Old-fashioned blueprints go high tech

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah's College of Nursing building, constructed 40 years ago, is undergoing a $23 million renovation. Other than the exterior walls, all five floors have been gutted.

"There were some life safety issues, hazardous materials, the quality of the building. We really want to create a sustainable space that's environmentally friendly," says Maureen Keefe, Dean of the University of Utah College of Nursing. "We need to update our technology, the wiring, the heating, the cooling. We also found that it wasn't structurally reinforced seismically."

To update and modernize the building, the architectural firm GSBS in Salt Lake took the original nursing school plans drawn back in 1967 and computerized them into a database. The plans come to life in 3-D.

This allows everyone involved in the project to see all aspects of the building, from all angles, and from various stages of construction. The design technology has been around for a few years and is just now starting to be used.

Michael Stransky, president of GSBS Architects says his firm has been using the technology for about two years. He says more and more clients are asking for it.

"It helps to reduce change orders, helps to inform clients about what the design looks like, and it helps the construction personnel with the design and what the building is going to look like. One might imagine the future, maybe not too far away, where they're working all electronically to building and we won't be printing drawings," Stransky said.

On the construction site itself, contractors, subcontractors and everyone else involved, have access to the computerized images. This allows the workers to spot problems early and correct them, saving costly and time-consuming redesigns.

Project Manager, Heather Soderquist, with Jacobsen Construction, says that's already happened there.

"All of a sudden we were seeing things that generally we wouldn't see until the material was actually in the air being installed. Now they're seeing these problems so much earlier. They're saying this is a tool that we can really get our hands on and save us time," she said.

Even those running the nursing school have input.

Keefe said, "And it's fun, because with the visualization and building model they've created, we can really engage the faculty and students in terms of what the space should look like and how it should flow, what the function should be. So it really helps engage a lot more people using this model."

The renovated College of Nursing project will be finished and ready for students and faculty by fall of 2010.

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com


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