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How to optimize a project's file size

Nguyen Minh
Graphisoft Moderator
Graphisoft Moderator

Although a project's performance is the most important, sometimes the large size of a file can be a problem. This article helps you learn what data is stored in a file and how to achieve a balanced BIM project that does not occupy more storage space than necessary.

There are several file types that are in use by Archicad in different areas, but whole projects are saved into Archicad Solo Project (PLN) or Archicad Archive Project (PLA). The data structure and saved entities of a Project Template (TPL) are the same as a PLN has.

The Module (MOD) files are optimized solely to be used as Hotlink Modules, thus containing only model, Floor Plan data and embedded objects, but not the Section, Elevation, Worksheet, Detail 3D Document, etc. They do not include the whole attribute sets but refer only to attributes used by their elements. This results in smaller file size, but most of the information below is not relevant in case of MOD files.

Optimizing file size during the project life might be a good way to save storage space. In some situations, it also improves the file performance. This is crucial when the deadline is approaching.

On the other hand, by optimizing the template, we will have a solid foundation to start the project. Any further data can be added as the project evolves, thus we will avoid spending hours cleaning up the project.


Before project starts – making a clean Template that contains only the necessary data to start a project

Attributes

One of the template file’s most significant parts can be the attributes stored in it. As the project grows, they are required to work smoothly.

Layers and Layer Combinations

The only layer that cannot be deleted is ARCHICAD Layer, but an Archicad project is still valid without a layer combination. The layers themselves do not require much storage space, but their content is what makes the file size bigger.

Pens and Pen Sets

We cannot delete individual pens inside a pen set. Any project file or template must have at least one Pen Set.

Line and Fill Types

Only the Solid Line and certain Fills (Foreground, Background, Air Space, 75%, 50%, 25%, and Gradient fills) cannot be erased and are always part of a valid Archicad project. We should avoid deleting or replacing them with something else. Be aware that we can only import a vectorial fill pattern from another file.

Surfaces and Building Materials

Only one surface and one building material must present in every project, so consider keeping what is relevant to future projects. Texture images are what make up the most amount of space here.

Composites and Complex Profiles

Same as above, only one composite and one complex profile must stay for a valid Archicad file. The size of them depends on the complexity of the attribute.

Cities

From Archicad 22, one city has to be available in all valid Archicad projects. In previous versions, all cities can be deleted. These attributes are not linked to any elements in the model.

MEP Systems

There is no restriction on the last MEP System but one has to stay in every project.

Operation Profiles

Former projects are valid without an Operation Profile. From Archicad 22, at least one Operation Profile is required in a valid project, but keep in mind that each Operation Profile is associated with a unique Daily Schedule containing operation data by hour for a full year (8760 hours total). The Daily Schedules are not transferrable, so it is time-consuming to recreate them. Operation Profiles do not require much storage space, so make sure to delete them only if it’s necessary.

Project Preferences and Documenting sets

Although all the Project Preferences are stored in the project file itself, there are not many options to reduce the file size on this field. The Dimensions are the only ones that can be multiplied currently. Most of them can be deleted.

For effective work with Archicad, there can be an unlimited number of Documenting sets in a project to use in different Views.

Dimensions Standards

At least one standard has to be available in a valid project, but no specific rule on which one should be the last.

Model View Options

The number of settings controlled by the Model View Options has grown significantly in recent Archicad versions; thus more and more information is stored in them. Similar to the Dimension Standards, one has to stay, whichever you prefer.

Graphic Override Combinations and Rules

Since "No Overrides" is the predefined option, it cannot be deleted. All other Graphic Override Combinations and Rules (except the ones related to Renovation) can be erased.

Renovation Filters

One Renovation Filter has to be available in every project.

From Archicad 20, the Graphic Override rules corresponding to the three Renovation Statuses (Existing, To be Demolished, and New) have been moved under the Graphic Override rules. These three rules are the only ones that cannot be deleted.

3D Styles

Only one 3D Style has to be presented in a valid ARCHICAD project. There is no restriction on which one can be this last one or which 3D Engine it uses.

Rendering Scenes

From Archicad 18, different sets of predefined Rendering Settings can be stored and reapplied during the work. These sets are grouped by the rendering engines. They can be managed in one dialog altogether. All rendering scenes, along with the folders, can be deleted from the project, except Custom. Please find more information about the PhotoRendering Settings here.

Classification Systems and Properties

Although Element Classification is available since Archicad 14, multiple Classification Systems can be stored in a project from Archicad 21 project file only. The systems themselves and their connections to elements need to be saved in the project file.

User-Defined Element Properties are available from Archicad 20. With this feature, we can create as many Properties in a project as we needed. All of the related data (name, description, default value, expression sequences, availability for classifications, etc.) will be saved into the file itself.

There is no restriction about deleting Classification Systems and Properties from projects, all of them can be erased without any issue.

IFC Translators and Conversion Presets

From Archicad 21, the IFC Translators are stored and shared within projects. This means working with them is easier in some circumstances, but they increase the file size as well. The IFC Translators are available via File > Interoperability > IFC > IFC Translators… menu.

While optimizing the number of the IFC Translators in a project, don't forget to have a look at the Presets which are independently stored:

  • Model Filter
  • Type Mapping
  • Geometry Conversion
  • Property Mapping
  • Data Conversion
  • Unit Conversion

They are available by clicking the "..." button next to the current IFC Translator's presets. There are different presets for IFC import and export. Even though we can delete the translator, the presets are not deleted through this process. To delete the preset, click on the "..." button, select the preset in the opened dialog and click Delete.

The Property Mapping settings can add a significant amount of data to the file, because each and every IFC Property and Mapping Rule is saved into the project.

See more detail about the IFC Translators from the User Guide.

Favorites

Every Favorite saved in a project has to store all of its settings which, based on the tools, can accumulate a huge amount of data. Library Parts saved as Favorites might be included with the PLA files – see Archiving Options in the last section of the article.

Libraries and Objects

In case of saving a template file, only the items in the Embedded Library are stored in the file. Try to keep the Embedded Library empty by default if possible. A large Embedded Library does not only take storage space but also a source of performance issues.


During project ongoing – cleaning the project

Which file size is considered large?

It is hard to determine whether the file size can be categorized as large or not. It always depends on the project. There might be two situations in which it could worth to start dealing with the size of the project: either the size grows significantly between two saving processes and there is nothing which could explain it (no large numbers of elements placed, Views or Layouts added, etc.) or before an archiving step (for future reference or for sharing with stakeholders).

How and what to check?

Depending on the goal of checking the project, deleting parts of the project can be very hazardous as it can cause missing attributes, preferences, elements, views, etc. Worst case scenario, it can cause data loss, not to mention undoable actions, like deleting Views, Layouts, etc.  Always make sure that items to remove are and will not be used in the current plan file.

Project Info, Project Notes, Project Preview & Architect Credits in BIMx

As they are project-specific, all the Project Info data, the Project Notes, the Project Preview, and the Architect Credits, are, of course, stored in the project. With regard to file size, the Project Preview is the only one that can be optimized for file size. From Archicad 21, any size and image resolution can be used. This image will be used as the icon for the project file and in BIMx output.

Attributes

Avoid deleting any attributes that are being used in the project. All of the attributes in use (except Layer Combinations, Pen Sets, and Cities) are marked with a tick in the Attribute Manager. There is a button to quickly purge all unused ones. Some attributes will only be shown as unused only if all related ones are deleted based on their connection. Always make sure that after using this function, there won't be missing attributes.

Project Map entities

The biggest part of a project is not the Viewpoints, but they are the sources in which contain the placed elements. The file size can be significantly increased by the number and complexity of the construction elements, their intersection and interaction. Consider deleting unnecessary viewpoints in the project, it should help to reduce the file size.

Sections, Elevations, Interior Elevations

Sections, elevations, and interior elevations hold a large amount of data about elements interaction, therefore they can make the file significantly bigger. Make sure to get rid of any unnecessary sections, elevations, or interior elevations.

Worksheets, Details, 3D Documents

Details and Worksheet may hold a lot of data - model elements broken up to lines and fills may actually occupy more space in the file database than their source model element. Use the Linework Consolidation and Fill Consolidation tools to remove unnecessary lines and fills from Details and Worksheet, or consider deleting any unnecessary Worksheets, Details, or 3D Documents if possible.

Layouts and Master Layouts

At least one layout and one master layout must be kept in every project file. Depending on what is placed on the layouts and master layouts (external drawings embedded into the file, heavy graphics,…) they can take lots of storage space when saving the file. For example, a large picture file in the master layout can be multiplied many times.

Libraries and Objects

As the project grows, you might import more and more objects from different sources. Using the default objects from Archicad Library, the objects themselves not stored in the PLN files. Custom objects are usually placed inside Embedded Library, and these objects will be saved with the file. If they are not essential to the project, make sure to extract these objects as a library container and relink it to the file. An empty Embedded Library will help to reduce the file size, as well as increase the project performance.

Drawings

If the option Store Drawing in the Project file is active for a drawing, this will of course increase the file size. Without this option, the project only stores the data of where and how the Drawing is placed.

Drawing Manager will list all drawings placed in the project. You can easily manage and delete any unnecessary drawings from here.

File compression

Compressing the files can be valuable in terms of the used storage by the projects since the compression can help to reduce about 60-70% of the uncompressed size. It is enabled by default for certain file types of Archicad.

The save and open processes will need slightly more time for compression or decompression. If the compressed file is damaged or corrupted, it will be much harder to repair the file compared to an uncompressed file.

Open & Repair

While Open & Repair is useful in case of repairing damaged files, it can also help to reduce the file size in a normal project. This operation not only checks the file for anomalies but also performs database optimization, resulting in smaller project files. Please note that it only works for PLN files saved with the same Archicad version.


After project finishes – archiving a project

When we finish a project, we might think of archiving it for future reference. We need to keep in mind how to open the project in the future, what to keep that might be useful in future projects, like details or objects or certain important layouts. Having a clean and easy-to-navigate archive project will save us extra time in the future. Extra unnecessary elements make it harder to tell what’s important. On the other hand, missing library objects, external drawings, or hotlink modules can make an archive project useless. Therefore, please make sure to keep what is essential to the project, so that we can open it independently without having to look for additional data.

There are certain options that you can choose when saving the file to PLA:

  • Include Additional Library Parts from:
    • Favorites: Save all library parts that are included in the project's Favorites (to avoid missing objects when trying to use Favorites)
    • Local Libraries: Save all parts from all loaded libraries. Uncheck this option if you don't need all loaded libraries' objects in the PLA output
  • Include All Drawings: This will include all drawings placed on layouts, even those which are NOT marked as "Store Drawing in the Project file" in its Drawing Settings dialog box. This can increase the file size.
  • Compress file: same as above, it can help to reduce about 60% the file size but takes longer to finish.

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