Cadalyst AEC Tech News #117 (April 8, 2004)

7 Apr, 2004 By: Mike Bordenaro

The recent ArchiCAD University West seminar held in Pomona, California, on March 25-27 focused on the software program's long-established BIM (building information modeling) capabilities. Organized by architect and experienced ArchiCAD user Duane Valencia, the seminar displayed innovative ways in which architects and others have been using Graphisoft's ArchiCAD to create building information models. Also highlighted were new add-ons and other programs that interact with ArchiCAD to allow elegant solutions to traditional building documentation and communication problems.

Though the term BIM was frequently described by presenters as awkward, but currently unavoidable, Mark Sawyer, vice president of worldwide field operations with ArchiCAD, twisted the acronym to a humorous and pointed end. Revealing the upcoming campaign phrase "ArchiCAD - BIM there, done that," Sawyer received a laugh of recognition from the sold-out audience of 135 who realize that ArchiCAD has allowed creation of intelligent models for many years.

Not only was ArchiCAD's ability to create intelligent models featured, Kimon Onuma, AIA, showed how The SHIP Group uses the program to destroy them.

The Ship Group, a consortium of ArchiCAD users, has presented its Coast Guard clients with the ability to test terrorist bomb blast scenarios. First, The Ship Group builds models with intelligent attributes that include strength of structural systems, material performance, asset location, and human behavior activity. Using calculations and data from the consortium's ballistics and terrorist experts, ArchiCAD is then used to create a variety of "bombs" with attributes of force and direction, according to Onuma, president ,a href="" target="">Onuma & Associates, South Pasadena, Calif.

The computer bombs are then tested in a variety of terrorist scenarios. The damage caused to the building models is studied to influence design decisions regarding location of key offices, equipment, and other factors.

"While many architects and industry organizations do not think architecture is ready to produce useful building information models, we are already producing them and blowing them up," says Onuma, whose keynote speech was called "The Virtual Building: Revolutionizing the Industry." Referring to the slow adoption of intelligent modeling capabilities as demonstrated by ArchiCAD, Onuma expressed his belief that architects may lose further influence on building. "Design/builders and contractors are expressing more interest in intelligent building models than architects. Unless the profession acknowledges and supports the capabilities of intelligent modeling software programs, architects' positive impact on the built environment will diminish," he says.

Another keynote speaker, Mitch Boryslawski, partner of View By View, San Francisco, demonstrated Onuma's point. View By View, a 3D architectural visualization and multimedia company, was contracted to create an intelligent model of the 840,000-square-foot Letterman Digital Art Center to assist with construction coordination of this film production facility being built for LucasFilms in San Francisco's Presidio. The architect of the project was not given this responsibility.

Boryslawski said View By View used ArchiCAD to create the base 3D model. Other software applications were used to create 3D models of the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical designs. All the 3D models were combined in the NavisWorks product to conduct conflict checks and produce design review illustrations. Boryslawski indicated that the powerful integrating capabilities of NavisWorks may reduce the pressure to create interoperable 3D model standards.

ACU West, the first ArchiCAD seminar offered in the U.S. in more than 4 years, also covered basic program usage advice, various levels of GDL (Graphic Design Language) instruction on how to create intelligent objects for use in architectural models and interaction possibilities with rendering and illustration software such as Artlantis, PhotoCAD, Sketchup, and Piranesi.

Valencia based the ACU West on the ArchiCAD University seminar series conducted in Europe by David Nicholson-Cole, author of the "ArchiCAD Cookbook." Nicholson-Cole made a presentation on advanced GDL usage. He will present a seminar focused solely on GDL in Irvine, Calif., September 15 - 17.

Valencia, who attended a European ArchiCAD seminar, said he was motivated to organize the seminar to assist in strengthening the bond among ArchiCAD users. "It was not sales driven, it was not a full hands-on training event-it was largely inspirational for the ArchiCAD community to get together," he says.

Though it's impressive that the ArchiCAD user base is so inspired it creates a seminar on its own, the lack of a Graphisoft-sponsored educational event raises the question of whether there is adequate educational commitment from the vendor to sustain the program's long-term stability. Recent changes in management at Graphisoft may indicate a new approach to this issue.

As for Valencia, he is already considering plans for another ACU West in the future. (A detailed program outline appears at