I happen to be helping two of my neighbors right now with architecture projects. One is teeny-tiny and the other is just small.

To the East

The neighbors to the east of me have a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU or backyard cottage). They built it a few years ago and have been renting it out as an airbnb. It’s been fairly successful and they enjoy the additional income it provides. They also love the sharing economy and have been researching places to rent when they take a big European vacation this summer with their teenage sons. Spending hours and hours looking at other people’s rental properties online made my neighbors realize what was missing from their listing: a floor plan. They had PDFs of the construction documents, but as anyone knows, permit drawings do not make good marketing materials. So my neighbors e-mailed me last week to ask if I could make them a plan. I’m a good neighbor and want to build up some good will (I want to move a fence and some bamboo between our properties and I need their buy-in), so of course I said yes.

To the Northeast

The neighbors across the street from me called an architect (fellow ArchiCAD user Cary Westerbeck of Westerbeck Architecture), looking for him to design them a new garage—I’m new to the block, so my neighbors didn’t realize I was also an architect. It just so happens that architect and I are friends and already do work together. Long story short, we are doing the project together. It’s small and will go quickly. The neighbors had previously done an addition to their house (back in 2008) using ANOTHER friend of the architect they called and already had a survey and nice permit drawings for their home and the entire site. This is always a designer’s dream: high quality existing documentation. I’m sure I’ll go verify a few measurements, but it’s wonderful to have the lion’s share of the dimensions we need to start designing.

Existing Conditions with setbacks

My neighbors don’t know how lucky they are

Both of these projects have electronic documentation. Somewhere on some architect’s computer are the original CAD files, I’m sure. But neither my neighbors or I have access to them. And we don’t need them. Instead both of my neighbors sent me PDFs they were given by the previous designers. With ArchiCAD 18, that’s all I need because in ArchiCAD we can explode PDFs into line work. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping the PDF into ArchiCAD, selecting the placed PDF, right clicking and selecting “Explode into Current View”.

Explode into Current View

I have already brought the PDFs into ArchiCAD, exploded them into linework and taken what I needed. For the marketing plan, I kept everything in 2D, deleted what was unncessary, and added fills to make things pretty. For the garage, I put the PDFs I needed on a worksheet, exploded them, and then used Trace and Reference to recreate the bits I need (site plan information and a rough model of the back of the house for sight line exploration). The amount of time this saved me is unreal. I would argue that it’s even more time saved than if I had the original CAD files. What I got was super clean, easy to work with, and clutter free. Exploding the PDFs turned a easy favor for one neighbor into a mind-numbingly fast favor which makes me look like a hero, and for the other neighbor meant I could ask fewer questions to start and get their project going with hours less prep work.

I’ll probably never have the opportunity to explain this to them, as it might be hard to understand how unique and awesome this is. But that’s okay, I’ll just seem like some sort of architectural wizard, who they want to tell all their friends about. I can live with that.

Bonus Explainer!

Had these projects been done in ArchiCAD with a good template the tasks would be even easier:

  1. Creating a marketing plan would be a matter of turning off Layers, changing Pen Sets and tweaking the Model View Options. Here’s my favorite post on that topic: simplifying drawings.
  2. Turning an old project into the background for a new project would just require a Save As and changing the Renovation Status of all elements from the first project to Existing. This can be done via the Reset Renovation Status dialog (Document Menu->Renovation->Reset Renovation Status).Reset Renovation Status

Have you been exploding PDFs in ArchiCAD since the release of ArchiCAD 18? You should be. It’s extremely powerful. Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ArchiCAD News in North America (and beyond).



    nice…. forgot about exploding PDF’s
    what was quick and dirty maneuver became a quickly done
    shiny document for the neighbor(s)

    I have in the past just used any given PDF as an underlay and if i had
    true dimensions called out; just grew the plan view (model if req’d)

    • Jared Banks

      That’s essentially what I used to do too. But unexploded PDFs aren’t snappable, so the accuracy or speed or both decreases. The ability to snap to the elements is one of the really nice things about exploding PDFs—even if you don’t need to change any of the information or actually show it. It’s nice to just be able to be as accurate as possible with the (exploded) PDF as an underlay.

  2. Trevor Bendell

    I didn’t know you could do this in ArchiCAD. Thanks.
    I have also been reading your series of articles on ‘Layers’: quite useful (in particular, the idea of using a number to designate groups of layers: good idea!), and interesting.

    • Jared Banks

      Thanks! Glad to share and inspire.

  3. Cody Fox

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Ivan

    This blog post just saved my bacon. I have a project in Revit on a windows machine that took a massive K-RASH, (emphasis mine to explain how I feel about Windows). It’s small and I’m expecting redlines back from the boss on the PDF’s I submitted any day now. I have been transitioning out of Revit and into ArchiCAD because Revit induces suicide. (yes I know how to use Revit and have been for 3 years)
    Since the project is small I’m just going to use the PDF’s to rebuild the BIM model in ArchiCAD. The more I learn about this program the more I wonder why Revit has everyone duped.

    • Jared Banks

      Ivan, sorry to hear about the crash, but this is a great story! Remember, if the changes are super minor, you could just explode the PDFs, make the changes in 2D and reprint. Yes that’s super not BIM, but sometimes with deadlines approaching and only minimal changes, it’s doable. That said, one of the best ways to learn ARCHICAD (or any program) is to rebuild a project you know. So I expect it’ll go fast. ALSO, if you explode the PDFs, you can grab all the text! (clearly I see exploding PDFs as a solution to a lot of things).


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