Connecting Sea Level & Morphs

Today I have been working on translating a .dwg survey into existing conditions for neighboring buildings for a remodel. The survey locates windows for neighboring properties, giving sill height, head height, and window width only. All dimensions are relative to sea level.

To locate these windows correctly, I first set the Altitude (Sea Level) properly.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 1.04.24 PM.pngFrom here I could place temporary morph lines in plan to locate center line of windows and other building features.

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Then, in the morph element settings, I set the height relative to Sea Level, and matched the sill and head height described in the survey.

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From this point, it was just a matter of matching and stretching the windows to the morph lines in 3d or elevation.

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Quick Layers Palette

In 2018 I am revamping the WWABIM site with new quick tips. These will be short messages and tips to help improve your workflow, efficiency and general proficiency at modeling and documenting in ARCHICAD. This is the first tip of the year!

Use the quick layers palette! This palette will allow you to turn layers on/off, cycle through previous custom layer sets, and more with out the need to tediously sort through the layer settings dialog.

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Options on the quick layers palette are to hide/lock/unlock a selections layer(s), or all layers not selected, and to switch back to previous/next custom layer combinations. This allows you to turn groups of element’s layers on at once, instead of sorting through the layer lists.

I recommend using the quick layers palette as a standard to your work environment. If you want to strip palettes and tool bars out of your w/e, you can also assign a shortcut to show/hide this palette, similar to how most have a shortcut for the solid element operations palette.

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3d Lines & Drafting

Our BIM Manual has a description of what we model, when we model elements, and why we model them. The third element, the “why”, is one of the most important parts of managing a high quality model, and producing accurate and well coordinated documents from that model.

With this in mind, a lot of our project teams have been pushing the boundaries of even the most basic drafting elements. One example of this is in site models & plans, specifically property lines and setbacks. Intuitively, it makes sense to use polylines or even fills for this. Thinking outside the box however, it makes more sense to use a 3d element, such as a grid or a morph.



Using a 3d solution allows you to coordinate the property & setback lines on all (or select) stories simultaneously with fewer elements. It also allows coordination of the building in 3d. Since our final CD Site Plans are typically drafted anyway, this is largely a process and 3d solution. But using a morph does allow for boundary line type & pen control, so it can also be incorporated into the final documents.

Scheduling Doors & Windows to Zones

This has come up before, but seems to be even more difficult now that we have started migrating to ARCHICAD 21. There are some key steps to make sure that Doors and Windows schedule to zones properly.

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  1. Make sure zones are set to the face of finish of all walls
  2. Make sure zones do not overlap
  3. Zones and schedule elements need to live on the same stories. This may mean you have a zone for a room in a vaulted space for multiple stories.
  4. Doors need to be set to the “exterior” is set facing the zone. This is not the direction of the door swing, but rather the scripted interior/exterior definition of the doors. You can use the Flip command in the door/window settings to redefine interior or exterior, and rotate/mirror to re-align the door or window to the correct direction.
  5. Doors can not be more than 4′-6″ from their home story to schedule to zones correctly. Windows have more flexibility.
  6. Doors & Windows should occupy an entire wall; meaning walls should not be narrower or shorter than the doors or windows in them.
  7. Doors and Windows should be on the same renovation status as the zones they are scheduling to.

These rules should allow doors and windows to schedule to zones correctly.



Interesting Composite Glitch

This is an interesting glitch we ran into today in a migrated project (started in AC16, now in AC20). The file runs pretty well for having passed through so many versions of AC, but there is an interesting error in the composites, one that I was able to replicate to some degree even in AC21 (non-migrated file).

If a composites skin separator is set to “off”, it may appear correct in the plan view (view map or project map), but show with remnants of the skin separator in the drawing (view placed to a layout).

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In the image above, the line selected is deselected, and even though the pen is set to “21”, which is a white skin separator pen in our template, the glitch occurs.

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As you can see above, the composite shows correctly with no skin separators.

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However, once placed onto a layout, the skin separator shows in places. Some composites, depending on skin settings and line/pen types, show up.

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However, by turning the skin separator “on”, as in the image above, and setting all hidden separators to pen 21/41/61 (depending on composite type), we can achieve the desired results, as seen in the image of the placed drawing below.

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Don’t Schedule HLM Content

Often times, we document buildings and place their hot links into the same file. For smaller projects and sites with few modules, this is a quick and easy way to start with no need for attribute coordination. It is important to note, this does not work on most WWA projects, the sites tend to be too large, or have too much vegetation (polygon warning), or have too many buildings resulting in slow building/site file. Typically for these projects, we break the building and site into separate teamwork files.

But, for the cases where we do not need to model the building and site in separate files, and still want to use hotlink modules, we need to control how elements schedule. If an entire building is hotlinked into it’s own file, the content is technically duplicated. So how do we show one instance of the element in the schedules? It is one simple criteria that needs to be added to the schedule.

Set a new criteria that says Hotlinked Module is not Any Hotlink. This will restrict the schedule’s content to only elements in the primary model, and exclude any item located with in an HLM.

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File Performance – Self Audits

Projects are routinely audited, or at least reviewed on the BIM Server to maintain a reasonable quality of model performance and accuracy. There are specific areas of the audit that are responsible for file performance. Some of these audit sections are worth paying attention to because they can affect file navigation, others can impact general teamwork performance. In any case, these areas of the audit are worth periodically reviewing, even between formal audits.

The areas that need to be self audited are:

  1. The Library Manager
  2. The Library Loading Report
  3. The “Error” Report
  4. The Drawing Manager
  5. Solid Element Operations
  6. Total Model Polygons
  7. Attributes

Library Manager

The Library Manager needs to be periodically reviewed for organization. A disorganized Embedded Library is difficult to maintain, manage, and review. More than the organization, the contents of the Embedded Library are a critical element to file performance. Because the E/L is part of the file, rather than linked to the file like a BIM Server Library, it directly impacts the overall file size; even if content is not placed in the model. Ideally, .gsm content embedded in the file should be less than 10 MB and images used for surfaces should be less than 1 MB. These should be the targeted max for embedded library content. The more frequently an object or image is going to be used in the model, the smaller the file size should be.

Library Loading Report

The library loading report will appear when first opening/joining a file if there are any library issues. These issues may include missing, duplicate, or substituted library content. It may seem like this is just something to close out of and ignore, but this palette is warning that your model may be suffering from poor performance and accuracy. For more on the Library Loading Report, see this WWABIM post here.

Error Report

The report tab will come up when there is processing error in any non-plan model Viewpoint. Like the library loading report, it may be tempting to ignore this tab, but this report is a warning that your model is suffering from invalid geometries, missing attributes, or other errors that can not be resolved. If there are too many errors in the model, the result can be beach balling, slow send/receive, and slow navigation between Views. To review how to clean up Error Report content, see this WWABIM post here.

Drawing Manager

The Drawing Manager often suffers from missing content. Although missing content here may not slow a file down noticeably, the drawing manager is a good place to review externally linked content such as .dwg & .pdf files that have been dropped onto layouts. The drawing manager is a good place to review the update status of content on layouts, which can speed up layout book navigation. This is also a good management tool for tracking external content’s paths to review linked content file size. Linked drawings with large file size can slow the model significantly, and even more so if large files are embedded in the drawing manager. Always review pdf/dwg file size before embedding in the drawing manager. For more information on the Drawing Manager see WWABIM posts here and here.

Solid Element Operations

Solid element operations have been reviewed in past WWABIM posts here, here, and especially here, as well as in a previous internal DD L&L. In running self audits, any element with more than 100 connections should be reviewed, with any unnecessary targets, operators, or other connections removed.

Total Model Polygons

The most important aspect of a model’s performance is often the number of visible polygons. But even if layer and view settings are carefully managed and reviewed, you may run into situations where the entire model needs to be viewed, or may be accidentally viewed. If there are too many polygons in the model, this may result in an slow file performance, beach balling, file or computer freeze up, or even a file crash. With our current hardware, we should be aiming for no more than 5,000,000 polygons for a standard file.

It may not always be a clear line, since the source of polygons as important a role in file performance as the total polygons. For example, in some basic tests and overall experience, 60,000 polygons from a single mesh can perform worse than 1,000,000 polygons from objects. Also, 3,000,000 polygons from a single library part (object tool) placed several times will perform significantly worse than 3,000,000 polygons from 50 different library parts. In general objects contribute to the most polygons, but GDL also handles polygons significantly better than other tools. Overly complex mesh elements and excessive use of morphs can be a bigger performance issue to a file than objects.


Attributes can have a huge impact on file performance, as well as document and output file sizes. A large, complex, custom cut or drafting fill can result in an incredibly large pdf or dwg file; in some cases so much so that the files can not be emailed or, in many cases, even printed/plotted. Additionally, custom profiles can result in poor model performance if not properly applied to the model. Profiles applied to walls should be used sparingly, as the intersection between walls results in excessive polygons and slow model performance. Custom profiles are better applied to beams, instead of walls.

The last part of attributes that should be self audited is the naming and file size of the attributes. If surfaces are using large images, it can slow the file down (see Library Manager above). Beyond the image size, the image naming of surfaces is critical to BIMx output. See the WWABIM article here and here for more information on BIMx surface errors.