Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Using the ByMaterial settings.

Maybe because my materials are different to what's available OOTB (I didn't even know what CMU was), I set about creating my own materials including bitmaps of bricks and timber finishes etc. but I ended up with lots of overrides in my wall styles to show the floor plan hatching as I wanted it, the backlining, the section view.  It's a very labour intensive process and not very efficient.  Ok maybe I didn't understand what I was doing but a year or so back I  'got' the idea of using the ByMaterial setting and it has vastly simplified my process and therefore the maintenance and editing of my projects.  Now this isn't my own wacky creation - it's how the OOTB content is setup to perform so it's as per the creators intended.  Duh!  At first it seemed too laborious to set up but it's not and pays dividends down the track.  If you can use the American materials even better - it's set up for you.  There are other packs available.  I have the UK set, a pack has even been released for Chinese content!

Now I want to be able to quickly design up a building, shoot 3D's in the design process, then document all in as efficient process as possible. 3D's are an extra that most avoid but it's an enjoyable one and if you can make the process efficient then it's not really much extra effort to create.  All your modelling becomes part of the CD's so that time is not wasted.   My main work is common residential and it's all the more important to have an efficient process because the drawing fee is not generous!

I have found that aecMaterials is a big part of the key to get this process happening efficiently.

So now here's what a typical wall style use to look like for me and how it look's now.
You'll notice that there are now NO style overrides now which as said before reduces the effort = productivity boost.  All wall styles are controlled by the 'Standard' wall style settings. (ok not all - more on that later).

I have come to the conclusion that it's best is to stay as close to OOTB as possible but probably most international users will need to customise for local conditions. So here is my practise I have adopted with the Display Representations (DR).

Presentation DR is used for designing & sketching and renderings.
Medium Detail is used for construction drawings usually at 1:100
High Detail is used for Detailing at 1:20-1:1
Low Detail is used for Site plans
Reflected is used for service layouts (generally just electrical) (With a lowered cutplane to show doors & windows) 

Above is a sample wall taken from the UK Wall Styles shown with the different display rep's.  If you examine them they won't have overrides except where required to remove endcaps but these can and should be removed or displayed for the standard style.  I undid the overrides and got the same outcome.  i.e. For Low Detail you would generally not want endcaps for any style and conversely you would for High Detail - so the settings can be made in the standard wall style and set for all styles.

Remember too that if you add extra DR's you will multiply your maintenance so be cautious and only add what you really need.  See if you can make use of an existing unused DR (screened?) instead of creating a new one. 

I know that some don't like to manipulate layers but it does give you another dimension of control and it's easy if you follow good practise and make use of the (express) layer tools.

How the OOTB content works... (wish I'd understood this before - DOH!). Open the wall style drawing from the Content/Styles folder. Then cycle thru the different DR's and see how the wall display changes.  Turn on your LineWeight display so you can see the Bold lines. Now click on any wall and see if they have any overrides set - (No!)

For Presentation (DR) drawings the walls are shown as a solid fill. Any wall with any material will simply show as a solid fill. All the componant displays are turned off so no individual componants (Brick, frame. cavity) will show giving you a nice simple solid for any wall (regardless the style). This is all controlled from the Standard wall style as there are no style overrides.  Have a look at a wall style at the Layer/C/L tab and note which componants are on. (remember that no matter which wall you pick, you are looking at the settings in the Standard wall style as there are no style overrides).  So all wall styles will show the same shrinkwrap and sw hatch.  Bring in a new wall style and it displays the same.  OOTB uses the standard material for the shrinkwrap but I added my own material 'Shrinkwrap Wall' so I know it only applies to walls. Sometimes I may use diagonal lines instead of solid fill and I may not want that everywhere standard is used.

For Medium Detail the shrinkwrap hatch is turned off and the shrinkwrap is used as the overall backline.  The componant displays are now turned on and control of the componants is controlled by your material settings. This is so because the ByMaterial boxes are ticked. No overrides are set in individual styles because your custom control happens in the material definitions (MD). This is the trap for international users because we may not have sets of appropriate material definitions set up. But hopefully I can show you why it's worth the effort if it's required. (remember you may use the OOTB materials).

The beauty here is that if you change the display of your certain brick material every wall style containing that componant will be instantly changed, in plan, elevation, section and even a render view. Done in one simple edit.  If you have overrides in your wall styles you would need to chase every instance of that (brick) and remember each setting you changed (i.e. hatch, scale and rotation, pen thickness and plot style etc).  The material once defined can be stored and retrieved and applied to any wall (or other) style just by assigning the material.
 For High Detail, it's much the same as Medium except the hatching is shown for a larger scale for details but remember the hatching comes from the material definition not the wall style.  Shrinkwrap could be a thicker line for the larger scale.
In the Reflected DR, the componants are again not displayed, the shrinkwrap hatch is turned off and the Shrinkwrap is a light line instead of bold. A nice background for your electrical & ceiling drawings.  You could even turn your componants display on here and shrinkwrap off if you wish to show cavity or some level of detail.  Your material settings could ensure the lines are all still light. You would not usually have your componant hatching turned on.

Remember there are no wall style overrides (except for special walls) so this is all determined in only my (1) Standard wall style and the aecmaterials definitions. This IS pretty much how the OOTB styles are set up and it's easy to adjust the whole drawing and all wall styles in one shot.

Next: But what about?? - some overrides you DO need to make.
Customisations I've made.
Why this is important for efficient renders
Why I thnk some of the OOTB is over the top - simplify!

Here's a couple of customisations that I needed to make to get this working for me.
I created a new material called 'ShrinkwrapWall'. Every wall gets this assigned for it's shrinkwrap material. (I created this rather than use 'standard' as that is applied to many styles and componants and I wanted to be able to control my walls independantly.  If you don't do this, just remember that 'Standard' is used for your wall styles so don't change it without thinking about the consequences)
Because my wall cavities are empty I need to create a material that wouldn't show but because there are no overrides to control this one componant I needed another trick to make it disappear.  Realise that in your standard wall style you have no idea which componant is which, they are just numbers and you don't know which one is your cavity.  So using the ByMaterial setting I created an 'Air' componant (which is also useful elsewhere).  In most DR's this material display is turned off and doesn't display.

Tip: Alias aecMaterialDefinitions to MD for quick access.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Multiple Levels in a single Drawing File? Part 1

Now this may take several posts to discuss and some of you at least will think me mad. "Why would you want to do that? Just use the Project Navigator (PN)."

I have used the PN way back in ADT2005 when it first was implemented after I read through Paul Aubin's Mastering ADT2004. I documented a four story addition to a 3 story building, the floors not lining up with the existing building (ceiling heights not as high as the 10' original). It also had an uneven dual stairwell with central lift between the two buildings. The whole effort to turn it into a backpackers hostel. Now I shudder to think I dared dive into a heavy project like this with an architect's deadline to please, with such a new concept as the PN (all on an old P166) but I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy it all came together. Various repeated Ensuites became Elements inserted into Constructs into Views and Sheets. Seperate drawings for external, internal, ceilings & electrical etc. The only major problem I had was my sheets template didn't have the same adjustments to the Display reps that my Views had and it caused me a fair amount of trouble to adjust items afterwards. All this to say that I have used PN successfully and I understand it's advantages.
I have used it again from time to time on largish projects where it was advantageous to break it down into smaller componants. I used it when I had to assemble 65 "little boxes on a hillside" for a rendered illustration (Right).

I like how you can select some entities, drag them into the PN and drop to create a new file or even into (merge) another file without opening it. The PN is a really smooth organiser.


Most of my work has been in smaller residential projects and I just think it's over-kill. Vision-Rez must agree and had created their own one file/multi level approach though you can use the PN if you want.  There are advantages to splitting files up.  I still do that keeping entourage for rendering and the survey in separate files but on the main, it's all in the one file.

Just to clarify I am talking multi-storey residential or small commercial/industrial.  If I were to do a larger many mutli-floor project again I would happily consider using the PN.

So what are the advantages to a one file approach and why would I bother?
  • I can easily project a wall to a gable roof without having to copy a roof into my present construct (adding the layer), project and then delete the roof again. I don't need to draw a PLine either! It's all there.
  • I can add a mutli-storey window to both floors without having to add an ME to subtract in the 2nd floor file or wall edit etc because it's in the same file! Just add the window as an interference to the 2nd wall - done.
  • I only have to create object styles used on 2 or more levels once and if I edit, it's edited!
  • If I edit a material for the ground floor, I don't have to copy/overwrite it/save/reload x-ref/regen in any other files to get it to the 2nd floor.  This especially applies to render materials.  Editing and copying across gets old real quick!
  • I can create a file trail legacy by simply renaming the file, advancing a version No. without worrying about without messing up a PN file hierachy. (I have had files corrupt completely.)
  • I can even create multi-floor walls that span more than one level though this may or may not be successful depending on the circumstances.
  • I use only one stair and it's there, available to project walls to the u/side etc.
  • Only one person can work on the project at one time - not quite true as you can either keep the model in a one file approach and x-ref that into other files to create elevations, sections, room layouts, details etc if required. These can be dropped back into the main file once completed for easy filing etc. Remember you can even import a page layout if it's been setup in a different file. You could also adopt a 1 file for the model approach and x-ref that into other drawings to document. This method would even work within the PN.
So I am suggesting it's easier and more straight forward without work arounds or doing the same task more than once in separate files. Everything is there available for you to deal with in the one file. With a modern computer's power it is not too much of a strain on resources either providing the 'house' does not look like a shopping centre.

For most of my projects I have tried to create some degree of a rendered image, because I enjoy it.  In ADT2006 each copy of a render material would come through the x-ref and you would end up with say 3 seperate copies of the same "ExtBrick". The new Mental Ray rendering engine in ACA2008 onwards is clever enough to assume the same name is the same material (but you can still end up with lots of materials anyway) so that's a big plus.  (If I succeed in removing an unwanted Material from one file I don't have it come back again from the 2nd floor.)

I am intending to add future posts about how I set about to create 'a System' to achieve this approach and hope you come along for the ride. It may offer some other tips even if I don't convince you to have a go. It involved creating;
  • A Layer Key Style that includes a layer designator. Early Autodesk Australia offered Australian content packs with ADT1 with 'L1-Wall' as the the layer designator. It seems they abandoned this approach when the PN came to power as it does away with any need for level designators in your layers (1 level per file) but it was interesting that they had it there at all. At some point they must have considered a one file multi floor approach. Oh and the level designator could be anywhere in your layer name such as A-Wall-L1.
  • Ability to control the Z level and lock it at that. (So when you draw a 2nd floor wall it's at the 2nd floor level and doesn't snap to ground floor entities.
  • Place to hold your different floor height levels (i.e. 2nd floor height above ground).
  • Ability to efficiently switch between levels. (One big reason why I wanted to learn AutoLisp). This should automate this whole list here.
  • Ability for a variety of options in layer display (ie. show 2nd floor with ground floor walls underlay, show ground floor electrical layout, roof or footing plan).
  • Some simple additions to Display Representations to allow the change to the cutplane. (Don't worry this part is easy!)
If all this sounds too complex stay with me. I've really researched for this to make things simpler and it has achieved that.  If you think it might help you I am happy to share!  It does rely on layer manipulations which are easy but may be a problem if you have hardcoded layers into your styles.  ( I don't recommend that however it may still be possible).

Here's a quick preview
I type L1 and the drawing shows me the ground floor ready to draw.
I type L2 and the drawing shows the upper floor ready to draw.
I type L1E and the drawing shows me the ground floor electrical layout ready to draw.
               and I think it really should be that simple.

If you want you could make a toolbar/pallete command/ribbon button to type L1 for you but typing is by far quicker.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Autocad Architecture 2011 is out ...

.... for a couple of weeks+ now, I must have timed it just right and had it downloaded and installed before the US woke up.   In case you missed it you will not receive a DVD in the mail unless you specify it at your subscription site (log on to tick the box).

I will reserve most of my opinion until I put it into production.  There are some helpful reviews, but apart from the small amount of changes to ACA (which I expected) I like what I see.  There are some nice additions to AutoCAD (see review).  PolyLines have finally been updated !!  Rendering has again been overhauled.  Hatching is too (in ACA objects??).

JTB World.
David Koch's Architect's Desktop

Commercial reviews
Imaginit (uk)

Don't forget that ACA is built on Autocad and there are also good reviews that I think offer tools that will be useful in ACA

Cad Panacea
World Access (What the russians think)
Ellen Finklestein
Lynne Allen's Acad 2011 ticks and tips booklet

Futher to that, there has been a couple of useful additions to Design Review (free download) to make it better for walkthroughs for residential work.  They have improved the lighting problems and added a field of view to widen the camera angle.  Whilst welcome they still fall well short of ArchiCAD's virtual building Modeller. The navigation interface is still awkward and liable to embarrass a company executive as he tries to 'walk' through a design.  I have still to download and trial the latest version of Navisworks Freedom (free download) which supposedly offers better tools for walkthroughs. 

Design Review review

Hopefully I might find an AutoDesk product that can work in conjunction with ACA to accomplish this is a professional manner that doesn't leave me embarrased ("ArchiCAD can do that").

Oh and if you missed it, Autodesk thought they'd ask whether they could delete the menu's and toolbars altogether from the Autodesk range.  After the incredible negative reaction to the robbin, they have the audacity to ask this?  Is it hopeful that many will not see it and they can see 'our research shows we can delete it"??  No that's far too cynical!  Anyway, you can log in here and make your comments known either way.  (I wonder if this means the old screen manu is done for?)  As for me I am trying to loose my dependence on pull down menu's without relying too much on the Rabbin.  The keyboard is always quicker and has not changed for a long time.  If you don't want to loose too much productivity every time they change the interface (do you think the ribbum is here forever??) then divorce yourself as much as possible and practical from the interface.

Exitech (uk)