You are on page 1of 11

The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip...

AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #56 (Jan 31, 2011)

The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD
Eric Bobrow ArchiCAD Expert and Author Are you wasting time using ArchiCAD? Oh, don't get me wrong. I love ArchiCAD. I've been using it for over 20 years. But so often, I see our clients doing things the long way around, fighting ArchiCAD because they don't understand how to best take advantage of its structure and its philosophy. Have you ever said to yourself (or a colleague): - There must be a better way to do this! - God, I hate doing this over and over again. - How are you supposed to do this?! You're not alone. ArchiCAD is a complex tool, and many users have felt the same way. However, this program will become your friend and trusted assistant when you understand and follow the Best Practices for using ArchiCAD. I believe there are seven key principles that will help you to use ArchiCAD to its best effect. These best practices are common ideas, like getting organized, and doing things once instead of over and over again. But when they're applied in the right manner with an understanding of ArchiCAD's core principles, they'll help you be much more effective and efficient. In this article, I'm going to give a broad‑brush, conceptual overview, to get you familiar with these key ideas and how they relate to each other. I'll give some specific examples along the way to help you understand what is important to focus on, the things that are going to make the biggest difference in your work. I have created an in-depth presentation on this topic as part of The Best Practices Course, a new online training resource for ArchiCAD users. As a special bonus for AECbytes readers, you may view or download this training series on the “7 Keys to Best Practices” (three videos totaling 45 minutes) without charge by visiting the course website and opting in to our email list. This free video series will only be available for a limited time, so be sure to check it out right after you finish reading this article. 1. Get Organized The first key is to get organized—to take the files on your hard drive and arrange them so that they're easily at hand, so you know where things are, and you have a system. One simple idea is to create a project folder that you duplicate from one project to the next so that there's always a consistent place to file things. You can take a real project that is well developed, and duplicate its folder with all the subfolders and files. Rename this duplicate folder, and delete most of the files inside—anything that is specific to the project that can't be reused.

1 of 11

11-12-14 9:03 PM

For example." When a consultant drawing comes in. and when you need to locate anything. preserving all of the attributes and structure that were in that project. The example of a standard project folder from MasterTemplate is shown below.. Although it is mostly "empty.aecbytes. you'll be able to work smoothly from the beginning through the end of your next project. try to reuse it. You won't have to continually add layers. but provide a structure and system for filing. you can take a real project and use it as the basis of your next one. Do It Once If you put in the effort to create something in ArchiCAD. rather than starting over with the standard template supplied with ArchiCAD. 2 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM .The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. because they'll be carried across from a working file that is already set up perfectly for your practice. Save a set of boilerplate general notes in Word or Pages in a way you can copy and adapt in each project. The folders are Another great organizational aid that is often neglected is the template or TPL file you use to start each project. By doing it this way.. http://www." it is the core of an organizational system. your TPL template can be derived from a completed project. Create an office template to give you a consistent. If you do this right and rework it carefully to make it generally applicable. In a way similar to the project folder (above). and everything will be "in its place.. Set up a folder for an office object library where you can place all the ArchiCAD parts you create or purchase for easy access. or even layouts. when you print a set to PDF. What you'll be left with is a structure for filing things. views. 2. There will be a place for everything. Compile. it will be easier to find. you'll have a place to store it.. then you'll have a framework you can reuse for the next project. you'll know where to save it. well-developed project starting point. and you'll be able to pull them in when they're appropriate. organize and catalog standard reusable detail drawings into one or more PLN files.

Alternatively.. When you create your next building and move these markers back into position. I like to create an Interactive Legend of Visual Favorites that are laid out in organized arrays or kits of parts. Move the section markers "out of the way" but keep them intact in your template. For example. http://www. elevations. You can go and eye‑drop whichever part or element you need to place it into your 3 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM . these section drawings will just "show up" on the Layouts and may only need minor adjustments on the page.. Take advantage of ArchiCAD's built‑in Favorites palette to save those settings. so that you can simply select them when you need them. then get to work clearing the building geometry and annotation to give yourself a clean starting point. You can also save and reuse room modules.. and resources such as schedule settings (for door. It takes time to define wall types and to enter the detailed parameters for doors and windows or other objects that make them look just the way you want. Use the File menu > Save As > ArchiCAD Template (TPL) file command. Save Your Settings It takes a certain amount of work to set up any element in ArchiCAD. the office standard startup kit that we sell for ArchiCAD. fixtures and landscaping. It's an easy-to-use built-in solution that many users ignore and miss out on. window and other schedules) and translators (for working with consultants). Don't delete everything. We do this very extensively in MasterTemplate. you'll want to keep the source markers (for sections.. One example is shown below. custom library parts. 3. for there is much you can reuse.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. and perhaps some of the details) in many cases so that you can retain the structure of the Layout Book. followed by an illustration showing the legend grouping for objects—furniture.

http://www. 4 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM ...aecbytes.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes

the actual geometry. use center or corner insertion to indicate what is important to the design. even when you're just placing two parallel lines with an empty fill because you're not sure what wall assembly you're going to use. office or unit plan. the wall reference line serves to anchor your design intent. When you draw your initial elements. When you later change the walls to a specific component structure. This can save you a lot of time. Select and save the elements as a module (. it might be better to have the reference line on the inside surface that you measured. whether you start with a massing model...MOD) file in a convenient folder. then later you can bring a room grouping in and adjust it in your current design as needed.aecbytes. place these elements with consciousness of their reference line or their insertion point. it will remain equidistant from the two 5 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM . In new construction. For example. For example. for remodels. or a door centered in a corridor.. When you place a door or window. you'll start with general concepts and then gradually get more specific as you make decisions with your client on exact wall types. Some examples of typical room configurations saved as a module file are shown below. use center insertion. you can also save typical room configurations such as a kitchen. which deal with individual elements. and so on. then if the size is changed. the reference line will stay fixed in position while the wall thickness or laying out a floor plan. the clearances. the materials. Work from the General to the Specific As you go through the design process on any project. 4..The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. a bubble diagram. bathroom. In addition to these ideas. if the window is to be centered in the room. place the reference line on the outside surface or face of framing. http://www. the distances.

. a few inches from the wall intersections.aecbytes. Door 3 is inserted centered in the corridor with a centerpoint anchor. also. it still remains 6 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM . http://www. In the example shown below.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. If a door is placed a specific distance such as 4" from a wall intersection. walls.. The second image shows how when Door 3 was made larger. Doors 1 and 2 are being resized in the Info palette. use corner insertion. then if the door is made bigger or smaller it will be remain the proper distance from the corner. while Doors 1 and 2 are placed with the corner method. and will retain their distance to the corner framing.

aecbytes. 7 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM . and if they are resized. because they will end up set to "Custom" rather than retaining an automatic inheritance and association.. http://www." It's good to "work downhill. For your column grids and individual columns.. taking advantage of natural relationships and dependencies between different parts of ArchiCAD's project structure. The best way to do this is to go to the Project Map and change the name of the detail there. as many users do. suppose that you have a detail drawing." so to speak. Use ArchiCAD's Structure Become familiar enough with ArchiCAD's structure so that you can "go with the flow. 5. their anchor point will stay in position while the dimensions of the element update. and you decide to change the title for it on the layout sheet.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes You'll have a hard time seeing which detail in the Project Map or View Map corresponds to the one that's on that sheet. because it has a different name. then the View Map and the Project Map will be out of sync. you change the drawing title directly.. insert them consciously by center or a specific corner. you'll have to manually rework all three of them. To make them consistent. Your design intent carries through if you use these anchoring methods consistently.. This new name will flow into the View Map and from there into the drawing title naturally. For example. If on the other hand.

http://www. TIP: Sometimes.. since when you adjust a node. Then move each of the others back. but not quite on top of each other as they should That may make it hard to clean up. Start by mastering basic modeling techniques with proper snapping and alignment. Draw Less ArchiCAD is able to generate beautiful 2D drawings directly from the 3D model if you create your model well. then ArchiCAD generally will remove the line in between them. If you use ArchiCAD's structure going "downhill. it may snap to itself or to another node that isn't exactly right. you may have the end points or nodes of several elements very close to each other. 6. Perhaps one element is actually in front of the other one. and require almost no cleanup or additional line work. 8 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM . Model Well. even if you zoom in.." you'll get the best results with the least effort. What are some of the things that will help you to model well? Here's one basic area that many users stumble over. Many users incorrectly assume that section drawings always require a lot of manual cleanup. your section drawing will look great right away. If you do it right in 3D. you can make the structural slab penetrate the wall to the framing line. However. Voila. Put in a bit more effort in 3D and save a lot of time in 2D! For example.. slabs. and roofs that combine nicely. and make sure the remaining one is in correct position. This principle applies in many other areas. If you stack elements on top of each other so they have the same surface material and the same plane. Your section doesn't have to look incomplete or "wrong" if you use a complex profile that represents the wall with framing and sheathing integrated. A simple technique is to move all but one of the nodes away from the area. or there's a slight gap or overlap because their heights aren't coordinated. the image below shows the 3D cutaway of a complex profile wall intersection with a simple flat roof slab (which is shown as translucent for presentation purposes). you won't need to clean up in 2D. You'll then be able to create elegant and beautiful sections and elevations that are virtually complete directly from the model.. and use Solid Element Operations as needed to remove the overlap.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. In addition. you will see an extraneous line in your elevation. showing that it is notched to allow space for the slab and includes the waterproofing at the top. Supplement the basics with more sophisticated approaches such as complex profiles and solid element operations. You can use Virtual Trace to align things cleanly and make sure that you're snapping properly. if something's a little bit off.aecbytes. snapping easily to the good one. This is certainly true for generic elements like walls. Note the green selection highlighting the left-hand wall element.

.. http://www.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip.aecbytes. The following image shows a section of the same intersection.. and is not drawn manually in 2D! 9 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM .. with the wall selected in Note that the framing is actually part of the wall's complex profile in 3D.

Don't go all day or even several hours without saving—you're taking an unnecessary risk! Hit Control-S or Command-S whenever you stop to think or take a phone call—you'll be glad you did. since occasionally this file may be damaged in conjunction with a system problem. For greater safety.... such as an external hard drive or a flash drive. keep a copy of your critical files off-site so that if there is a burglary. File backup strategies are often neglected or misunderstood. Periodically save a copy of your working files to another media. it's not good to rely on Autosave. fire. particularly by busy sole practitioners or principals of small offices. This will help you to avoid data loss or any loss of work.aecbytes. you won't lose that work. However. Most users can thank ArchiCAD's great Autosave feature for recovering work when there has been a system crash. or other disaster.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. from day to day or over the long term. The basic way to minimize the chance of loss of data is to have redundancy. you'll be able to recover. Keep It Safe It's important to develop good habits for saving and backing up your work as you go along. as well as periodically migrating projects from older versions of ArchiCAD to the current It's essential to save your work several times during your session using the File menu > Save command or the equivalent keyboard shortcut or icon button. http://www.. 7. so that if your internal hard drive goes down. Migrate files from older versions of ArchiCAD on a regular basis to reduce the chance that you'll 10 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM .

A former Graphisoft Platinum VAR and U.. Reseller of the Year. His product MasterTemplate is the office standard for over 400 ArchiCAD firms worldwide. please check them out now and view or download them for later reference. http://www. To understand them better. Mass printing and distribution of this article violates its copyright and is strictly prohibited.acbestpractices. © 2003-2011 Lachmi Khemlani. Cadalyst. If you found this article useful and have not yet subscribed to AECbytes. AECbytes.aecbytes. These videos will be posted only for a limited time. and more subscribers will allow this publication to provide more of such content to you. About the Author Eric Bobrow is an internationally recognized ArchiCAD expert and author of more than 20 Tips and Tricks articles and video tips published on the ArchiCAD Wiki. This printer-friendly version is provided as an additional service to AECbytes readers for personal. AECbytes.. etc. Conclusion These seven key principles are strategies for optimization—reducing effort by reusing and leveraging whatever and wherever you can.. In that series.The Seven Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD: AECbytes Tip. please consider doing and watch my free video training series on The 7 Keys to Best Practices for ArchiCAD.S. non-commercial use. it now serves a community of over 150 members. please visit www. have an unreadable file just when you need it most—when a client comes back to you for a remodel or follow-up project! I suggest you resave your old files in the current ArchiCAD version every 2 to 4 years to keep them easily accessible and minimize the chance of a disk or file being unreadable. Bobrow just launched the online Best Practices Course in November 2010. 11 of 11 11-12-14 9:03 PM . I am able to go into much greater depth than I can in this Bobrow was a Graphisoft authorized reseller for 21 years. Subscription is free.. and include a lot of practical examples and onscreen demonstrations. All rights reserved.