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>> San Francisco's Academy of Sciences will re-open in the Fall of 2008 and when it does, it's a safe bet that visitors will come to see the building just as much as the exhibits. With its undulating garden-topped roof, twin domes and environmentally friendly features, this $484 million project is one of a kind. But for engineers at Webcor, the contractor on the project taking Architect Renzo Piano's vision from paper to structure proved quite the challenge and necessitated the development of a new software program from Graphisoft.
>> Because of the complexity of this project, we needed their assistance because there weren't tools for the type of geometries, the curvature is that, you see, which you have some that are constant radius, but yet you see some of the roof are very, what's called the sinus sort of way. They're very different. They don't have a constant radius, they always change and that kind of design and that kind of integration into 3D was very difficult.
>> Jes Pedersen, Senior Vice President with Webcor explains that this virtual building software gives contractors a realistic idea of what their plans will look like when built. Critical when the designs use complicated geometry.
>> You can get up as close as you want. You get up as far away as you want. And all these stuff, kind of helps you understand the detailing, the complexity of where the stuff and that was really the issue that we have. We have a hard time looking in 2D drawings and to try to understand how this beam is move in over, how close it gets to this one, because every time you take a cut somewhere it's only a cut of something that doesn't show you in 3 Dimensions, how one of the elements react to the other one.
>> The program's color coded materials and elements also make it handy to spot mistakes, such as a heating that's running into a pipe.
>>And when that object hits that object because it's smart, it knows, that's not allowed. So, it sends a signal out within the software and says you need to look at this and correct it.
>> The program also allows designers to work in what they call 5 Dimensions. Besides length, width and height, add on time and costs. As Pedersen says, they're very helpful tools to build more efficiently.
>> It's used for everything from coordinating crews out on the site, as well as showing what's taking place, doing a what if scenario, you know, what if I wanted to pour this side of concrete first before I did this.
>> There's no better example of the complexity of this project and the need for the new software than in a four-storey rain forest feature housed in one of the giant glass stones.
>> And so you've walked through the [inaudible] tunnel you will be able to see the rain forest from the underside. It's like a flooded Amazon jungle.
>> Oh my god, that's the coolest tunnel I've ever heard. Where do you even begin with the design challenges there and the building challenges, I mean all the glass, and I mean, that must have been so complicated.
>> And that really is what the complication was. It's not an office building or a hospital or residential structure. It's 8 or 10 different types of structures.
>>While the new software has been effective in designing and building the academy, it's beauty and scale is truly best appreciated in person. I'm Kara Tsuboi, reporting for CNET News.com.
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