I think I have a label problem. Or maybe it’s an addiction.

Data, data, data, data, Lore, B-4

BIM is as much about collecting data as it is about sorting and displaying data. I wrote about this concept back in my Intelligent Dumbing Post. With each version of ARCHICAD our options expand and the overview outlined by that article grows in importance. You should never delete data from a model if it’s still valid. Nor should you ever not include data, if you know it, and if it’s valuable. You should HIDE data. If on day one of a project you know detailed information that isn’t “needed” until the end of Construction Documents or the beginning of Construction Administration, you should still add it to your file. Just make sure it isn’t visibly distracting. The ARCHICAD file should be the repository of what you know, even if that knowledge isn’t shown to the client or shared at whatever stage of the project you are currently at. If you build your walls from day one with a core skin for structure, it doesn’t matter if that structure ends up being wood, steel, or masonry. It can evolve. And of course you know from day one that your walls (typically) won’t be some pure monolithic material. So it makes sense to start with at the very least a generic multi-skin wall. Even concrete walls often have an interior finish, insulation… Or more critically, all walls (and many other elements) have a controlled point from which they will grow from (a well placed reference line is the most important decision you can make on day one). But I’m going off on a geometric data tangent. Let’s get back to talking about Labels.

From Generic to Specific

Imagine you are just starting schematic design. You model a few walls and place some windows. They are generic, but intelligently generic (ie, you have thought about the qualities of your defaults). Then what? Why not label what you’ve done. And label them with all the intelligence we’ve been discussing in these articles. Just like you model generically (or hide your assumptions), you can do the same with labels. And you can then let that label evolve just like your element evolves from an educated guess to a defined solution. You can do this in a variety of ways. A few easy ones are:

  • Give your elements a simplistic ID and use your labels to show that. Perhaps your windows all start with the ID “casement” or “awning” or “wood clad”, or whatever basic assumption you’ve made that you want your client to know (this ID can of course be set as part of a saved Favorite).
  • If it’s a renovation project, just label the renovation status of elements. That way your drawing will be full of notes like “new”, “existing”, and “demo”. I was originally going to suggest you type that in the ID field, but we can do better than that.
  • Make sure all your Composites and Complex Profiles have really generic names to start.
  • Make sure all your Surfaces are generic so you can use them as labels as well. (Tile, Wood Floor, Siding, Painted, Unfinished, etc.).
  • Use a custom IFC parameter to store your generic/basic information note. Remember all of this is about communicating with your team and storing important thoughts for the future. If you have a reason for doing something, embed that reason in your element. Imagine having an embedded note that says “center on opposite wall”. As the project evolves that note will stay and you can validate that decision later. Or you can update it if the logic disappears. Imagine an IFC parameter that automatically shows up in all elements called “design criteria”. Now imagine scheduling that parameter so you could easily view the critical design decisions on an element by element basis. And yes this isn’t the sanctioned use of IFC, but so what? By co-opting IFC parameters, this note could also travel to BIMx, Solibri model viewer, or anywhere else you or your team might want access to it. So perhaps instead of looking at a schedule of design criteria, you are letting your client and contractor walk through a BIMx model with the ability to see a text description of why certain things are the way they are.


Once a Label is placed, it’s easy to update it or swap it out with another Label type. So don’t worry about which Label to use for these generic notes. As we discussed in the previous post, the aesthetics will remain constant when you change between Label types. If you start with a Label showing a generic ID, then switch to a Composite, then to an IFC parameter, and back to a specific ID, only the text and behind the scenes stuff will change. Below is an example. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only updated the Composite or switched between Label data. The effect and evolution is what matters. One note, one element, one project start to finish.

Evolution of note and elementAs ARCHICAD users, we have buy-in regarding geometric elements gaining specificity overtime. We have a comfort level with the idea of placeholders. We model a wall and it evolves. It shifts in space and its properties develop. We don’t delete a wall and recreate it because it moved over a few feet or became thicker. We start with what we know and go from there. We acknowledge the existence of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. We accept that Donald Rumsfeld’s mantra is one of the two primary guides for BIM mastery (the other being Shuhari, which I talk about at the end of this post). But while we have reached this understanding with 3D elements and their 2D representations, we still need to attain a similar fluency with labels and text. We need to acclimate to a BIM environment where generic words can transform into specific words. With linked and automated data, text (via the Label tool) can be placed as soon as possible and evolve with the design. In ARCHICAD 19, this is now easy.

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  1. eduardo

    D**n you Jared, adding Design Criteria to my IFC Schemes and updating my template again.

    • Jared Banks

      Good! Then I’m doing my job. Isn’t it such a radical idea? Using IFC and the ability for elements to store data for DESIGN!?

  2. eduardo

    If it was radical I would ignore it, the problem is that it makes sense and that is why I can’t.

  3. Ben Lopez

    Very informative! Great tool!!

  4. Ben Lopez

    Great tool!!


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