ArchiCAD 11 (Cadalyst Labs Review)31 Jul, 2007 By: Scott MacKenzie
Features such as Virtual Trace ease transition into BIM.
ArchiCAD 11 introduces concepts and methods that add flexibility to the process of virtual building design and documentation. New design features and improvements to existing tools make ArchiCAD 11 a better program for the world of building information modeling (BIM) (figure 1).
Figure 1. A rendering of the University of Florida's Pathogen Research Facility building. It was created from an ArchiCAD 10 working model used to produce the construction documents and rendered solely in ArchiCAD 11, which took 5 minutes on a standard BIM workstation. Image courtesy of CUH2A and the University of Florida.
Of all the new changes to ArchiCAD 11, the worksheet tool may be the most popular new tool for long-time ArchiCAD users. This feature allows users to place model views on a worksheet for easy editing in a drafting-type environment. It works somewhat similarly to the detail tool, but with worksheets, the annotation is replicated along with the model geometry (not so with a detail). Anything put on a worksheet can be manipulated with the 2D drafting tools. At any time, a user can update parts of a model's geometry manually, or even the whole model automatically.
Worksheets can be set up for the annotation of drawing views and delegated to a team's junior architects for work. When a user signs out a worksheet, all the elements contained therein are editable. The layers of the elements on the worksheet don't need to be signed out. The good news and the bad news here is that the 3D model elements can't be manipulated from a worksheet. And depending on your situation, that is very good news. The less-experienced users on a team can be delegated to editing worksheets, thereby ensuring the integrity of your model.
The task of hot-linking models has been simplified with the introduction multistory hot-linking. Previously, users had to hot-link each story individually. Depending on the size of a building, this task could be very tedious. With multistory linking, the whole building is imported in one operation.
If your model has fewer stories than the building you're hot-linking, that's OK. Nonexisting stories will be ignored. The missing stories can be added later. A simple update to the hot-linked module via the hot-link manager will bring the additional floors in from the hot-linked module.
This feature is a wonderful improvement for ArchiCAD model managers everywhere. But if users want to control each hot-link story individually, they can't; it's all or nothing. Why you would want to have individual story control in the hot-link manager, you ask? I don't know, but someone may miss it. In my opinion, this function brings ArchiCAD one step closer to an ideal virtual building environment.
It's All in the Details
The creation of detail boundaries and their callouts automatically generate a corresponding detail drawing. This concept and feature are essential in the BIM environment and have been around for a while now. But in real-world construction documentation, you don't always want this to happen. You want to be able to create unlinked detail callouts to accommodate for typical or similar building area situations or to serve as place markers for future drawings.
With ArchiCAD 11, users can place unlinked detail markers in the model. These markers can be easily assigned to existing detail drawing views later during the project. Users even can link them to elevations or section drawings, if they want to. The check markers palette was created to help manage unlinked detail marks in the project model.
One breakthrough in the tool is the ability to create details inside of details. This feature is my favorite improvement to an existing tool in ArchiCAD 11 because it simplifies the documentation process of detailing a single area at several different scales.
You Gotta Keep 'Em Separated
When you work with outside consultants, you may need to Xref in their AutoCAD drawings. Dealing with all the layers that come in with an xref in ArchiCAD is a hassle, so much so that most users avoid using xrefs. With ArchiCAD 11, the xref layers are separated graphically from the ArchiCAD layers in the layer settings window. In addition to that, they can be totally filtered out from the layer settings list (figure 2).
Figure 2. The Layer Settings window with the new filter feature set to hide xref layers.
The Trace & Reference tool is the old ghost feature extended to any of the views in the model. I love using this tool because I can easily relate to what is on the floor above me or below me. But it's not just for floor plans — it works with any view type, including elevations and sections.
Users can move and rotate the reference story any way they like via the Trace & Reference palette. This feature allows users to move the reference to the spot where they are working. It's just like working with tracing paper, but it maintains coordination with the model. When users have finished repositioning their reference stories, they can click the Reset to Default Position button and the references will go back to their original locations. Users also can control the colors for both for the active and reference views for easy discernment.
The Splitter is a feature within the Trace & Reference palette that lets users peel back the current story to reveal the referenced story. Just grab one of the Splitter tabs at the edge of your drawing view and pull it over the drawing (figure 3). This function is a really nice improvement to the computer-drawing experience. More improvements such as this one will lead to more architects embracing BIM.
Figure 3. Here the Screen Splitter is being pulled down to reveal the lower floor underneath.
Other notable new features include:
- 1. curved wall types
- 2. interior elevation tool
- 3. long file names
- 4. separated section and elevation tools
ArchiCAD's ability to open and export different file formats is excellent, and it's been improved with an internal PDF creation engine that produces a higher quality PDF file than before. Opening and saving of IFC_2X3 and IFCXML_2X3 file types is standard, and the software has a Save As file-type option for Artlantis R-Studio File 1.2.
Wait a Minute . . .
OK, time to take off the rose-colored glasses and bring up a few minor issues. In reference to the multistory hot-linking, if a user brings in a hot-link at the wrong story or position, he or she can't move it after the fact or change the layer on which it sits. You have to delete the hot-linked module and try again. This quirk may be a good thing, because once a hot-link is placed, it can't be messed up. But I would rather have control rather than the security in this situation.
The v11 shortcut icon is exactly the same image as the one used for v10. What's up with that? If you have both versions installed on your computer, these matching icons can be a problem, especially if you are a Windows user and you put your shortcuts on the taskbar.
The company-standard installation process has been improved with this version, allowing IT managers and CAD managers to configure ArchiCAD installations before they are installed. The end-user profile is created and then incorporated into the network installation point.
For more information about the new features of ArchiCAD 11, you can visit www.graphisoft.com/products/archicad/ac11/.
Transitioning to BIM
Overall, ArchiCAD 11 is a very nice program. It introduces new concepts and methods, such as Virtual Trace, that ease users' transitions into BIM. The design environment is better, and the coordination with different file formats is enhanced. I highly recommend an upgrade to v11 if you are using v10. If you are still using v9 or older, you need to get up to speed. The clock is ticking . . .
Cadalyst contributing editor Scott MacKenzie is the CAD/BIM project data manager for CUH2A in Atlanta, Georgia. He has 18 years' experience drawing in and managing CAD projects for engineering and architectural firms in the Atlanta area. He can be reached at SMacKenzie@cuh2a.com.