem to be like this for me – 7 day weeks 12-15 hour days but now two days before final release of as-builts and just an audit and a mountain of expected redlines to get through its starting to look very impressive. Twenty two sheets of detailed as-builts take some putting together and the coordination of drawings between the team has been a rewarding challenge.

 As always at Fog City As-builts the paint is not even dried on the last project when part of my mind is turning to the next one. We have already had a guy out near Mount Shasta at a big ranch property near the town of Weed. Chris put together some base as-builts for me so that we can minimize the amount of time needed for me on site. Nathan and I plan to head down this coming Sunday to draw the elevations and add all the other details to this 7000 sqft ranch. It’s always been a fun part of the job doing the road trip as-built. Especially in the old days when my wife and I tackled the travel jobs together. Jobs in Wyoming, Boulder, Vail and New York all had a holiday vibe despite the back breaking non-stop hours. Now travel jobs have a different vibe. As a dad of a two year old – travel jobs actually are easier than staying home, especially now with my wife recovering from knee surgery (haha). With 2 guitars and no chores to do life is simplified into a non-stop no distractions as-built fest.

Busy Start!

January 20th, 2010

After a relatively quiet end to 2009 for the asbuilt industry 2010 has brought an explosion of activity for FC As-builts. The Hawaiian 3D design job was incredibly exciting and pushed me to the limit. 8 days of 15-16 hour days took me to a new level of understanding and appreciation with the package. I was forced to use the program to produce the full set of architectural drawings. Until now my clients have ultimately wanted the measured drawings produced in CAD but this time I got the chance to take the product to the end in Revit. Certainly a challenge but now I know that we can do everything we need to and its so much fun.

As soon as I jumped off the plane I realized that the as-built year had begun in earnest. With barely a chance to hug and kiss my wife and daughter I found myself getting a team ready to do a big measure up on a local San Anselmo shopping mall. Once again I am relieved to have the total station along. The clients did not want us to measure the floor plan and yet requested a full set of elevations and sections on this very angled building. Without the machine it would have been an impossible task but after two days we are ready to move on to drafting the elevations.

It is always weird when we move from the quiet times to the crazy busy times. If only we could spread it out a little more…….

Island Revit

January 4th, 2010

Well the year started off with a bang. I arrived in Kauai at midday on Sunday, recruited to help finnish a partially completed set of Revit drawings on a spec home for the Islands. After the obligatory bottle of Corona on the beach (Island style) I went back to the office and produced two separate roof option renderings for the client. I had already done the roof change on the plane and I was very excited to be able to get started on this project so fast and for the client to get an immediate chance to see my drafting skills. It’s a world away from measuring and drawing as-builts in the San Franciscan fog – it’s a hard job but someones got to do it!

Interesting Talk at The Commonwealth Club of California

January 4th, 2010

For anyone interested in history and architecture this talk focuses on how China is adapting to the “challenges of designing cities for modern lifestyles.” Title of the talk is:
A Venice of China: Transforming China’s Cities for the Next Century.
Follow link for more info-


December 19th, 2009

In light of the scary financial news that greeted us all at the start of 2009 our annual goals were very modest. We felt that if we could still be alive as a company by 2010 then that was a success. Personally I wanted to see growth and to do at least one 3d as-built project. Looking back now over 2009 it can be considered an unmitigated success. Our main focuses as an as-built company have started to prove our faith in them. The total station’s ability to allow us to measure with a new level of accuracy has taken us to levels we could only dream of in years gone by. Our 3D BIM commitment has likewise taken us into areas of the industry we didn’t even know to dream of.

The main highlights for me were producing as-built drawings for a national heritage home in Calistoga, two separate 3d topo’s, a 3d model of a big apartment block for a color presentation and lastly, our first on site start to finish 3d as-built.

 The Calistoga as-built was special for a few reasons. Firstly, it made a beautiful set of elevations which were always destined for the portfolio from the moment we pulled up outside the old mansion by the river. With the aid of the total station we made light work of a very challenging building that had subsided and warped over its 200 year existence. We were able to provide the client with two sets of elevations, one was the “pretty” set that he wanted for his wall, the other accurately reflected the 3”-8” deflection in the eaves, giving him spot elevations throughout the building that even tied in the river bank over  30’ below the finished floor line.

 Our first 3d topo was a huge learning experience. It was really a site plan with about 400 separate spot elevations of a dirt road in a forested property in (Marin) that was awaiting planning permission for grading. We had never tried to gather such a large database of elevation data before but it came together very well. It was produced in CAD with the data points floating in 3d space. A very cool drawing that led us directly to a real 3d topo that took advantage of Revits awesome topo tools in conjunction with the data file from the Total Station to effortlessly produce our first 3d topo as-built of sloped back yard in San Anselmo.

 The Apartment block in San Francisco was a surprise because we had not anticipated moving in this direction. We remain heavily focused on the as-built industry but Shannon Del Vecchio, a designer client that we provide measuring and drafting services for, spotted the potential of providing building associations with a 3d paint presentation so that they could easily grasp her paint concepts for the building. It was a fun project. I was able to measure it all from the exterior of the building and once the model was together it was a simple matter of surrendering to Shannon’s creative needs as we  put together the color schemes she wanted to present. It was exciting for both of us because it was a outstanding success and Shannon claimed she had never had an easier time persuading (presenting) 200 association members of her ideas.

 The final highlight of 2009 was producing three separate on site 3d as-builts. A years worth of intense studying had finally got me ready to attempt one. When we got the chance to do a full set of as-builts on an unoccupied 4,000 square foot Pacific Heights home over the Thanksgiving break I knew it was the perfect chance. No pressure from a homeowner to get out the house and plenty of time to work out the kinks in a new style of measuring. The project was a total success. The client had requested floor plans and elevations and after the 3d model was built it was a simple matter of generating these views. The system really showed its strength a few weeks later when the client came back to us needing sections and we were able to generate them without another site visit. It was such a success that we wrapped the year up by producing another two 3d models with the associated as-built plans that had been requested.

 All in all 2009 was a great success. Survival achieved, exciting projects completed and a new market of potential is awakening before our eyes. We look forward to 2010 with genuine excitement and say bye bye to 2009 with no small amount of glee.