Category Archives: Attributes

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.

Custom Surfaces for CineRender

There are quite a few resources for ready made CineRender compatible surfaces. We have 2 catalogues of surfaces in our library folders. If you want to develop a new surface from scratch, you need to duplicate an existing surface, or create a new surface from the Library Catalogs and then edit it. In this exercise, we will be duplicating our basic massing surface to create a new stone surface.


Fig 1.0 Creating New Surfaces

Once the surface has been created by duplicating a previous surface it can be manipulated and edited to include the correct image and render out properly in CineRender, ARCHICAD’s 3D window, and BIMx.


Fig 2.0 New “Duplicated” Surface

The first thing to do after creating the surface is to apply a Surface Texture. This can be an image from our Arroway texture catalog (FS01 > WW AC Library > 01 Arroway Textures), or from a custom photoshopped image. For this example, I am using an Arroway image and its corresponding bump map image (for the CineRender settings).

After the Surface Texture is applied, you can start to play with the scale, light settings, and transparency. For solid surfaces, transparency should always be set to 0. Emission Attenuation is not completely relevant, unless you are applying an Emission Color to the surface. This can be a very helpful effect if you want to alter the color of a surface, just be aware that the surface is actually emitting a color with this setting. Below are some examples of various Emission Color Settings. Note that, in order to get the surface to match the original image, the Emission Color should be black, or as dark as possible.

For this Surface, we are simply going to leave the Emission Color Black with no Attenuation. With a black Emission, you will get a solid black surface until you apply Reflection and Glowing Settings. After years of trial and error, I have found that the ideal Reflection Settings for semi-matte surfaces are:

  • Ambient = 75-85
  • Diffuse = 75-87
  • Shininess = 8-15
  • Specular Glowing = 0-12

Lastly, if you have a bump map image for the surface, make sure you check Bump Mapping under Alpha Channel Effects. This will define a bump map option in the CineRender settings when matched to the Internal Engine. A bump map image is easy to generate in photoshop with the threshold filter. Keep in mind that the lightest parts of the map are the closest, or the “bumps”; and the darker portions are the recesses.

From here, lets just switch over to the CineRender settings and match. Simply click Match Settings… and choose Update CineRender Settings (from Internal).

Match Settings_Cinerender

Fig 5.1 CineRender Settings

Match_update CineRender

Fig 5.2 Match CineRender from Internal Settings

From here, you can go to the Bump map tab, and change the image to the correct black and white bump map from the Arroway Catalogue, or one that you have created for a custom surface. The Bump Map and the main image file need to align perfectly and be saved at the same size and resolution.

You can check that they are both being aligned and resized properly in the Size tab of the CineRender Settings. You can click on the more Info “…” to the right of the line that reads Use Image Proportion:

Apply Bump_Surf Images

Fig 6.0 Surface Sizes used in CineRender Settings

You can quickly adjust and test the intensity of the bump map by doing quick “outdoor daylight” renderings of a single element or surface. With a little luck and lots of trial and error, you can come up with a surface that maps out correctly and looks good in all views and formats it will be used in!


Fig 7.0 Rendered Stone Surface


A Simple Look at Complex Profiles

Profiles are a great way to add the level of detail you need in your model; obtaining complete control over the shape, surface and appearance of Walls, Columns, and Beams. But it is important to keep in mind the shape and reference origin of each of these tools.

Profiles applied to Walls and Beams may seem to be interchangeable; or a wall may seem like the better tool simply because it is called a “wall”, or because you need an opening in addition to the complex profile. But Walls and Beams behave very differently, especially when using profiles.

First, walls do not miter, they interlace and intersect at the corners. This is obvious, even when looking at a basic composite wall.

Things get even more cluttered at the intersection when you start to look at complex profiles, especially with curving and sloping faces. The examples below are completely fabricated, but emphasize the downside to using Complex Custom Profiles on walls.

If you look closely, you will see some odd irregularities and jutting projections where the above images are intersecting with another wall at their corners. By comparison, Beams intersect cleanly (as long as they are both flat, non-sloping, and at appropriate angles).

Now I am not saying that we should use Beams instead of Walls for all complex profiles, but being aware of how each tool is placed and reacts to their attributes (Building Materials, Surfaces, Composites, Profiles), how they interact with other elements, and how they affect file performance is critical in choosing the correct tool. I have seen at least one project that poor file performance was pin pointed to overly complex profiles applied to walls.