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Auditing your ArchiCAD Model using Building Materials and Surfaces

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Preface – Building Materials the Super Attribute

The introduction of Building Materials in ArchiCAD 17 is a significant shift forward in providing opportunities for building on the “Information” component of BIM. If you use Building Materials (BMat) well you will find that due to the number of embedded attributes they can act as Favorites for you.

archicad 16 attributes

In ArchiCAD 16 a model element had two attributes linked to it, Cut Fill and Surface.

archicad 17 attributes

 

In ArchiCAD 17 with Building Material all attributes are managed at the Building Material level. This enables a user when modeling to select a BMat and all of the desired attributes are embedded, which removes the need to manage huge Favorite lists. Settings enable the user to override Surfaces for greater flexibility.

Model Auditing – Prior to ArchiCAD 17

A few years ago I was asked by one of my fellow Associates to provide a solution to enable users to determine whether a model element was resolved or not. At the time the solution was to use a specific Pen for elements that were Sketch Design elements and as the user updated the model to reflect specified construction they were changed to our standard Documentation Pens. It was a workflow that many users didn’t enjoy using and found frustrating as it was purely seen as a visual thing and we didn’t embrace any other features in ArchiCAD to Audit the status.

Building your Template with Building Materials

With the introduction of Building Materials in AC17 it opened many different opportunities. In contradiction to Jared’s previous posts (here and here) about reducing the number of BMat your template, I have looked at in a different way. I see BMat as the backbone of the “Information” component for each element. Our Attribute Template has 996 BMat in it: each set up with a code and short description, each representing a product that will live in our Base Specification. Surfaces are used to represent Finishes of the BMat and also have been named using a code and short description.

Where are the Concept Building Materials for LOD100

The one thing that is missing from the “Out of the Box” ArchiCAD templates is a Building Material for “Sketch Design.” What BMat do you use for an element that you haven’t totally resolved? For this reason we have created an ARCH_SD BMat that all elements in Concept Design are modeled with. The base FTA BMat list appears as follows, with the other 992 BMat in a separate file for Attribute import.

Building MaterialsSurfaces are handled the same way. We have a number of Surfaces for the Concept Design Phase. The other Surfaces are in a separate file for Attribute Import.

There are great advantages in only loading Generic Information into your base template. It keeps a light file with Attributes that are easy to navigate through; it forces the user to make a decision about the BMat and Surface before modeling; and as a process it opens the door for Auditing your model to determine what is resolved and what isn’t through the Interactive Scheduler and Building Materials.

Auditing your Model using Building Materials and Surfaces

Moving forward from our previous Auditing process, which was significantly flawed, we investigated how the Interactive Scheduler and its scheduling capabilities could interrogate our model to determine how resolved it was based on the model being upgraded from Generic to Specific. Below are the settings we use to generate one of our Auditing Tools. It looks specifically at Building Materials, Layer and Tool used. This enables us to check not only the status of BMat but also whether elements have been modelled on the right layer and using the right tool to achieve other information outputs that we require.

Scheme SettingsThis is the resulting Interactive Schedule that is created from our test file.

Schedule ExampleFrom this you can see the number of BMat that are still not resolved (BMat set to ARCH – SD) and the number of elements that are resolved (BMat containing code and short description). We use Surfaces for our Finish Specification of our Building Materials and we also have this Interactive Schedule (a partial view is below) that enables us to review the Modeled Surfaces.

Schedule Example 2Checking through the Interactive Schedule is quick and easy and relies on you modeling your building. Anything that is not modeled will not be picked by the schedule, and if it is not modeled it will not appear in any of our documents. This rigor is what is required when sending IFC files to 3rd parties that rely on the information and geometry to be there and accurate.

Other gains from Product Specific Building Materials

If all you were going to get were some Auditing capabilities from this strict Building Material and Surface Naming then it would be a complete waste of time. The other automated outputs we are achieving are:

  • No text on our drawings. Every piece of user-entered text on a drawing is an opportunity for conflict. We have created a suite of labels that draw on the Building Material, Surface and other Geometric Data from an element so it is always coordinated.
  • Drawing Legends. Interactive Schedules are used to list Building Material and Surface using particular constraints depending on the drawing. Legends will match what has been modeled.
  • Schedules are exported for the Specification writer to compile their specification based on what is in the model. We are aiming in the future to link this to a database and have full Specifications created automatically.

Build a Development Road Map

The ability to audit my model is a small piece of a large puzzle that has become my ArchiCAD 17 template. It covers as many bases as it can as I thought like an Architect and approached it like I was designing a building. Asking myself what are the constraints and how do people use it to achieve their deliverables. It will have stages and will have to adapt with every new ArchiCAD release similar to adapting to climate. My suggestion is for everyone to question the way they do things and find ways to do it better, create a list of problems and think of ways to address them. I am milking Building Materials for everything they are worth and they can only get better.

Graphisoft has a Road Map, so should you.

Jared’s note: If you enjoyed this post, let me and Nathan know via comments, likes, tweets, sharing, etc. I want more posts like this from Nathan and I hope you do to. Your responses will help me convince (pressure?) Nathan to share more.

Comments

  • January 23, 2014
    reply

    Eduardo

    D*mn, restarting the template process again.

    • January 23, 2014
      reply

      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Eduardo first rule if starting again, big lesson learnt from me is remember the attribute hierarchy. Resolve all you fills first that you need then surfaces then BM this way you won’t end up with an attribute mess.

  • January 23, 2014
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    I work “more or less” the same way Nathan does. For most people having 900 BMats are way too much and tend to confuse and complicate workflows. I only find this true when it is wrongly done. In order to master a building (whatever that could be) you got to have a real base for what you could produce in terms of BIM data and BMats are just an example!
    As Nathan mentioned, coding and naming are the key to succeed in huge databases for BIM templates, the real backbone of our daily work using these tools. You can turn 900 BMats into 10-12 groups just with smart coding. At a first glance you might get the impression that someone lost its mind and you will get lost too. But as you work on, it gets quite simple and productive. People using few data inside templates are not wrong, they just did not felt the need to push it. They did what was necessary looking at a small/medium size building, a specifical timeline and budget. The real challenge is to make a template from an XL project work on a new small building. When you do this, you feel the “less is more” concept in a way that you won’t get back with it… 🙂
    So make it complex but keep it simple!
    Thank you Nathan!

    • January 23, 2014
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      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Joao the reason for the number comes back to attribute management. Each code set is based on specification trade section so codes of materials match on all documents so currently everything is broken down into 25 trade sections. Key to this is not to have all the attributes in your template as users will kill you having to scroll through the large number of attributes. I was losing it when I created it so I maintain a separate attribute template where users override BM and Surfaces as they make decisions.

  • January 23, 2014
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    That article was a great example for a newbie BIM Coordinator like me to see how you pros are doing things as we try to inch our way along beyond lonely little bim. It is super insightful to see how others handle some of these issues. Onward and upward!

    • January 23, 2014
      reply

      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Brian, I might let a few more out of the box for you over the next few months. Glad it was helpful. Nathan

  • January 24, 2014
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    Tim

    Hi Nathan
    I have reached similar conclusions to you about the best way to use materials and have completely rewritten the Archicad standard to suit the way we work. As well as the sketch design materials you mention, we have also included materials for “as existing because” a lot of our work relates to existing buildings.

    I am currently thinking about changing the whole lot again, along with layers, etc, to fit Uniclass 2!

    • February 4, 2014
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      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Tim,

      I would suggest that you read some of the posts from Rob Jackson regarding IFC and Data, his post regarding Information output for IFC hits the nail on the head.

      See here – http://bimblog.bondbryan.com/#!

      In the image above you will see we also have BMat’s for Existing, Existing Smoke and Existing Fire so staff have a visual on the different Smoke and Fire Compartments and know that they are penetrating a fire rated element.

      It would be great if you could get visual feedback in the model if you select certain IFC parameters but it isn’t there yet, and I don’t know when it will be there in the future.

      Good Luck with the rebuild.

      Nathan

  • January 24, 2014
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    Jason Smith

    Nathan

    I only have 105 Building Materials in my template. But have already started to add more. I am interested to see more of your list. I original thought I had every material that we would use in our office. But there a extra variations of some materials types. If we take Concrete as an example; there is insitu unreinforced, insitu reinforced, precast beam, slab, beam, column, Post tensioned. I made these types because of the junctions I would want to see, i.e. precast wall to insitu slab junction. Scheduling of these can be done very easily. You could take these BM’s further and add the type of finish as part of the BM i.e. precast concrete with a clear sealer or paint finish. Is this kind of what you have done?

    Concept BM’s
    Nice option, for the scale and type of projects we do you can make jump to deciding on the material at the concept model.

    Auditing the model, I really need to get into this. Thanks for the push. The most difficult thing I find with making templates is getting everybody to use them in the way you had intended them to be used. That does of course open new ways of looking at the template.

    Finishes schedule, does the schedule list the finishes for each wall surface for each Zone? The Zone stamp we use allows for manual selection of wall finish, floor and ceiling. But I want to be able to do this automatically. As we all know not every room as 1 wall finish.

    You think you have it right, then a post like this comes along to open your mind. Thanks Nathan.

    • January 24, 2014
      reply

      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Jason,

      The main reason we have so many BM is due to Attribute Management issues. We are still populating the list with products as we continue to put projects through the new template. By having these Attributes in place the index numbering will be consistent across all projects. This is really important on projects where we have multiple files referencing into one another. If indexing wasn’t a problem we would just use the list in Excel that we created prior to implementing into the template. All practices are different and with what we have in place is to cover 90% of the selections for all of our projects and about 5% spare capacity in the codes for project specific selections. I am going to write another post this weekend regarding the other reasons for all of this effort. So it might be clearer after you read that.

      There are issues with creating too many BM to cater for every Product & Finish. To reduce the number of BM we have we have only created BM for a base product type, for example Ceramic Tiles. We then use Surface Override to provide the Tile Size and Colour. So we are not just using BM for our scheduling we are using Surfaces as well. Depending on your output requirements you might not need to go as far as breaking concrete down into beam, column etc. as you can separate them in the IS. When we started out last year we had thought that including the slab finish in the BM was the right approach, but in the first project we started testing it we realised that slabs have multiple finishes so you couldn’t prescribe in in the BM and needed to use the Surface to nominate the finish of each concrete face. Our BM list for concrete includes, Insuti, Precast, Post Tensioned in Natural Grey and Integral Colour. We have gone as far to even have BM for all the different Concrete Joints. Why do this. There is a few reasons, it takes only a little bit longer to model than draw a line, but because we model it it will appear in any drawing we produce, it can be labelled, placed on a legend, scheduled out and measured by a QS. More on that in a later post hopefully.

      Regarding using templates to control the way staff work and output. Essentially it is in their best interest to follow the rules. If they don’t follow the rules the automation systems that we have put in place will not work so it will take them significantly longer to document their project. And the biggest issue we had prior to investing in developing such a rigid but flexible system was people spent too much time thinking about how to document it, rather than spending time thinking about the architecture. The new processes are designed to be clear and simple from the user end so documentation is a more enjoyable.

      We are scheduling out the Surfaces using different criteria depending on a drawing type. At this point in time we have not been able to get the finishes from rooms scheduled based on Zone due to the constraints of the Software. We have been thinking about this constraint and have been thinking that a schedule may not be the answer but labels on plans. The problem with labelling plans is that an element can only have one label, we already use a wall label for wall type so can’t place a second label. Now this can be handled by scripting a label that presents a different display based on MVO but we haven’t gone as far as building that label yet as it would change the way contractors work with our information. It might be something to add to my wish list for this year, have to talk to the Contractors to see if it is acceptable. Regarding placing data into the zone we looked at that for about a month in 2012 and decided that as it was dumb text not coming from the model it opened up the door for conflict so we abandoned that idea before even using it on a project.

      Glad to see it has been helpful. Some future posts might open it a bit more there is a lot to be gained from embedding data strategically to get a lot back from it.

      Nathan

      • January 25, 2014

        rich

        Hi Nathan
        Thanks for your post. FYI we asked masterscript to update their ‘label everything’ label to show a duplicate label, so we can now label the surface on each side of the wall for example.

  • January 24, 2014
    reply

    Hi Nathan

    Some solid concepts presented here and it’s good to see your take on Building Materials and how you came to arrive at your solution for auditing the model.

    Reading your post does present a couple of questions that I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I’m a nuts and bolts kinda guy!:

    -Do you audit your 2D elements also?

    -Composites are absent in your diagram, do you link these to the same codes that reside in your base specification?

    -What’s your process for changing all element types from your generic building material to the final building material and have you considered more than one default?

    -Do you add all 996 building materials to each project or just a selection of required at attributes?

    -And do you use hotlink moduling much in your practice and have you yet experienced any issues with regards to attribute pollution by appending building materials en masse?

    Looking forward to finding out more. keep up the good work!

    Cheers,
    Link.

    • January 24, 2014
      reply

      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Link,

      I love the pointed questions it is what tests your ideas and either strengthens them or makes you reassess and redevelop.

      responses as follows

      -Do you audit your 2D elements also?
      Not at this stage. We are looking to eliminate “dumb” 2D in our files altogether. You can’t avoid this in details but the current solution for this is to use Fills in BM mode. We are then able to label them for what they are. Details unfortunately not live documents so there is potential for conflict there. It is on our Radar I hope to discuss in a future post my goal to remove all dumb information – uncoordinated info from the model. A way to combat this would be to place all details on a storey so that you could audit what BM fills have been used to create the details as you can’t IS details, sections, elevations etc. This would be a messy process in the end I feel and you can’t guarantee that the detail is correct anyway so you need to check these against the model still. Another idea would be use the 3D document tool for all of your details and just select parallel views, this way they could be live and fully coordinated. Haven’t tried this yet as a concept on a project. Might be worthwhile trialling and seeing how well it works.

      -Composites are absent in your diagram, do you link these to the same codes that reside in your base specification?
      Composites and Complex Profiles have naming conventions. Composites are only used for walls all other elements are simple elements, Complex Profiles are now constrained to a single BM and Surface due to labelling constraints of materials and finishes. We used to use complex profiles for everything but we were able to change this with the introduction of the Reference Line to Core in AC17. I wanted to prevent user error if a lining changed and they didn’t change the offset. A bit side tracked but naming of composites is Wall Code – List of BM Codes that make up the wall. You will see above a Code – E01 – MA31_TL02_LC02 that is our composite naming. This list of composites is printed and checked against the wall type details to make sure that the naming and the detail match.

      -What’s your process for changing all element types from your generic building material to the final building material and have you considered more than one default?
      It is a reasonably simple process as the reference line location is set on rules. The Concept Design Element is modelled as a simple element from that reference line, not as a composite. Then the user imports the required BM and builds the composite walls, and changes over the BM of other elements. Reference line for wall is changed from side to side of Core.

      -Do you add all 996 building materials to each project or just a selection of required at attributes?
      No it drives me nuts navigating through the list in my attribute template I couldn’t put my users through that pain. BM and Surfaces are brought in using Override as required.

      -And do you use hotlink moduling much in your practice and have you yet experienced any issues with regards to attribute pollution by appending building materials en masse?
      We use Hotlinks on pretty much every project, and have had some painful experiences with Attribute Management, so the append button in attribute management is off limits, Override is the only Button that is used.

      Attribute Management is the reason for the 996 they act as place holders. So we are able to cleanly manage BM, Surfaces, Fills, Lines etc now globally as nothing is added in these areas. Management is now only required for Complex Profiles and Composites which make it a lot easier to manage. All external files brought in are striped of their attributes into ours before bringing into our main files to also assist. We have also created a workflow for sites where we are building multiple stages over many years and many different ArchiCAD releases. It involves saving whole buildings as a Sketchup file then converting into a library part, the reason for doing it this way is that the GDL is written differently and the textures / surfaces are placed in an embedded library rather than saving directly to GDL it is scripted to Surface index. We are treating Surface Management at a project level rather than a Practice level.

      Hope that covers it all.

      Nathan

  • January 24, 2014
    reply

    Sorry for the cross-post, I think I asked my question at the same time you answered the previous one.

    I had a part created while I was BIM Manager at Cottee Parker Architects that may do what you describe:

    http://www.screenr.com/10y

    I don’t have it but can give you the details of the current BIM Manager if you like? Contact me privately.

    Cheers,
    Link.

    • January 24, 2014
      reply

      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Link we have one of those that we use already. I like the additional functionality that you have with the additional markers we don’t have that feature in our label. Very handy, I have task for my GDL guru next week now. The next step is to have a label that acts on MVO so Wall Type appears on one plan and Wall Finish on another. We have built that functionality into our Zone Tool so we could change what was displayed depending on MVO and Room Hierarchy. But haven’t gone down that path yet because we have been trying to finish off other development projects.

      I know the current CPA BIM Manager, we do catch up occasionally.

      Thanks

      Nathan

  • January 24, 2014
    reply

    Ahh yes, placeholders and overrides makes sense. I was thinking you could get yourself into a lot of trouble there by appending building materials all over the shop!

    FWIW for changing materials I have in past set all elements to their own generic building materials (or equivalent of). Sometimes more than one generic for each, to aid in design and find & selecting when replacing. Presumably you’ve thought of that, but what may find helpful is using Find & Select criteria to help audit your 2D elements. Not ideal, but a decent workaround for now. I shudder at the thought of using orthagonal 3D documents for 2D representation. As enticing as it seems, sadly I just don’t think we’re quite there yet.

    Well it sounds like you take your auditing very seriously and you’ve certainly got your shit together. I know how much work goes into thinking these things through, testing them and hardest of all, convincing everyone to use it, and correctly!

    Thanks for the answers and I look forward to seeing more from you.

    Cheers,
    Link.

    PS. Say hi to Vince 🙂

  • January 27, 2014
    reply

    Nice one Nathan!

    You have come up with a very powerful use of BMats and no doubt it will improved the quality of what you produce through ArchiCAD.

    Your last paragraph is right on the money, especially the “what are the constraints” and “find ways to do it better” comments. One of the things I love about ArchiCAD is that the structure of the data is so organic that you can use the functions for all sorts of unintended purposes and really tap in and exploit the information in the model.

    What you have detailed above is a great way to create an automatic database of the model that you can use for several gains. Thanks for sharing.

    I also like your comment to Link on 2D elements and the desire to eradicate them because they have no intelligence. You know you are wasting time when the results of drawing something is only the representation of that thing in the view you drew it…. 2D sucks.

    Cheers,
    Kristian

    • February 4, 2014
      reply

      Nathan Hildebrandt

      Thanks Kristian,

      Many users don’t realise the power of BMats yet, hopefully this post will open a few eyes a couple of the potential outcomes from thinking about things a bit more laterally.

      Exciting times are ahead and the software is catching up with a number of concepts that I have and want to use to get better quality delivery.

      I should get around to pulling apart your Britex Library sometime soon too.

      Nathan.

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