AEC Tech News: 2D to 3D #17

21 Sep, 2005 By: Arnie Williams

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

Elementary Decision

ArchiCAD features make it the obvious 3D choice
for schools designer Quattrocchi Kwok Architects

For architectural firms that choose to work primarily in 2D, it?s not difficult to make a software decision. These days, that would be like wondering whether Microsoft Word is a smart choice for the long term. In the 2D CAD world, AutoCAD is the equivalent of Microsoft Word.

When it comes to 3D, however, and moving to the efficiencies of a building-model database, the choice becomes more difficult. A firm with a history of MicroStation use might understandably consider Bentley?s BIM (building information modeling) approach. Interface issues would be minor, and the transition from 2D to 3D relatively painless.

A firm long favoring AutoCAD, on the other hand, might consider Autodesk Revit. Though Autodesk?s 3D BIM product came about through an acquisition rather than a progressive development of AutoCAD into a 3D building modeler, the company has since worked to make the transition from AutoCAD to Revit more seamless.

Another choice for a traditional 2D office is Graphisoft?s ArchiCAD and its Virtual Building model. This software has been based on a building-model database from its inception, and unlike many other architectural software products on the market, ArchiCAD has followed IFC (Industry Foundation Class) specifications to the letter.

These were the software products recently evaluated by QKA (Quattrocchi Kwok Architects) ? a midsized California-based firm that specializes in design for elementary and secondary education. The company put all three of these BIM-based products through detailed testing before settling on Graphisoft?s ArchiCAD.

The Evaluation Process
?After a very thorough evaluation process, we found that ArchiCAD would bring the greatest benefits to our firm,? says Aaron Jobson, project architect at QKA and the lead evaluator on the team testing the BIM software candidates. ?The integration of LightWorks in ArchiCAD is a major advantage for all rendering tasks,? he says. ?And the software?s TeamWork capabilities are far more functional than comparable tools in Revit. It was Graphisoft?s commitment to training and ongoing customer support, however, that helped finalize our decision.?

The 3D advantages of BIM are obvious for small, localized projects, and any of the three products evaluated would suffice for such endeavors. However, QKA projects often involve an extended team in various locations, so the ability to move BIM data relatively effortlessly around a company intranet via TeamWork was a strong selling point, notes Jobson, who figures that the ability to communicate more effectively among teams will lead to increased productivity. QKA also provides photorealistic renderings at several stages of its projects, and ArchiCAD?s LightWorks rendering engine, with its ability to produce vibrant images, was again a strong factor in ArchiCAD?s favor.

The Importance of Standards
But perhaps one of the strongest factors, Jobson says, was Graphisoft?s serious efforts to achieve full compliance with the IFC initiative. ?We want to take full advantage of IFC in the future,? says Jobson. ?Our software must be able to support our business goals in addition to meeting our design needs.?

IFC allows companies to produce costing, bidding and scheduling reports by running specialized software designed to read IFC specs through the building model at various project stages. This is one of the key strengths of ArchiCAD?s Virtual Building as an IFC-compliant, data-warehouse model.

This special edition of AEC Tech News examines the real-world experiences of architects and builders as they move from 2D drafting to 3D modeling. If you have suggestions about companies or issues you'd like to see covered here, please e-mail us at

About the Author
Arnie Williams, former editor-in-chief of CADENCE magazine, is a freelance author specializing in the CAD industry. E-mail Arnie at

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