No Room for Mistakes

Revu helps UK contractor Forcia complete renovations in historic Piccadilly Circus building

Forcia, Ltd. is a leader when it comes to refurbishment projects in the UK, especially in London, where the historically rich city has some stringent construction laws. A decade ago, Forcia realized that in order to do their best work in buildings that can be hundreds of years old, they’d need a very modern solution. They turned to Bluebeam Revu, the industry-leading PDF markup and collaboration solution, and have become adept at performing takeoffs, RFIS, overlays, snapshots and document reviews in the software. “It’s basically set up on every desktop, on every side computer, so it’s fully immersed within our business,” Forcia’s Construction Director Terry Crawford said. “We’re starting to see the power of it coming back to us from the design teams, the client’s side.”

Crawford is convinced that Revu has helped Forcia elevate their game. “Our clients do not realize that it is not a coincidence that we can run our projects as well as we do—and I believe that Revu is very much a partner in that process,” said Crawford.

And though they’ve tackled projects ranging from refurbishments in the storied British Museum to construction in Royal Albert Hall, their latest endeavor, a renovation to a historic arcade near Piccadilly Circus, proved to be one of the most challenging.

A 200-ton problem

The project in question, in London’s West End, called for a refurbishment of a historically significant stonework building that housed an upscale shopping arcade. The building was supported, in part, by a 200-ton capacity column in the center of the entrance. The owners felt that the column obstructed the view of the interior and dissuaded potential shoppers from strolling through the retail area. Adding to the challenge was the fact that the building would remain occupied throughout the renovations, including the eight stories of office space sitting above the column.

Using technology to iterate

The first task was simply to find out if the owner’s vision was even possible. Because the column was load bearing and not purely ornamental, Forcia had to figure out if they could replace the column’s function using a structural addition.

Crawford and Gareth Atkinson, director at Civic Engineers, used Revu to conceive and trade plans back and forth, both internally and with the client. They iterated, calculated and reconceived countless times over the life of the project, but each time their approach came closer to the ultimate solution. And the mode of exchange was always Revu; it allowed them to be creative in tackling the problems they faced. “You need something to be able to collaborate, to figure out, ‘Well, what are the challenges at hand?’” said Crawford. In addition, the markup capabilities ensured that anything they could conceive of could be adequately represented on the drawings.

After years of brainstorming, iterating and communicating with the owners, Crawford and his team finally hit upon a solution: they could remove the column, transferring the load to a very large piece of steel, which they’d run crosswise over the opening to the arcade. However, they’d have to do all this while keeping disturbances to the tenants occupying the building at a very minimum. The level of coordination Revu allows for made them think it might just be feasible. But still, they’d need buy-in all around.

No room for error

With the arcade project, Revu allowed the engineers to make sure they’d covered everything. “Things can get missed within a project,” said Atkinson. “Being able to collaboratively use a piece of software to help communicate many different facts of the design. Implementing Revu into the design process reduces the risk of errors or things not being picked up within the design process.”

The project took a little over 12 months to complete after the thorough planning and procurement phase. The re-imagined arcade is sure to please London strollers and shoppers for many more years to come. And as Crawford envisions it, this kind of success is emblematic of how technology will keep moving the design and construction industry forward: “There’s a real opportunity to have Revu help push our industry on to what we know it can achieve. We need more collaboration. And that’s something that we’re really going to try to push forward in our mantra.”