Let's play the world better

Urban life 30 May 2017 Per Damgaard-Sørensen

The new Children's Universe in Grindsted, Denmark, saves money while easing life for city planners, parents and other citizens by merging four centres into one.

8 min

Guided by the slogan “Let’s play the world better”, Billund municipality has joined forces with the LEGO Foundation to realise a vision to become Denmark’s Capital of Children.

In Grindsted, the largest town in Billund, the municipality’s vision has resulted in a strategy to centralise all the town’s current day-care centres into two big, integrated institutions. The last to be built – the Children’s Universe in southern Grindsted – will offer new, modern facilities for the local children and ease life for their parents by merging four centres into one located in a town area with less traffic. The economies of scale
obtained will also save money.

Users have been highly involved in the planning process, having participated in more than 20 meetings and workshops with institution staff.

“We try to avoid buildings that are pedagogically dysfunctional by engaging users as much as possible in the process. I trust that the many workshops undertaken in this project will result in long-term solutions and happy end-users,” says Mona Frederiksen, Project Manager at Billund municipality.

The institution will serve as a reference building for the municipality, as the design integrates functionality and architecture with the special pedagogical needs of each section – all of which coalesce to become a coherent and inspiring children’s universe.

Macro-buildings, micro-design

Mona Frederiksen also highlights the use of digital technologies as one of the municipality’s project requirements:

“The use of 3D models ensures that we can spend more money on optimising the building and buying quality materials instead of spending it on detecting and correcting errors. The visual representations also make it easier to match all parties’ expectations,” she says.

While buildings are generally getting bigger, design planning is ‘getting smaller’ as 3D technologies allow an unprecedented level of detail to be considered early in the design process. The same goes for Children’s Universe Grindsted South:

The building information modelling, or BIM, process has been extremely detailed. We even painted the walls in our 3D programs, so we could calculate the exact amount of paint needed for this project.  

Easier collaboration

These micro-level calculations make collaborating with painters, bricklayers and carpenters much simpler, as their fees and the amount of materials to be purchased can be extrapolated from the model. Using 3D BIM, architects and engineers can virtually enter buildings while designing them, thus enabling them to make modifications much faster and reducing the risk of error. During the construction phase, the model can generate time schedules for each phase of the process and gather all important information in one device.

Digital tools place new, exacting demands on the way architects and engineers collaborate. However, engineers and architects have the opportunity to work on the same model from day one, a potential not possible with the traditional approach where the work process is divided into separate phases.

In other words, virtual reality and 3D technologies not only allow us to “play the world better” by creating cheaper, faster and safer buildings – they are also game changers that enable a new, dynamic form of planning and collaboration.