Building Design

4D: Linking Building Elements to Time

15 Aug, 2004 By: Kurt Ameringer

ArchiCAD tools let you simulate construction so you can find and prevent mistakes before they happen.

Graphisoft's Construction Simulation tools allow architects to simulate the building process using ArchiCAD's 3D model by associating time to construction elements in a task list. You can create this task list within ArchiCAD or import it directly from Microsoft Project.

This feature empowers architects and design-build professionals to visually coordinate materials delivery at a construction site. For example, you can use the Virtual Building model to schedule when your steel materials are delivered at the same time you are digging trenches for gas lines. Because a possible conflict exists with the amount of space you have for storing your materials, with the Virtual Building model you can avoid these conflicts and their associated costs.

Because the Virtual Building model facilitates clear views of the building itself as well as construction documentation architects can work alongside contractors during the build process. They can use the Virtual Building model to provide contractors with a different perspective of the building information, eliminating confusion from traditional documentation. As a result of the collaboration, building professionals can more easily monitor, schedule, and control money expenses. These benefits will continue to increase in importance as architects and design-build professionals strive for greater responsibility and impact in the complete building process.

Creating a Construction Simulation

Figure 1. The Construction Simulation dialog box is the starting point for creating a construction schedule.
To create a construction simulation, follow these steps:
  • Begin by opening a project file. From the Calculate menu, select Construction Simulation.
  • The first selection, Show Task List, opens the Construction Simulation dialog box, where you begin to create a construction schedule (figure 1).
  • Click the New Task button to create a new construction schedule entry (figure 2).
Figure 2. Creating a new construction schedule entry.

Under the Type field, you can assign a command to the task. For creating a simulation, ArchiCAD recognizes the following commands:

Build. Elements associated with this command don't exist when the simulation starts. They are constructed during the task, then remain throughout the process.

Demolish. These elements are present on the site when simulation starts. They are removed during the task.

Restore. Elements are present both at the start and the end of the task. Work is performed on or around them during the task.

Freeze. Frozen elements are present both at the start and end of the task, but no work is performed on them.

Temporary. These elements are not present when simulation starts and are removed at the end of the task.

Once you fully populate the task list, you can start linking ArchiCAD elements to the items in the task list.

  • Go to the Floor Plan window and begin selecting the elements to schedule. In the Construction Simulation dialog box, select the task to link to the elements and click the Link button on the right (figure 3).
Figure 3. Linking building elements to their associated tasks.

Link. Assign a task to selected floor plan elements.

Unlink. Delete the link between the selected task and the floor plan elements to which it has been assigned.

Show Linked Tasks. Highlight the names of the task(s) assigned to the element selected on the floor plan. Note: When you select a highlighted task in the list, the button's name changes to Unmark Task.

Select Linked Items. Select the elements on the floor plan to assign to the highlighted task. Select Unlinked Items selects all elements on the floor plan that are not yet linked to any task.

New Task. Add new tasks to the list.

Delete Task. Remove the highlighted task from the list.

Once you complete the task list and link the elements, you can simulate the construction process using the controls at the bottom of the Construction Simulation window (figure 4).

Figure 4. Initiating the construction simulation process.

The Current Date field lets you select a date to show the state of the building at that point in time. The Show Built button shows elements in their current state. It also moves all elements for which construction has not yet started to a hidden layer called CS Hidden Layer. These elements won't appear in either ArchiCAD window until you choose to show them again. Clicking the Show All button reverses all element display to normal. It also moves the elements hidden by the Show Built button back to their original layers.

Using Construction Simulation with Cost Estimation

Figure 5. The Construction Simulation menu is the starting point for animating your construction simulation.
Using the Virtual Building model, architects can leverage scheduling tools to display and calculate different portions of a building for any given date during the construction process. This shows precisely how much investment is available at that particular construction milestone.

Using Construction Simulation for Animations
Animations can visually show the sequence of elements in a project, from any number of perspectives, at any time during any phase of construction. The last item on the Construction Simulation hierarchical menu lets you create an animation of the simulated construction process (figure 5). Select the menu item to display the Animation dialog box (figure 6).

Figure 6. The Animation dialog box.

In the upper left corner of the dialog box, you can define a Construction Start Date and a Construction Finish Date for the simulation. Below that, you can define the interval by the number of days. The Number of Frames field is grayed, because it uses the current setting of the Create Fly-Through command found under the Image pull-down menu.

At the lower left, you can choose to use the current view to create a still animation or an existing camera path for creating the fly-through animation. You can also set the quality of the rendering by selecting To Build from the 3D window or use the Photo Rendering Window settings. Note: If you choose the current view, check your settings in the Image/3D Projection Settings dialog box to make sure a perspective view is set up.

On the right, you can save the movie in QuickTime or AVI format and define additional information such as a caption and custom text.

After defining these fields, click Save. Here you can define the location for the animation file.

Ultimately, associating time with elements in ArchiCAD using the Construction Schedule gives the building designer greater control. By making sure practices are streamlined and efficient, you'll complete projects on time and within budget -- leading to greater client satisfaction and reduced on-site errors.

About the Author: Kurt Ameringer

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