Friday, July 27, 2007

Graphisoft Helps Steer The Future of Architectural CAD From Automation To Simulation (01apr07)

Architectural software is evolving rapidly away from two-dimensional drafting automation toward three-dimensional building simulation. The architect is increasingly becoming the creator of the virtual building as well as its caretaker. Consequently, the architect’s role in a building project can continue long after the occupancy permit is issued. As a result of this evolution, the architect’s ability to construct a "virtual building" on a desktop computer, to simulate the building’s behavior both before it is built and throughout its life cycle, is changing the architect’s design process, fee structure, and relationship with the client, contractor and the community, said David Marlatt, AIA, president of Graphisoft US Inc.

This new set of services associated with the maintenance of a virtual building is bringing to center stage one of the few professionals who is trained as a generalist to conceive geometric solutions for social and economic problems—the architect.

As architecture continues to evolve, its next major phase depends upon advancing computer technology, yet computers and CAD software have been with the profession for almost 20 years, primarily to automate drafting. Architects in the next 20 years will simulate buildings—a development so important that it presents the profession of architecture with its greatest opportunity to redefine itself since architects stopped cutting stone 400 years ago and started drafting.

Entering The Information Age

In today’s so-called "Information Age," computers and related digital technologies, originally intended as fast calculators, are now recognized as the primary tool to access, understand, and communicate vast quantities of information.

Similarly, computers were introduced to the architecture profession as "automated drafting machines," to make the most tedious and expensive part of traditional practice more efficient. Taking cues from other parts of society, however, architects can reinterpret the computer as a tool for processing and communicating information about buildings.

Architects also can use computers to simulate the building itself and produce better and more complete information, including animation with voice-overs, virtual reality scenes, interactive facilities management models, sun studies, real-time cost analyses, as well as working drawings. The goal of the architect in the Information Age is not to compress the time required to produce traditional documentation, but to explode the amount and nature of information available about a proposed building, to the benefit of the building’s designers, users, and owners.

According to Marlatt, the simulated building will create opportunities for new or enhanced architectural services, such as:

  • Computer rendering, animation and "virtual reality" scenes to help community groups, financial backers, or prospective tenants or customers visualize the design in 3D
  • Three-dimensional facilities management
  • Simulating and visualizing building material performance
  • Explorations of design and maintenance alternatives
  • Feasibility studies of alterations
  • Simulating and planning design changes required over the life of a building
  • Optimizing energy consumption.

A New Approach to Building Design

Designing and documenting a building, regardless of whether it’s a house or skyscraper, boils down to communicating information to two distinct groups—the buyer and the builder. The buyer needs simple plans, renderings, animations and budgets in order to be sold on the project. The builder needs complete construction documents and precise material take-offs to construct it.

Most CAD programs handle one type of architectural information or the other, but ArchiCAD from Graphisoft is somewhat unique in that it offers comprehensive information tailored to both the buyer and the builder. This graphic and documentation information is integrated into a single file so that all of it remains current. ArchiCAD can reduce the time spent communicating a design substantially, and it can save the builder and buyer even more money and liability by being able to resolve on-site conflicts.

Using ArchiCAD, users can design and document at the same time because ArchiCAD keeps all of the information about a building—plans, sections, perspectives, materials, quantities, project notes—together and up-to-date. ArchiCAD not only helps "build" a design using 3D elements, but also generates floor plans, sections, perspectives, bills-of-materials, and animated fly-bys and walk-throughs.

The bottom line is that ArchiCAD helps design better buildings by giving precise information about a design. ArchiCAD helps to better communicate ideas by rendering and animating directly from floor plans. It also helps save time and money by integrating the design and documentation phases of architectural work.

Founded In Hungary

Graphisoft, developer of ArchiCAD, was founded in 1982 in Budapest, Hungary by two software designers with the goal of developing 3D architectural software for personal computers. Today, Graphisoft is a major developer of architectural CAD software and employs approximately 120 people in offices in Budapest, San Francisco, Munich, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. A privately held company, Graphisoft reported 1995 worldwide sales of $15 million with pre-tax profits of $4.5 million. In 1996, sales were approximately $17.5 million.

Graphisoft develops and markets its architectural software for use on personal computers running under the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows 95 and NT operating systems. Its line of software—ArchiCAD and several affiliated products—is distributed in 70 countries and published in 19 languages. The current user base for ArchiCAD is approximately 30,000 worldwide.

For those of you who might be slightly confused about the company’s name, you are not alone, but this issue has finally been put to rest with the help of our judicial system. Last fall, Graphisoft, developers of ArchiCAD, and Diehl Graphsoft Inc., developers of MiniCad, signed an out-of-court settlement, preventing Diehl Graphsoft from using the name "Graphsoft" alone without identifying itself as Diehl Graphsoft Inc. This includes all internal and external communications media. Graphisoft, the owner of the registered trademark of Graphisoft in the US and several other countries, grants Diehl Graphsoft Inc. the worldwide right to use its full corporate name on any media.

"Maintaining a clear distinction between our companies is fair to the customer who might think that the same company was manufacturing both ArchiCAD and Diehl Graphsoft’s CAD package, MiniCad," said Gabor Bojar, president of Graphisoft. "We are pleased that this dispute of several years has finally been settled. We have always agreed that both companies should focus on the market rather than on the court room," he said.

We also agree. Now, with this name issue resolved, let’s take a look at ArchiCAD, Graphisoft’s flagship product.

ArchiCAD 5.0 A Complete Package

ArchiCAD balances CAD tools and associated features necessary for completing detailed building documentation. Reflecting the architectural profession itself, ArchiCAD is multi-disciplinary. Virtually all tasks in the architect’s traditional scope of work are handled directly by ArchiCAD, while other specialized task programs, such as databases, mechanical CAD, structural analysis, and ray-traced rendering programs communicate bi-directionally with ArchiCAD.

From the outset, ArchiCAD has always been developed for building design. Unlike other generic CAD systems written for engineers and later adapted to architecture, ArchiCAD was developed from the start for architects specifically for designing buildings.

As a result of this focus, architects and other building professionals have an intuitive, easy to learn user interface employing tools which are meaningful to the profession. For example, walls in ArchiCAD are more than parallel lines. They can contain valuable information about their composition, materials, height, price, and relationship to other walls, floors and ceilings—all of which is tracked in plan, perspective, elevation, and the bill of materials.

Graphisoft released ArchiCAD version 5.0 in July 1996, marking a major milestone in the development of both ArchiCAD and CAD software for architects. As the practice of architecture evolves in the "Information Age," ArchiCAD 5.0 lets architects create, access, manage and communicate vital information about the buildings they are designing. The newest version delivers many new tools and enhanced features for faster, more efficient building design, visualization, and documentation. The price for ArchiCAD 5.0 starts at $3,795.

The standard features and enhancements for ArchiCAD 5.0 include:

  • Associative dimensioning - Dimensions in ArchiCAD are tied to specific points, meaning they are re-calculated and updated following any change in the floor plan. However, ArchiCAD not only changes the dimensions, it re-calculates their position to avoid overlapping figures.
  • Intelligent 3D objects - ArchiCAD comes complete with a library of over 600 three-dimensional building components, each of which can be modified to derive many more. For example, using only two parameters, height and length, ArchiCAD can generate a staircase meeting your design criteria. Using ArchiCAD’s proprietary Geometric Description Language (GDL), a language for defining any geometric form, you can also create your own objects.
  • 2D parametrics automate construction documents - ArchiCAD features parametric features, such as scale dependent detailing. By changing the drawing scale, for example, building elements such as doors and windows can be displayed schematically or with full details—eliminating repetitive drafting and needless line work at small scale. Details can also be copied from manufacturers' standard catalogs.
  • Zone Tool - Recognizes and quantifies building zones and rooms and organizes them in ArchiCAD’s integrated bill of materials. The Zone Tool couples facilities management functionality with a 3D database.
  • 3D Construction Tools - ArchiCAD 5.0 offers true curve—even spline shaped—walls, slabs and roofs with curved openings, a hip and vaulted roof tool for generating complex roofs, and a new column tool with multiple veneers which clean up automatically at wall intersections.
  • Curved construction - ArchiCAD can automatically convert splines to curved 3D elements. The curved walls have smooth surfaces and appropriate openings. These walls are editable and can be easily adjusted with the construction methods using tangents and nodes. Roofs and slabs also can have proper curved edges, allowing them to fit smoothly to curved walls.
  • Editing in Section/Elevation - Among the core concepts of ArchiCAD is the ability to process the 3D modeling and 2D drawing information in the same working document. This feature of the floor plan has been extended to sections and elevations. Users can access the 3D building model from an unlimited number of horizontal projections.
  • Parametric properties/Open GDL - In addition to the unique 2D/3D parametric capabilities of earlier versions, ArchiCAD 5.0 features parametric properties. The relationship between the weight and price of an object, for example, can be scripted in the object definition and the result listed in the bill of materials.
  • Increased file compatibility - ArchiCAD’s DWG import/export now supports AutoCAD Release 13 and Lightscape Technologies’ radiosity software. Other file formats supported include DXF, BMP, PICT, JPEG, 3DMF, and EPS, among others.
  • Plug-in architecture for third parties - A new Software Development Kit (SDK) supports third-party developers who want to develop applications which can be launched from ArchiCAD’s tool bar.

Graphisoft’s "ArchiCAD for Teamwork" for Collaboration

Last October, Graphisoft first demonstrated a new extension to ArchiCAD 5.0 which allows multiple users to work collaboratively on a single project file. Called "ArchiCAD for Teamwork," this new product extension will be available for ArchiCAD 5.0 users on both Windows 95/NT and Mac OS operating systems beginning in late June.

Unlike other CAD programs using difficult to manage reference files or layering systems, ArchiCAD for Teamwork builds upon the same basic principles as ArchiCAD—all of the building information remains stored in the "virtual building," ArchiCAD’s integrated 3D project file.

Using ArchiCAD for Teamwork, a project file can reside on any team member’s computer or on a dedicated server. With appropriate permissions, team members "check out" specific areas of a project to work on using simple graphic tools and send their revisions back to the master project file. Any team member can also update their area of the project to show all changes made by other team members. Because of ArchiCAD’s object-oriented structure and the Teamwork version’s method for sending and receiving changes, very large projects can be shared collaboratively without being bogged down by network capacity constraints.

In addition to collaborative working tools, ArchiCAD for Teamwork will include several other features to address the needs of large firms and projects:

  • A grouping/ungrouping function for improved AutoCAD communication
  • Ability to independently lock and unlock elements for added security
  • Multi-level password protection
  • Teamwork news" to annotate changes, publish intra-team messages, and maintain a project history
  • Option to require approval of changes before being accepted by master project file
  • Flexibility to let a Project Manager pre-define teams.

Since its inception, ArchiCAD has been developed on the integrated "virtual building" model which contains all relevant information about a building in a project file and 3D object library. This single model is the common source for producing renderings, working drawings, animations, virtual reality scenes, and bills of materials simultaneously. Without compromising the benefits of working on a single, coordinated project file, ArchiCAD for Teamwork allows numerous team members to work simultaneously on the same project.

Impressive Showing At CAD Shoot-Out

In a first of its kind event pitting teams of architects using different architectural CAD software systems in a three-hour design competition, the team using ArchiCAD finished in the top three in 19 out of 20 voting categories, and ArchiCAD was named one of the Editor’s Choices for Best Architectural CAD Software.

Called the "Designers CAD Shoot-Out," the competition was organized by Geoffrey Moore Langdon and held last November at the Boston World Congress Center. Attendees watched eight teams compete in a three-hour charette to design a town hall/meeting center for the town of Beverly, MA.

Teams using Allplan, ArchiCAD, Architrion, Arris, AutoCAD/ Auto-Architect, DataCAD, MiniCAD, and MicroStation Triforma were asked to produce plans, sections, perspectives, animations, 12 renderings, and a VRML file while dealing with two major program changes which were introduced on the fly.

Graphisoft said it is looking forward to participating in the 2nd Annual Designers 3D CAD Shoot-Out, scheduled to be held during the Build Boston Conference in November.

A Responsibility For the Future

Graphisoft is committed to the users and communities it serves, teaming up with charitable organizations, design professionals, and universities around the world to improve living conditions, encourage innovation, and provide tomorrow’s architects with the software of the future.

Graphisoft is proud to be a partner of Habitat for Humanity International, providing them with more than 130 copies of ArchiCAD, as well as training and technical support. With 1,400 affiliates in 48 countries, Habitat has built 45,000 houses in the past 20 years, making it one of the world’s largest home builders.

ArchiCAD’s ability to provide quick revisions is also one of the qualities important to Frontier Housing Inc., in Morehead, KY, which for 22 years has built houses in Appalachia for struggling families. In 1995, the group built a record 29 houses, all designed with ArchiCAD donated by Graphisoft.

Graphisoft is dedicated to helping people move forward, in Appalachia and around the globe. In South Africa, Graphisoft provided ArchiCAD at cost to the Association of Black Architects to aid in a bold plan to build millions of new houses for South African blacks. In Croatia, Graphisoft donated its award-winning program to the Croatian government to help the war-torn nation’s efforts to rebuild. And in Hungary, Graphisoft has donated more than $1,000,000 of ArchiCAD to local governments, who are using the program to design new houses and businesses and improve the nation’s infrastructure.


HARDWARE Windows 3.1 & 95 Windows NT 3.5 & 4.0 Mac System 7.1 & Higher
CPU 80486 DX2, Intel Pentium recommended Intel Pentium recommended Any Macintosh (680x0) with co-processor, Power Macintosh recommended
Memory 16 MB, 32 MB recommended 32 MB, 48 MB recommended 16 MB, 32 MB recommended for 680x0 Macintosh; 24 MB, 40 MB recommended for Power Macintosh
Storage 50 MB free space, 100 MB free space recommended 50 MB free space, 100 MB free space recommended 40 MB free space, 100 MB free space recommended
Video card 256 colors, 24-bit, True Color
256 colors, 24-bit, True Color recommended
Monitor 17" high-resolution multisync monitor 17" high resolution multisync monitor 17" monitor, 19-23" monitorrecommended