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3D Printing Architectural Models Halves the Time and Cost of Stick Construction

“The developer was happy about the money they saved and even happier about being able to get their sales people on the road with a scale model one month earlier.”
- Ken Champlin, President and Founder, KMCA

A Model Production

3D printed small scale model of building next to quarter for comparison

Smaller scale model of 900 New York Avenue

Top view of smaller scale model of 900 New York Avenue

3D printed scale model of building next to quarter for comparison

Image showing scale model of 600 Massachusetts Avenue project. Note the quarter on the left.

3D printed 30-scale model of building 3D printed 30-scale model of building

Two views (above) of a 30-scale model of the 600 Massachusetts Avenue project right out of the printer.

As of 2015, CityCenterDC was the largest urban development on the East Coast of the United States. Its impact on the nation’s capital has been compared to the impact of Rockefeller Center on New York City. The building was developed by Gould Property Co. and designed by Pickard Chilton.

During construction, architectural models helped the developer’s sales team convey the buildings’ appearance and layout to prospective tenants, before the actual buildings were completed. The largest building in the complex, when it is finished, will be 900 New York Avenue, a 620,000-square-foot 12-story office tower featuring a garden-style atrium, street-level retail and private terraces. Gould hired one of the leading builders of architectural models, KMCA, to build large-scale models of both buildings in the CityCenterDC development.

Traditional vs. 3D Printed Model Construction

Gould tasked KMCA with building both buildings using traditional stick construction. Skilled craftsmen built these models using tens of thousands of components each. The models were displayed in the design center for each building and used in meetings with prospective tenants.

But the developer also wanted a smaller scale model of each building that the sales team could use to motivate prospective tenants to visit the design centers. Ken Champlin, president and founder of KMCA, presented two alternative approaches to building the scaled models.

The first approach was to use stick construction. It would have taken about eight weeks and cost about $20,000 to use this method to build a smaller model. Champlin recommended instead using 3D printing to produce the majority of the model as a single piece. This approach made it possible to provide a high level of detail while eliminating the time and cost involved in producing and assembling most of the individual components.

KMCA printed the core of the model comprising the majority of the structure as a single part on a Fortus 250mc 3D Printer. KMCA technicians separately printed the colonnades, the interior columns of the atrium; the arcade, the series of arches on the top of the building; and the mechanical rooms which are also on top of the building. The entire model was produced in ABS material.

Models Created One Month Earlier

“The developer was pleased that we were able to produce a scaled-down model that looked just as good as stick construction and was considerably more accurate at less than half the cost and in half the time of traditional stick construction,” Champlin said. “The developer was happy about the money they saved and even happier about being able to get their sales people on the road with a scale model one month earlier.”

Gould is also developing another high profile project a few blocks away, a 400,000-square-foot office building at 600 Massachusetts Avenue. KMCA also used 3D printing to produce a scaled down model for 600 Massachusetts Avenue while providing the same cost and time savings.

METHOD TIME COST
Stick construction 8 weeks $20,000
3D printing 4 weeks $8,000
Savings 4 weeks
50%
$12,000
60%

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