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Features List 13
From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 16 No 01 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2003
David Clarke, recently of Autodesk, faced with an urgent architectural task, elects instead to go for ArchiCAD Version 8 from Graphisoft.
After I left Autodesk, I thought I could put my feet up and rest, but a friend rang me to with a crisis on his hands needing my urgent help. He wanted me to design and produce a full set of working drawings, specification and schedules for a building, having been let down and needing them within 3 weeks. Thankfully, my friend had obtained planning permission, so it wasn’t all bad news.
CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE CAD SYSTEM
The first thing I did was to decide which CAD system I should use. This placed me in a bit of a dilemma. I only had 3 weeks in which to complete the project, it was a real life business situation, not a product demonstration or theoretical study.
My personal preference was to use AutoCAD AEC, but unfortunately that software is discontinued. I looked at plain AutoCAD but, as an architect, decided it was too rigid and felt uncomfortable to use - fine for assembling a set of non-interactive drawings, manually creating wall styles, window details and schedules, but now the design, drawings and documentation had to interact together. Similarly, AutoCAD LT is very limited, especially in 3D functions - adequate for transferring 2D drawing board draughting functions onto a computer but I needed true 3D design functionality.
I looked at Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT), the AutoCAD for architects. The problem was the menu structure and user interface - and both looked like a software programmers view of how an architect works. ADT satisfied the comprehensive and interactive design, drawing and documentation criteria but I needed an easy-to-use 3D design modelling system for the design stage and the one in ADT was cumbersome and difficult to use. Consequently, I discarded ADT because I didn’t have the time to get used to its idiosyncratic and unhelpful 3D modelling user interface or set up a library of relevant styles and details.
Bentley’s Microstation/Triforma gave the impression it was produced more for engineers than architects - and very large projects. I did not have time to learn the software. Nemetschek’s AllPlan didn’t seem suitable for UK conditions and Revit felt alien and what did I need a full-blown modelling system for, on the size of building I was dealing with?
So that left me with ArchiCAD.
As an architect, I felt comfortable with this software, especially the menu system, which I felt was intuitive and configured to the way I wanted to work. I also wanted something that was fun to use – if you couldn’t enjoy your work, why bother? All the other software gave me the impression that using them would be a bit of a bind, frustrating and unsatisfactory. ArchiCAD is, also, closest to the old AutoCAD AEC.
The new version,– ArchiCAD 8, claims it could “increase my productivity and increase my efficiency in the building documentation process, by means of an enhanced documentation management, etc., etc.,.” , and in my present circumstances I could think of no better time to test it.
Luckily the site survey and site layout were already done and produced in AutoCAD 2000. I converted them to ArchiCAD format, using both DXF and DWG translators to check out if both worked accurately, giving me a correct site survey and site layout, and found no discrepancies.
The 3D building model of my project was easy to create and easy to revise and manipulate. I felt in control of the model and could see the results of my design and any changes I made quite clearly. The point here was, with time pressing, I could do all of this modelling, design and changes very quickly, looking at many different solutions before making my final choice. The quality of the 3D rendering made the visualisation of my project realistic. In addition, the 3D real-time navigation tools allowed me to see any potential design problems and the clashing of any elements at this design stage instead of on site. Heights were critical because the building was on a sloping site and the 3D model automatically generated 2D sections, from which I could assess critical heights and levels.
The software allowed me to design as opposed to just draughting.
One of the problems with ArchiCAD in the past has been its limitations in producing 2D drawings - the traditional plans, sections and elevations. ArchiCAD could easily produce a 3D model but had difficulty producing 2D drawings from the model. The new version does not have this problem because the software caters for transfer of the 3D graphical information in the model into the more traditional 2D plans, sections and elevations. This transfer is both up-to-date and interactive, so you are always working with the latest, up-to-date drawings and information.
2D elements can also be listed in section and elevation windows for easy elevation area calculations. I found the 2D functionality of ArchiCAD 8 comprehensive and easy to produce.
Construction documents were produced automatically from the 3D design in an up-to-date form, the software updating them automatically whenever I made changes in 3D.
ArchiCAD supported the design and documentation requirements down to the tiniest detail. Multiple detail markers were able to refer to the same detail drawing generated from the 3D model. The detail markers were customisable and were flexible enough to incorporate my classification system and layer codes. I saved all these details in a library in case I need them another time.
Because of the intelligent interaction between the model and 2D drawing, I was able to check the dimensional coordination of the project, especially the plans, both through the associative dimensioning and the coordinated dimensioning.
Because of the sloping site, I needed to look at a large number of sections to make sure of my design. ArchiCAD had two really good section generating functions. The first, the Zero Depth method, generated a draft section, displaying only the cut elements. This is just what I wanted in the design development stage and I was able to work on the design much quicker than I expected. The second section generating function allowed me to produce a close and distant section, which consisted of more detail which was required when the more detailed drawings were issued to the building contractor and presentation drawings were issued to the client.
There was a two-way communication between scheduling function and the model, allowing me to make changes either to the model or the schedule, and the corresponding changes would be made in the other area. This feature saved a great deal of time. More types of quantities can be listed for the elements. Additional object parameters can be listed to display specifications or building product manufacturers. The element information palette gave me instant and easy access to vital information of ArchiCAD produced building elements, such as the length of walls, areas of slabs and volumes of walls.
The Project Navigator enabled the project organisation into typical documentation sets ready for the building control officer, the client and the building contractor. Because they were organised properly at the outset, the documents were easy to manage and control. I could then organise the documents into the formats required by those that required them, e.g. for printing, attachments to email.
There were some special features in ArchiCAD 8 that I especially found useful in carrying out my architectural project.
PROJECT NAVIGATOR - I found this an absolute boon. It enabled me to keep control
and manage drawings and documents easily and effectively.
Project Navigator has an extremely straightforward user interface allowing continual control of 3D views, levels, plans, sections, elevations, layers, correct scales for the correct drawings, correct referencing, correct distribution of drawings and documents to third parties and revision control. I can imagine this function would be very useful on a large project. I had easy and instant access to all documents and spent more time on productive tasks instead of searching around for correct information.
LAYOUT BOOK - Another great feature that reduced the time spent organising and producing documentation, keeping it all in one file, with an automatic page numbering system, multiple master pages, intelligent title blocks, and assembly of drawing sheets. Direct communication with the building model ensured updates were automatically documented on the final drawing sheet.
PET-PALETTE - a very useful pet-palette function that uses polyline-type elements, combining lines and arcs, that can be drawn straight away and easily. This feature is not only available for 2D elements like polylines or fills but can be used as a 3D tool for any polygonal shape, such as walls, slabs and roof - greatly accelerating draughting.
The drawing of building elements with the new intelligent polyline function, which is incorporates data entry methods, eases any tedious draughting. The pet-palette is also available with the arrow tool to speed up movement functions such as drag and drop, copy, rotate, multiply, mirror, etc.
Other functions that help productivity are Floating palettes that snap to each other to provide a much tidier workspace, and single key shortcuts assigned to functions previously only accessible from palettes.
ArchiCAD is supplied with a comprehensive object library of ready-made building elements and components, such as wall types, steel profiles, doors, windows, sanitary appliances, etc. These were very useful in my project, especially because of the time factor. The extensive library again reminded me of AutoCAD AEC.
I didn’t really have time to look deeply at the underlying Graphisoft technology for their library. GDL is parametric software which is available to create intelligent libraries and catalogues of building components. For example, you can place the same type of internal door around a building but each one could have a different appearance.
Improvements in this new version of ArchiCAD take interactivity with ArchiCAD library parts to a new dimension. Object parameters can be edited graphically on the 2D floor plan, in 3D or in the section and elevation windows. One can easily pull open a closed door or resize the divisions of window mullions graphically, without opening their setting dialogue box. The parametric graphics is connected to a parametric descriptive database and subsequently the object graphics and description are interlinked and take up very little memory. The GDL technology allows you to create a comprehensive, intelligent library. There is tremendous potential here for the building product manufacturers in producing intelligent and interactive catalogues of their building products. The intelligent interaction between the object graphics and object description would give those construction product manufacturers that incorporated the GDL technology in their catalogues, a business advantage in having their products specified and inclusion in construction projects compelling.
With time against me, I found I could produce a complete set of plans at varying scales, a large number of sections and all the elevations, plus many of the details required by the contractor before the project commenced, the bill of materials, specification and the window, door, sanitation, drainage and finishes schedules - all this from a 3D model.
Graphisoft’s claim about improving productivity through the user interface, increasing its ease-of-use and reducing the amount of time searching for the various design coordination feedback, such as revision crosschecks and dimensional coordination, was well-founded.
ArchiCAD 8 is a major step forward in the development of an interactive 3D and 2D intelligent piece of software for the construction industry. It will help the vast majority of the industry transition from its 2D drawing world to an interactive world between 3D design and 2D drawings.
At the end of 3 weeks, I produced the project design and a subsequent comprehensive set of drawings and construction documents for the client, building control officer and building contractor. Choosing to use ArchiCAD 8 certainly paid off. As an architect, I felt a certain empathy towards the software and during an uncertain 3 weeks ArchiCAD 8 helped me feel in control of the project and the pressurised situation. Finally, I enjoyed using ArchiCAD – it was fun. CU
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