We had the pleasure of meeting François Lévy last November at the West Coast BIM Camp organized by Vectorworks and which Novedge co sponsored in San Francisco. François is not only a talented architect, but he also wrote BIM in Small-Scale Sustainable Design, our December Book of the Month. We asked him to tell us a bit about his current projects, what inspires him and the software he loves to use.
Novedge: Tell us about yourself and what you do
François Lévy: I am an architect practicing in Austin, Texas. Most of my commissions are for single-family residential projects by virtue of my being a sole practitioner, although I occasionally work on commercial projects too, and collaborate with other firms on larger projects from time to time. I have also taught digital design and environmental controls courses in architecture schools off and on for about 15 years, and last year Wiley published my book on using building information modeling for designing climate-dominated sustainable architecture, BIM in Small-Scale Sustainable Design, really the first of its kind. In the book, I discuss at length how the quantitative information inherent to a BIM workflow can be used for greener design. Finally, I also engage in design research in space architecture (design for human activities in orbit and on extraterrestrial planetary surfaces). Right now, some colleagues and I are finalizing a paper inspired in part by DARPA's Hundred Year Starship (100YSS) initiative, which we hope to have published in a journal this year.
Novedge: What inspires you?
François Lévy: I'm inspired by the delicious dialog that can arise between a building and its place. When buildings are carefully indexed to their climate, the natural world can serve as a guide for architectural form. Solar orientation, prevailing winds, the scale and pattern of vegetation, the topography of the land, and the context of neighboring natural and human-made structures all can inform a project. Buildings that are responsive to their place can not only perform better, but they can be truly beautiful and satisfying—not because they parrot the mere form of natural structures, but because they are deeply absorbed in the laws of natural systems. See video animation here.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Because my clients wanted a home with a modern aesthetic that could accommodate solar photovoltaics, I initially designed a shed roof that was oriented due south, with an elevation (pitch) to maximize summer solar collection (the peak load due to cooling needs). Unfortunately, an ideal building orientation for passive cooling in our climate (long axis running east and west, with maximum northern and southern exposure) created a site problem, as one end of the house would be seven or eight feet out of grade. (One requirement of the owners was that the house be all on one level, with no steps). So early in the design process, I investigated varying the building orientation somewhat, looking at the impact the deviating the long face from true south might have on solar collection and passive heat gain, and comparing that to the site work cut-and-fill implications of an orientation that was more or less parallel to the site's topography.
Novedge: What software do you prefer and use? Tell us why.