Complex Profile Siding in ArchiCAD

If you look at any of the exterior model images I’ve shared over the past few years, you might have noticed the siding. It’s most obvious in the projects with lap siding, but even the more modernist boxes I’ve worked on are covered in some sort of fully modeled exterior cladding. Have you ever wondered how I do that? I’ve tangentially mentioned using Complex Profiles to create my siding (and I’ve shared it in many user groups), but I’ve never formally discussed it either here on or over on Graphisoft North America’s blog. Well let’s fix that.

Complex Profile Siding in ArchiCAD

To drive home the point of constructing the building as a plywood box and then adding finishes on top, here’s the same model from the video but broken down into shell only, exterior finishes only, and then the complete model. 

When I’m first modeling, I ignore exterior finishes. Instead I focus on massing, spaces, structure, and opening locations. You’ll notice that I also do the roof finish surface as separate elements (even when it’s just a simple asphalt shingle).

When it’s time to skin the building, it’s a ton of fun to watch the facades appear. As with most projects, one you understand the cladding and trim system, the exterior evolves and appears VERY quickly.

The finished model looks awesome, probably about 20% cooler than doing it another way. Furthermore, working this way helps me understand the various facets of the building. When adding cladding after the shell, it becomes quite clear where the transitions between hidden materials are and where issues might arise. When covering a plywood and concrete box with stucco or lap siding in this manner, you become aware that the exterior finish doesn’t connect in the same way to everything it covers.

I love that this process better mimics how the real building will eventually go together. Like the guys building it in the field, I come across the same areas that need to get built out or cause conflicts. In other words, this process aids BIM.

What did I forget?

For siding like stucco, I create a short complex profile then set a vertical stretch—allowing the placed elements (typically walls) to stretch from the minimum required height to the maximum (remember with Complex Profiles you can stretch bigger, but not smaller). The details of the Complex Profile are a bit specific to my template, but we can cover that more in a future video, if that interests people.

For siding that is not monolithic, like lap siding or some other finish with a repeating pattern, I make the Complex Profile the full height. If there are any trim bands that are continuous, I often include those as part of the primary Complex Profile as well.

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