Last summer I wrote an article called Label-mania! Where does your data live? In it I talked about view based data, element based data and project based data. The article focused on linking element based data to automatic labels so that various views (Sections, Elevations, Plans) became more automated. If you look at the primary graphic from that article (which I reshare below), you’ll see that in addition to the expansion of element based data, project based data is also growing as ARCHICAD increases in complexity (and connectivity).
IFC Mapping, ARCHICAD Properties, and Attributes like Building Materials, Composites, and Surfaces are examples of project based data. These are all data sets that exist independently of placed elements. Project Location under Project Preferences is also project based data. It is something that makes your project stronger if you set it up. It allows things like this and this. The most fundamental project based data is Project Info, and that’s what I’d like to focus on for the rest of this article.
Before we dive into the specifics of Project Info, we first need to cover how it connects with Autotext. Autotext is a feature in ARCHICAD that allows you to reference project based data directly from the Text and Label Tool. Autotext works with more than just Project Info, and discussing how it works with Project Info will allow you to use Autotext with other types of project based data.
Below is some boilerplate text on my title block. On the bottom right you’ll see the text #Contact Company. That’s a piece of Autotext, which is highlighted in gray when you open the text box. To access Autotext, click on the Autotext button (second button from the left at the top of the text box). Once you click on that button, a new window will open and you can select which piece of Autotext you’d like to reference. All of the data from Project Info is available to choose from, in addition to a number of other options (see second image).
Addendum added 12/02/2016: You can also access Autotext by right-clicking in a text box and selecting Insert Autotext from the Context Menu. I always forget about this route, which is much faster but doesn’t give you a preview of what the Autotext will be.
Project Info is accessed by going to the File menu, then Info, then Project Info. Or you can use a keyboard shortcut, which I highly recommend. ARCHICAD doesn’t have a default keyboard shortcut for Project Info, so many years ago I started using the equal sign, which is surprisingly unassigned. Having Project Info one button press away means it’s always easy to access the data for whatever purposes I need. It shifts Project Info from a feature buried in a sub menu to something ever present. Project Info becomes something I can get to at any moment, from any view. This accessibility and speed is important. If entering or reading data from Project Info breaks my workflow, then I won’t use it. It needs to be instantaneous. I need to have it open before I finish thinking “Project Info”. A one button keyboard shortcut is the way to make that happen.
People, Places, and Things
Project Info can be conceptually broken down into two groups: physical details and people details. The physical details are Project Details, Site Details and Building Details. The titles are fairly self explanatory. The separation into these three categories (and the two people related categories) relates to IFC data (and by extension COBie). When Project Info was reorganized into this format for the release of ARCHICAD 18, Rob Jackson wrote an informative article on how this data structure relates to IFC. I won’t dwell on that, since Rob has already done a great job on that topic. Suffice to say that if you start using Project Info as discussed in this article, while you might not be following the exact requirements for a BIM standard like COBie, you’ll be close enough that you can tweak your standard operating procedures if/when you need to conform to a particular BIM standard.
Below is what the first three Project Info categories look like in my template. On the left is the Project Info name and on the right is the description (ie, the project specific text). Filling out Project Info is the first thing I do when starting a project—other than updating my template. For the Project Info that I typically use in a project, I have dummy text in my template to begin with. By putting in dummy text, I am reminding myself which pieces of Project Info already show up in my drawings. I don’t need to search through the Layout Book or various Views to find the placed Autotext. I know if I replace the dummy text in Project Info, I’ll have properly filled out all the Autotext that is by default in my template.
For the most part the items in the Project Info list above are straight from the default ARCHICAD 20 USA template; but I have added a few additional items. I have a special Project Info item for the date. I know we can use Revisions to manage dates, and that’s the proper way to handle it. But proper and perfect don’t always win. And sometimes a low complexity solution is valuable. So I have a line to type the date. This date is then used as Autotext wherever I need to list the date. I’ll hopefully stop doing this soon. But until then…it’s better than manual text at each location. I’ve also added a number of additional Site Details. These primarily relate to permit requirements in Seattle, where I live. I expect they are similar to what you deal with where you work, though probably a bit more extreme because, well, Seattle. This data is either typical information I need to show on the cover sheet, reminders of critical restrictions, or links to websites I need to reference regularly.
Beyond the Project, Site, and Building Details, Project Info also has Contact and Client Details. To me, the purpose of these details are two fold: they show up in title blocks, transmittals, and other documents and they are extremely useful references. If you type in all your client’s contact info into Project Info, you’ll always have it handy when you need to share it with someone involved with the project or when you’re filling out some random permit form. Having the ARCHICAD file as the central repository of this information just makes life easier. You probably have the file open if you’re working on something related to the project, so it’s just a few clicks away, if that. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been on the phone, needed some client or consultant information and been able to quickly rattle off a phone number or e-mail address because ARCHICAD was open and the information was in Project Info.
How Project Info might show up in a project
Let’s look at the data formatting for Site Full Address. All this information could be listed as one long string of text, but by separating it out, we’re giving ARCHICAD more flexibility as we can call out just the specific info we need. We are inputting not just the data about the project, but also metadata. Filling out the house number on a different line from the street name gives ARCHICAD the necessary intelligence to see those as two discreet bits of information. The more differentiation we create in Project Info, the more value the data has.
Here’s that site information in the title block. As a reminder, the Autotext is gray in the text box and placed by clicking on the Autotext icon and selecting from the list of Autotext Categories and items.
By separating out the difference pieces of the address, it allows us to do things like set the street name on the site plan to be Autotext (or list the city or state in various bits of generic text):
Now this might feel like a lot of work. It’s not hard to enter the address directly into the title block or label a site plan. On an individual project, that might be the case. But in the context of a series of projects, the importance of Project Info and Autotext becomes clear. With Project Info and Autotext, we only have to manage this data in one location. By having this location uniform across all projects, it means we are managing all this data from the same spot for all our work. Every time we have a new project, we enter the data in the same spot in the file. Each project might only have one address and one client, but across a year you might have a dozen or a hundred addresses and clients’ info to input. And if some of this Autotext appears in your template, it’s information you’ll remember to include. Since we (almost) always need site plans with streets labeled, we might as well have a dummy site plan with Autotext street(s) already labeled. Then it’s just a matter of showing the right site and moving the labels to the right streets. We don’t have to remember to label the streets, we just will. And yes labeling a street is easy and obvious, but that also means it’s easy and obvious to forget.
The Automation of 3D, 2D, and 1D
It’s an old ARCHICAD adage that if you’re going to see something more than once, model it. That’s how we maintain consistency across views. Good 3D leads to coordinated 2D. It’s the same with 1D, with text. If you’re going to write something more than once, automate and centralize it. If you do that task on every project, figure out a way to incorporate it into your template. If it’s project based data and not element based data, add it to Project Info. If it’s element based data, add it to the element—through IFC parameters, ARCHICAD Properties, Attributes, etc.
I have more to say on Project Info, but I’ll save it for a second post because I want to end this article on the value of automated text being one more example of BIM being the convergence of 1D, 2D, and 3D. Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ARCHICAD News in North America (and beyond).