Are you ready for ArchiCAD 18?
Are you excited about ArchiCAD 18? I sure am. While we wait for June 2014 and the official roll out, it’s worth looking at the big picture of what this release signifies. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to go into all the nitty-gritty of this version soon enough.
Each year Graphisoft builds their releases around a theme. Here are my thoughts on the big ideas behind ArchiCAD 17. That post is worth reviewing as it also sums up a lot of what I was writing about at the time and not coincidentally ArchiCAD 18 builds on those changes. Let’s look at the theme of ArchiCAD 18: Join the Creative Flow. What does that mean and why should we care? Why should we be so excited about Cinema4D integration, Revision Management, BIMCloud, the inclusion of BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) support and everything else? And where is the damn stair tool??? I’m sure that tool is coming, someday; but the future of BIM isn’t about a new stair tool (more on that in a moment). It’s about process. The quote in the official press release by László Vértesi, Vice President of Product Development at GRAPHISOFT, is perhaps the most important sentence you can read about ArchiCAD 18. Here it is again:
“BIM innovation has been shifting from adding new features to introducing innovative new workflows — this is exactly what ArchiCAD 18 offers end-users”
– László Vértesi, Vice President of Product Development at GRAPHISOFT
When we BIMnerds debate BIM, one of the things that comes up again and again is that BIM is a process. We all love to say that. Graphisoft gets this. They understand that as we all delve deeper into our software of choice, how we design and document changes; how we choose to communicate with clients and consultants changes; how we want the AEC industry to work changes. If you look at the evolution of ArchiCAD since about ArchiCAD 13, you’ll see that the big features are getting grander. The shift is from lonely BIM to social BIM features—if you are unfamiliar with those terms, read this article about the Primary Benefits of BIM. One could argue that this shift is just towards Open BIM, but it’s more than that.
But before we talk about ArchiCAD 13-18, let’s look at ArchiCAD 10, which was for ArchiCAD users a sea change for many, many reasons. If I had to go back to using pre-10 ArchiCAD…well I don’t want to think about that. In ArchiCAD 10, Plotmaker and ArchiCAD merged. We also got multiple Pen Sets and Complex Profiles (and the official start of yearly releases). These features were amazing. But they were all internal fixes. They unlocked so much potential for the typical user, making sheeting views seamless, adding immense graphic control (I’m STILL writing about the power of Pen Sets eight years later and have another post coming next week), and allowing us to model almost any form (with complex profiles you can model any stair). But these are all things that are in a sense meaningless to those outside our organizations. They helped us do what we always did in a more integrated, better fashion. But they didn’t provide us opportunities to do more. Likewise ArchiCAD 11 and ArchiCAD 12 continued that internal development trend. As a user who worked through that era, what I did within ArchiCAD became so much more advanced. And by ArchiCAD 12 there was almost nothing on a typical project that I couldn’t model, if I wanted or needed to.
At some point though we run out of the need for new modeling features—or more importantly the addition of another modeling feature fills minor gaps, rather than opens new terrain. Now with the Morph Tool and Complex Profiles just about any form can be created. And yes before I set a trap for myself, NURBS are missing and tools could use refinement. But, is architecture just about form? No. Is the value of an architect based on shapes? No. What we provide goes way beyond visual prettiness. If ArchiCAD just focused on refining 3D geometry, we wouldn’t be adding value at a fast enough rate to maintain our relevance. After all, BIM is the intersection of 1D, 2D, and 3D data. We need to improve all three of those data inputs and outputs.
Who are These Features for?
I’m going to return to that one endless user gripe: an improved stair tool. Who would a new stair tool affect? The person making the stair. Yes I want that. Yes it’d make my life easier. And yes each year it doesn’t appear it makes me a little sad and a little hopeful for the next version. But ArchiCAD and BIM are so much more than productivity tools focused on building a better pencil.
ArchiCAD since 2009
- ArchiCAD 13: Teamwork 2
- ArchiCAD 14: IFC Integration
- ArchiCAD 15: Renovations
- ArchiCAD 16: Integrated Energy Evaluation, Morph
- ArchiCAD 17: Junctions and Building Materials
- ArchiCAD 18: Rendering, Revision Management, BIMCloud
What do all those features have in common? They are about strengthening ties to other team members and data sets—other ArchiCAD users, other non-ArchiCAD BIM users, energy data, more accurate quantity take-offs… Junctions and Building Materials fit into this spectrum because while those advances improved the quality of our models and our workflows, what they really did was push the Digital Approximation agenda—and that is not about the form of the elements but about their hidden data, about all the stuff that helps make elements more real. And thus helps us align our digital models with the final built projects: a step towards the merging of the digital and the physical. Morphs too aren’t really about 3D form making. What’s the best thing about Morphs? That external content can be turned into Morphs and manipulated, and that along with Morphs came an improved Object workflow (which just like the new ability to explode PDFs into 2D vector data allows us to absorb more data from the Internet). In other words the new features of ArchiCAD, for YEARS now, have been about helping us evolve as designers, architects and engineers. The form of ArchiCAD continues to push in the direction of the future. Towards the integration of teams and data, towards openness, and towards dismantling our old ways; not just to have new features each year, but to aid in our own relevance.
“The need to create automated and user-friendly workflows is key to successful data creation and exchange. The new IFC Scheme mapping enhancements mean that we can now increase automation, providing more reliable data for both IFC and COBie exchange. This, coupled with BCF integration, means that ArchiCAD 18 really will improve our ability to deliver collaborative Open BIM as standard on all our projects.”
Robert Jackson, Associate Director (Architect and BIM Manager), Bond Bryan Architects
The early years of BIM—both from the perspective of the evolution of the software and from an individual switching from CAD to BIM—were about replicating what was done in the past, but faster and better. For the software developers and for many long time users, we are moving past the replacement of old methods towards value-add solutions. We can link all our drawings to the model. Great. Now let’s link all our revisions and show those drawings in relationship to the model on a mobile device. We can show the model in 3D to clients. Great. Now let’s show them that model with insanely better graphics and/or on smartphones and tablets in the field. A new rendering tool helps the client better understand the project because visualization is integrated and seamless with design and production. At any point in the life of the project the client can see images that they are comfortable relating too, and those images are accurate and up to date with the latest project data. Just like we have had with our 2D documentation since ArchiCAD 10 and before. Likewise revisions, BCF integration, and so much else turns the benefits of ArchiCAD from internal to external in focus.
Watch all the videos on ArchiCAD 18, read all comments, and eagerly await getting your hands on the program. And look at the new features with excitement and hope rather than with trepidation about how they are different from what you expected or provide new functionality that you don’t know what to do with. Between now and June, daydream about how the continued evolution of ArchiCAD, now in it’s 30th year, can push you to be better at what you do. About how ArchiCAD 18 can encourage you to tackle new problems, add new data streams, document important project developments, and communicate in deeper ways with those around you. ArchiCAD 18 is ready to push the boundaries of what we do. Are you up for the challenge?
Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ArchiCAD News in North America (and beyond). By the way, I love this ARCHICAD Help Center page and use it all the time for writing articles. For more discussion on ArchiCAD 18, add your thoughts in the comments below or on the forum here.