Building Materials – Three Examples that Balance Model and Drawings

Building Materials – Three Examples that Balance Model and Drawings

I love the concept of Building Materials. I think the move towards digital approximations is awesome. If GRAPHISOFT continues to develop Building Materials and proceeds down the path I think they are heading on, then we are all going to be very happy. How energy evaluation and EcoDesigner STAR tie into Building Materials is a good sign.

However, at the moment, the way Building Materials are implemented shows that I can’t have everything I want. There are a couple issues that mean all is not perfect. The way BMats clean up in 2D and 3D is wonderful. I love the automatic junctions and how I can model more and get more accurate drawings and quantities. But there is an issue around graphics that I haven’t resolved yet. I have found that while all the pieces are correct, I can either get perfect 3D with less than perfect 2D, or perfect 2D with diminished 3D and scheduling functionality. I’ll explain in a moment with my three examples. But first let me say this: of the three solutions I present below, I don’t know which I should use. While I am excited I found a successful work-around in solution 3, I think that it is more than most users will be happy doing. And it’s not something I can necessarily brag about when I’m talking to other BIMnerds using other programs.

Solution One

BUILDING MATERIAL V1I am looking at a joint between walls, trim, finish floor, and structure. I want everything to be modeled accurately and clean up perfectly. If I want all my walls, beams, and slabs to be true to Building Materials, then I get automatic beautiful 3D & 3D sections, but ugly, unacceptable 2D sections.

Those heavy lines in section around the baseboard are just horrible. What is happening is that the thick line of the stud wall continues down behind the baseboard—which, by the way, is a Complex Profile Wall. At 1/4″ = 1′-0″ it’s honestly not that distracting (and I’m sure the contractor and client won’t care), but it’s not as perfect as I could do in earlier versions. So now is as good a time as any to admit this might be a contrived problem that only matters to finicky architects. But that’s what we are, right?

ArchiCAD 11 Method

baseboard and crown_v11Look at the detail on the right, which was done in ArchiCAD 11. The insulation, beams, and framing lumber are 2D, but everything else is from the model. Look at that perfect heavy outline. All from the model. All perfect. All the Fills merge perfectly and give me the aesthetic I want. Yes it’s a bit dumbed down, but it works and is perfect for what I was doing. Did I say perfect enough? If I follow Building Material logic, I can’t do that. Now of course my old solution provides another answer. The way I attained that old look of merged fills was by using the same fill for all interior surfaces. So I could do that in ArchiCAD 17 with a unified interior Building Material. I don’t like this because it’s applying a work-around from ArchiCAD 11 to fix a new feature of ArchiCAD 17. But it’s possible, so let’s talk about it.

Solution Two

BUILDING MATERIAL V2If I dumb down my BMats to one Building Material for interior finishes and then override the Surfaces, I get manual yet beautiful 3D, less than perfect 3D sections, and perfect, automatic, and beautiful 2D. But the BMat’s are adulterated. So much is the same, and their power as digital approximations is lessened. I’m essentially forcing things to act the way they did in ArchiCAD 16 and earlier. I’m looking backwards rather than forwards. It could be argued that this is the way to go because the views that matter in 3D and 2D are good looking. The loss of data in the 3D section doesn’t matter because that view is a bit contrived. But the problem here is that my 2D isn’t evolving. And I want to push towards 3D sections, for 3D Documents and BIMx Docs files. And dumbing down the finishes inhibits the functionality of Energy Evaluation, whether or not I’m using it at the moment. And a schedule of materials becomes a non-option. Furthermore, if (when) this issue is resolved in a future version, I’m behind the curve. I want to fully integrate Building Materials now. I don’t want to wait. And honestly this is a very unique issue. Building Materials can handle most other connections with the correct line weights. Or I can make them work with smart use of Pen selection and Pen Sets (I’ll save that discussion for another post).

Solution Three

ArchiCADI do have a solution, as I mentioned at the beginning. I can cheat and fix this by including the gyp. bd. and floor/ceiling into my Complex Profile trim elements (baseboard, molding, etc.). Instead of modeling the Complex Profile to be the pure element, I can add bits of what surrounds it. Then if I use Beams instead of Walls for these trim elements the overlaps will clean up and I’ll get the right look in sections. ArchiCAD knows to merge the overlapping Gyp. Bd. in the correct way. But this seems like over-kill and not something that is easily explainable to the common user. Also there are two additional things to be aware of in this solution. For this to work my trim layer and my wall layer need to have the same Layer Intersection Group, so that the elements will interact. This means ALL my trim on this layer needs to be done with Beams, otherwise I may end up with Wall weirdness. Additionally I’ve done tests and haven’t seen any difference in the quantity take-offs I’ve done, but I am a bit nervous about this one. Across an entire house would the gyp. bd. on gyp. bd. or flooring on flooring count double? Or is it properly excluded? I think it’s properly excluded, but I’d appreciate confirmation from GSHQ on that one.ArchiCAD

As an aside, none of these solutions address the lines between Objects (cabinetry) and walls. This is also something I perfected in versions 16 and earlier with my all interior elements having the same Fill. But I haven’t investigated the different options, so I’ll refrain from discussing it further. Though it should be pointed out that fills in Objects next to Building Materials with the same fills will merge. What that means is if your Gyp Bd. Building Material in your Wall has Empty Fill under its structure and your Cabinet Object has Empty Fill for its Cut Fill, then those two elements will merge in Section. So each of my solutions above suggests an answer that I can go into on another post, if people are interested in this sort of esoterica.

Bigger Question
Bigger Answer

Maybe it’s not Building Materials that are the problem but line weights. What if the solution is to abandon line weights? If everything is a thin line weight and ALL materials have tone, then air lines are not defined by thick lines, but by thin areas of heavy tone. My pen sets could handle this easily by making (in section) all finish materials a light gray. It wouldn’t be a thick line, but maybe it’d replicate it? I don’t know.

Or perhaps the intermediate solution is to dumb down our sections. Use Model View Options Fill Override to get ride of all cut fills and separator lines. We could use our pen sets to turn all sections into dumb pochéd cut elements and only deal with line weight issues when we cut details using the detail tool. That’d work, I guess. Especially if we made all the line weights in the details thin and added back heavy lines as necessary. But again…say goodbye to automatic. Which again if I’m honest, means I’m going to use my 3rd solution. I know it’s adding extra material, but it keeps everything automatic. And that to me is more important. Automatic and true. Automatic Digital Approximations. So what if there’s a little gaming the system to make it work. It does work. Beautiful and Automatic 3D and 2D, that’s what we want, right????

How are other people tackling this? Is this an issue that I’m alone on, or are you struggling with this too? Who’s got a good solution? I would love it if there’s something obvious I’m missing and I am forced to write a retraction of this post!

Bonus thought

With my 3rd solution, if I set the real stuff of the baseboard/trim (ei the wood fill) to Core and the extra fills to Finish, then I could set Partial Structural Display to without Finishes whenever I needed to just see the to-be-built real stuff of the baseboard in isolation. Just a thought.

March 5th, 2014 Update: I in fact wrote the retraction post that looks at other solutions to this problem. You can read that post here.

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  1. James Murray

    So you can have good-looking drawings or analysis/quantities but not both. The automatic documentation pitch is sounding hollow. By making the baseboard real, I get a line that is ugly *and* unrealistic, i.e, false.

    Archicad needs to better account for scale it its graphics. It needs a non-air-meeting cut pen property. It needs scale sensitive composites and profiles; clear at 1/4″, fancy at 3/4″. I’ve been a user for 16 years and I’ve fought these deficiencies for about 15.9 years.

    Solution 2/Archicad 11 is correct, as it has been for ages. It will be correct until the features above are implemented. Solution 3, while quite clever, is far from “real” and definitely untrainable. (Plus I can’t abide profiles for trim generally.) Solution 1, which reduces to “looks good from my house”, is a no-go.

    This is not user-solvable, it goes to the software’s design. That’s what solution 3 shows. That baseboard line should have been gone in AC6.5; it’s more like a bug at this point.

    Developers, do this: 1) Find finicky power users. 2) Figure out what ugly, false lines they struggle to eliminate. 3) Help them eliminate those lines. Fix this problem for Jared!

    • Jared Banks

      James, as always spot on. I think after writing this post I came to similar conclusions. Though I think as my follow up post shows the problem is line weights not ArchiCAD. Okay it’s ArchiCAD too because if archicad could handle the line weights then there would be no problem, but by moving beyond line weights there is another nice solution that is win-win. Thank you as always for weighing in. So what was so special about that .1 years without fighting? Vacation?

  2. Bricklyne

    I think the biggest failing of the Buildng Materials concept – or at least how Graphisoft rolled it out – is that despite its obvious inherent promise and potential, it’s such a massive paradigm shift away from how users were used to working and such an investment undertaking o really get going in working to use them or to get them to work for you, that Graphisoft (to me at least anyway) should have released a bunch of sample Building materials which users could then adapt and adjust to their individual needs as they saw fit.

    For now the most common sentiment I hear about them goes along the lines of…..

    “I don’t have time to learn the new Building Materials or to convert my entire library built over many years) so I’ll just put it on the backburner for now and get back to it later (which, as you can guess, never happens)”.

    And they’re going to remain underutilized for a long time to come.

    • Jared Banks

      Well said. Yes. I think Building Materials is probably one of the biggest (and potentially best) changes to ArchiCAD. A huge paradigm shift. And one we have to get with because once we move to BMats so much opens up. But getting there is intimidating.

    • Nathan Hildebrandt

      If you want ago see how a medium / large scale practice has implemented Building Materials have a quick read of my following blog posts on Shoegnome – and If you post a reply in the second post I will send you an invite to a Webinar that I will be hosting to go into more detail about how Building Materials are really a positive thing for Architectural Processes and it isn’t a hinderance it is a positive.


      • Jared Banks

        Nathan, thanks for directing people to your posts. I hope more people take you up on the offer to learn more about how you do Building Materials. It’s a great route to go.

  3. tom

    I love them first time schedules with materials are fine and is much less to do manually on sections (wall – roof connections still annoying) I hope they will be first step to structural calculations attached and it is easy to create your own materials to…

  4. Carlos lopez figueroa

    The paradigms that involves the use of building materials modified modeling techniques that many were using previously, I noticed that not only have problems like you mention Jared, in the quantification of elements there are also several details as the intersections of elements have been also modified, as well as the representations of complex shapes, at least I’ve suffered for plan representations, similar to ArchiCAD 16.
    To our luck AC17 has the option to inherit methods priority as ArchiCAD 16 🙂

  5. Andrianne Jean-Pol

    Remember the slogan “the right balance between 3D and 2D” there a few years, for me, it remains valid.
    Wish to model in 3D all the elements to produce in all views all techiques details at all scales, is not effective. Do it for fun if you want, but when the time spent to represent a detail beyond the time of its actual construction, there is a problem!
    The graphic representation of modes of architectural designs require a symbolic representation that can not be achieved simply by cutting the model. Priority materials and operators on solid allow the correct nodes for achieving constructive views to 1:50 scale. At this scale I do not represent the baseboards. Details on larger scales are made via retail tool or via worksheets and set of pens suitable.

    • Jared Banks

      Andrianne, the decision on what to or not to model in ArchiCAD is a bit more complex than that. And it is highly dependent on the skill of the architect, the fee on the project, and the scope of the work.

      And I completely disagree that the graphic representation can’t be achieved by simply cutting the model. It most certainly can. And it gets easier with every release.

      I actually have a post coming up on this exact topic: How much should I model in ArchiCAD? I hope to have it posted in the next few weeks (a few other posts, such as a sequel to this post need to come first).

  6. Andrianne Jean-Pol

    I do not think it is desirable that a cut in the model to provide such detail ( Elements to implement the model to achieve this high level of detail would be too complex in 3D. A detail to a scale of 1:20 is not a simple enlargement of the detail at 1:50. Graphisoft has not found it necessary to implement the 1/20 scale in the options window, or in plan view and even less in cuts.

  7. Jared Banks

    Andrianne, yes. At the moment that detail you reference is too much to model everything. But as ArchiCAD keeps getting more powerful we are moving towards that. A few things will have to come into place first. It’d be good to have more system’s based tools like the Curtain Wall tool to handle things like framing and brick coursing. To model all that individually would be a bit much. But with junctions, BMats, and complex profiles we can model more and more with each project. And have a vision/roadmap towards modeling more.

    So I like to think of this all along the spectrum of model it now to don’t model it yet. And with each passing day the number of things that fall on the model it now side of the equation grows.

    I’ll be very curious to hear your thoughts on my forthcoming post “how much should I model in archicad”.


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