AIA BIM Small Project Award

Completed as BIM Manager and Intern Architect for Marlon Blackwell Architects

You can download the award presentation here.

The proposed addition and renovation to the Fay Jones School of Architecture in Vol Walker Hall at the University of Arkansas will respond to urgent needs while also supporting the vision for the future.

Once completed, the building will be a complex but resolute hybrid of a beautifully restored historical building, and a modern addition and insertion. Great care will be taken in preserving the historic aspects of Vol Walker Hall, while instilling new life. Needed for many years, the stack spaces on the west side will be removed to make room for new spaces and allow for a proper west entry and circulation through the building. Removal of the stacks will eliminate a large amount of useless and troublesome space, though they currently support the floor of the main gallery. While beloved, the main gallery does not currently function well as a critique or gallery space due to poor light and acoustic quality. By reconsidering the main gallery, a central figural space will be created to unite old and new.

The main body of the proposed addition will be located on the west side of Vol Walker Hall, facing Mullins Library. The ground floor will provide a new entry and will feature secure gallery space, as well as a cafe and critique space. Spaces at the ground level are conceived as being more figural and transparent, creating an inviting entry for both students and faculty of other disciplines who regularly pass through on the main axis of the University. A 200 seat lecture hall occupies part of the second level, descending to become visible from the sidewalks nearby. The library for the School of Architecture will be relocated from the Fine Arts Library and will be placed centrally along the primary circulation route on the main level. Mechanical space to support the addition and renovation will be located in the basement, in space previously occupied by the lowest level of stacks, close to the steam tunnel to the west.

Additional studio space and critique spaces are in urgent need, even more so with the incorporation of the Landscape Architecture and Interior Design programs. The proposed addition will provide three floors with studios, two of which equal in size to the existing main studio space in Vol Walker Hall. These new studios will be limited in height, by comparison, limiting the overall volume required. Access between each floor and between the new portion of the building and the old will be completely accessible, featuring centrally-located elevators. Two stairwells will flank each studio, helping to connect each studio and encourage collaboration while distributing natural light. Studio levels will be expressive of structure and systems in order to limit the overall height required, while also serving as a teaching tool. The broad western facade will incorporate a brise soleil to screen the intense late-day sunlight and a custom curtain wall, used to illustrate construction methods, detailing, and environmental strategies. An arbor above the third studio-level will allow for the addition of solar panels in the future.

The top floor above the studios will be set back from the perimeter of the studio spaces, respectful of the height of adjacent buildings but allowing views to the Boston Mountains to the south. A critique space and a conference room will be located here, opening to a roof terrace with a green roof, used to instruct both architecture and landscape architecture.


This project would be the first Integrated Project Delivery for both the architect of record and the associate architect. Not only would it be the first Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) for the architectural firms, it was the first IPD project in the state of Arkansas. This innovation in delivery methods required the architects and consultants to work closely together to ensure that these new processes would successfully deliver the project. Clear understanding of the responsibilities for each of the stakeholders in the project was the initial step in the IPD method. The project had a lead and associate architect in charge of the final deliverables; supporting the deliverables on the project was a MEP, structural, and lighting consultant. All consultants were involved in the “construction” of their own building information model, which was then integrated into the architectural model.
Throughout the design process, the integrated model was used for many different purposes. These uses varied across the different design phases of the project. In the schematic design phase the model was used for initial massing of the preliminary design, underlay for construction of physical models that were produced via manual and laser cut processes. In the design development phase the model facilitated solar studies of the addition’s long west façade, mechanical simulation for sizing of mechanical units, visualization of the lighting scenarios, and animations and renderings of the design. Finally, in the construction document phase, the model was used for construction documents, collision detection, a timeline of the construction process, and material quantities. The model also continued to be useful moving forward into the construction administration phase serving as an underlay for shop drawings and coordination of design intent and field verification of the onsite demolition.
All these various needs were filled through the detailed construction of a building information model that represented the design successfully at all scales. The design team was able to use this model to break down the model into all the subsystems making comprehension of the overall project much easier. The understanding among the design team is that this process removes any surprises from the design and documentation process. The extreme clarity that the integrated process brought to the design process lowers uncertainty in the bidding and estimating phases, which in turn lowers the overall cost of the project. The integrated delivery also ensures that the final product will reflect the true design intent as crafted by the design team.

New Technology

Several different methods of communication between architect and consultant had to be established to facilitate the completion of the design and documentation process. First, the architect of record was selected for its design expertise and history with adaptive reuse projects but had a staff of 8 employees limiting its ability to complete the documentation of a 90,000 square foot project in a timely manner. An associate firm was brought into the project to aid in the delivery of the construction documents and for construction administration. A method for collaboration between the different architectural firms so that they could work cooperatively on the same BIM model had not been developed in an affordable format at the time of the design phase. Out of necessity, the lead architect built a cloud computing solution using Windows Hyper V server so that the associate architect could work remotely from their office. This cloud computing solution is currently being used in the construction administration phase. It allows for the flexibility of viewing the model in multiple contexts across multiple platforms.

This method allowed seamless collaboration between the architects on the project. The lead architect took charge of modeling standards, file linking, model review, content creation, and model maintenance while the associate architect took on a majority of the detail documentation, LEED documentation, construction administration, and specification writing.

BIM in Action

Construction Phasing

Construction phasing was one of the more powerful tools used throughout the development of the project. The design team was able to develop the model with all the geometry tied to a schedulable project timeline. This allowed the design team to visually see how the project would look as it moved through its construction phases. In order to accomplish this task the architectural firms had to take the original 1935 construction drawings of Vol Walker and convert them into a building information model. Once that was accomplished the design team was able to virtually demolish pieces of the building. As a result, the design team was able to understand what pieces of the existing building would be directly affected during the renovation process. From this demolition model, the architectural firms were able to add and renovate the existing spaces in the model. The architects were essentially building the project in the computer before the contractor even stepped foot on the site. This phased model filled other needs than visualizing the effect demolition would have on the project. It also allowed the architect to have close estimates on demolition quantities and accurate drawings for instructing the demolition of the existing building.

Sun Studies

One of the key design features of the project is the long west façade and its custom steel curtain wall. There was a concern regarding the system and how well the fritted glass fins would perform in bringing down the sun’s intensity in the afternoon. The model was used to test and verify the solar angels relative to the direction of the fins. This tool gave the design team the ability to find and use the ideal angle for mitigating the solar impact along the west façade.


Communicating a design is always a priority for architects and this project was no different. The BIM processes allow the architects the ability to represent all aspects of the model from the holistic highly refined rendering to the very specific three-dimensional details needed for documenting a difficult detail. Very particular detail was taken when modeling the existing building to ensure the integrated model matched the original conditions. This gave the design team the ability to understand the particulars of the building in real-time as they were making design decisions.