Tuesday May 7th was a busy day for me. With the announcement of ArchiCAD 17, I was posting on my own blog, jumping between Twitter and Facebook, fielding questions, writing e-mails, and finally starting the ArchiCAD 17 blog posts I’d been wanting to write for months and months. As an aside, if you’re anywhere near Minneapolis-St. Paul the last week of May and want to see ArchiCAD 17 in action before everyone else, here’s your chance.

ArchiCAD 17 is going to Revolutionize HOW and WHY you Model

The tagline for ArchiCAD 17 is “BIM Lives in the Details”. Pretty catchy, huh? So like with everything I write about, let’s over-analyze this motto. We all know that details matter. And ArchiCAD 17 is going to help you make better details. The new Priority Based Connections will make your sections and plans accurate enough for use in large scale drawings. But this new feature is much more than that. If you’re not familiar with Priority Based Connections, here’s a quick introduction video:

Priority Based Connections are great. No they are better than great. They are freaking awesome. Because freaking awesome > great (FYI).

Priority Based Connections mean that you will create fewer elements, but model more systems. What does that mean? Instead of modeling ceiling, floor structure, sheathing, and finish floor separately, you’ll model them as one element (a Composite Slab in this example). That one element will be easier to manage. And that one element will connect properly with the walls, roofs, and slabs it adjoins WITHOUT fussy Solid Element Operations or work arounds which might force you to model the building in a way that gives you the correct drawings but isn’t faithful to the final built project. Each piece of that one element will now interact with the all the other pieces of the adjoining elements without your direction attention (we’ll go into the details of that later in the summer). We’ll still find uses for Solid Element Operations, and I’m sure Priority Based Connections won’t be a panacea for 100% of our connection dreams (we’ll discuss more once we all have our hands on ArchiCAD 17). But make no mistake. Priority Based Connections are a Game Changer.

Macro Solutions vs. Micro Solutions

A COMPLEX rimjoistIn general, our previous modeling techniques were all micro solutions. Using ArchiCAD 10 through 16, I can build a floor system for a stick frame house amazingly fast. My complex profile rim joists look incredible in section. I have found plenty of ways to do next to no line work on my sections and elevations. My plans rarely require 2D patches. But it can all get very complicated. Fortunately I can manage it all because I built a strong template and know my system. But let’s just say my techniques sometimes rely too much on power, and it’d be nicer if I could focus those energies on more important things. I put a lot of effort into being clever. My solutions are effective, efficient, and help me create great models, but it’s more manual than automated. Fast manual, but manual nonetheless. What all that means is my models work and look pretty, but too many conditions are uniquely built. I craft each intersection. I use standard elements, so usually each junction is similar; a solution in one corner usually applies to the others. But it is still just smart manual. It is a lot to juggle. I have created a lot of order to manage a lot of complexity. Not everyone has the time, fee, or experience to handle that in the manner I’ve chosen. And, if I’m honest, it directly affects the final architecture. My conditions tend to be systematized, more for my own benefit of design and documentation than for the benefit of the guy in the field, or the client. That feels backwards. We shouldn’t be designing buildings in a particular way because that is the easier way to design or document. Our software should give us freedom to design what we want. Our software should become invisible. I should be spending more time creating order and complexity in my designs, not in how I put together my models. Maybe I’m just being overly harsh on myself for illustrative purposes; maybe I just really love modeling; or maybe I just need to accept what kind of Architect I am.

Skill vs PowerPriority Based Connections tilt the balance back in the direction of more effort into design than modeling. Priority Based Connections are a Macro Solution. Priority Based Connections emphasize skill over power of the user.   They effect the entire file globally. You are no longer managing element connections, you are managing systems connections. You aren’t looking at one connection, but at all the similar connections at once (whether or not they’ve been actually modeled yet). Like color and texture are derived from Materials (now Surfaces) and sectional display of walls, slabs, roofs, and shells are based on Composites, Priority Based Connections are a result of the Building Materials. Surfaces, Composites, and Building Materials are all examples of Attributes. Attributes affect a model globally; tweaking how your model behaves by working at the Attributes level is what you want to be doing whenever possible. Now thanks to Priority Based Connections derived from Building Materials, how elements interact is handled by an Attribute. By resolving connections based on Building Materials instead of specific individually modeled micro-conditions, we can focus our design on how materials interact. We can conceptually think about how real materials take precedent over other real materials. For instance whether plywood should be continuous or stopped by framing lumber. Whether poured concrete or CMU has more importance in a footing. We can design the rules and see how it plays out in the building. We can then review the results, tweak our initial assumptions, and watch everything update.

Just the Beginning

I know this is all big picture at the moment. Don’t worry. We’ll explore all the nitty-gritty of Priority Based Connections soon enough. In the meantime, watch another exciting video.

One More Thing

Now that the major pieces of ArchiCAD 17 are public but not yet available for use, it’s a good time to digress and finally talk in depth about Attributes and Parameters. Understanding the difference is important. And only more so now with all of ArchiCAD 17’s improvements. Attributes—and parameters to a lesser extent—are your everything. Attributes are the foundation to all the Macro Solutions that will help you focus on design and not modeling. But more on that soon, hopefully before the end of the month.


  1. Debbie Hoover

    In a play on Mies van der Rohe’s famous “God lives in the details.” Hungarian-based Graphisoft and BIM pioneer has announced a major upgrade to ArchiCAD focused on several industry-first innovations.

  2. Cody Fox

    Priority based connections is a fantastic new enhancement to ArchiCAD.


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