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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 24 No 05 - MAY/JUNE 2011
Graphisoft launches 'knock'em down and rebuild' tools in the latest version of ArchiCAD
Graphisoft can always be relied upon to provide some interesting new ideas when they upgrade their software, and ArchiCAD 15 is no exception. Recognising that a very large proportion of construction projects in this country consist of refurbishing older properties - some £43 billion worth in 2010 rising to a projected £46 billion in 2012 - Graphisoft have introduced a range of functions that enable users to take a building information model (BIM) of an existing building, deconstruct it digitally, and then install new modernising features in the building.
Itís a very useful and appropriate addition to the application, one that I have not come across before. But before I describe it more fully - and the ramifications of the renovation functions are even more interesting than they appear at first sight - I must also note some of the other new features and enhancements of ArchiCAD 15. Unfortunately, a couple of these deserve more space than I can afford them here, and so will have to wait for more detailed explanations next issue.
An improved interactions concept introduces enhanced user tools that enable the user to work more effectively in 2D/3D space, eliminating the 'where are we?' syndrome by associating the proposed element and cursor position with other elements and a refined grid that displays the current work plane.
Foremost amongst the new functions is 'Design Freedom', which includes a terrific Shell tool that simplifies the creation of an infinite variety of organic and irregular shapes that can be converted readily into structural entities. The 'Shell' tool offers so much scope to the designer that Graphisoft has already put together a total of 42 explanatory or training movies showing different aspects of the tool, which are available to view on YouTube (Just search for 'ArchiCAD 15.')
Shelling comes with enhanced trimming tools, and nowhere are these shown more effectively than in the other significant enhancement - Complex Roof Systems, a form of intelligent roof tool that simplifies the creation of the most complex roof, combining and modifying shapes of all types, inserting roof lights, stepped roofing and any other conceivable roof feature. You can then use the 'trim' tool to sort out all of the roof intersections prior to converting, if necessary, the roof planes into beams, rafters and other roofing elements.
Let's get back to renovation. There are a number of reasons why we want to refurbish old buildings - the principal one is that there are an awful lot of them, and it is cheaper to refurbish an old building, in most cases, than to build a new one. Material usage is obviously lower (reducing the carbon emitted during manufacture), as we are reusing those in the retained part of the structure.
The physical life of the building can be extended by modifying it for new types of usage and, another important issue, buildings that were erected before we knew about sustainable construction - and which therefore are an environmental nightmare - can be subsequently modified and improved to meet the latest environmental standards and targets.
The renovation process in ArchiCAD is almost simplistic in its operation, and I can't for the life of me think why nobody has thought of it before. You start off with a BIM model of the structure that needs modification. This can come from any source - importing BIM models via IFC or model development from 2D plans, paper scans and tracing, or measured surveys. Graphisoft suggest two alternatives (OrthoGraph and Flexijet) which connect directly to ArchiCAD and utilise handheld Leica/Disto measurement devices.
As an example, OrthoGraph allows users to start with room outline sketches on a mobile device, and then progressively automate the collection of room dimensions using the Disto measuring tools via a Bluetooth connection. Openings and other adjustments can also be added, leading to a complete floor plan of each level of the building.
Both of these methods can be used to generate proper building information models from the surveyed data, rather than merely supplying point cloud data that requires more than a little bit of manual intervention to turn into usable models.
USING THE RENOVATION TOOL
Before the building model is knocked about to create the super new edifice it can be run through Graphisoft EcoDesigner to establish its preliminary energy rating. It's useful to have your energy evaluation and carbon footprint at the beginning and end of the project, so that you know how much effect your renovations have had, not only for your own satisfaction, but so that the results can be factored into other projects.
Perhaps best of all, these 'before' and 'after' assessments can be done at any time during the project because the model retains all the phases in design development, and by using the renovation filters it's easy to switch between different phases.
Using ArchiCAD 15, an architect can move through the model, clicking on any building elements to be removed - either walls in their entirety or piecemeal, or windows and doors which, with the correct filter (phase), show resulting openings automatically 'healed'.
After identifying elements to be demolished, a second view of the building can be displayed showing all these elements removed - a canvas showing only what is to be retained and ready for the next step in the renovation process. All that remains to be done is to start designing the new requirements in the normal way.
To make it simpler, Graphisoft has added a 'Renovation Palette' to its toolbars, which allows the user to specify a renovation attribute to each element. The attributes are 'Existing Status' (what the previous structure consisted off) with a brick motif for its icon, 'To Be Demolished', with a bulldozer icon, and 'New Build', with a crane. Using the correct renovation filter the model can be switched to show the corresponding elements.
And here's the clever bit. In any other software application you could take the building model and set about deleting objects within the building, so that you could start the rebuild process, but as soon as you delete a wall youíve lost it from the model. Using the ArchiCAD renovation features allows the user to always have the original as a reference model, so that you could use the base model to test a number of different development scenarios in separate models, checking for optimum performance. Furthermore, by using one model for all the phases of a project, data can be filtered from the old model into the new stages, allowing other elements - MEP, ventilation, etc, to be installed more effectively.
Another advantage of ArchiCAD Renovation is that infill and construction materials for all new elements can be calculated, rather than subsumed in the total model, and used to produce schedules for construction elements, materials and costs.
And to make it absolutely clear to clients, contractors and other parties how the building needs to change and what it looks like, both before and after renovation, real time personal movies can be provided from Graphisoft Virtual Building Explorer. One click in the model creates a movie which the user can navigate around at will, with no special software required to navigate
OVERRIDING WITH ECODESIGNER
Having 'befores' and 'afters' enables a number of evaluations and comparisons to be made, using EcoDesigner to show both baseline and retrofit results. Interestingly EcoDesigner can also be used from another angle! Instead of putting in actual material data from the model, you can quickly evaluate the performance of the building's proposed construction by inputting your own target 'U' value. The energy assessment produced can be used to progressively modify a structure until an optimum solution is reached.
All of this is possible, of course, because of the way in which ArchiCAD works. It also highlights why it would be a bit more problematic running before and after solutions in a single model with other architectural software applications. Graphisoft doesn't attempt to load models into a single, huge file. It creates building elements and stores them intelligently in a structured relational database. Views are updated from the model when a particular view is opened or is required for a documentation set. This ensures everything remains co-ordinated as there is only a single source for the element data.
This database is fundamental to ensuring large projects can be designed in ArchiCAD without hitting performance issues. Besides keeping datasets to manageable proportions ArchiCAD, in conjunction with the NBS add-on, also dynamically keeps NBS National Building Specifications in sync.
Instead of relying on outdated exported snapshots from the project specification file, which usually cause co-ordination problems between different designers on a project, ArchiCAD allows direct sychronisation of the specification clauses indicating where these have changed. By using the intelligent change management tools the user can then choose to accept, or ignore, the latest changes to the specifications. It's really simple to do, rather like the new renovation process in ArchiCAD.
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