Building Materials – Three Examples that Balance Model and Drawings
I love the concept of Building Materials. I think the move towards digital approximations is awesome. If GRAPHISOFT continues to develop Building Materials and proceeds down the path I think they are heading on, then we are all going to be very happy. How energy evaluation and EcoDesigner STAR tie into Building Materials is a good sign.
However, at the moment, the way Building Materials are implemented shows that I can’t have everything I want. There are a couple issues that mean all is not perfect. The way BMats clean up in 2D and 3D is wonderful. I love the automatic junctions and how I can model more and get more accurate drawings and quantities. But there is an issue around graphics that I haven’t resolved yet. I have found that while all the pieces are correct, I can either get perfect 3D with less than perfect 2D, or perfect 2D with diminished 3D and scheduling functionality. I’ll explain in a moment with my three examples. But first let me say this: of the three solutions I present below, I don’t know which I should use. While I am excited I found a successful work-around in solution 3, I think that it is more than most users will be happy doing. And it’s not something I can necessarily brag about when I’m talking to other BIMnerds using other programs.
I am looking at a joint between walls, trim, finish floor, and structure. I want everything to be modeled accurately and clean up perfectly. If I want all my walls, beams, and slabs to be true to Building Materials, then I get automatic beautiful 3D & 3D sections, but ugly, unacceptable 2D sections.
Those heavy lines in section around the baseboard are just horrible. What is happening is that the thick line of the stud wall continues down behind the baseboard—which, by the way, is a Complex Profile Wall. At 1/4″ = 1′-0″ it’s honestly not that distracting (and I’m sure the contractor and client won’t care), but it’s not as perfect as I could do in earlier versions. So now is as good a time as any to admit this might be a contrived problem that only matters to finicky architects. But that’s what we are, right?
ArchiCAD 11 Method
Look at the detail on the right, which was done in ArchiCAD 11. The insulation, beams, and framing lumber are 2D, but everything else is from the model. Look at that perfect heavy outline. All from the model. All perfect. All the Fills merge perfectly and give me the aesthetic I want. Yes it’s a bit dumbed down, but it works and is perfect for what I was doing. Did I say perfect enough? If I follow Building Material logic, I can’t do that. Now of course my old solution provides another answer. The way I attained that old look of merged fills was by using the same fill for all interior surfaces. So I could do that in ArchiCAD 17 with a unified interior Building Material. I don’t like this because it’s applying a work-around from ArchiCAD 11 to fix a new feature of ArchiCAD 17. But it’s possible, so let’s talk about it.
If I dumb down my BMats to one Building Material for interior finishes and then override the Surfaces, I get manual yet beautiful 3D, less than perfect 3D sections, and perfect, automatic, and beautiful 2D. But the BMat’s are adulterated. So much is the same, and their power as digital approximations is lessened. I’m essentially forcing things to act the way they did in ArchiCAD 16 and earlier. I’m looking backwards rather than forwards. It could be argued that this is the way to go because the views that matter in 3D and 2D are good looking. The loss of data in the 3D section doesn’t matter because that view is a bit contrived. But the problem here is that my 2D isn’t evolving. And I want to push towards 3D sections, for 3D Documents and BIMx Docs files. And dumbing down the finishes inhibits the functionality of Energy Evaluation, whether or not I’m using it at the moment. And a schedule of materials becomes a non-option. Furthermore, if (when) this issue is resolved in a future version, I’m behind the curve. I want to fully integrate Building Materials now. I don’t want to wait. And honestly this is a very unique issue. Building Materials can handle most other connections with the correct line weights. Or I can make them work with smart use of Pen selection and Pen Sets (I’ll save that discussion for another post).
I do have a solution, as I mentioned at the beginning. I can cheat and fix this by including the gyp. bd. and floor/ceiling into my Complex Profile trim elements (baseboard, molding, etc.). Instead of modeling the Complex Profile to be the pure element, I can add bits of what surrounds it. Then if I use Beams instead of Walls for these trim elements the overlaps will clean up and I’ll get the right look in sections. ArchiCAD knows to merge the overlapping Gyp. Bd. in the correct way. But this seems like over-kill and not something that is easily explainable to the common user. Also there are two additional things to be aware of in this solution. For this to work my trim layer and my wall layer need to have the same Layer Intersection Group, so that the elements will interact. This means ALL my trim on this layer needs to be done with Beams, otherwise I may end up with Wall weirdness. Additionally I’ve done tests and haven’t seen any difference in the quantity take-offs I’ve done, but I am a bit nervous about this one. Across an entire house would the gyp. bd. on gyp. bd. or flooring on flooring count double? Or is it properly excluded? I think it’s properly excluded, but I’d appreciate confirmation from GSHQ on that one.
As an aside, none of these solutions address the lines between Objects (cabinetry) and walls. This is also something I perfected in versions 16 and earlier with my all interior elements having the same Fill. But I haven’t investigated the different options, so I’ll refrain from discussing it further. Though it should be pointed out that fills in Objects next to Building Materials with the same fills will merge. What that means is if your Gyp Bd. Building Material in your Wall has Empty Fill under its structure and your Cabinet Object has Empty Fill for its Cut Fill, then those two elements will merge in Section. So each of my solutions above suggests an answer that I can go into on another post, if people are interested in this sort of esoterica.
Maybe it’s not Building Materials that are the problem but line weights. What if the solution is to abandon line weights? If everything is a thin line weight and ALL materials have tone, then air lines are not defined by thick lines, but by thin areas of heavy tone. My pen sets could handle this easily by making (in section) all finish materials a light gray. It wouldn’t be a thick line, but maybe it’d replicate it? I don’t know.
Or perhaps the intermediate solution is to dumb down our sections. Use Model View Options Fill Override to get ride of all cut fills and separator lines. We could use our pen sets to turn all sections into dumb pochéd cut elements and only deal with line weight issues when we cut details using the detail tool. That’d work, I guess. Especially if we made all the line weights in the details thin and added back heavy lines as necessary. But again…say goodbye to automatic. Which again if I’m honest, means I’m going to use my 3rd solution. I know it’s adding extra material, but it keeps everything automatic. And that to me is more important. Automatic and true. Automatic Digital Approximations. So what if there’s a little gaming the system to make it work. It does work. Beautiful and Automatic 3D and 2D, that’s what we want, right????
How are other people tackling this? Is this an issue that I’m alone on, or are you struggling with this too? Who’s got a good solution? I would love it if there’s something obvious I’m missing and I am forced to write a retraction of this post!
With my 3rd solution, if I set the real stuff of the baseboard/trim (ei the wood fill) to Core and the extra fills to Finish, then I could set Partial Structural Display to without Finishes whenever I needed to just see the to-be-built real stuff of the baseboard in isolation. Just a thought.
March 5th, 2014 Update: I in fact wrote the retraction post that looks at other solutions to this problem. You can read that post here.
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