Tag Archives: 3d Model

Interior Iterations

In this particular project, we are late in the game and need to run some options through our model, as suggested by the Interior Design Team. I could save out a .pln or duplicate the teamwork file (see the BIM Manual for pros and cons of various iteration methods), but in this case, I was able to run 3 different surface options and 2 different stone slab configurations through 3 rooms without having any impact on the documents or even the model.

Here are 3 (1-3 minute) videos on steps I took to make this as efficient and nondestructive to the model as possible.

  1.  Using Graphic Overrides to switch between surfaces:  https://youtu.be/_5A93hL7o6E
  2. Using the surface painter to reassign surfaces quickly and easily:  https://youtu.be/fhDYh7DoNaA
  3. Using the Renovation Filter to pin elements that may not be permanent to the model:  https://youtu.be/pGGZAgzIjdQ

Isolating Elements

Working efficiently in ARCHICAD boils down to isolating out only the portions of the model you need to view. Viewing the entire model at all times is inefficient and ineffective, since plans can look to cluttered, 3d can be too slow, and section and elevation views may show more content than is relevant to the work that needs to be done.

Isolating elements out is done by the following methods (and different methods may be more useful in certain views than others):

  1. By Selection
  2. By Marquee
  3. By Layers
  4. By Renovation Status (not shown in video below)
  5. By Filter and Cut in 3d Palette
  6. By Cutting Planes

The following video quickly covers most of these methods of isolating elements in plan and 3d.

3d Style

In ARCHICAD 21, we were introduced to 3d Styles; a new view setting which allows customization of the view style in ARCHICAD. With the introduction of ARCHICAD 22, there are some new 3d Style effects that customize the smoothness and efficiency of 3d navigation and views. These are settings that existing in 21, but we are starting to see an effect of model appearance in 22.

This is especially prominent in high polygon models.

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model while viewing 3d

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model while navigating (explore) 3d

In the examples above, the same model has content “disappear” when using the explore feature of a high polygon model. This is presumably a feature of AC22 to improve navigation and 3d performance.

To prevent content from vanishing, the advanced settings in the 3d styles options need to be tuned. Click the Gear icon in the 3d styles setting next to the 3d Engine fly-out.  In the Advanced > OpenGL Options, cut the frame rate to the lowest setting (1), and the display radius to the highest setting (328′-1 1/64″, for whatever reason).

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Advanced Open GL Options for ideal 3d viewing in AC22

These settings are not new to 22; in fact they are the same defaults out of the box as AC21. But the defaults need to be adjusted to work well with the changes or improvements made to AC22’s 3d processing.


Drawing Complicated Polygons

It often happens that you end up drawing a complicated polygon element with multiple different nodes independent or snapped to other elements. For example, you may be drawing a floor or ceiling plan with the slab tool, snapping to the face of framing. It usually happens that at least one node of the slab ends up snapped to an incorrect point of the wall.

In most cases, I just keep moving and come back and adjust that node after the geometry is fully placed. If it is one of the first nodes of the polygon, I have even just canceled the operation and started over.

But as is the case with ARCHICAD, there is always a better way!


To cancel the last placed node of any polygon element (Slab, Fill, Polyline, Line, Spline, Wall, Beam, Roof, Mesh, Shell and some Objects), you only need to hit the delete key once.


Typing the delete key can be repeated to cancel each previous nodes all the way back to the first placed node. Just keep in mind the minor efficiencies that need to be managed. If you end up undoing multiple nodes just to fix one node, it may be faster just to move on and adjust or hit esc and start over.

Smarter Modeling & Top Link Settings

In the wake of our office presentation on Solid Element Operations, I have been getting a lot of feed back, questions, comments and suggestions on use of SEO’s and methods of modeling without them.

I want to point out three scenarios that I came across this morning. One is SEO’s done correctly, the other are wrong. These deal specifically with walls, columns and beams and their relationship to the roof elements above.

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Wall perpendicular to roof slope trimmed to roofs with upward extrusion

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Wall parallel to roof slope, extended to ridge height and trimmed with upward extrusion

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Columns extended beyond roof plane and trimmed with upward extrusion

The basic idea here is that elements are all extended beyond the roof and then cleaned up by using SEO’s. This is wrong for several reasons:

  • First, this habit will cause more unnecessary SEO’s in the project. And we have already covered why that is problematic
  • Second, these elements can interact, intersect, create voids in elements above, such as dormer walls
  • Third, these walls do not clean up correctly with their roofs in section, wall section, details
  • Fourth, it runs a risk of saving out incorrect or inaccurate IFC or SKP files

The correct method for making these walls/columns/beams flexible to design adjustments is to set them to the correct height relative to the story above. Top link the wall, even if it is grossly below the story above, as in this case where the floor to roof height is 18′ in the story settings; so the top of wall is -9′ to story above.

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18′ floor to floor height for floor/roof stories

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Wall Top linked to Roof and set at -9′

Future Proof Your BIM Process

The WWA BIM Manual home page describes Why, What and When we model design elements in BIM in a somewhat vague and conceptual way. Understanding this concept is incredibly critical though, since designs change throughout the various phases of the process.

We can not get away with not showing elements simply because we don’t know exactly what they are. A BIM process is centered around exploring what elements are and developing them in a circular process. We can take a basic idea or concept and explore massing to detailed iterations in a very fluid way; and if done correctly, we can either start over or go to final documentation with little or no time loss.

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The perfect example of this work flow and level of detail is cabinetry. Cabinet and built-in elements are not only dependent on the phase, but also the design for the best way to model them and when to add the details.

A flush panel euro style cabinet may be best modeled using morphs from the onset. A more shaker style cabinet with overlay panels may be best suited for cabinet objects with preset doors or custom door components. An inset frameless cabinet with recessed panels may be best modeled with walls and doors.

cabinet process

designing from Custom Profile to Morph to Object(s) ensures a seamless workflow and options to “back-track” without starting over

The important thing to note is that the IDEA portion (LOD 100: Basic shape/size), should always be modeled as basically as possible. This ensures that we do not need to know what style or type the element is at first to at least represent that the idea exists. The process to final documentation should be as gradual as possible, even if we need to show higher level of detail than the current phase warrants.

In the style/process example illustrated above, a cabinet type and door style could easily be transitioned to any other design, with little extra time spent on redoing model elements.

This is also one reason that objects (GDL based elements) offer more flexibility than massing or modeling with individual elements, such as morphs, slabs, walls, beams, columns. With GDL doors or cabinets for example, the door style can be changed globally by simply overwriting or replacing the door panel on all cabinets.

To change a door panel or cabinet type on a single morph element or collection of slabs, beams and columns, significant time needs to be invested into revisiting each cabinet elevation and making individual changes to each.

Multiple BIMx Files

Today we presented two design options for a project via BIMx. In the past I would have waited for option two to load (an awkward 60 second pause), or created some clever layer option in a single BIMx file.

In my pre-meeting setup, I ran a quick test to open a second BIMx in a separate instance of the application. To do this, drag the BIMx application to your dock for each instance of ARCHICAD installed on your machine (17, 18, 19). Do not use BIMx for AC16! It is slow and glitchy or non-operational on our operating system.

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To find each BIMx application go to you mac > Applications > Graphisoft > ArchiCAD V# > Add-Ons > BIMx, and drag each individual BIMx to your dock.

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Next open each BIMx from the short cut, go to File > Open… You will then be able to open up to 3 separate instances or versions of BIMx files. In my tests, I can open a BIMx file created from AC19 in any of these versions. I have not tested this in reverse, opening a 17 or 18 file in 19; but I assume if a 19 file opens on an older version of the software it should work in reverse.

One final note, tabbing between instances of BIMx is as simple as using Com + Tab; so navigation and presentation goes seamlessly from one design option to the next. If you need more than 3 instances or versions, you will need to resort to the awkward loading/pause.

BIM Element Wants and Needs

In recent project audits and reviews I noticed a few projects that had disconnected and un-parametric elements and objects to represent very simple model elements. A toilet, for example, with a separate drafted floor plan and 3d/elevation view.

It was explained that this was done to show the manufacturers specific dimensions, shape and style in plan. Although there are ways change or override an objects plan symbol to show exactly what is perceived as necessary, this raises a much bigger question. What really is necessary in a drawing/model element? We may want a plan symbol or elevation of an element to match identically to a manufacturers drawing, but is that really necessary? I would say an exact graphic representation to a manufacturers spec is very low on the priority list for a BIM element, at least in most cases.

The Needs

So what are the priorities for a BIM element? We can assign a hierarchy of what a BIM element should represent to better understand.

  1. A BIM element needs to be parametric with a single element representing all views. Without this criteria being met before all else, the drawings are prone to redundancies and inconsistencies, and we loose almost all efficiencies of a BIM model and BIM process.
  2. A BIM element should match the overall size of the manufacturers specifications. This ensures that critical clearances and space requirements of a specific model element are met. This is overall dimensions; because a basic 3D cube with an associated plan symbol may meet criteria #1 and would be far superior to disconnected 2d plan and elevation views of an element.
  3. A BIM element should be placed in the correct location as its overall dimensions relate to the space it will be installed/built in. It should be in the correct location in plan, elevation and 3d views to show its relationship to all other model elements.

After these criteria are met, an element will be consistent in all views, it will be easily managed, maintained and edited, it will represent the correct size and represent the design intent. Anything else a model element requires is not a project need, but simply a “want” of the designer.

What does this all mean? Simply that in most cases we do not need a manufacturers specific element. Rather we need a generic element that represents the manufacturers size and the designed location of an element.

The toilet, as in the initial example, could be a basic out of the box ARCHICAD toilet that was set to the manufacturers size and placed correctly in plan. This would be enough to convey the design intent and document the building sufficiently.

The Wants

There may be some obvious additions to the hierarchy above, but rarely if ever should these take priority over the needs of a BIM element.

  1. Elements that are not part of the documentation, such as furniture or decoration used for visualization only may not require much thought towards what the plan or elevation views look like, but only need to show a quality 3d view. Elements that are placed only for BIMx or renderings would be a waste of time to build a correct plan symbol and parameters for listing into the element.
  2. Elements that require a manufacturers specific appearance to properly leverage a models visualization to make selections. Appliances and plumbing fixtures may meet this exception, but these elements should also be modeled so that their plan symbol, elevation view and 3d representation may meet the BIM element criteria above.
  3. An element that needs a higher level of accuracy to show relationships to finishes may require additional criteria, but may not ignore the top 3 criteria listed above. For example, a wall mounted faucet may need to show relationship to grout joints. So an additional element criteria would be manufacturers detailed dimensions. For this type of element all other criteria must be met; which means a custom object would need to be built or downloaded to maintain the integrity of the model.