ArchiCAD Insights: Affinity for ArchiCAD

8 May, 2006 By: Leslie Butterfield Ph.D.

Software extends BIM benefits.

Trelligence Affinity from Trelligence is pushing BIM (building information modeling) forward with the introduction of technology that brings BIM into early stages of the building project, where project programming and planning drive the goals of the project. Trelligence Affinity delivers a way to capture project requirements, layout the plan in schematic design and validate the plan against requirements using an integrated project model that includes a model for the program.

The software is available as a stand-alone Windows application and as an integrated plug-in for Graphisoft ArchiCAD.

Manage Information Flow
In the past, firms lacked consistent tools for managing the flow of information from the design program to the design process. Typically, only one team member could access the information and that person had to be available to manage the programming process throughout the project. Some used spreadsheets or created forms and surveys to model their processes. Affinity's underlying engine analyzes the program requirements and compares each element of the program with the details of the design layout.

For those of us who believe that interoperability will enhance communications and reduce reworking, there is no better place to start the process than at the beginning. That's where Affinity comes in. Now, when you create detailed designs in ArchiCAD, the analysis continues into the design process and provides feedback on whether requirements are being met.

Integrated Analysis of the Program with the Design When using Affinity, the programming process and analysis are automated so they are more accurate, which saves you time. You enter the program requirements, including departments, space types, areas and quantities into Affinity, and it generates a spreadsheet-like view (figure 1).

Figure 1. You enter the project requirements into Affinity, and it generates a spreadsheet-like view.

The schematic design tool in Affinity automatically generates a set of spaces used to create the floor plans. As these items or spaces are brought into the building and sized, Affinity calculates the space used. Affinity can handle a wide range of architectural requirements related to the project, site, building, individual spaces and other elements.

The program tracks relational requirements and flags them when they aren't met. For example, if a requirement specifies that all hospital rooms have an adjacent bathroom and a bathroom is omitted, that hospital room is outlined in red to indicate a violation. You can right-click on the room to see what the issue is, and the program views are updated to show the plan vs. the design, which is dynamically updated as the design progresses (figure 2). A 3D view of the schematic provides a quick block diagram of the building.

Figure 2. The schematic design view in Affinity compares the floor plan to the actual design.

Analysis within ArchiCAD
After you evaluate a variety of what-if schematics, you can open one or more of them in ArchiCAD. Inside ArchiCAD, all the features of Affinity are available; for example, all Affinity spaces are converted to ArchiCAD zones (figure 3), walls and slabs are created correctly and objects can be converted.

Figure 3. Spaces in Affinity are converted to zones in ArchiCAD.

Program for Renovations
Affinity is also a useful tool for evaluating renovation options. Start with an image of the existing floor plan and load the plan into Affinity's schematic design tool. After entering the project data, you can explore multiple floor plan options electronically instead of using reams of tracing paper. After a plan is approved, open the project in ArchiCAD and create the detailed design. Ongoing analysis enables a design team to stay attuned to client needs and better communicate within the team.

Reap More BIM Benefits
Most architects agree on the benefits of BIM. BIM now should include important pre-design planning that delivers a foundation for the project details that follow. The earlier in the process that intelligent building objects are modeled, the greater the opportunity for cost savings and conflict avoidance down the line.

Every construction project begins with some kind of architectural programming, whether formal or informal. Surprisingly few projects define how to use technology to capture information so that it's gathered consistently, passed throughout the project lifecycle and used to check for potential conflicts before investing in construction. A business process improvement of the magnitude of BIM should include enabling technology that encourages consistency right from the start when a client communicates his or her goals.

Affinity for ArchiCAD and Affinity Desktop address interoperability at the outset of the project allowing architects and the entire AEC team to plan more consistently and deliver more successful projects.

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