ERO Architects technology wizards speed up the process of design

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By assembling a team of specialists, sponsoring their advanced training, and investing in highly sophisticated 3D technology platforms that include building scanning tools, advanced architectural and structural engineering design, rendering and drawing software, and multiple printing options, McAllen-based ERO Architects is accelerating the building schedules for many of their Texas-wide facility projects.

The specialist trio of Larry Alvarez, Sergio Castillo, and Jody Galindo has dedicated itself to years of applied training to pass manufacturers’ certification programs, and otherwise fulfill the mission of ERO Architects founder Eli Ochoa. His mission and passion is to utilize the firm’s combined architecture and engineering resources and experience to produce relevant and uniquely designed facilities that are always constructable, on time, and on budget — a value that sets ERO apart from other architectural firms.

As ERO’s senior structural technician, Alvarez has been modeling 3D designs for more than 10 years using AutoDesk’s industry-leading software programs. He is one of only seven Texans with a certification for Revit®-Certified Structural Professional, a building information modeling program that helps quickly plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure. With Alvarez and Castillo, ERO is one of the early adopters and leading Texas firms to utilize BIM, and one of few using the online cloud AutoDesk BIM 360. This enables real-time coordination among all the construction contractors, architects, and engineers for any project, anywhere in the state.

In addition to BIM 360, Alvarez and Castillo used a new addition to ERO, the FARO Focus X130

3D building scanner, to scan their latest $55 million high school project in a short amount of time because architectural drawings simply do not exist. The school is Houston ISD’s Austin High School with its 1930s vintage floor plans.

“The lasers shoot out in a spinning motion towards the structure and register millions of points of data,” Alvarez said, explaining the process. “Then the scanner renders them as a 3D object in a companion program. It’s much more accurate than conventional tape or laser measuring tools, with extreme accuracy. Without it, we would never have been able to measure its high ceiling features.”

eroOnce imported into Revit architectural software, the 3D scan data calculates depths between walls, floors, and ceilings and enables fast reconfigurations for doors, windows, wiring and plumbing.

“It saves so much time because it’s incredibly accurate,” Alvarez said. “Other firms might have to go re-measure an area if their calculations don’t add up or a construction crew runs into an obstacle.”

 Castillo is a production coordinator with more than 12 years of modeling for construction document production. He is also a Revit®-Certified Architectural Professional. As such, when combined with Alvarez, ERO is the only registered Texas firm with professionals having both AutoDesk Revit Architecture and Revit Structure Professional certifications.

“Today’s environment is different,” Castillo said. “3D scans and modeling isn’t just for something nice to have fun and play with. They now become the working drawings which make field work so much more accurate, with so much time-saving. We can compare our designs against the contractors’ programs and get quicker feedback on possible problems before a single spade of dirt is turned or a wall goes up.”

Castillo takes pride in his certifications. “Basically, it took 40 hours a week for five years for me to train on their software before I could take the AutoDesk certification test,” he said. “But it was worth it in terms of using software to its fullest, as the developer intended. And the certification provides peace of mind to our clients.” ERO’s 3D modeling capabilities help ensure that the needs of the owner, for any building type, are possible from the outset and not just done with a guessing game where costly disappointments can occur later in the project.

Castillo notes how this dynamic design system was used and delivered plans in just three months for the entire structure of the new $83 million Seguin High School, with very few issues. The project completes this summer.

Galindo is one of only a handful of Texas licensed professional engineers — and the only one in South Texas — with a specialized structural engineering credential. Galindo’s focus is on life safety and public welfare, optimal economic strategies, and due diligence in checking conformance during construction.

Galindo achieves much of this by producing BIM models using 3D finite element modeling and AutoDesk Revit 360 that more closely reflect how the building will perform in its actual environment. These help him anticipate and plan for the inevitable concrete cracks that come with foundation settlement, floor vibrations and building sway, and even the effects of seismic shifts.

“I am amazed how fast we can turn around accurate work with fewer issues. I never thought I would be working with such sophisticated technology and talented professionals this early in my career,” Galindo said regarding the technology platform at ERO.

At the end of the day, this trio of technology wizards, Alvarez, Castillo, and Galindo, are proud of ERO’s unique dedication to technology and the economic impact it has on design projects. 

“I’ve seen and worked for other architectural firms and I can safely say that our investment in technology is both unique and wise,” Castillo said. “It would take moving a mountain for other firms to invest like we have, not only in computers, programs, printers and rendering, but also in our staff’s time, travel, and countless hours of hard work. I believe these investments are becoming increasingly evident in the quality we deliver and how fast we deliver it to our clients.”

ERO has been fortunate to have been selected time and time again for the delivery of large, advanced projects serving the diverse needs of public markets.

“Meeting owner’s expectations from an economic viewpoint is the utmost concern to our clients and ERO,” Ochoa said. “With the aid of the latest technologies combined with our multiple disciplines and talent, we can accomplish the value they want at the lowest possible cost.”

Ochoa’s technology brain trust has a long list of technical achievements they are applying every day to new designs for four 21st century high school projects totaling over $200 million in construction value in El Paso, Seguin, and Houston. Ochoa believes a dedication to continuous learning allows his Rio Grande Valley firm to compete successfully against large architectural firms in Houston, El Paso, Austin, and San Antonio.

“We have the experience and knowledge to produce high quality, highly coordinated drawings because our in house architectural and structural engineering services work side-by-side,” Ochoa said. “Coordination and time savings start the minute our computers turn on. If a design issue comes up, all parties can verify immediately in lieu of an email, phone call, or travel. Our technology platform with sophisticated communications saves our client’s projects time and money.”