On Land

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At Rill Architects we run ArchiCAD on Mac OS X. If you work at Rill, this is your stuff. If you don't, but you work in ArchiCAD, you may find something interesting. Anybody else, I don't know.
Standards Archive

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(So Jon says, where's the existing template, and I tell him, and he says I looked online and I didn't see that, and I said, well I'll fix it, so here ya go. The library names were wrong too!)

1. Duplicate the zTemplate folder and rename it with the project name. To duplicate a folder, drag and drop it within the same window while holding down the Option key. Use the client name. If this is a second, or later, project, add a number. (Please don't use roman numerals, they are hard to read.) If it's a sub-project or related project, add a descriptive term. Examples: Stevens. Kernan3. Salamander Garage.

2. Open the project file template for new home or addition. The template names end in .tpl. The new template is at the top of the project folder. The existing template is in the '4 Site & Existing Conditions' folder.

3. In the library manager, make sure you have 'Archicad Library 9.pla', '1 Rill & Decker LIB9', and '2 Project LIB9' loaded. Click 'Library Cache Settings' and make sure 'Use a Local Copy' is UNchecked. Click 'OK' and 'Done'.

4. Once the libraries load, Save As. Format: Archicad Project File. For the name use the client name, similar to the folder name. For an existing house use 'Existing Somebody.PLN'.

5. Go to the Finder and delete the project templates from your project folder. They are no longer needed. If by some weird chance you need a template again, you can always get it from the zTemplate folder.

6. Get busy!

Alphabetical by name of thing. Please suggest improvements and additions. Note: I change the date whenever I update this, so it will pop up every now and then. Rest assured it's not all new. Big changes will have a post of their own.

Changes in this update: S Wall layers, the fireplace stuff, A Roof2 (roofs in plan), CenterLine & CenterPoint objects, gross area calculation, room name object moves to A Zones.


The Interactive Schedule settings used by your local Archicad are saved as .iss files in ~/Library/Application Support/Graphisoft/IS Settings.

('~' means home, the house-looking folder named after you.)

But you don't actually use them there, so that's just FYI.

The standard IS settings, for the techniques I will describe here as they become available/I have time, are at 3 Resources (Onion)/Interactive Schedule. You use the IS interface to get these into your projects. Either: Calculate -> Interactive Schedule -> Settings...; or Calculate -> Interactive Schedule -> Preview..., and then the 'Import Settings From...' button. I prefer the second method; you can get from Preview to Settings but not the other way around, and I don't know why you'd fiddle with IS settings and then not want to see the schedule. (Maybe I'll just take that Settings menu item off. Let's move on.)

You can import multiple .iss's at once.

While it is possible to Change the Settings Folder, I would like explicitly forbid that you do so. Especially, don't use the 3 Resources/Interactive Schedule folder directly. If you do so and then make changes, you are Messing Things Up™. By keeping all the schedules settings local, you can mess them up all you want, as you need to, and you can always re-import the standard ones. That is, feel free to experiment.

I'll point out in passing that IS settings are handled very similarly to Work Environment schemes, and differently from attributes and library parts, and differently from conventional list schemes, which aren't library parts but are in the loaded libraries. It's really insanely complex. Maybe someday there will be a unified external asset manager for all this stuff, and the view sets too. And the display options.

As of, I don't know, 8.1, Display Options can be organized into Combinations, kind of like layers, and Display Options can be saved with views. Our templates have been set up this way for some time, but I don't think I've ever cataloged the combinations. They're just as standardized as anything else. Highly.

In the DO dialog, there are two panes, Display Only and Display & Output.

The Display Only options do not vary among combinations. Real quick: Intersections are on, Walls are contour lines, all the handles are on, section depths, detail boundaries, and markup elements (never used 'em) are hidden.

Display & Output options is where the action is. Rather than describe each combination, or heaven forbid build a table, I'll describe the A1/A2 combination, then how the others differ.

In A1/A2, which gets saved with plans and elevations for output: Beams are Contour Lines (no reference lines), Line Weight is Hairlines (they get turned True in PM), all the Fills are Vectorial, Doors & Windows Show with Dim, Zone Polygons are None, Zone Stamps Show, Section Markers are As in Settings, Column Symbols Show, Fill Background Color is By Element Setting.

Working Plan/SED is the same as A1/A2 except Beams are Entire Beam (ref lines on), and the Drafting and Cover Fills are Bitmap.

A3, which gets saved with wall sections, is the same as A1/A2 except the Fill Background Color is Transparent. (This means no fill backgrounds. Use Solid Fill for white masks. To mask with a pattern fill, you need two overlapping fill elements.)

A4/S0/M/P, which gets saved with RCPs, mechanical, plumbing, and foundation plans, is the same as A1/A2 except the Doors & Windows are Reflected Ceiling.

S, which gets saved with framing plans, is the same as A4/S0/M/P except the Cut Fills are Separators only. This turns the wall fills off, but shows a line at the joint between, e.g., concrete and stone. Fill backgrounds are on, so masking fills will work.

Site, which gets saved with site plans, is the same as A4/S0/M/P except the Cut Fills are No Fills. You will only see the effect of this if you show walls on the site plan.

A quirk of DO Combination management: You can't rename them. You have to Save As, which leaves the old one in place, and then you have to redefine the views that use the renamed combination. Then you can delete the old-named one. Also, I haven't figured out how to import DO combinations from other projects.

Sheet A2-1
S/E Status (Model/Drawing). It is just really strongly recommended that all building elevations and sections be model views. Developing model sections is a little harder than elevations, but anyone can do it with practice.

I usually keep S/E's set to Auto-rebuild.

S/E Element Placement. Marker ends should not extend too far beyond the building itself. Our section elements go on a non-printing layer, and we use a separate object to show the section locations in plan. This is because it is difficult to reconcile the extent of the cut with the desired graphic presentation of the markers. That is, To get the markers looking nice you need have them much more extensive than is required to create the view itself.

Cut sections using the section marker Plain Section JAM9. This simple marker just shows the ID and a flag to indicate direction.

Elevations should be as close to the building as possible; the marker should be stepped where necessary to achieve this. Watch out for eaves and gutters.

Sections often require a lot of tweaking to get them to cut through interesting/clear/consistent stuff on all stories. Watch for undesirable effects of stepping with respect to roofs. Where a section cut is perpendicular to a roof's slope, try to avoid stepping the section within that roof. If you can't avoid it, discontinuities in the roof can be patched, but the patch becomes a maintenance issue if you edit the S/E element again.

Section depth should be minimized in order to improve performance. The depth should reach only the most distant element you want to see; usually it's a ridge or a chimney. Infinite depth sections should never be used. Zero-depth sections come in handy sometimes for generating details, but building and wall sections should always have some depth. Section depths are typically off in display options; toggle them using Karl's marvelous add-on.

Layers. All annotations go on the layer +A Arch Note Reg Scale. This includes text, arcs and splines used for leaders, and notation objects. All added 2D work should go on +A Misc Line, but this is not a critical issue. Since S/E windows usually only generate a single view, layer discipline is not as important as in the plan. You should, however, make consistent use of the Arch Note layer, to maintain the option of turning the notes off to display the S/E image by itself.

Vectorial hatching.

Elevation (and 3D) hatching is generated by the 'Vectorial Hatching' setting of the material in Options -> Attribute Settings -> Materials. The pen of the hatching should typically be 150, which is light gray.

Display of the hatching is a setting in the model tab of the S/E element itself. Hatching slows down generation considerably; in typical use it should be off. Before publishing, turn the hatching on for all the markers by selecting all of them and checking the box in the info box. The hatching switch setting is not saved with views, which is too bad.

Unwanted lines.

Ugly bits which are complex can be patched. To hide simple cases of a few unwanted lines, use a fill which matches the vectorial hatching of the elements involved (shingles, stone, etc.), and has an opaque background. For blank walls you can use a solid fill of a white-printing pen. I use 80, which is purple, so I can see the areas I've masked. Masking fills and patches should go on the layer +A Misc Line. The use of masking elements becomes a maintenance issue.

Rendering of depth.

Foreground elements should be outlined with a heavy (5-weight) polyline. There is no reliable way to do this automatically, it's tedious. One tip: for symmetrical building parts, outline one half and then mirror. Another: Outlines can often be copied and pasted to the opposite-facing elevation and mirrored across the origin.

Use Marked Distant Area where appropriate. When using it, check 'Use One Pen' and use pen 30. Pen 30 is gray in AC and 1-weight black in PM. You need section depths on in display options to edit the MDA depth. Don't forget the shortcut.

When you combine outlining with MDA, you get three levels of rendering: Fills on and outlined, fills on with no outline, and fills off.

Model pens. Except for walls and objects, elements are drawn in 3D with their floor plan pens. Walls have a dedicated 3D pen, which should be a 3-weight. (Typical walls are 13.) Objects can have a separate 3D pen, either as a parameter or hard-coded, this will vary. It is a long-standing wish that all elements have a separate 3D pen.

The ground. The ground mesh section settings should be: Fill='Air Space'; Background pen=91; Cut pen=6-weight. (I like green land, so 36.) These settings give an invisible fill with a heavy ground line. The bottom and side lines of the mesh should be obscured by the object Grade Mask JAM8, which goes on the +A Misc Line layer.


Elevation notes. The main materials and building elements should be noted. This includes wall finishes, trim parts, decorative columns, panels, railings, chimneys, etc. To align the notes, use the object Note Column JAM9, in the drawing tools folder. Notes on the right side should be left-justified with the leaders starting at the first line. Notes on the left side should be right-justified with the leaders starting at the end of the last line.

It is permissible to fully annotate one elevation on each sheet, and then only point out unusual features on other drawings on the same sheet.

Levels. Use the object 'Elev Marker JAM8'. Elevation views should show the Z-height of each story. It is helpful to draw a dotted (not dashed) line through he elevation at each floor level. Dotted lines need to be heavy in order to be visible; use a 4- or 5-weight. In sections, levels should be should be shown for ceilings as well as floors, and for interior floor level changes (such as garage slabs). Level objects will auto-display their Y position, which is the height. They should be dimensioned to show the relationships among them.

Knee wall heights should be dimensioned in section.

In sections, unusual ceiling or floor conditions may be labeled with Slab Elev JM9. Examples: Lowered ceilings in small rooms, a stepped slab in a theater.

Roof pitches should be noted in section and elevation with the label Roof Slope JAM9.

Doors and windows should be labeled with Door-Window Label JAM9.

Structural members in section should be labeled with Description JAM9. Joists are shown 2D-only using 'Joists Sect 2D JAM9'. Our standards don't support modeling the joists.

F Trim2 is for trim elements you want to show in plan. Two applications off the top of my head:

• Pilasters. This gives the option of turning off the pilasters in structure plans, etc.

• Panel Walls. Where you have pilasters, you often have paneling, and if you show the pilaster without the panel you get a gap.

Alright that's only one application. One and a half maybe.

I've made a couple of changes in the templates which affect how columns are layered. These changes are important, especially if you are in the habit of placing architectural columns on the S Column layer.

1. S Column no longer shows in architectural (A1) plans. With this change in mind, I also want to clarify the difference between architectural and structural columns.

2. There's a new layer, S Col Steel, for columns in the basement that need to show in the foundation plan.

If you come to me and ask why your columns are missing, I'll know you didn't read this.


Another Hotfix. It's on the Onion, next to the previous one. Here is the list of fixes. I was tragically victimized by the disappearing label thing, so good.

Again, Everyone should run this. Again, You can run it from the Onion, rather than copying it to your machine.

Again, (You can check for updates any time by choosing Check For Updates from the Help menu in Archicad.)

I love the clipboard. I won't paste in my rant about the version numbering, although it still applies. Yup, 9.0.0 v1, now and forever. Watch that build number though.

These are the primary functions of layering, in order of importance:

1. Control of display for output. The finished output has to show and hide the right elements.

2. Control of display for working on the project. Showing and hiding elements depending on the work you are doing at the moment.

3. Promotion of logical thinking about the project as a building rather than as a bunch of drawings.

4. Protection of elements used for reference. For example, the walls are locked when working on the structure plans.

Layers exist so elements can be shown, hidden, and locked as needed. Beyond that, layering helps keep the project straight in our minds as we work on it. To this end, layers should be:

Sensible. An architect using an architecture-oriented CAD program should expect to find a layer for "Walls". They would also expect a layer for fireplaces, even though walls and fireplaces display together and don't technically need separate layers. "Put the fireplace on the wall layer" doesn't sound right. In keeping with Virtual Building principles, our layers relate to building parts first, and annotations or drawing types second.

Truthful. I recently added a layer, S Deck, for floor-structure slabs. Previously, we used S Slab. I decided it was poor thinking to call joist decks and concrete slabs by the same name. Layers should encourage clear thinking about the building itself.

Logically Consistent. A stair will be made of elements which display in plan and elements which are 3D-only. So we have two layers, A Stair2 and A Stair3. This arrangement should apply to all assemblies which are split between plan and 3D, such as soffits.

Here's another way of looking at it:

In the design of Archicad, the floor plan is the "main" window. Close it and you close the file. Every element must be on a story, and therefore visible in the plan window at some point. (Even though you can place elements in 3D.)

The first function of layering is to separate the Plan- and 3D-only elements. If we only did architectural drawings, we could get by with just those two layers, Plan and 3D. We would have two layer combinations, Plan, showing only the plan layer, and 3D, showing both layers. This setup meets the minimal display requirement above.

But it would be very difficult to work with. Productivity would suffer as the user went insane. So within the architectural, we have lots of plan layers and lots of 3D layers, which correspond to building parts. In the plan we have walls, cabinets, fixtures, etc. In 3D we have floors, structure, trim, etc. The addition of these layers doesn't advance the display requirement at all, it just helps us stay sane.

It helps our work to have layout and guide elements. Those need layers, since they have to be hidden for output. It's convenient to be able to "permanently" hide elements without deleting them, trashcan-style. It's handy to keep area-measurement fills in the project, but we don't look at them very often. So there are several kinds of administrative layers that don't directly represent the project or the output.

Then there's the invisible modeling tools, cutting roofs and SEO operators.

Once we get into other drawing types, structure plans, etc., those drawings have their own annotations, and require different architectural elements to be shown and hidden. The structure plans require that the landscape walls (hide) be separated from the architectural walls (show). The reflected ceiling plan requires that the crown moulding (show) be separated from the other high trim (hide). If you have two site plans, you need layers for each of their annotations, and for the annotations they share.

The layer setup we have is the product of a years of refinement along these principles. When we add a layer, it should be in order to improve the logic of the system or to facilitate a new/better mode of work. For example, to model wall sections, the crown needs to be positioned taking the ceiling finish into account, and the ceiling finish itself needs to be modeled. But since the ceiling finish is only useful for wall sections, we don't take the time to build it everywhere. Since it stops and starts, it needs to be hidden in building sections so we don't have jaggy ceiling lines. Therefore we need the layer F Clg Fin, as well as layer combinations for wall sections separate from building sections.

I hope this helps answer the question, "Why are there so many layers?"

The Work Environment offers the ability to export the keyboard shortcuts as a web document. So why not. Here it is. This link will stay on the Standards section of the sidebar over there on the left. If any of these don't work for you, you can import the current shortcuts from 3 Resources / AC / Work Environment / Rill [version] / Shortcuts.

A Flue is for modeling chimney flues. It shows in plan and section. In section, the layer should be wireframe to show the flue void. In general use, elements on the A Flue layer will be subtracted from each part of the Fireplace/Chimney. The templates have a new layer combination, 'View Flues', which shows the flues solid inside the wireframe chimney.

A Chimney3 is for chimney parts that should not show in plan. Formerly we used A Wall Hi for this purpose. Putting these elements on their own layer allows you to show an axonometric of just the chimney. The templates have a new layer combination, 'View Chimney', which shows the chimney solid by itself. You can use a marquee to create a cutaway axon to show the flues.

Everybody knows this, right?

Do not use the "Cloud" objects in the Archicad library. They are the worst objects in the world. Update: I killed these with my bare hands. They're gone and you needn't fear them any more.

Clouds should be drawn with a closed spline using the "cloud" linetype. The only glitch is that sometimes the cloud will be inside out when you are done. If this happens mirror the cloud, or, if the shape is non-mirror-friendly, draw the spline again, in the opposite direction. Sometimes the spline doesn't quite close. Pretend not to notice.

For the triangle, use the object Character+Shape JAM8 Shape Tag JM9. The number comes from the ID.

Bad cloud. Looks like a chunk of foam rubber from an AirTran pillow. Also missing marker.

Pretty cloud, reminds one of heaven.

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