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From CAD to reality

Features, Management, Products | December 1, 2012 | By:

Computer-aided design helps clients visualize their events, while offering practical applications.

When it comes to planning tented events, computer-aided design (CAD) software is a useful tool on many
levels. It can help sell a job, help customers visualize the layout and assist vendors and installers in completing their jobs.

“We have found trying to explain the tent and our design in a conversation can be very difficult without visual aids,” says Douglas Crowe, director of sales at Party Reflections Inc. in Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. “Our industry is driven by visualization, and it is very important to utilize the CAD as a tool to show the client how the form and function of the tent can merge into a design.”

Some tent rental companies use CAD to bid a project, but Crowe urges caution. “My advice for using CAD during the bid process would be to show the rendering to the client on your computer, but not to actually provide a copy of the rendering to the client until you are under contract,” he says. “We do not give the CAD to the client during the bid process because, unfortunately, individuals may take [the results of] your hard work and give them to your competitor, who then can emulate the design with minimal effort.”

Crowe also suggests that companies prominently place their names on the CAD drawings. “It takes a lot of time to produce a detailed CAD, so make sure your company name and the designer’s name are displayed to help build value and set you apart from your competitors.”

Whether you’re planning an intimate party or the wedding of the century, CAD software can make life easier for everyone involved in an event. The following projects showcase the capabilities of CAD and its role in creating beautiful tented installations.

Wedding wonderland

When you’re planning a sophisticated wedding requiring 26,950 square feet of tenting, CAD can be your best friend. This was the case when a prominent couple in High Point, N.C., hired Party Reflections to design their daughter’s December 2011 wedding at their home.

“Our client was very clear on wanting to have the property act as an extension of their house,” says Crowe. “Our goal was to incorporate as many of the natural elements of the house and yard into the fabric structures.”

A 25-by-25-meter cleartop clearspan structure, lifted into place by a crane, served as the main entrance to the reception. The tent rose 24 feet and rested atop an elevated floor 5 feet off the ground. Straight ahead resided the fountain tent, a 20-by-40-foot area housing the seafood buffet; to the right, a 30-by-60-foot frame tent acted as the “sushi tent.” To the left, two band tents measured 18 by 25 meters and 12 by 15 meters. Although the tents were 2 feet lower than the main tent, both floors were 12 feet above the ground because of the yard’s topography. Situated behind the band tents, two high-end restroom trailers occupied a 10-by-10-meter clearspan structure. Furthermore, 4,100 square feet of vinyl tops lined the front driveway while greeting and covering guests.

“On paper, it looked like an easy install, but as we started to design the wedding with CAD, we better understood the challenges of the entire installation in such a unique space,” Crowe says. For instance, the CAD drawings (created using PartyCAD) helped Party Reflections recognize issues of placing tents next to each other in terms of gutters and rain potential. As a result, the company hired a hydrologist to determine the amount of gutters and downspouts necessary.

The CAD system was valuable in other ways. Party Reflections used the video feature of the program to record a virtual walkthrough so the client could see the aerial perspective of the installation, as well as the elevation changes between each tent. “The CAD also helped our production team understand the details to ensure a more efficient production,” Crowe says.

Christmas dinner with a twist

J J L Events Inc. of Toronto, Ont., Canada, brought to life a childhood Christmas tale for a customer’s annual Christmas dinner for 50 guests. The theme—How the Grinch Stole Christmas!—called for a green color scheme featuring red accents, along with one-of-a-kind details.

The event firm relied on PartyCAD software to design the festive event, housed in a 30-by-45-foot Legacy frame tent. The customer sought a cozy atmosphere that stayed true to the Grinch theme. At first, the client wanted a long S-shaped table like the one in the movie where the Whos served the roast. “We tried that idea, but it would have taken up the whole tent, and the client wanted a more cozy setting,” says Melynda Norman-Lee, event consultant at J J L Events. “CAD allowed us to show the customer different styles of tables to scale in the drawings.”

The result: 8-foot-by-42-inch tables forming an “X” shape. The customer made another request: a cloche, or bell-shaped cover, in the middle of the table, out of which “the Grinch” would pop and perform “his” song. Again, Norman-Lee used CAD to demonstrate how that detail would fit into the overall design scheme.

Additionally, J J L created a circle out of truss suspended from the tent to make a 30-by-30-foot eating area. From the truss up to the center of that space, J J L incorporated swags in green and white fabric accented with mini Christmas lights. An upside-down Christmas tree also hung from the ceiling. “We had to suspend it and then decorate it so the decorations didn’t fall off,” says Norman-Lee. “Tying a star on the bottom/top of the tree was tricky, too.”

Norman-Lee also found that the CAD drawings helped the event’s planner, Social Butterfly Event Design of Toronto, visualize the design. “[The planner] wanted to bring trees, a fireplace and a big wreath into the tent, so drawing that out showed that what she imagined would actually look good and fit in the space.”

J J L situated the tent next to the house and built a floor 42 inches off the ground. “Guests walked out the living room and right into the tent like it was an addition on the house,” Norman-Lee says.

Keeping the space warm during a Canadian winter day was an important factor in the design as well. The space underneath the floor accommodated ducts to heat the tent—an elegant solution since the surrounding trees and bushes limited space for placement of heaters.

An elegant fundraising gala

For a hospital fundraiser in Bethlehem, Pa., CAD drawings proved their worth in the design of an elaborate setup of multiple tents. Special Events Tent & Party Rentals in Bangor, Pa., used PartyCAD software to present layout possibilities to the committee responsible for organizing the event and officials from the country club where the fundraiser was taking place.

“We showed them different locations and sizes of tents,” says Butch Ruggiero, who, along with Michelle Catino, designed the event. “There were a number of drawings, and the committee made a selection based on what they could afford.”

The project called for a series of tents connected by walkways: a 20-by-30-foot registration tent, a 30-by-80-foot Anchor Navi-Trac® tent for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a 20-by-80-foot VIP/dinner tent and a 12-by-24-meter Losberger dance tent outfitted in chandeliers and LEDs that changed color. “The CAD plans had to show the tents in size and relation to each other, plus how they actually fit on the property,” Ruggiero says.

In addition to the overall layout, the CAD software delineated the placement of tables, chairs and lighting in the individual tents. The CAD system especially came in handy when seeking approval from local authorities. For instance, the dance tent was to be situated on a floor built on a hill. Special Events placed the tent on a Bil-Jax® deck, which was 7 feet high on the elevated end. The company removed sod and created a level pad for more than 200 12-by-12-by-2-inch wooden base plate blocks that supported the legs.

“That floor had to support 500 people, and that particular township had very strict code enforcement,” Ruggiero explains. “We used the CAD system to show the floor’s design to an engineer, who, with other information we supplied on the flooring, approved the design.”

Special Events brought the approved plans to the local code enforcement officer, who gave the final go-ahead. The CAD drawings also showed the code enforcement officer placement of emergency exits, fire extinguishers and wheelchair-accessible ramps.

From the nuts-and-bolts of the tent installation to the creation of beautiful interiors, the CAD drawings led to a successful event. “The PartyCAD software makes jobs possible that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible,” Ruggiero says. “It makes planning an event a lot easier.”

Holly O’Dell is a freelance writer based in Pine City, Minn.

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