Reinventing the Wheel
Let’s face it. We love it. We reinvent every chance we get hoping to make things better. Without it our lives would be pretty boring, Does this mean however we need to re-invent everything? More specifically, do we need to reinvent our interaction with ArchiCAD for every project?
In our careers so far, each of us at [mac interact] have worked with and for offices that to various degrees worked with templates—mostly their own homegrown flavor, adjusted and improved by generations of staff. Some offices didn’t have an ArchiCAD Template at all and didn’t see the need for one—why would you want to be restricted by one anyway?
When it Matters
Truth is if you have a small office with just a few staff you can afford to be slightly less organized. After all, you communicate with each other and you will most likely remember how things were done. Once your office grows and multiple projects start running at the same time, or once projects require whole
teams, with most likely various levels of experience, being unorganized is no longer an option.
This is where a well set up ArchiCAD Template and structure acts like a set of warm and fluffy handcuffs, giving direction and ultimately peace of mind. You don’t have to worry about every team member doing their own thing; spreading work across many Layers; spending time making up and going through millions of settings for every single window; using 2mm line weights because it looks good on screen… you get the point. Instead you can spend your working hours creating architecture. It sounds ridiculously logical and yet it is hard to convince people to spend time and/or money on it before a project starts.
Times Have Changed
I remember how easy it used to be when all you needed was a pen, a piece of paper and an eraser to draw your project. ArchiCAD is a fairly complex piece of BIM software compared not only to how it used to be, but also compared to the competition. It has many tools with many settings in many different locations and many Attributes have an effect on each other in some way that isn’t always apparent to a less experienced user. This means you need a very good understanding of how the software works to set up an ArchiCAD Template that functions well and gets you the most out of it.
Improv Artist vs The Soup Nazi
How far should you go in setting up an ArchiCAD Template? Do you need to set up Complex Profiles for every single possibility? All the Layers you can think of, just in case? Which national or international standards should you follow? Which parts can you automate? Which Pen Sets do you need? The real question is how much should you define to facilitate project specific settings and how much just to make interaction with ArchiCAD easier.
The conclusion we came to at [mac interact] is that international standards should be followed where they make sense. For example Omniclass already figured out a system for Zone naming—no need to come up with your own system as your clients most likely will require Room Data Sheets based on the same system anyway. The same goes for Layers, which for our template we have organized around the Australian NATSPEC standard. The benefit of integrating these predefined systems is that they are mostly well thought through, already documented and most importantly you don’t need to include all possibilities in your template. Instead there is a system that when new Layers, Zone Categories, etc. need to be added they can be created and will slot right into the relevant section.
This can include standardizing the Work Environment across all your computers so that the interface is familiar to anyone in the office, or maybe setting up Favorites for your most used tools and objects.
Composites tend to vary per project and in our experience typically benefit from a looser setup where you predefine some possible combinations, but leave it up to the project architect to set up the ones that are actually needed. This avoids a giant list of items you don’t need and don’t want to use by mistake.
These are just a few examples of how you can approach an ArchiCAD Template and obviously there is a lot more to think about (automation, Publisher sets and settings, markers, revisions, …). What is important to remember is that a template should serve to make your life as easy as possible by streamlining workflows and decreasing the chances for errors.
That said a template will never be a miracle drug for people who haven’t been taught how to use the software in the first place. Together though you will spend less time drawing, feel less restricted by the software and have more time to do architecture.