Category Archives: Attributes

Avoid Library Pollution

We have gone through waves of library pollution, and it seems like one is washing over our projects again. So it’s time for a refresher on what this pollution is, the cause, how to avoid this pollution, and how to clean it up. It is important for all ARCHICAD users at WWA to read this post carefully to avoid this issue running through all our projects again.

What is the pollution and what causes it?

The pollution is a infiltration of unwanted attributes into a project. These attributes include Surfaces, Fills, and Line Types. The pollution is disruptive to our workflow because it pushes attributes out of sequence, creates massive gaps in attribute numbering, and gives us an annoyingly long list of attributes to dig through when working in ARCHICAD. As an example of the damage this issue can cause, here is a quick glance at some of the surfaces that came in from one instance of polluted library parts:

A-WWA Polluted.png

As you can imagine, sifting through that list of surfaces can be really annoying, even if it drops most of these surfaces at the end of the list. But as I mentioned, this also has an impact on fill types and line types.

So what is the trigger? It is caused by an infiltration of objects called Master_GDL.gdl into one or more of the libraries. Typically it is seen in the embedded library. This infiltration happens any time an infected file is copied from, and pasted into a clean file. So opening an old file and copying anything and pasting into your project will bring in these polluted attributes.

How can this pollution be avoided?

It is fairly simple to avoid the issue. If you need to bring anything in from another project, check the libraries and attributes first. If the file has any of the polluted surfaces (typically these are italicized and have names like Topas, Innivik, HAG, etc), do NOT copy from that file. You can either clean the file before copying from it (see below), or sandbox the content and clean it up before pasting, or redraw/model the content completely from scratch. It is important to note that no content is “safe” to copy/paste if the file is polluted. A single line/fill/text/label/wall/slab/etc copied out will drag the Master_GDL.gdl part with it.

How can the pollution be cleaned up?

If the pollution occurs anyway, it needs be cleaned up before it starts to impact productivity, and certainly before new attributes are generated. For the most part, the clean up is simple. Open the Library Manager (File > Library Manager), track down any folder/subfolder containing a file with the name (or name similar to) Master_GDL.gdl. This can almost always be tracked to a folder called “From 201101”.C-WWA Library.png

Once these files and folders are purged, open the attribute manager and delete any polluted attributes. It is usually easiest to sort the surfaces by name, as the polluted attributes almost always show after the default surfaces due to naming convention. But any attribute that stands out as out of place should be deleted. The offending attributes are usually italicized and have very odd seeming names. These can just be deleted, rather than delete + replace, since they shouldn’t be used anyway.

B-WWA Polluted.png

If a file uses hotlink modules, this can be a little more complicated. Because hotlinks have their own Embedded Library folder that can not be edited in a host library, there is a different process. The host file needs to be cleared of all modules. I recommend marking module locations with polylines, fills, and/or hotspots before deleting. After the modules are removed, verify that the module libraries are gone, and there are no additional offending Master_GDL parts in any other libraries. Then clean up the attributes.

Next, open all module source files, and run the clean up there; purging libraries and attributes. I also recommend running an attribute match again after all files are clean. Once all files are clean, new modules need to be saved. Do not save over the top of old modules. It is best to create a completely new and clean module.

Lastly, open the host (site) file again, and replace and relocate all modules. Obviously, this issue is compounded even more with projects using nested modules.

Other considerations

Because the Master_GDL objects are so infectious, it is important to stay on top of keeping these things clean. They really are like a disease. We had all current projects clean, but they are rearing their heads again. It is important to be aware of consequences when copying/pasting from one file to another. No two projects have identical attributes, so any copy/paste is likely to bring attributes. If the file is polluted, it will bring in attributes not even used by the copied content.


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).

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.29.07 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.29.21 PM

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

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.29.33 PM

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

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.29.52 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 6.31.30 PM

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.

Multiple Files & Attribute Matching

Attribute management between files for a single project is critical. If attribute numbers do not match from a building file to a site file, or between multiple building files of a single project, the Hotlink Modules will not appear correct. Surfaces of a module may show incorrectly, or be missing, custom profile beams/columns/walls can become reassigned to a new shape, and composites can switch to a different width if not properly matched.

It is important to note, the attribute number is how attributes are assigned to elements. For example, if your building file has attribute #10 as a stone, but the site file has attribute #10 as a wood, the buildings file will show correctly as stone, but when the building is saved to a .mod and placed to the site, all stone will switch to wood. If attribute #10 doesn’t exist in the site file, the stone will show as a purple & black checkered pattern, indicating the surface is missing.

Attribute Matching

To prevent these errors we have introduced an Attributes file into our workflow for each multi-file project. All attributes (Fills, Line Types, Composites, Custom Profiles, and especially Surfaces) will be generated in this central Attributes teamwork file, then using the Attribute Manager will be matched to all other files for that project on the BIM Server. This does mean a little more management up front, and involves a couple extra steps in managing the project. But the results are a lot less headache on the back end when publishing BIMx, or linking Views from a Site File to the Layout Book of the Buildings File. This is especially critical where projects get so large they require multiple building files, or even multiple site files; which is becoming increasingly commonplace.

Please note, the use of a dedicated Attributes file is not an option or choice to be used (or not) by each team. This is the standard we are using to manage attributes between files at WWA, and a dedicated attribute file has been created in your BIM Server folder if your project program requires one. A little extra time to do this right will ensure we do not need to stop and do things over when our BIMx, PDF and DWG files don’t show correctly due to poor attribute management.

Please watch for an update to our BIM Manual for instructions on how to properly use the dedicated Attribute file.

Gradient Fills!

Dan has done something interesting with his exterior elevations. The elevations are too long for the layout. Typically we have a break line/match line for buildings like this. The break line on this project has one added unique feature.


Full Elevation with Break

the elevation beyond the break line has an added fill, using a gradient fill instead of a basic white masking fill.


Selected Gradient Fill

This gives the elevation a gradual “disappearing” at the break line.


Enlarged Gradient Fill

Roof Wall Connections

I feel like I have written this all somewhere before, but it begs repeating. Roof wall connections can be tricky, and solid element operations are not always the answer. In this example, we have an eave bearing wall running perpendicular to the roof slope.

The original model was built using SEO’s. This created a section error, showing the ceiling finish running through the wall structure:


Also, notice the selected wall is taller than it should be, running above the roof plan. This wall height should be modeled to stop at the highest intersection of the bottom of the roof core. Then the roof and wall, while both selected, can be cleaned up with the Merge function (Design > Connect > Merge, or Right Click > Connect > Merge).


The result is a properly cleaned up section view!

Graphic Overrides!

Almost all projects have been migrated to AC20 now, and we have just run into the first “special case” for the new Graphic Override feature. Since we use 3d Documents for Reflected Ceiling Plans, we don’t have the advantage of full control over the door or window graphics or even appearance; they show as their literal cut regardless of door settings or Model View Options. In this case, we simply wanted to hide a couple of doors in the RCP; the folding doors on the right side of the image below:


To do this, we just took the Graphic Override for RCP’s and added a new Graphic Override Rule (Hide Doors):


This rule simply has a criteria that requires the override to apply to Doors 224 & 235 in this project. Then the Override Style is set to override all Lines to Pen 91, Fills to Empty Fill with Pen 91 for Foreground Pen 0 for Background.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-2-11-22-pm

The result is exactly what we wanted to see; doors are there, but not visible in the documents:


It is important to note that this solution does not resolve the Pen and Fill issues we see with saving DWG files; and further exploration is needed to find a solution for exporting DWG files without these doors showing up on our consultants plans.