May 28, 2007
New Approach: Making 2D More Accessible
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

New Approach: Making 2D More Accessible

by Susan Smith


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Virtual Trace provides tighter control, better coordination and better integration of design teams, this industry first innovative technology enables simultaneous development of the 3D model and 2D documents with full coordination and continuous visual feedback.
Graphisoft was in the news recently when it was
acquired by Nemetschek. Unlike many software companies who buy software in order to rebrand it and integrate it into their existing product lines, Nemetschek bought Graphisoft expressly to keep it as it is, maintaining the name and the customer base. This was a financial holding company acquisition, thus Graphisoft is an independent subsidiary, along with 25 or 26 subsidiaries that Nemetschek owns.


Graphisoft has just announced a new release of its flagship product, ArchiCAD, release 11, that shipped last week and will be available in the U.S. on June 1. What differentiates this release from others is that its focus is on making the product more accessible to 2D users. “Our focus with this release was to be more inclusive,” explained Patrick Mays, vice president and general manager of Graphisoft North America. “We’ve maintained the same approach for 25 years, i.e. you create your model of a building and you get your plans, sections and elevations out of the model. Most of the U.S. market for the past decade or two has been focused on 2D production and we never have had a standalone 2D package. Ours has always been what is now called BIM. So we have thousands of people who have been using our product for years now, who have always thought in terms of getting the 2D drawings out of the model, but we’re seeing in the population at large so many people with 2D skills are struggling to learn how to do a 3D model. So one of the things we decided to do with this release is to make it more accessible to do 2D users.” How it works is that someone sets up the model at the beginning but the plans, elevations and sections are immediately available for people to work on in 2D. Their updates are reflected in the model and they don’t have to
understand the whole model, just their portion of it. “It doesn’t sound like a giant step forward, but we think it will be a long while for the industry to gain these skills.”


The number of firms that are using BIM software for billable work is estimated to be less than 10%, according to an AIA report that was released last November. “That probably indicates that maybe 2 or 3 % of architects out there have the skill to use this kind of software,” Mays pointed out. One of the issues Graphisoft is addressing with this release is to take the existing skill set and leverage it more effectively. And they ask the question, if there’s only a small community who can use BIM software, how do you increase participation?


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Visual Compare is the ultimate solution for architects to efficiently control coordination of models, views and documents. With Visual Compare you have the confidence that all project documents are synchronized and any differences will be easily tracked.
One feature of the new release that addresses this issue is called Virtual Trace, which allows you to compare different drawings, the older design vs. newer design, etc., and lets you compare and overlay, like virtual tracing paper. In a way, Mays suggested that it sounds like something from the past, as at one time architects used tracing paper, but now it is a part of the CAD software.


Another major functionality centers around handling complex 3D geometry. In most applications you are able to insert doors and windows into rectilinear planar walls. “We have tools now that allow you take those walls and curve them, cant them or shape them as complex objects, and any doors and windows or things that have been inserted know how to behave with that wall as a deformed surface. So for architects who have tried to create more unusual shapes, the objects are intelligent in how to interact with those.”


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The new dedicated Interior Elevations tool allows users to boost productivity and ensure complete coordination. As live views of the model, Interior Elevations are continuously synchronized and up-to-date.
The procedure for managing drawings has become more efficient, through coordination and control. End users had expressed frustration with interior elevations over the years, so now you can take a plan of any room and bring the walls in a little bit, and then it automatically generates all the markings for the interior elevation. The standard plan marks show you which wall is being elevated. “You can just take one sheet and drag this on, and it knows how many interior elevations there are throughout the project and starts populating them across the sheet,” Mays said. “You can find out what the vertical and horizontal spacing is between these, and if it needs to add more
sheets, it does so and keeps spreading those elevations around the sheets for you.” This replaces the traditional procedure of bringing one elevation over at a time with automation. As soon as you’ve tagged a room and denoted that you want elevations in it, it automatically populated these sheets for you. “Very quick, whether you’re generating sections or interior elevations or any drawing to lay the sheets out. The automated process does most of it for you and you can go back and fine tune it.”


Mays cited two kinds of challenges in the way people view producing sheets. They generally think in a literal way of actually doing a 2D drawing on the sheet. People think of the set of construction drawings as the work product.


The automated processes addresses this by generating the sheets throughout the set very quickly. For example, if you were to take a elevation, section or detail and drag it from one sheet to another, all of the references are updated throughout, so it now knows where it came from, where it’s been moved to, so those tags and references are automatically updated. Virtual Trace and Visual Compare are to help people who know how to do drawings in 2D participate as part of a 3D model.


How does ArchiCAD differentiate itself from other BIM products?


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Using the Worksheet Tool users can smoothly transform model views into highly detailed documents, create 2D documents from scratch or easily merge consultant data into the Virtual Building environment; dramatically improving the design to production workflow.
“The main differentiator is not really in features or software itself,” said Mays.


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