How am I going to model this Octopus? ARCHICAD doesn’t have an Octopus Tool!
Previously we looked at the potential uses of Tools in general and how a Tool’s name can be misleading. While a tool might be named after its primary use, what the name implies is not its only use. At some point, the name of the Tool loses meaning. The “Wall” in “Wall Tool” vanishes. The definition of the “Wall Tool” becomes “a tool that creates a vertical or slanted element defined by a Reference Line and a Fill, Composite or Custom Profile, that intersects cleanly in plan and 3D with a number of other elements via Priority Based Junctions, and hosts other elements via Window and Door Objects”. Obviously that is too lengthy (and probably incomplete), so it is simply known as ‘the Wall Tool’. But the name should give no preconception about its limitations.
“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” -W.C. Fields
Each of ARCHICAD’s Tools can be used to generate a wide range of geometries and each Tool has unique settings used to create those forms. Those same unique settings provide different ways elements created with the various tools can be edited once placed. Furthermore, elements created by the various tools have specific relationships to other elements (depending on what tool was used to create these other elements). Understanding these differences is instrumental in making the correct decision for a given modeling challenge.
Let’s explore the Wall, Column, Beam, Slab and Roof tools to understand each Tool’s strengths and limitations. If people want, we can do a follow up post doing a similar analysis of the other Tools—or explore further any of the individual Tools listed below. Regardless of the existence of that future post, you should be able to use the analysis below to understand the similar strengths and weaknesses of the various Tools.
The Wall Tool
- Walls are extrusions that follow a reference line vector at the base of the wall set at an established height to home story (or project 0).
- A Wall’s height can be linked to a story above its home story, making it dynamically linked to story settings.
- The reference line can be set to the inside or outside of the Wall or core (if a Composite is assigned to the Wall). For custom profiles, the reference line is established by 0,0 of the custom profile editor.
- A Wall can be vertical, slanted or double slanted.
- Walls can use a single Building Material, a Composite or a Complex Profile.
- Walls can be based on a single Reference Line, a tapered width from the Reference Line or a polygon plan shape (similar to the slab/roof tool).
- Walls can show on Home Story Only or All Relevant Stories (any Story that the Wall touches or extends to).
- Walls participate in priority based junctions with other Walls, Slabs, Beams, Columns, Shells and Roofs (the last two when merged).
Another important aspect of elements created by the Wall Tool: they can host Window and Door Objects. For atypical geometry remember that the Simple Window/Door Opening Object (formerly the Empty Opening Object) might be extremely important. Also atypical empty opening shapes are simple to create.
The Column Tool
- Columns are vertical extrusions based on a reference point set at an established height to home story (or project 0).
- Columns, like Walls, may be linked to a story above, making them dynamically linked to the story settings.
- The center point of the column may be linked to the center or any corner or edge center point of its core. For Complex Profile columns, the center point is defined by 0,0 of the complex profile editor.
- Columns may be vertical or sloped. Sloped columns top and bottom surface are always horizontal.
- Columns may be Rectangular or Round extrusions of a Building Material or be an extrusion of a Complex Profile.
- Rectangular or Round columns may have a finish skin applied to them.
- Columns, like walls, may show on Home Story Only or All Relevant Stories (any Story that the Column touches or extends to).
- Rectangular or Round Columns can be set to have Wall Skins (Finish or Other Skins only) wrap around the Column or be cut by the Column.
- Columns participate in priority based junctions with Walls, Slabs, Beams, Shells and Roofs (the last two when merged)—but not other Columns.
I want to digress and comment on point H for a moment. Patrick May (of many ARCHICAD related endeavors, of which noscriptgdl is his latest) helped me research these Tools posts. I love when I collaborate on articles because I get the chance to remember things I forgot, like Wall Skins wrapping around columns. Did you know this? Or forget it? I used it in ARCHICAD 9, but I’m sure I forgot about it sometime after ARCHICAD 11. The interesting things that can be done with this feature will require Patrick and I to collaborate on a post dedicated to just this. For instance, this feature is great for limiting the number of Walls. With Construction Method: Wrapped, we are able to get minor bump-outs in walls with just one Column and one Wall. Here’s another example, this time showing how we can use Columns with and without skin wrapping to change the thickness of an exterior wall. I’ve used a long column with my insulation + studs Building Material (with wrapping on) to create a section of fatter wall (in this case using a column that is 7 1/4″ wide by 4′-7 1/2″ long). I’ve then placed 1 1/2″ x 7 1/4″ columns using my dimensional lumber Building Material (with the Construction Method: Freestanding) to represent the studs for this area. I should have also changed the floor plan symbol type of the wood columns to display an X, but I forgot for this illustration.
There are of course limitations and drawbacks to using columns to thicken Walls in this manner—hiding the Column hides the bump out, the skins Building Materials don’t show properly when cut in 3D or Section (you just see the BMat of the Column)—but those limitations can be worked with or overcome. Or those limitations might not matter for the situations where this is a good modeling answer. Either way, this is a good example of seeing how a Tool or combination of Tools can do what you want and then deciding if it’s the right solution.
The Beam Tool
- Beams are based on a reference line vector with a set height to home story or project 0.
- Beams have a set height or thickness below the reference line for the default square extrusions of Building Materials.
- Beams have a set width from the center of the reference line vector.
- Beams may be sloped or horizontal. Sloped beam’s ends always have vertical faces.
- Beams can use a single Building Material or a Complex Profile.
- Beams may be rotated around the X-Axis where the beam is a Complex Profile.
- The reference line may be offset from the horizontal center of the beam. Where Complex Profiles are used, the centerline vector is based on the 0,0 of the profile editor.
- Beams are more flexible than most tools, at least in terms of how many stories they are able to show on. Beams can show on Home Story Only, Home+One Story Up (or down), Home+One Story Up+One Story Down, All Relevant Stories, or All Stories.
- Beams participate in priority based junctions with Walls, Slabs, Beams, Columns, Shells and Roofs (the last two when merged).
Another important aspect of elements created by the Beam Tool: they can have holes placed in them (notice I said plural holes, as Beams can have multiple holes, each unique in size and shape).
The Slab Tool
- Slabs are based on a reference plane with a set height above home story or project 0.
- Slabs using a single Building Material have an adjustable thickness above or below the reference plane.
- Slabs can use Composites or single Building Material extrusions.
- Slab edges may be vertical or custom angle. Through the pet palette each slab edge angle and Surface is individually controllable.
- The slab reference plan may be based on the top or bottom of the slab finish or core.
- Slabs have all the floor plan visibility of Beams except “all relevant”, and an additional setting for “Custom” floor plan visibility and appearance. This makes them one of the most versatile tools for horizontally based elements that need to show on multiple stories (ie. stair parts).
- Slabs participate in priority based junctions with Walls, Beams, Columns, Shells and Roofs (the last two when merged)—but not other Slabs.
Slabs can have holes cut in them, but cannot host elements like Windows, Doors, or Skylights. However, there is some very interesting geometry that can be created using slabs, sloped edges, and/or curved sides: ramps, curb cuts, and tree stumps.
The Roof Tool
- The Roof Tool has a reference axis set at a given height above home story or project 0.
- The Roof Tool can be a single plane hinged on a single axis, like a sloped slab, or multiple surfaces joined around polygon sloping reference lines.
- Roofs can use Composites or single Building Material extrusions.
- For a single Building Material extrusion, a roof has a set thickness above the reference line.
- The slope of a roof is set by slope in degrees, percentage or n:12 units. Single plane roofs can have a slope of between 0 and 89 degrees. A multi-plane roof can have a slope of between 1 and 89 degrees. Note that only single plan roofs can be flat.
- A roof’s plan visibility is identical to the slab tool, with the addition of “All Stories”.
- Roofs participate in priority based junctions with Walls, Slabs, Beams, Columns, Shells and other Roofs (when merged).
Another important aspect of elements created by the Roof Tool: they can host Skylight Objects. For atypical geometry remember that the Simple Skylight Opening (ei the skylight hole Object) might be extremely important. A hole created by a Skylight offers different benefits from a hole created by cutting a hole in the Roof element. Additionally in Schedules, Roofs can list both the number of Skylights and holes. Slabs however can’t host Skylights—nor can ARCHICAD tell you how many holes they contain.
It’s ALMOST all the same
The lists above might feel repetitive, but look again. The tools often have similar but non-identical features. Think about the geometry you need to create and compare it to how each Tool handles element creation and management. Think about the display requirements of your elements and compare it to how each Tool handles visualization differently (beyond what’s described above, Surface control is different for each Tool as well). Or notice where all the similarities are. We always think about showing a Wall cut, but we can also show a Roof (but not a Slab) cut in plan. When might that matter?
When faced with a modeling challenge, ask yourself what aspects of the geometry can be described by the language of the various Tools. What visualization requirements are needed. If your geometry can be modeled with Shells, Roofs, Objects, or Beams, which Tool’s floor plan visibility options best meets your needs. Which Tool handles the sectional qualities the best. What about the element’s dimensions (you can control a Column’s length, width, and height via the Info Box but only a Beam’s width and height). And of course, remember to think about the future. Which Tool selection will make future changes the easiest. Remember that the same features that describe how and what can be created with a given Tool also determine how those elements can be managed after creation.
As our wall/column example shows, what you need to model might not be ultra fancy—it might not be something that can only be created with the Morph tool or externally via Rhino—but it still requires creativity to discover the best solution. We can create a 1′ x 1′ x 10′ tall form using all the Tools described above. The correct answer for that shape might not be a Column. The correct answer might depend on the floor plan visibility options, the ability to host holes, or the need for priority junctions to work with other elements that need to be Columns. Likewise, a similar 10′ x 1′ x 1′ long form might be best made using the Beam Tool, or perhaps the Column, Wall, Slab, or other Tool. It all depends on what control you need over that element over the duration of its existence.
Just because the shape you need to create looks like the Tool’s icon does not mean it’s the right Tool for the job.
In a future as unwritten post, we’ll look at these decisions through a different lens: data and schedules. After all, what really defines an element as a wall, window, or piece of furniture is not the Tool used to create the element but the Element Classification. If you pay attention to Element Classification and organize your schedules that way, then Tool becomes irrelevant to data organization (unless the Tool offers specific data functionality you need, like the hole counting example). But that discussion needs to wait for a bit….
Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ARCHICAD News in North America (and beyond). What other tools should we cover on the blog? We could do similar breakdowns of 2D tools. Does that sound interesting?