Building Design

Object Intelligence Makes for Smarter Designs

14 Jul, 2004 By: Ákos Pfemeter

Now you can incorporate parts that pack a wealth of building data

In this ArchiCAD Insights column, I'll introduce you to ArchiCAD's object information model and its benefits. The object information model contains all the information necessary to completely describe building components, similar to how the building information model contains all the data about a building model. Currently, tens of thousands of intelligent objects are available to and in use by ArchiCAD users around the world.

GDL Makes It Possible
ArchiCAD's object information model is based on GDL (geometric description language) technology. GDL objects contain the information necessary for text specifications, 2D symbols, and 3D models, while requiring very little computer memory. GDL's parametric nature is what makes the biggest difference. Building objects and components are rich in variations such as size, color, material, and options that GDL can describe and define. The user can edit variables to change the look and behavior of the product. Objects can also store manufacturer data, making product-specific information available to designers, facilities managers, interior designers, and other professionals who need it. GDL's many benefits include:

  • Flexibility and control. GDL objects function in both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems and are able to export product data in common CAD file formats, including DXF and DWG and the emerging industry standard, IFC.
  • Integration with building design. Selecting building components during the design phase benefits the designer, who can design using real-life objects, and the component manufacturers, who can market their products earlier in the design cycle.
  • Cost savings. GDL is an open standard and easy to learn and use, so development and maintenance costs are low. Additionally, data conversion is automatic, so you don't need to recreate information in different formats such as DXF and DWG.

GDL-Based Product Catalogs
BIM (building information modeling) is fast becoming the mainstream design and documentation tool for architectural practices worldwide. Organizations are phasing out traditional drafting-based systems in favor of BIM-based solutions that allow architects and designers to create rather than draw, build rather than draft. A byproduct of this design process is a rich building information database, including measurements, materials, and component specifications. The new technology ensures integrity across disciplines and applications as this building design data is later used in the management and operation phase of the building's lifecycle.

Products from specific manufacturers are also a part of the robust database of information that a BIM-based solution can house. Catalogs of objects, from windows to glass, are available online (figure 1). You can view the catalogs online and insert the objects into your design directly from the Web page.

Figure 1. Online catalogs include product specifications and show how the products will appear in your models.

Follow these steps to bring an object into ArchiCAD:

  • Click on an element while holding down the Ctrl key.
  • Drag the object into ArchiCAD's floor plan view or 3D view.

The system automatically downloads the element.
Like all elements in ArchiCAD's virtual building model, you can view these objects -- in this case, the window -- in two and three dimensions. As shown in figure 1, you can see precisely in the Web browser how the window will appear in your models. Furthermore, you can use the online catalog to confirm the window's availability. This combination of capabilities lets you accurately demonstrate to your clients the look and feel of manufacturers' materials in the building design, as well as assure them about costs and product availability.

By bringing the window into ArchiCAD, you can immediately view and present how that object will look in the actual building (figure 2). And, when you change the elements surrounding the window, the window changes accordingly, for example. Furthermore, the object takes on ArchiCAD's parametric abilities, so the system reflects it throughout all plans, schedules, and views. And manufacturers will document objects in the design schedules. For example, the window will appear in the schedule as Andersen Window with the precise style and specifications.

Figure 2. This ArchiCAD floor plan and 3D view show GDL-based objects in place.

Track History and Update Objects
Once you select objects to use in a design, Download Manager lets you check the status of the download process of those objects from their various Web catalogs (figure 3).

Figure 3: ArchiCAD's Download Manager lets you check the download status of objects you've selected for your design.

You can update objects from the Web and the Library Manager (figure 4). The Library Manager lets you select which objects to update within your design set. An object's path and preview are available on the Web Objects Tab page. The system displays various sources of objects in a list, so you can easily select and update objects from the Web source. Using these tools, you can easily track the objects, their history, and download status.

Figure 4. Use the Library Manager to update objects.

In summary, GDL objects provide direct access to manufacturers' data, which enables architects to better comply with clients' requests. Parametric objects are available from the Web, ensuring easy integration into the Virtual Building Model. Once there, they can be adjusted according to the intent of the architect and building owner. This functionality supports the complete object lifecycle, from schematic design to specification, and helps architects speed documentation processes while ensuring customer satisfaction.

About the Author: Ákos Pfemeter

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