Category Archives: Custom Profile

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.

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.

Slatted & Screened Walls

Todays post is inspired by some creative modeling by Maggie! Unfortunately her project was redesigned before I could get a screen shot of how she used a fence object to model slatted walls, but it got me thinking of other ways to model repetitious elements, other than dragging & managing multiple copies of columns, beams, etc.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 4.10.15 PMThe image above is of three slatted elements modeled with three separate tools. The left-most slats are morph elements boolean-ed into a single morph object. These have the advantage of easily extending both vertically and horizontally as a single element. The morph element can also be reoriented to a horizontal or even diagonal element with a single rotation. The profiles need to be simple and consistent or managing the element could be tedious and inaccurate.

The center slats are a complex profile with repeating shapes applied to a column. Advantages for this method are the ability to slope the column, change the shape, size & spacing of the boards with a quick redraft of the custom profile and easy extension of the height and width. The profiles can be more complex than the morph element.

The right-most slats are a fence object. This object has an advantage of being the easiest to change the element width, board spacing and size with no redrafting or manual object editing. Its disadvantages are that the boards must be oriented vertically or horizontally and can only be square or round profiles depending on the fence element used. The plan symbol for these objects can also be limited, which may be the most discouraging factor for this option.

All three options are a cleaner and more manageable solution to separate columns individually placed and coordinated.

Wall Intersection + Column + Custom Profile

Sometimes no amount of building material priorities, wall junction priorities and creative composites will yield the plan view you are aiming for. For example, this is a wall relationship with cluttered cores and finish skins applied to 4 different composites:Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 1.32.04 PMThis can quickly be cleaned up by creating a new custom profile. Copy the walls in the plan view and paste into the custom profile window. Delete all lines, crop to the minimum effective dimensions, consolidate fills, and adjust fill border pens to match the composites. Store the profile for future editing.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 1.31.47 PMThe result is a clean plan symbol, which matches all building materials and surfaces already applied to the model:Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 1.34.54 PM

Rotating Beams Without Stored Custom Profiles

It is possible to have a beam rotated to a specific angle without the use of a stored custom profile! If the beam is a simple square shape, but at a 30º angle, you do not need to create a rotated complex profile. Just select the Structure: Complex Profile button and leave the profile selection as Custom. You can then set the rotation angle.Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.39.07 PM

For a square beam, the pet palette options for a top/end node are limited to resizing or moving:
Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.39.37 PM

For a Custom Complex Profile beam the options are to stretch, rotate or move. Rotation can also be set using the pet palette in section view for precise matching to other sloped elements.Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.39.57 PM

There are a few editing issues with this method; not all editing is obvious. Resizing can not be done in the model/section/plan views via the pet palette. To resize the beam open the selection settings and manually type the new size. Since custom profile building material and surface settings are stored in the profile manager you will not have the option to change these settings for a rotated beam. To apply a new surface or building material, switch the beam back to a square profile, make the building material/surface changes, and change back to a custom profile (the rotation, size and position will be retained from the previous setting).