Tag Archives: Beams

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.

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).

Story Setting Quick Tips


There are often times when you may need to show walls on multiple stories. Walls however are more limited in what stories they can be shown on than beams, slabs or roofs.

If for example you want to show your upper story walls on the roof plan to illustrate the outlines of the top plate from below you will need to set the exterior walls to show on All Relevant Stories. Then you will need to make those walls relevant to the roof story. To be considered relevant they need to at least touch that story, or extend through it.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 3.49.41 PM

Wall top linked to story above, Show on All Relevant Stories

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 3.53.03 PM

Walls show outline only (uncut) on story above (roof plan)


Beams have more options for what stories they will show up on. But if you need to show a beam on more than one story above or below its home story you will need to adjust the cut plane options for the plan view that needs to see those beams. An example of where this has been done is on an architectural trellis at the first floor that needed to show on the first floor, second floor, and on the roof plan, but not on the third floor. To accomplish this, set the beams of the trellis to show on home story and one story up.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 4.03.57 PM

Then in the roof plans cut plane settings from the roof plans View Settings, we set the Relative Floor Plan Range to show up to 2 Story(s) below with an offset of 0″

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 3.58.32 PM

Keep in mind that this will potentially show everything that extends beyond the roof limits from up to 2 stories below, and some things may need to be filtered off with layer settings. This should also be used sparingly and only for floor that need content from other stories that can not be applied to that view by simply changing the Floor Plan Display to show on All Relevant Stories.


Today a file had mysterious missing walls and floors after the site had been inserted and trimmed to the building. After looking into it, the operator for the site trim was a slab the height of the building.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 4.19.03 PM

There are a few words of advice I will share with everyone regarding using solid element operators:

First, and most closely related to this issue is, that if you have a building element already in place (in this case the floor slab and basement walls) that can act as the operator, use it. It is not necessary to turn an operator off once the operation has been made, it can be part of the final building model and visible in all views.

Next, an operator that is not associated with a building element and is actually on the SEO layer should be as minimum as possible. As you may remember from the post on trimming door and window casings, we used a single plane morph object as the operator. The operator should be as simple as possible to perform its function.

The last note on using solid element operators is to use operators that relate only to their targets. As an example of this, we often see rafter tails trimmed by a profiled beam or wall. A rafter tail should never be associated as a target of an operator located on the other side of the building or along another wall line. In the image below Maggie has used a single operator for all rafters along each wall face, rather than selecting all rafter tails and all SEO beams and performing a single blanket operation.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 4.39.43 PM


Recently a question about beam and roof matching has come up. For example, if you place a roof at a 4.75:12 slope, your beam would need to be 21.5953º (and that is missing a few digits) to get close to matching. In the beam settings this would round to 21.60º by default, since we are only able to place beams to a two digit precision.

To match a beam precisely to the roof slope you will need a working section through the roof showing the full length of the roof and beam in an orthogonal elevation view.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 8.14.47 AM

Start by aligning the top node of the bottom slope end of the beam with the appropriate skin or core line of the roof (this does not need to be an end node of the roof, but does need to be snapped to the roof skin separator line). Next select the top node of the top slope end of the beam and select the “modify angle” button on the pet pallet. Last move the top node to the same line as the bottom node previously aligned. Note that you will get a checkbox or solid pencil symbol next to the cursor when you are snapped to the line.

The beam settings will still show as rounding to the nearest two decimal places, but the beam will perfectly align with the roof slope no matter how close you zoom in. From here it is a simple eye-dropper and inject command to get the other beams elevations and slopes to match.

I would also like to mention one more time, this is another reason it is critical to give similar or identical items a common element ID to differentiate them from other elements. Using the find and select tool for all beams with an ID of “Typical Rafter” and a beam width of x” will allow you to quickly isolate the beams that need to be modified to match the one that now aligns with the roof.