Bypass Those Big-Project Headaches

15 Jan, 2005 By: Viktor Bullain Cadalyst

A few simple strategies will help you manage large ArchiCAD building databases with ease.

It used to be that large-scale design projects meant equally large challenges and headaches. This is not the case today, as many architectural firms can attest after successfully using virtual building modeling to complete large projects. With more and more firms turning to building modeling technology, one question always comes up as the design evolves: How does ArchiCAD handle large projects?

In one of our previous articles (click here to view), we explained how architects can share a single building model and work on it concurrently using ArchiCAD's Teamwork technology. In this column, I'll discuss a few additional, specific strategies that architects are using to easily manage large building databases in ArchiCAD.

Define New Project Roles and Strategies
When working on a large building model for the first time, new roles need to be defined within the design team as a result of the volumes of information in a large project. These roles include the emergence of a virtual model (or building) manager, who acts as the change agent, facilitating the transition process, and a documentation manager, who coordinates the documents extracted from the design. The building modeling process should be designed around the roles and responsibilities of the full team.

The type of building is also a factor to consider when setting up this new process. As the transition to modeling large building projects can be challenging, Graphisoft's Transition Club service addresses issues such as these in detail during the initial planning phase with the team.

Link Building Models
Using hotlinked modules allows you to insert the contents of external ArchiCAD files (sources) into the currently open project (host). Elements inserted into the host follow all modifications of the source files.

Hotlinked modules can be used, for example, to manage the repetitive structures of buildings such as hotels or offices that have a large number of identical rooms (figures 1 and 2) by modifying all instances in a single step. Moreover, the same structures can be used in multiple projects. This is also a good way to subdivide large projects into easier-to-handle smaller files. A few helpful points to keep in mind include:

  • The source file can be a full building model, a Shared Building Model or a module file.
  • The host file can include any number of hotlinks.
  • A module is a 3D reference model with construction elements stored in it.

Figure 1. This high-tech Park in the City of Zhen Zho was designed by Mr. Peng Yi Gang and Mr Zhang Yi Xun.

Figure 2. This academic building was designed by Hani Nijem, of Rainforth - Grau Architects, Sacramento, California, USA.

The elements can be included in the project, which means that even if the hotlinked source file is not currently available, the modules are still present and visible, but can't be updated as long as the referred source file is absent. The modules' content can be updated as the hotlinked source file changes. Managing (modifying, updating, breaking, deleting) a hotlink will have an effect on all associated modules.

Linking Predefined Spaces
Model hotlinking can also be used to link predefined space configurations, such as laboratory or classroom spaces, into a core and shell model. With this feature set, you can easily update the configuration of a lab only once and have it updated throughout the entire building model simultaneously. Multiple instances of the same hotlink can be placed, each instance being a separate module. The placement parameters of each instance can be different even though they share the same source.

Creating hotlinks. New hotlinks can be established by choosing the File / Modules and XREFs / Hotlink Manager command and then clicking the New Hotlink button in the Hotlinks dialog box (figure 3).

Figure 3. The Hotlinks dialog box.

Figure 4. When defining a new hotlink for a multiple-story building, the Choose Story dialog box displays.
A directory-type dialog box will then appear. A pop-up allows you to choose to display different "hotlinkable" file types. If the file contains multiple stories, another dialog box will appear to let you choose a story (figure 4) and complete the definition of the new hotlink.

You can choose one or several stories of the file to create hotlinks. File types that can be hotlinked are solo projects, team projects and module files.

You can add any number of files that you wish to use in your project, and then proceed with placing modules.

Placing modules. After defining a list of hotlinks, you can start placing modules in the project by choosing the File / Modules and XREFs / Place Module command.

Note: If you have already placed modules and there is one selected on the floor plan, the name of this command changes to Module Settings (figure 5), allowing you to edit the placement parameters of the module.

Figure 5. The Module Settings dialog box lets you to edit the placement parameters of the module.

In the dialog box that appears, click the Choose Hotlink button, which will open the corresponding dialog box (figure 6).

Figure 6. The Choose Hotlink dialog box.

The name of the chosen hotlink will appear in the dialog box, and the Place Module button will activate. Click it to to display the Place Modeule dialog box (figure 7) to place an instance of the hotlinked module in your floor plan. Similarly to pasted elements, modules can be placed into the current zoom or keep their source file coordinates.

Figure 7. Use the Place Module dialog box to place an instance of the hotlinked module in your floor plan.

You can repeat the placement of the same module any number of times with different settings. It is also possible to create multiple instances of the same hotlinked module by using the usual Edit commands (Copy/Paste, Drag/Rotate/Mirror a Copy, Multiply) on modules already placed in the floor plan.

A number of options exist for inserting hotlinked modules, and some special rules apply to them.

  • Orientation. Type a value in the Orientation field to place the module at an angle that is different from the one defined in the original file.
  • Mirror. Check the box next to the Orientation field to place a mirrored module.
  • Height/elevation values. Positions relative to the actual story of the original file are applied. When placing the module, you can type a value in the Elevation field to define the height at which the module will be placed -- for example, an optional vertical offset added to the elements' original story-relative elevation.
  • Standard modules. ArchiCAD has standard modules available out of the box, including ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standard modules (figures 8 and 9).

Figure 8. ArchiCAD comes with ADA standard modules you can incorporate into floor plans, such as this restroom configuration.

Figure 9. The ADA standard module restroom configuration in 3D.

Successful Large Projects
More than one million projects have been completed with these strategies in mind. One great example is the Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia, designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects (figure 10). The 93-story residential tower was fully modeled and documented in ArchiCAD using the methods described in this article.

Figure 10. The 93-story residential Eureka Tower, designed in ArchiCAD by Fender Katsalidis Architects.

About the Author: Viktor Bullain

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