Everything is linked! Changes made in plans propagate to sections, elevations, schedules, and 3D views! It’s all coordinated. This is the world we live in when we use ArchiCAD. And it’s great.

But let’s look at the reverse for a  moment…

The intern changed a composite’s thickness and now all the dimensions on the plan are messed up! My boss fiddled with the floor heights in section by using the Edit Story Levels Mode. I accidentally deleted an element in section and didn’t realize for an hour that all the other elements grouped with it that I couldn’t see where deleted too! The client meeting is in one hour!


Usually quick mistakes have quick fixes. Change the composite back. Return the story height to the original dimensions using the Story Settings. Just like errors propagate through the model, so do fixes… When disaster strikes remember you are neither alone nor are you helpless. Here are four things you should think about doing:

1. Undo. If you notice the problem soon enough, a simple Undo can fix many mistakes. Or a bunch of Undo’s in series.

2. Just reopen the file. Hopefully you’re saving often enough that if it’s a huge blunder, you can just reopen the file from an hour ago. Doing work over sucks, but it always goes faster the second or third or fourth time (comforting, huh?). And if you don’t close the messed up file, you can copy and paste from the new file to the old file the things that you changed/updated/created that weren’t ruined. When you open the saved file with ArchiCAD running another instance of that file, you’ll see a message like this: (image: Open as Read-Only.png) Go ahead and “Open as Read Only”. You can still do a Save As and overwrite the original file once you’ve copied over all your data. Just make sure to not save the messed up file and overwrite all your hard rework when you finally close it (or better yet, go ahead and save that messed up file in another location, in case you forgot to grab something. Best to do that sooner rather than later).


3. Backups. If you can’t undo the damage or go back an hour, open up yesterday’s file. If you’re a reader of my blog, you know my thoughts on the critical importance of backups. I’ll sum it up: backup everyday and keep those backups close and handy (i.e., organized). Just like transferring data from the current file to the last save, you can delete the bad in the current file and then copy the good/missing from yesterday’s file. Or the reverse, depending on which way is easier to recreate a complete file.

4. Ask for Help. Chances are you’re not the first person to make a mistake. Search and share on the forum. And call the Tech Support guys. They are super helpful and knowledgeable.

An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure

Sometimes it’s not deleted data, but the loss of original intent. You have a great idea. You make some design shifts and then over lunch, dread builds in your stomach. Suddenly you remember there was some logic to why the design was the way it was. But you can’t remember. And you made so many changes. Maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe the new scheme meets the original logic. Maybe. But maybe not. What do you do?

Save, Save, Save. Before you do anything bold (whether client driven or your own stroke of mad genius), save a copy of the file in your backup folder. The reasons to have access to the pre-change file are nearly endless. But here’s one: your bold move might really be four bold moves. Having a pure file means you can make each bold move from the same starting point. Order for your Chaos of Exploration.

Project Info. Got some important text to keep track of? Say client information, relevant codes, or a critical website? Put it in the Project Info on Day 1 and refer to it throughout the project.

Locking Layers and Locking Elements. Some elements you model need to be unchanging and permanent. Perhaps a critical dimension in section, some existing site conditions, or a required clearance. Both whole layers and individual elements can be locked. (see the Quick Layers Palette, Layer Settings, or the Edit/Locking Menu). I’ll do a follow up post this week talking more about the various locking options in ArchiCAD.

ArchiCAD Static section diagramIntentionally Static Diagrams. Here’s how I start EVERY project in ArchiCAD. I figure out the prototypical section by hand (2D) before I put the information into the Story Settings. I label the heck out of it and keep it in the project .pln as an independent worksheet. And just as critically, after I complete the diagram, I show it to EVERY team member. And I ask “THIS IS CORRECT, YES?” And if they say no, I don’t leave their desk until we both understand what’s right. Then I make the changes, show it to them again, and once more ask “THIS IS CORRECT, YES?” Every project. Every time. I create this prototype before I draw a wall. Before anything gets modeled. As soon as section information is known or matters, I draw this diagram.

Things change. And that’s okay. A well organized ArchiCAD file can handle immense change easily. But baselines are important. This diagram I use isn’t unique to BIM, it’s just classic smart. And this isn’t the only construction diagram I draw. All concept diagrams I create live in the BIM file. So it’s information and I’m managing it. And I return to it to make sure I’m on the right path. I update the diagram as the design evolves and outside factors affect it. I keep it simple and use it to stay grounded. I figure out my stairs based on this Static Section Diagram. It’s my scratch paper. It’s my doodle. And it doesn’t get lost.

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