ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF BIM
Can you describe your firm in a few words?
GS3 is a firm of 10 people, including 4 partners. Most of our projects involve grouped housing, along with some office buildings. We also have one specialism: metro stations. 40% of our projects are public contracts, the rest are private sector. The name GS3 encapsulates the firm’s history: Groupe Structures, 3rd Generation.
Why keep this link with the firm’s origin?
Founded in 1949, Groupe Structures was the forerunner of the modernist movement in Brussels. Realising that it was no longer possible to build without including the trades linked to the construction process itself, the firm strove to raise awareness of this. Post-war buildings became technological objects. Important buildings have been designed in Brussels: the NATO building, the CCN transport hub, the WTC 1, 2 and 3 buildings, and the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak (PHS) building. When I joined the firm in 2002, it was in need of fresh momentum. With my partner Christian Arpigny, we took over the reins, but we wanted to demonstrate our connection to an important legacy.
Tell us about your niche: metro stations.
We have worked on over 20 metro stations in Brussels (e.g. metro lifts) and recently renovated the Roi Baudouin and Ceria stations, and the underground tramway platforms at Brussels-North railway system. The building is structured around the entrances to the underground station, which needed to be made accessible to people with reduced mobility. We also built (during the GS/GS3 transition) the Jacques Brel bus and metro hub, which made the interconnection of what was then line ‘2’ possible. The firm is the only Belgian firm cited in a book recounting the history of underground stations all over the world, called ‘Level -1’, published by Braun Publishing.
The ‘Louise Centre’ is one of your iconic projects.
This is a major renovation of a 15,000 m² above-ground building, and all this while 60% of tenants remain in the offices. Our client valued this! Because of this, we had to be creative in replacing the entire façade, but we succeeded. The building has become very low energy, and has been certified as ‘excellent’ by Breeam.
TASE provides us with software, training and above all coaching.
Belgium is becoming too small, in your view. So are you seeking prospects beyond its borders?
In Africa, in particular. That’s where there’s the most to do. We have a project in Congo, and in Cameroon, and others in the making. The great challenge is to find good local partners with whom we can build a working relationship of mutual trust.
Which production tool do you rely on?
Having initially used AutoCAD, we logically moved to its 3D Architecture version. Then in 2008 we made the leap to BIM proper. Unlike many firms, we immediately produced our projects entirely in Revit®. Digital modelling enables us to produce coordinated plans, as well as rapid 3D designs that facilitate easy understanding of the project by the client, or during consultation.
How did you pull off this migration towards Revit® and BIM design?
We work with TASE, which provides us with the software, training and above all coaching. They specialise in architecture and employ architects, designers and project managers. GS3 is also part of their ‘TASE Expert’ working group, so we can stay at the forefront of developments.
What message do you have for your design firm partners?
We are happy to use digital modelling because our knowhow lies elsewhere. We encourage you to also make the jump to BIM.