AEC

Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2006

1 May, 2005 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

Tools for model-based architectural design.


Autodesk's annual update schedule brings us Architectural Desktop 2006, a mature building design and documentation solution (figure 1). This latest version is enhanced with many new features. Architectural Desktop 2006, like its predecessors, is based on AutoCAD, the most widely used CAD platform in the world, and one that has evolved for more than 21 years.

 Figure 1. With Architectural Desktop, designers can visualize their designs, as in this rendering I produced.
Figure 1. With Architectural Desktop, designers can visualize their designs, as in this rendering I produced.

As new features and improvements are incorporated into AutoCAD, they also appear in Architectural Desktop. These generic AutoCAD features include the new Dynamic Input feature that eliminates the Command line and instead displays all previous Command prompts at the cursor, and Dynamic Blocks, which are created using a new Block Editor interface (figure 2). Here users can add parameters and actions to a block to make it more flexible and intelligent. Users can now create dynamic parameters that define custom properties by specifying positions, distances and angles for the geometry in the block.

Figure 2.  Architectural Desktop 2006 benefits from AutoCAD 2006s new Dynamic Input feature, which eliminates the Command line and places all the previous Command line prompts at the cursor.
Figure 2. Architectural Desktop 2006 benefits from AutoCAD 2006s new Dynamic Input feature, which eliminates the Command line and places all the previous Command line prompts at the cursor.

Actions are associated with parameters and define how the geometry of a block placed in a drawing moves and changes when it is manipulated. Dynamic blocks also have the ability to automatically align themselves with other objects, such as lines that represent walls. Dynamic blocks are strictly 2D, and are not integrated with Architectural Desktop's multiview block system. They are useful to Architectural Desktop users who need greater flexibility with annotation blocks or other 2D applications. See p. 26 for more on what's new in AutoCAD 2006.

Architectural Desktop 2006 is an evolutionary, rather than a radical, update. Many new features fill in gaps in existing routines, and the program is faster and easier to use.

Autodesk architectural desktop 2006
Autodesk architectural desktop 2006

Latest and Greatest Features

Component Manager. The Details feature introduced in the last release of Architectural Desktop has been improved with more automated content and a more powerful Component Manager. The new content includes masonry anchors, control joints and roof copings. A new Add Component Wizard allows users to add new custom automated detail components.

AEC Project Standards and the CAD Manager menu. The new AEC Project Standards located under the CAD Manager menu is my favorite new feature (figure 3). It's used to set up drawing files that contain components, such as doors, that when changed synchronize throughout the entire project set of drawings. It's no longer necessary to copy styles from one drawing to another to maintain consistency across drawing files. Once the project Standards drawing is set up, there's no need to go back into the project set to make corrections or change components—all that can be done by manipulating the Standards drawing. Set this feature to automatically synchronize project standards, or just to notify the user that certain components don't meet standards.

Figure 3. The new AEC Project Standards dialog box, located under the new CAD Manager menu, makes it easy to maintain consistency.
Figure 3. The new AEC Project Standards dialog box, located under the new CAD Manager menu, makes it easy to maintain consistency.

The new Keynote Editor is dedicated to maintaining and creating keynote databases. Access the editor from the Start menu or from the CAD Manager pull-down inside Architectural Desktop. Also provided is simple keynote editing inside the Select Keynote dialog box. Here users can add, edit, delete, drag and drop groups and keynotes that automatically annotate the details made by the Detailer Component Manager, as well as keynotes assigned to object styles and materials in sections and elevations. All styles are in the Style Properties dialog box where users record the time and date of revisions to that style. This information is used by the project Standards drawing.

Edit-In-View, part of the Isolation tools, lets users work on specific portions of a design in any view (section, elevation and plan) by right-clicking and selecting the object.

Curtain wall enhancements let users quickly insert windows, window assemblies and doors, and also directly manipulate the design rules of the grid (figure 4). This is the third year that the curtain walls have undergone major improvements, and this feature has been needed. With this capability, the curtain wall routines are fairly complete.

Figure 4. New enhancements to the curtain walls let users quickly insert windows, window assemblies and doors.
Figure 4. New enhancements to the curtain walls let users quickly insert windows, window assemblies and doors.

Object conversions. In Architectural Desktop, right-clicking on tools in the tool palettes and applying tool properties to various AEC objects and entities creates object conversions. Architectural Desktop 2006 adds more conversion routines. Among them are the ability to assign curtain walls to faces of mass objects and assign slabs to floors and ceilings in spaces.

Architectural Desktop 2006 expands the functionality provided by the tool palette feature by giving more flexibility for object conversions. For example, using tool palettes, users can apply the Door tool to openings, windows and door and window assemblies, converting those objects to door objects. The resulting door uses the Tool properties. If properties are left unspecified on the tool, the door maintains the matching instance properties from the original object, such as width, height and vertical alignment.

Display themes allow users to present and graphically analyze design intent by creating and assigning specific graphic values or value ranges based on the property data on the objects. These ranges can then be automatically tied to color-coded display legends.

Ease of use.The new Schedule Tag Wizard lets users create custom tag content. New Break Mark tools with dual break ability aid in section annotations. There's now a tighter connection between VIZ Render and Architectural Desktop, so users can drag and drop materials made in VIZRender into the Architectural Desktop Tool palette for material assignments.

3D DWF. The new 3D DWF publishing feature, built directly into Architectural Desktop 2006, enables users to publish Architectural Desktop models to the new 3D DWF format to share a model with non-CAD users. Recipients of 3D DWF files can orbit around the model, select objects to view properties and isolate or make portions transparent.

Worth the Price of Admission

This is still Autodesk's most widely adopted architectural product. In its seventh iteration, it can be used to design any size or type of building, residential or commercial.

Architectural Desktop 2006 is an excellent program well worth its price. It costs $4,695, and a network copy is $5,395. Upgrades from version 2005 run $795. If your users currently use AutoCAD or any 2D CAD product to create buildings, I recommend that you take a look at Architectural Desktop 2006. If they use a previous version of Architectural Desktop, the new Standards Drawings in the CAD Manager, expanded Component Manager and curtain wall improvements justify the upgrade price. The annual subscription fee of $595 is an excellent deal that enables companies to become more productive as the software becomes more mature. Be sure that you get a demonstration (preferably on your own project) by a good operator.

H. Edward Goldberg, AIA, NCARB, is a practicing licensed architect and AEC industry analyst. Ed's full-length book, Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2005: A Comprehensive Tutorial (Prentice Hall; www.prenhall.com ) is now available; watch for the 2006 version this fall. He also offers online Architectural Desktop training sessions delivered directly to the desktop. Visit www.hegra.org for more information, or e-mail ed.gold berg@cadalyst.com.


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