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Split Levels – Tips&Tricks

Anna Vermes
ARCHICAD approaches the design workflows strongly level-based – it is of great significance to which story the elements belong. As a consequence of that the planning of buildings with split levels may be slightly more difficult in certain cases.
This article would like to give a comprehensive overview of this topic: it introduces what the main types of the split levels are, what kind of dilemmas could come up during the planning process and how these could be solved.

Types of Split-Level Cases

There exist in fact two different planning situations of split levels. On the one hand, the stories of a house itself could be staggered – for example in case of a mezzanine. Another typical case for this type is a multi-story car park with ramps.
On the other hand, the concept of split levels comes up when more buildings are located on a very uneven or on a sloped terrain. To display the appropriate stories of the buildings (that logically belong together: e.g. all 1st floors of them) on one common floor plan with the same settings can be complicated because of the big height differences.

Split Levels in one Building

The main important thing to know when you plan a split-level building is that you do not have to dedicate a separate story for each level. The managing of too many floors could complicate your workflow significantly. You could model your building with one story that contains all the elements. To display them on your floor plan layouts correctly you have to save views with different settings of your model (e.g. using different Floor Plan Cut Plane heights or Model View Options). Subsequently connect these views in the layout along the line of the level change. With this method you can compensate the fact that in these design situations an integrated adjustment is not an option. (Note: If it provides you an acceptable view, you could set the Floor Plan Display of the walls to Symbolic Cut in the Wall Selection Settings. With this option the windows will be displayed independent of their vertical location. Nevertheless, this option can be set only in conjunction with the “Home Story Only” option for the walls. If there are such elements (for example stairs), which are correctly represented if other options are set e.g. “All Relevant Stories” or “Home & One Story Up”, the Symbolical Display cannot be preferred or mean a good alternative.)

How to do that

Step 1

Create your model within one story. If needed, you can use the Gravity Tool to place the elements easily onto the staggered slabs. Another option is to drag the elements to the right place in the sections/elevations.
It is also useful for the positioning, to set a reference level for the split levels in the Options/Project Preferences/Reference Levels. You can choose these levels to place the objects relative to them. Also you can determine all positions uniformly compared to Sea Level or Project Zero.

Step 2

Save separate views of the story. Due to the split levels a unified Floor Plan Cut Plane cannot be chosen for all the levels. Therefore, you have to focus on a part of the story and set the Floor Plan Cut Plane height for that part correctly and save with the view these settings. Do this for all parts of the story.

Step 3

Connect these separate views on the layout along the line of the level change. Hide the drawing titles and add new points to the polygon of the drawing frame to follow the splitting line, if needed.
However, it is not always helpful to settle everything on a single floor. If the height difference is bigger than the usual Floor Plan Cut Plane height it is suggested to divide the model into further stories but under this value you could work within a single floor.

Split Levels in More Buildings

If more than one building is designed in one project, usually it is required to display their corresponding stories on one plan. When the reference levels of the houses are situated on disparate heights due to the undulating environment, the floor to floor height of the stories cannot be set in a way that accommodates all stories well. If choosing a very high height value to cover all reference levels, problems can occur in the relations and appearance of the elements. Therefore it is suggested to model every building in an independent file and prepare the documentation for them also separately. Then merging these documentations in a file is recommended. To show all buildings still in 3D together you could use hotlinks. Place the building models as hotlinks to their adequate locations in a host file that contains the terrain. This method is rather useful for the 3D displaying, for presenting how the site will look but less appropriate for the modelling and documenting phase.

Split Levels and Schedules

When you design structures with split levels, you could face problems when placing elements which belong to more than one level, such as multi-story walls or stairs. Multi-story walls have also one home story like all the other ARCHICAD elements, but due to their openings they could be tied to several other stories too. Accordingly, in case of split-level design issues working with calculations and schedules can require some extra attention. On split levels the automatic listing of doors and windows may not self organize as expected: when designing a split-level house, you often use multi-story elements. If these have openings, it might seem so in the schedules that they are not always assigned to the wall they are placed in. The reason behind this is that doors and windows are displayed in the schedules according to the story where their midline belongs.

General Tips when Designing Split Levels

  • Think over thoroughly and decide at the very beginning of the modelling how the stories will be arranged in your building. Use the guide-lines mentioned above for that. Try to apply the simplest method, which fits your design situation.
  • Name the stories unequivocally for yourself, especially if the split levels are located in separate buildings. Stick to the chosen appellations.
  • You can also adjust the arrangements of the 3D library parts in the 3D window, but avoid modelling the whole building there as it could lead you astray regarding the floor plan display.
  • If in your model file are too many stories due to auxiliary stories or hotlinks, also a useful function is the checkbox for stories in the Story Settings, with which you can control the visibility of your floors. This provides you a clear overview in the sections and elevations.
  • For the documentation use the afore-mentioned methods: make up the layouts of connected view parts, when designing a single building or make up the ultimate documentation of separate ones, when designing more buildings.

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