AEC

AEC Tech News #114: Trelligence Affinity

19 Feb, 2004 By: Michael Dakan


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There's a lot going on in computer technology development for the AEC industry outside of CAD. A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to an interesting new software product (new to me anyway) that turned out to be worth exploring a bit. Trelligence announced that Rice University School of Architecture plans to incorporate Trelligence's Affinity software into its architectural curriculum. Rice says it wants to use Affinity to improve teaching some of the economic and practical aspects of the architectural design process.

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Affinity is billed as a knowledge-base manager. Basically, it helps gather and track all the information and requirements about a proposed house or commercial structure, making sure that no pieces of information fall through the cracks as a project progresses. The building information that's recorded and tracked can be as generalized or as detailed as you desire. It can be edited and added to as a project progresses.

Affinity appears to have been initially developed for homebuilders and subdivision developers to allow customers to specify requirements and features for proposed homes. The program is probably most useful to the semicustom homebuilder, but it can be customized to handle other project types and situations. Basically, the program is organized into a three-step process: Questionnaire, Space Planner, and Reporting and Export.

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The Questionnaire walks through a series of questions and fill-in-the-blank forms to capture the customer's requirements. Number of rooms and their sizes, relationships of a room to other rooms and site features, room colors and finishes, and other items can be specified. The program calculates the building cost as the building is specified. The cost updates to reflect changes as you go, and you quickly see the results of various option and cost choices.

Cost is primarily based on rough cost per square foot, which you can adjust on a room-by-room basis: $100/sf for overall building cost, $200/sf for kitchens and baths, etc. As the rooms are specified, plugging in fixed costs for individual appliances, fixtures, and equipment elements can further refine costs.

The Space Planner translates the Questionnaire input about building requirements and relationships into rectangular graphic shapes of the correct size. You can then drag these into a window and arrange them to create a rough space plan. As you add rooms, the program flags any violations of requirements such as room relationships to other rooms, costs, and so forth. The Space Planner does not attempt to provide suggested graphic solutions or layout options, but simply flags violations in tabular form and leaves it up to the space planner/designer to resolve them. You can insert a preexisting home layout as an overlay to provide guidance for building a layout of a semicustom home.

Information and requirements about individual rooms and the overall structure are shown in tabular form so you can review and modify items over time and resolve conflicts. When changes are made, you can track information such as who initiated the change, how the request was received, who was involved and made decisions, etc. You can also track approval status on individual items and the overall project.

Affinity generates numerous tabular reports that you can view on screen or export in Microsoft Excel or tab-delimited format for printing or use in other applications. Reports are customizable and flexible to accommodate a number of uses.

The graphic space plan you generate can be exported to a CAD program using a DXF file. The DXF can use layers to separate information, and you can specify the names of layers as required.

The information-gathering functionality of the program emulates the traditional architectural process of the Programming project requirements that architects go through as a matter of course. Trelligence has designed the questionnaire so that prospective homeowners can go through it on their own or with the help of a designer/builder. But accurately filling out the questionnaire really requires some experience and judgment, especially when filling in cost parameters, in order to arrive at a meaningful and accurate result. Affinity does standardize the process to bring the information into a single database and easily track it over time, but the old adage "garbage in, garbage out" applies. You eventually must enter each item of information completely and accurately, along with any constraints and detailed specification data, for the program to track it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Dakan is an author and independent CAD and information technology

consultant. E-mail him at michael.dakan@cadalyst.com.

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