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.


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