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Deleting Attributes and the One Layer Model

Three Color Model

Over on BIM Engine, I’ve been writing a series of articles about Layers in ArchiCAD. As part of that exploration I want to talk about the One Layer Model (or the One Surface Model or the One <insert Attribute here> Model).

Why would you want a One Layer Model, or a model with a particular Attribute distilled down to non-existence? Lots of reasons, but mostly it boils down to temporary simplification. Imagine you have a hyper detailed model, then you want to look at options for a dormer or landscaping or some other localized detail. What if you could ring-fence the model and give it an on/off switch? Or what if you could easily create: base model, option 1, option 2, option 3, etc. Or perhaps you want to create a two or three tone model (a model with just two or three Surfaces, see image above). Or maybe you want a complex model to be on one Layer so that it can become background entourage for something else (yes you could just hotlink it in or do other tricks). The point here is to explore and understand how we can misuse ArchiCAD to our advantage. To be natively creative within ArchiCAD, we need to understand how to break the rules and head down whatever path the design process leads. Sometimes that means modeling and working in a way that creates an orphaned model. That’s okay. That’s good. That’s a bigger discussion for another time.

There are a number of ways to simplify a model, and one of them is to delete and replace Attributes as fast as possible. Here’s how:

  1. Save As (we are going to do some non-undoable destructive stuff).
  2. Delete Attributes like a mad person.
  3. Work in simplified freedom.

To make this technique viable, and not tedious to do as part of your creative process (ei, to be able to simplify a model quickly and effortlessly), you need to learn a specific technique:

Notes and Further Reading:

  1. As I note in the video, the exact technique I show, while clever, is a bit unnecessary for Layers and Building Materials as you can select multiple BMats or Layers at once, delete and replace them, and no data is lost. This makes consolidating Building Materials or Layers insanely easy—as you can select as many of these Attributes as you want and merge them down without loss. So watch the video as there’s other valuable information, but just use the faster method of selecting a bunch at once. Damn. I tested this before making the video and it didn’t work for some reason. Fortunately an astute viewer caught my mistake. THANK YOU!
  2. The Power of One. Ken Huggins talked about this back in 2012 (and I’ve been thinking about it ever since). But we’re going a step further by showing how to take any model with tons of Layers and consolidate it down to just one or two.
  3. If your model relies on Layer Intersection Groups, the resulting One Layer Model will have a few goofy moments as elements will all interact. If this is problematic, you might need to consolidate down to two or three base Layers. Then again, what you are doing is creating a schematic model, so a little crudeness might be okay.
  4. If you are doing this to test options in 3D, you might want to delete everything on hidden Layers, and just merge down to one Layer the stuff you can see. Remember this is about being loose and fast. Once you have a solution, you will go back to your original file and work properly.
  5. If you are doing this delete and replace gambit, you could start by going to the Attribute Manager and deleting all the unused Attributes to speed the process up even more. This is especially important with Fills, Line Types and Surfaces, as they don’t work as smoothly with the process shown in the video (because after deleting you aren’t returned to a master list like for Layers and Building Materials AND more importantly, you can’t select multiple Attributes at once and merge them like you can with BMats and Layers). My solution with these Attributes is to just delete and replace with whatever random Attribute comes up as the Attribute to be replaced with until you get down to just a few. Then when the list is smaller, be careful, tweak, and set up the remaining Attribute(s) to be what you want. If you are deleting 100 Surfaces, it doesn’t matter what Surfaces 1-90 are merged into. Just that the final surfaces are merged correctly into the remaining ones.
  6. If you are merging down to 3 or 4 Attributes (say Solid, Transparent, and Translucent Surfaces), consolidate the Attributes that are unique first (ei, the two Surfaces that will be merged into Transparent and the four that will be merged into Translucent) before doing the bulk work of merging the rest into the remaining Attribute (Solid in this example).
  7. For more on deleting and replacing Attributes, check out the Help Center.
  8. For more on monochromatic models (there are lots of ways to do this), check out this video I did in 2014: Monochromatic Models in ArchiCAD.

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  • February 8, 2015

    Karoly Horvath

    Hmmmm interesting, but let me highlight some things:
    -If you intend to use layers to show options, remember that walls /colums etc on a turned off layer still interfere with walls/columns etc on other layers. This results in nasty junctions and ugly white spots… Instead of layers, if the options don’t consist of too many model elements, it may be better to use the reno filters and create option filters that way. O course if the options are too complex, well probably modules is the way to go
    -Yet I see real good opportunity in reducing the number of attributes: It results in a clean file to start with.
    So far I removed all surfaces from my template, leaving “Existing, New, Demolished and Glass” only to start with. This way you can make sure that you will only have surfaces that actually are used in the project.
    I quite like that it is now so easy to add new surfaces from catalog in AC18
    -This leads me to a great wish.
    I wish if in future ArchiCADs I could clean out all attributes and add them back into the project from a central depository (catalog if you like) as I go. For most users it would be so much easier and also it would mean that the project file only contains attributes that are necessary!
    I know that to an extent the above can be done if you use the attributes manager, but that is quite clunky. I can’t se forcing all users to constantly go to attribute manager if the need a new fill or any attribute that does not yet exist in the project. Adding new attributes should work the same way as it works now for surfaces!!!!!
    Funny, but I think that the way surfaces work now was not at all designed to make attribute management easy, but it was just a byproduct of introducing CineRender.
    I love this byproduct. I wish same method was introduced to All Attributes!


  • February 9, 2015

    I LOVE that hidden layer to Intersection Group 0 idea! I’ll be adding that into our office template ASAP!
    Also worth noting, and I think I mentioned this once before; if you have a teamwork project rather than a PLN or PLA, be sure to reserve all before deleting and replacing with… otherwise any unreserved elements will have missing attributes!

  • February 9, 2015
  • February 9, 2015


    Be aware that if the intersection is set to 0, the items in that layer don’t intersect with items in its own layer either.

  • May 10, 2016


    love that rendering of green building that opens this blog up…amazing is that your work or existing building?

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