Use DWG Format Details in ArchiCAD

14 Jul, 2010 By: Jeff Olken

Archicad Insights Tutorial: Incorporate your existing CAD detail library into your workflow.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of Graphisoft.

When I'm helping my clients implement BIM (building information modeling), they often voice fears concerning their existing CAD detail library. "We have hundreds of common details that we use in project after project, and hundreds more that can quickly be edited to suit the needs of a new project. Will we need to start over?"

Fortunately, incorporating your existing CAD detail library into your ArchiCAD workflow only requires knowing a few simple steps. Additionally, you can apply these techniques to CAD-format details supplied by manufacturers for use in your projects.

In this article, we will look at ArchiCAD's Detail tool, coupled with the DWG import capability. ArchiCAD can incorporate a DWG via several methods: First, a DWG can be merged, and all entities become native ArchiCAD elements. Second, we can xref DWGs into our ArchiCAD model, maintaining the same xref structure and methodologies originally used in AutoCAD. A third method allows us to place a DWG as an ArchiCAD "drawing."

In ArchiCAD, a drawing is analogous to an AutoCAD viewport used in paper space, but we can place them within the ArchiCAD equivalent of model space. Additionally, ArchiCAD drawings can be linked to external sources, as well as non-ArchiCAD sources such as JPG, PDF, and DWG.

Attaching DWGs as drawings has several benefits over the other two methods, including the ability to manage scale, apply unique pen settings, and avoid layer contamination of the model. Best of all, DWGs can be placed within an ArchiCAD file using the comfortable and intuitive drag-and-drop method. When adding details, the best location is an Independent Detail. Using this technique, we can track all details within a project and allow the program to manage the references.

Creating an Independent Detail

Let's look at the process of creating a blank detail window for our DWG detail. In ArchiCAD, most details capture geometry from the building information model, and provide a precise and project specific framework for notes, dimensions, and other detail-specific information. The details can be refreshed as needed when significant changes to the model occur. We use the Detail tool to specify the region of the model to be captured within the detail drawing, and select marker settings that control the location referencing when the detail is placed on a layout.

However, an Independent Detail does not capture model information. Instead, it presents a blank drawing window in which to work. The newly created space functions identically as any detail, except that there is no Rebuild from Model command available. This presents an ideal location for our DWG detail to be placed using our drag-and-drop methodology.

Create an Independent Detail:

  1. Right-click on the Detail section of Navigator Project Map.
  2. Select New Independent Detail from the context-sensitive menu.
  3. Name the detail window appropriately. The ID field can be left blank, or can be used to organize a long list of details alphanumerically.
  4. The new view will open and is ready for use.



Drag and Drop to Place a DWG File

Let's look at the simple process of drag-and-drop DWG placement. As I mentioned, ArchiCAD can incorporate a wide range of file types into a project using this technique. With most file types, drag and drop results in an unlinked instance of the dropped file, but when we drag and drop a DWG (or a PDF), ArchiCAD creates a live link that is analogous to an AutoCAD xref, but with some significant differences. For example, the information within the drawing is stored within the model file as a safeguard against data loss. In addition, the layer visibility is controlled by the source file, clipping is highly flexible, and the pen set can be applied independently to the placed drawing.

Like all drag-and-drop actions, positioning the Explorer (or Finder) window containing the source file and the target location is an essential first step. We recommend opening a narrow window containing your DWG detail to the side of ArchiCAD so that you can easily drag and drop the desired file in one smooth motion.

Drag and drop a DWG:

  1. Open the view in which you would like to place the DWG.
  2. Select the DWG file from the source folder.
  3. Drag it into the ArchiCAD view.
  4. Select 1 inch as the translation unit and click OK.


Referencing an Independent Detail

Finally, we need to be able to create and place markers that reference our DWG details when they are placed on a layout, and that automatically update as we change their positions within the drawing set. ArchiCAD's Detail tool is flexible enough to allow for independent details to be linked to a marker that has been placed within the model so that the automatic location referencing functions as seamlessly as a normally placed detail. Once our DWG details are dropped within a detail window, we can use the Detail tool to reference the sheet and drawing numbers in a Detail marker that has been placed wherever needed within the model.

Link a Detail marker to the Independent Detail:

  1. Double-click the Detail tool and open the General section.
  2. Select the Marker Reference type drop-down menu and select Place Linked Marker.
  3. In the following dialog, select "The first drawing of the selected viewpoint" from the drop-down menu.
  4. Select the Independent Detail from the list of viewpoints.
  5. Place Detail markers in any model window as appropriate.
  6. The markers will automatically update if the detail is moved within the Layout Book.



Using your DWG detail library or making use of the millions of standard DWG details online is an incredibly easy process in ArchiCAD. We can apply scale and pen settings easily to the linked drawings, and save time and money by speeding the completion of our CD set. While we would ideally like to model every aspect of a building information model, our optimal workflow path often includes some 2D drafting and notation. By judiciously incorporating your existing detail library within your BIM projects, you can increase your productivity, profit, and enjoyment of the design process.

Finally, when you need to modify DWG detail that has been placed within your model, simply use the Explode command to break the link and bind the editable drawing elements into your workflow. I recommend using the Fill and Linework Consolidation commands after exploding a DWG to automatically optimize the drawing for additional editing. We'll cover these commands in an upcoming article.

About the Author: Jeff Olken

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Re: Use DWG Format Details in ArchiCAD
by: Archicademy
July 19, 2010 - 7:09am

Great tips Jeff. If you try the above you should also know about linked markers and source markers. This will allow you to reference an independent detail to a marker or even multiple markers. Its quite simple really.

Firstly you are best off saving your independent detail as a view. Then go to the detail marker settings (or any marker settings really... elevation section etc) and change source marker to linked marker. A source marker is a marker which creates a viewpoint, whether a model view such as an elevation or an exploded view like a detail. Whereas a linked marker is simply a marker which links to a viewpoint or view or drawing which has already been created, therefore allowing you cross reference a marker to an independent detail which contains an external drawing (your autocad detail / dwg) as mentioned above by Jeff.

To place a linked marker firstly go to your chosen marker settings (detail, elevation sections or IE) and within the 'general' tab > change source marker to linked marker > it will now ask you to 'define marker reference'. I believe the best option is to select 'the first placed drawing of the select view'. Now a drawing is basically a view which has been placed onto a layout. So its this option is basically saying the marker will reference to the first placed drawing of the view you are about to select. So if you drag that detail view onto layout 10 first and then drag it onto layout 6... the marker will link/reference to the drawing placed on page 10 because that was the first drawing placed of the view of the detail. Wow... quite a sentence.

All thats now left is to edit your marker settings to choose what info you want to reference the marker to. Most commonly you would select Reference ID in the first text row and layout ID in the second text row. Both with the referred drawing options select... if your using custom instead you are not getting the automation out of ArchiCAD which it has to offer.

Good luck.

Brett Wawn


Re: Use DWG Format Details in ArchiCAD
by: Archicademy
July 19, 2010 - 7:10am

Some practices moving to ArchiCAD from a 2D based system like autocad often like the benefits Jeffs Tips above has to offer. The reason is pretty simple really. If you have already drawn your details in 2D software why draw the same 2D details again in ArchiCAD. Some firms add to Jeffs tip a touch. Say you have a whole bunch of standard details in your old 2D CAD package. Rather then have one independent detail for every single detail, which could add up to a lot of independent details, you can place all your standard details into one independent detail sheet. This is not the best option in all circumstances, but great for some. Say you have a bunch of pre drawn footing details and you simply have to choose one depending on your soil class and wall type combination etc... or even two if your site has multiple soil classes or you use multiple wall types. So, what you do is have one independent detail sheet which contains all your footing options combined with your wall options laid out in a nice easy to read grid structure. So the vertical grid might = wall type and the horizontal = soil class. This independent detail also needs to be saved as a view. So if your thinking ahead you might have thought of a possible issue... if they are all placed on the same independent detail sheet and this sheet is saved as one view and I need to show two details from this view... then a linked marker will only link to one of the details. So you then have two or more markers referencing to the same drawing. So with this option you would choose to define the markers reference as the first placed drawing of the selected view... you should choose the selected drawing. Therefore each marker links to its own drawing. You must therefore place the required drawings onto a layout before linking a marker to them.

Another issue which may then arise is with the name of the drawing. As each of the drawing from the one view will link back to the view name... so simply change the drawing name to custom and type away. If I lost you in the last bit or with any of the above as its quite hard to explain without demonstrating.

Good luck.

Brett Wawn

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