Location Rochester, NY
“If the only tool in your tool belt is a hammer, all of your problems look like nails.”
This familiar adage sits proudly on the website of CPL, a 450 person, full-service architectural and engineering firm with operations spanning 17 offices along the US east coast.
With a services list as impressively varied as CPL’s, it’s a valuable ethos to live by. Practice areas range from interior design to transportation engineering, municipal planning, structure analysis, and more, so rarely does a square peg find a neat square hole awaiting it. CPL must be nimble and adopt custom solutions.
That’s why the company founded CPL Creative Labs’ – an R&D and visualization team tasked with sourcing the best technology to solve intricate infrastructure issues.
Recently, CPL Creative Labs added ftrack Review to its problem-solving tool belt, alongside software for mixed reality, 3D printing, and AR and VR. Here, the team reveals why media review is as critical as these other disruptive technologies when engineering cities that are safe, efficient, and effective.
Director, CPL Creative Labs
“Anything we can do to create efficiencies in the process and deliver a better product is invaluable. That’s precisely what ftrack Review helps us to do.”
Building out the tool belt
CPL’s talented staff certainly stay busy. The team has recently created a master plan for Seneca Park Zoo, worked on a $260m expansion project for Rochester Regional Health, and helped build bridges and highways for various counties all across its footprint.
Danny Jones has had a hand in each of these projects. A registered architect, it was Jones that first founded CPL Creative Labs as a way of exploring new tech to power better architectural approaches. Now Director of the department, Jones oversees all of the R&D and new tech that runs through the business.
“About three years ago CPL had grown to a point where we needed to optimize our creative approach,” he remembers. “Primarily, we wanted to centralize our production renderings to maintain consistent quality and brand appearance. However, we also wanted to explore new technology in related fields to see if there were practical applications in our practice. We wanted to see how creative tech could result in better approaches to engineering. That was when we formed CPL Creative Labs.”
Today, Jones spends a great deal of his time seeking and developing new solutions that can make the creative process of architecture more fluid. “Personally, I love how technology influences the design process – it’s a big part of what drives me every day,” he says.
“Recently, I set myself the task of improving communication with our clients using software. We wanted to convey our work in a more seamless, understandable way. That’s when ftrack Review entered the picture.”
Whether a municipal, civil, or transportation project, CPL’s work is, by its very nature, deeply complex. The company’s architects and engineers must consider an abundance of details if they’re to design something that’s not just functional – meeting the needs of the client and end users – but also aesthetically appealing. Communication and collaboration are vital in discussing, dissecting, and developing those details.
“Before ftrack Review, our collaboration sessions took place around a simple video file posted on ShareFile,” says Jones. “That would be sent to stakeholders, reviewed, and followed by strings of emails with screen captures. Gaining approval on a version that way was difficult and time-consuming, to say the least.”
Jones and his team needed a more robust solution for review and soon found ftrack Review. “I knew of ftrack Studio’s project management platform. However, its asset tracking functionality was too much for CPL’s current needs,” says Jones.
“When I saw the advertisement for ftrack Review’s stripped-back collaboration and feedback interface, it sounded like the perfect fit.”
Bridging the gap
Whereas CPL’s previous approach created a gulf between asset and feedback, client and studio, ftrack Review closes the gap.
Rather than view an asset in one place and comment on it in a separate email thread, ftrack Review enables CPL to unify those processes. The creative team can jump into review sessions to comment and annotate directly on media, rather than talking about it. Such increased specificity is crucial at CPL, where complete clarity isn’t just necessary – it’s imperative.
“From a client communication standpoint, ftrack Review is a significantly easier and more efficient solution,” says Jones. “Comments can be coming in from multiple departments, such as architecture, interior design, or landscape. ftrack Review cuts through the noise. It makes it clear who’s saying what and contextualizes each comment alongside a visual reference.
“Moreover, following a session, ftrack Review automatically generates a compiled PDF report of all comments. That’s hugely helpful in planning the next steps and ensuring the next iteration achieves our aims.”
Another benefit comes in ftrack Review’s simplicity. As its review interface is browser-based, it’s possible to kick off a feedback session in a few clicks – which is advantageous in an environment as busy as CPL’s.
“ftrack Review’s simplicity is indispensable,” says Jones. “The CPL team members running the reviews are usually very busy. They have to fit reviews in between many other time-critical tasks. Thankfully, as ftrack Review runs via a browser, session participants need only follow a link to join a review and start commenting.
“To have an easily accessible tool that’s so easy to jump into – without having to find an icon or learn a toolset – is invaluable. ftrack Review delivers that in spades.”
Architecture primarily concerns relationships and the interdependency of elements. If you’re building a new hospital wing or raising a bridge, each structural component must form part of an elaborate series of associations. The project will only be deemed a success if each constituent part of that construction is in its rightful place.
The creative process behind the design of such a structure is much the same. Teams must work in unison, balancing off and supporting one another’s ideas as plans come together. ftrack Review is a rock-solid foundation in that process at CPL.
“Would I recommend ftrack Review to other architects or engineers?” asks Jones. “100%, without hesitation!
“Time is money. Anything we can do at CPL to create efficiencies in the process and deliver a better product, on time and within budget is invaluable. That’s precisely what ftrack Review helps us to do.”