Award-winning San Antonio–based firm Overland Partners made an impact in their home state when two of Texas’ largest and most historic institutions of higher education turned to them for solutions. Specifically, Baylor and the University of Texas at Austin needed new buildings for rapid growth that could merge innovation with tradition and keep costs as low as possible.
Like most metro areas in Texas over the last 10 years, both Austin and Waco are in the middle of population explosions: Austin has transformed from a quirky college town into a national tech hub, and Waco has been topping lists of best places to live in America, attracting businesses and families from larger cities across the country. To keep up with these Texas-sized changes, the universities at the heart of both cities are trying to modernize amidst suddenly cramped conditions of central Austin as well as the picturesque, and historically significant Baylor campus that no one wants to see changed. The deans of the two schools consulted Overland Partners in an attempt to find space for a new flagship building at UT and a business school worthy of a Fortune 500 company at Baylor.
A New, but Still Classic Atrium for Baylor
Overland had already been working with Baylor since 2010 on a master plan reimagining the entire campus as more urban and pedestrian friendly. However, the new Foster Campus for Business Innovation, completed in 2015, needed to bring these ideas of connection and integration into classrooms for the business school. The previous building from the 60s had become impractical due to a lack of collaboration and interaction spaces for both students and faculty. In order to create a more welcoming and open environment, the project team anchored the design around a grand atrium meant for students, professors, recruiters and all other visitors. “[It was] a space that really would be a ‘living room’ for the business school,” says senior architect Adam Bush.
The team looked to Autodesk Revit to both design and study the atrium from the get-go. The software’s detailed 3D renderings allowed them to show university officials how the atrium would meet their modernization goals while preserving the neoclassical vernacular of the campus. Overland principal Rick Archer explains that these were extraordinary opportunities to help clients understand exactly what the firm envisioned and how they would achieve it. “Even today, people have a hard time telling the difference between the renderings and the built product due to the quality of the light. It’s really exactly like what you end up getting,” says Archer. “We did some other 3D studies but they were also done in Revit. We used it to its full potential.”
Baylor atrium renderings
That potential was not only for client visualization, though. Overland also leveraged Revit’s BIM data and parametric modeling tools to study its design’s impact on efficiency as well as construction costs. “It’s a tall, three-story building, so the key was bringing light deep down into the space without it being over-lit, while also providing a good balance of light through the seasons,” says Bush. His team did a number of cloud-based Revit renders to see exactly what the space would look like at different times of the year and to get metrics on the exact amount of daylighting the proposed solutions would provide.
Completed Baylor atrium
“The other thing that was really important to us about Revit is that this was a design-build project so the contractor was onboard from day one. We shared a model with them that they had access to all the time,” says Bush. This access through Collaboration for Revit meant the contractor could give Overland real-time feedback about how decisions were impacting feasibility and cost. As a result, Baylor’s new business school was completed in less than 20 months, a timeframe that Bush says is impressive for a building of that scale, and an accomplishment he credits to their collaboration with the contractor. “Using Revit from the very beginning until the very end of completion, and integrating it with contractors and subcontractors who were all working off of a shared model was hugely important for the project.”
Baylor atrium skylights
Cutting Corners for UT
These efficient and fast solutions were even more critical on the UT project. The university’s largest school, the College of Liberal Arts, needed a central building, but budget constraints meant jobs and programs would be cut to cover costs. So Archer looked for ways to ensure design, construction and long-term maintenance of the building were as efficient as possible, helping UT to save as many jobs as a result. For him, the answers came from using Revit more than Overland ever had up to that point.
“Everything was designed around reducing structural and mechanical costs and reducing inefficiencies in the building. Revit was absolutely key to us in accomplishing that since we were able to get real-time data from the model as we were making it.”
UT wanted a flexible building that could adapt to changing needs over time, but Bush and Archer also had to be flexible and meet surprise changes as they occurred during the design process. “As we were diving into the later stages of design, a donor came to the table with a gift that necessitated significant design changes. We basically reprogrammed the building at the last stage of design. If we didn’t have Revit to manage that process in such a short length of time it wouldn’t have been possible,” reveals Bush.
Even with those 11th-hour changes and the complex demands of a tight site on a crowded university campus, Overland was able to deliver a 212,000-square-foot space with 68 percent efficiency and LEED Gold certification. Their choices of materials and glazing ratios made through Revit also allowed for the project to come in 15 percent below budget. “To deliver a $100 million project for $85 million was a pretty extraordinary accomplishment that ended up saving lots of faculty positions and programs,” says Archer.
Both architects believe Revit was a driving force behind these successes. “Revit was facile in moving in three dimensions. It also allowed us to study solar angles and to really make the strategic decisions about how to shape the building on the site,” says Bush.
“Where are the best places to cut out this limited amount of square footage in order to give us the greatest impact on daylighting, on interconnection between different spaces, on views?”
For Archer and Bush, getting the answers to questions like these made all the difference for their big Texas projects, and that happened by working in Revit from day one.