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[ LONG POST ] - I'm a new user, hoping to ask if ArchiCAD is the best program for my use-case.

--Ty--
Participant

Hello everyone, thank you for clicking on my post. It's gonna be pretty long, so I appreciate your time and help; Apologies if it's in the wrong forum category.

 

I'm a relatively young independent contractor and graduate engineer. I'm trying to steer my life in a direction that will have me designing and building one-off, small but beautiful homes/cottages for clients.

 

The funding and feasibility of this type of project is beyond the scope of this discussion. Please assume that it's going to happen, even if you feel it's a ridiculous idea. You may very well be right, but my concern at this time is in choosing which Architectural design program would be best.

 

I have put together a Pinterest board to illustrate the type of architecture I'd be aiming for. It's stuff like this: https://pin.it/2Cau3MUoE

 

I'm aiming for modern cottages. They will be fairly simple from a structural perspective -- I won't be doing any crazy cantilevers or suspended buildings, for example, but will contain some more exotic decorative design elements.

 

These include things like pillars or piers holding half of the building aloft, unique roof designs with large overhangs, large curtain walls, "architectural" or "exotic" exterior wall and roof claddings, and other design elements like rooflines which blend seamlessly with walls. Additionally, the framing of the structure will involve multiple materials, with some walls being ICF, while others are timber-framed, and with a floor assembly maybe involving some steel beams, depending on structural requirements.

 

The buildings would be small, maxing out at around 1500 Sq ft. 

 

Now, the reason for my post is because although I have an educational background in computer-aided design, and am quite familiar with CAD programs like Solidworks, Solidedge, AutoCAD, and even Revit.

 

I've taken about 40-50 hours of guided tutorials on Revit through Udemy. I can now easily handle all the basics, and create finished projects for simple buildings. What I've started to notice, however, both first-hand, and from forum discussions, is that Revit really isn't geared towards residential, timber-framed, highly-architectural construction.

 

I tried my hand at designing a simple wood-framed garden shed, and, compared to building a "normal" building in Revit with the pre-existing wall families, designing this shed on a stud-by-stud basis was like pulling teeth. Wood-framing add-ons exist, but are phenomenally expensive, and heaven forbid you go to change the length of a wall after... That's why I'm considering ArchiCAD.

 

The reason I need to design these buildings on a stud-by-stud level is because I will be the one building them. I have been working as a general contractor and fine craftsman for several years now, and my intention is to build these places myself, with my hands, and my tools. Doing this stud-by-stud level design is my opportunity to plan things out, make sure my joinery works, figure out dimensions and conflicts, etc.

 

Of course, the tasks that are beyond what a single person can do, will be sub-contracted out. The foundation pour, the sceptic install, electrical, plumbing, etc., is all going to be hired out to the respective professionals. Everything else, though, like the framing, roofing, sheathing, etc., will be me. The projects will take several years each. Once again, the feasibility or financial reality of these projects is beyond the scope of this discussion.

 

I know that Revit is the "powerful but cumbersome" program. I know that everything IS possible in it, but sometimes at so high of a time-cost, that it simply isn't worth it.. This has lead me to reconsider if Revit is the best program for me, or if there are programs better suited to the style of buildings I want to make.

 

As far as I can tell, there are five options that may serve me: 1) Revit   2) ArchiCAD    3) Chief Architect    4) Google Sketchup    5) Solidworks

 

What I'm needing from the program is the following:

 

  1. The ability to design the entire structural framing of the building on an element-by-element basis. That means every stud, every floor joist, every roof rafter, and, most importantly, for these elements to have "mates" or other kinds of relationships, such that if I decided to raise the ceiling in a room, for example, the studs move with it. It would be extremely painful to need to go in and manually change the height of every stud, should I make a change to the layout.
  2. The ability to design the joinery and construction details of building elements. That means the birdmouth cuts in the rafters, the miters on the ends of the rafters, and so on.
  3. The ability to design the entire building envelope on an element-by-element basis. That means modelling every 4x8 sheet of plywood sheathing on the exterior walls, ever 4x8 panel of drywall on the interior ones, all the floor sheathing, insulation panels, etc. Being able to model detail elements like joist hangers, electrical outlet boxes, etc., would also be fantastic.
  4. The ability to model different types of wall and floor assemblies, such as using a few steel beams in a floor assembly if needed, or vertical steel beams for architectural reasons, or a random concrete wall in the middle of the structure, or even slanted wall assemblies.
  5. The ability to do some basic landscape modelling. I don't need full terrain mapping or terrain elevations, but at least being able to draw out a stand-in green slab for the ground, and model a basic patio or a driveway would be great.
  6. The ability to do some very basic modelling of MEP systems through the use of basic geometric shapes. I do NOT need a full MEP side to the program, but being able to model a basic cylinder passing through my floor assembly as a stand-in for an HVAC duct or something would be very useful. 
  7. The ability to generate lots of diagrams and drawings. Elevation views, cross-section views, and, most importantly, construction diagrams of the wall, roof, and floor assemblies, with dimensions and annotations.

Based on these needs, and what I've seen of each program, my thinking is as follows:

 

Revit: It can handle them all, but it's extremely cumbersome. I have to place studs and joists by using column and beam families in the structural side of the program, but first I need to manually create all of the different columns and beams I'll need, and then these structural elements don't play well with the architectural side of the program, and, and, and, it's all very cumbersome. 

 

ArchiCAD: This program seems like it could be a good choice, but I'm basing that entirely on this video. This video was where I first learned about ArchiCAD. It seems very similar to Revit, but a bit more intuitive to use, and like it handles element-by-element construction better than Revit. 

 

Chief Architect:  By FAR the best program to use for timber-framed construction, but only if you're keeping to relatively tame suburban design. I made a post on the Chief Architect forums that generated great discussion, and the consensus seems to be that although Chief excels as the framing and diagram part, it can't handle the unique architectural features AT ALLEven something like a simple slanted wall will completely break it. 

 

Google Sketchup: Correct me if I'm wrong, but Sketchup is not a parametric design program, it is a "push and pull" program, more akin to Blender. Quite frankly, I don't know how I would efficiently design a building in this program, if I have to take many steps just to assign a fixed length to a specific beam, for example. Admittedly, though, this is the program I know the least about. My understanding is also that the program does not have a means to create elevation views, or shop drawings, or any kinds of diagrams, without first needing to find or purchase add-on programs to gain this functionality. 

 

Solidworks: This is the program I have the most experience in, with a few hundred hours, and a university course in it. However, it's designed more for mechanical engineering and small parts, and so its workflow of needing to design elements individually as separate files, then save and assemble them manually in an assembly by assigning mates, is extremely time-consuming, and performance-heavy. It also cares a LOT about minutia, spitting out errors and screaming at you if you forget to assign a coordinate origin for a given part, for example.

 

And so that's where I'm at. Five different programs, and no sense of which one would be best for me. 

 

Any help, insight, or suggestions is greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

46 REPLIES 46
4dProof
Advisor

Archicad is a great tool for design build applications. As for your stud by stud modeling, and detailed rafter/birdsmouth needs; that is an easy option in archicad, with no third party add-on or "custom family".
As I've always seen it, Revit is a great tool if you need a defined structure that outlines how things need to be modeled, and you are comfortable customizing it when you need to 'break' that framework.

 

Archicad is, in all our opinions here, a superior tool, in that the framework of the software is incredibly flexible and versatile. The issue that many new users have is that it can be a little too flexible. There may be 2-10 ways to solve any modleing and documenting condition. If you can get over the learning curve, you'll find you can get incredibly accurate quantities and details out of Archicad.


I did not see any red flags in your pintrest board that would be difficult to model in Archicad; and most would be doable out of the box without any add-ons or third party solutions. It seems you've done your due diligence in evaluating market leaders in BIM authorship and 3d modeling; I could add a few others to your list; but being here, asking these questions... you already know this is the solution that makes the most sense.

 

Besides that, Archicad has had a great community of users. If you can find a local (or online) user group for meet ups, and even get personal connections with some power users on here, you will always have people eager to help out and answer questions. Beyond that, Graphisoft has great training resources, and there are plenty of us independent contractors and even resellers that are active in training new Archicad users. The AC community has for the last 20 years been the biggest asset to the software, IMO. And in that vein, feel free to direct message or email me if you'd like to chat about AC, in particular any specific 'how to' or 'where to start' kind of Q's.

BIM solutions and trouble shooting (self proclaimed) expert. Using Archicad 26 5002 US on Mac OS 11.5.2

Thank you for your reply.

 

Yeah, what I gathered from the videos and resources I've seen of ArchiCAD is that it's Revit, but more modern. Not built on AutoDesk's 30+ year old workflows and philosophy. It seems more videogame-like, more intuitive. Unfortunately, though, that's all just assumption on my part, as I haven't actually tried ArchiCAD yet. I felt a little burned after I put 50 hours of learning into Revit only to find out it can't really do what I want it to in any time-efficient way. I figured that before I sink another 50 hours into another program, I should probably stop and evaluate WHICH program deserves it. 

 

My follow-up question for you is this: How much will I be able to do in ArchiCAD without spending a dime on extras? Like, affording ArchiCAD itself is enough of a challenge, I certainly will not have any money left to buy fancy furniture families or wall and floor families or add-on programs. 

 

Would I be able to design everything I listed in my post, along with some basic stand-in furniture modelling (so, representing a kitchen cabinet as just a plain cube, for example), and then generate diagrams and some basic renders, just with the base program?

I'll second everything that 4dProof said.  Archicad has had a lower cost version (Solo or Start, depending on the country) that omits things that do not seem to matter in the scope of work you mention.  It also has a monthly subscription option.  In any case, if you download the complete program and library, you can run it in Demo mode (no saving or printing) to see what's in the library and try a few things out.  I don't know much about the monthly subscription model... if it is possible to suspend the subscription for a couple of months when you don't need it (like Netflix) or not.

 

The library has a lot of content, including basic furniture, kitchen cabinets, etc - but Archicad can import/convert many other 3D formats so if you have a piece of furniture from Sketchup, Revit, etc, it can be converted to an Archicad object ... or Archicad Morphs (which behave like Sketchup ... push/pull etc).  I don't see you needing to buy extra stuff; the base program - even the Start/Solo edition (purchase price of which can apply to a professional/full license later) - or at least that was the deal the last I heard about it).

 

Archicad can schedule your framing so that you can get a lumber quantity, for example, but as 4dProof mentions, there are multiple ways of doing everything... and certain ways of dynamically trimming your wall studs (for example) will result in the untrimmed length being reported vs the trimmed length.  So designing a little shed to verify that you can extract all of the schedules and data that you want is a good place to learn which techniques will be best for you.

There is a basic framing 'wall accessory' included in Archicad... although it may not be adequate for your needs, and multiplying studs would be better... especially if you are particular about how you frame corners/openings etc etc. Also, the wall accessory does zero engineering for lintels... their size is meaningless, and it isn't smart enough to insert a beam over a sequence of multiple openings etc.  So, you being an engineer, I really see most of that stuff being done manually.

 

You can model everything down to j-bolts, hangers, etc if you want ... and schedule them...if you want.

 

With base Archicad, the biggest thing I think you would run into is with windows.   Depending on the manufacturer, some window combinations would be factory-mulled ... and appear on an order form as single window assemblies.  Yet, if Archicad's library doesn't happen to have that exact window, you'll have to create it by placing multiple windows in your project... and there will be no way to create a window schedule showing the combination as "one" window.  There are tricks to create a separate schedule of these assemblies... but anyway, won't match a window dealer's order form.   The CI Doors/Windows add-on does let you create arbitrary windows and doors... but it is from a separate company on an annual subscription, so I wouldn't go that route until you felt it would pay for itself.

 

 

One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.6, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB

Thank you for your reply as well. 

 

Since you read the scope of work I listed, and have a sense of the type of project I'm looking to create, Do you really think the Solo/Start version would be enough for me? I know you said it omits things that do not seem to matter in my scope of work -- do you mind if I ask what are those things it omits? 

 

I've read through the page on Graphisoft's website that lists the differences between versions, but since I've never actually gone through this kind of project in full before, it's hard to know what I'm actually going to need, and what I can do without. It's a "You can't know what you don't know" kind of situation. 

 

I'm glad that ArchiCAD can import other models (though that seems to be a universal feature of all CAD programs), is the process easy? I'm quite skilled with Solidworks so if I ever needed to build a custom window or fixture or some little piece of decor, I could do that easily, but I've found in the past that Solidworks files tend to not be compatible with most 3D modelling programs. 

 

And yes, I WOULD need to be particular about little minutia like how i frame my corners or how i space out my headers and stuff like that, so I would love element-by-element construction, so long as it's intelligent, and updates itself if i, say, change the wall height. Will I need to then go back and manually change the height of every stud to match?

 

Fortunately, the lack of engineering output is fine, as this whole build would be getting handed off to a structural engineer for analysis and stamping anyway. I am an engineer myself, but not a civil engineer, so I can't sign off on it. 

 

As for windows, yeah, those seem to be a trickier part of all the CAD/BIM programs. I understand why, there's so many different designs and shapes of windows, but that's okay, my best friend's dad is a commercial curtain wall and window installer, so he'll help me formalize any orders and specs if need be. I probably wouldn't even bother trying to create a window schedule in whichever program I end up using, I'll just create one in an excel sheet by hand. 

 

My follow-up question for you is are there ANY other issues you can foresee me running into with ArchiCAD, apart from the window thing? 

mthd
Mentor

Hi @--Ty--, I have read both of your threads at CA & AC. I used to design timber truss roof framing in late 80’s with specific timber framing software (Bostich). I also used to design conventional roof framing by hand using span tables. I have used CA since 99 and AC since 01. I recommend that you go directly to timber framing software that will allow you to design your framing members so they can be engineered correctly.

 

You haven’t got much time to waste asking questions of users who chose software for their own particular business models. How much time do you want to spend in front of a computer and how much time do you want to spend building ? 

Architects spend more time on the computer and not on hands on building so they have plenty of time to fiddle with building 3D models. 

As long as you can quickly model up your modern house in a 3D app, that’s important. If you are skilled enough you can easily model up those houses in any of those CAD systems above. No one has mentioned Vectorworks Architect as that would model that type of house easily. (Slant walls can be done easily in CA with roof planes acting as walls). There might be other CAD apps like SoftPlan or others to consider as well ? Even hand drawn sketches and the use of a drafting machine will work for a budget.

 

The choice is yours, if you choose AC you may not have much time left or much energy left for physical building. You simply can’t do it all and after you build your first project you will know how much time you will have for each phase of the design & construction. 

AC8.1 - AC27 ARM AUS + CI Tools
Apple Mac Studio M1 Max Chip 10C CPU
24C GPU 7.8TF 32GB RAM OS Ventura

Hey, thank you for your comment. 

 

My project is such an unusual one that when people try to map it onto their own life experiences of the industry, it just doesn't make sense. 

 

Like you said, this stuff is normally the domain of an architect. If I really am the tradesperson I claim to be, why would I bother trying to design so much, in so much detail. I should know how to build it, just from experience, right?

 

Well let me explain a bit more about this project. Your concern that if I choose AC I might not have much time or energy left for physical building isn't a concern, because building won't be possible until a full model is complete. 

 

I have years of experience with almost every aspect of construction, I've done landscaping, masonry work, carpentry, tile work, trim work, painting, furniture-making, fine-finishing, metalworking and welding, etc. However, I have never before put it all together into one project. 

 

My intention is to design a building that I can feasibly build myself, over a two to three year period. Once I have this fully-thought-out digital double of the building, I can use it to calculate building material costs, create renders, and create construction timelines. This information can then be wrapped up into a single project proposal / pro forma / prospectus, whatever you want to call it, and that's the package I will take to some of the private investors I know to secure funding. 

 

Whether or not this is smart is beyond the scope of this discussion -- it's what I feel needs to happen, and it's the only way I can see myself getting through this project. I NEED to plan everything out in great detail, and so that's where the discussion of CAD programs comes in.

 

It seems like, despite your presence on the ArchiCAD forums here, you prefer Chief Architect, is that right? Or at least, you feel it would be better for my use-case?


@--Ty-- wrote:

My intention is to design a building that I can feasibly build myself, over a two to three year period. Once I have this fully-thought-out digital double of the building, I can use it to calculate building material costs, create renders, and create construction timelines. This information can then be wrapped up into a single project proposal / pro forma / prospectus, whatever you want to call it, and that's the package I will take to some of the private investors I know to secure funding. 

 


Given this goal - detailed model, build the actual house yourself over 2-3 years, then go to investors ... it sort of doesn't make sense for you to be buying CAD software at all to me... and investing in the really steep learning curve... until that 2 to 3 year window when you actually secure funding for expansion.  Seems to make more sense both financially and in terms of getting a quick result to hire an architect/designer who is already expert at Archicad in your area to work with you to generate exactly what you want.

One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.6, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB

Sorry, it's the building itself that would be built over 2-3 years, not the digital model, only after having secured funding for it, which would be secured using the digital model and all of the cost and timeline estimating it will allow for. 

 

The creation of the model won't take very long. Even in programs not meant for it, like Solidworks, I can lay out all the framing for a garden shed in only a few hours.

 

The steep learning curve isn't an issue, I have lots of free time. What I don't have a lot of is free money, so working with an Architect is strictly out of the question, and even if I did have the money, I wouldn't want this to be designed by someone else. That sorta goes against the whole raison-d'être for the project. 

 

The computer work is only a month or two of work. 

Exactly.  You want to make one model, and learn AC at the same time... and will then have a really expensive license with annual support just sitting there during construction.   Using an expert to work with you, you can get the model done quickly while they teach you Archicad best practices ... without the high cost of a license.  (Or you can get a monthly subscription and work virtually alongside them in BIM Cloud.). 

One of the forum moderators
AC 27 USA and earlier   •   macOS Ventura 13.6.6, MacBook Pro M2 Max 12CPU/30GPU cores, 32GB

I have access to non-commercial versions of ArchiCAD through my local educational institution, as part of an Alumni network and so on. It's essentially free, or as close as I'm reasonably going to get. 

 

Seeing as it will just be me, using this program by myself, to build a project proposal, it's all above-board and legal. Only if and when I start taking it to financial institutions and private investors, and are successful in securing funding, and the project actually starts in earnest, would I need to purchase a full commercial license from ArchiCAD. Until money first changes hands, though, I'm just a guy, using the program for personal use, so there's no legal issue there. 

 

As I said, though, the financial feasibility of this project is beyond the scope of this discussion. If you feel AC is not a good program for this type of design work, please let me know. If your only hang-up is the financial aspects of owning and using AC, though, then, respectfully, that's not a concern in this discussion. 


@--Ty-- wrote:

Only if and when I start taking it to financial institutions and private investors, and are successful in securing funding, and the project actually starts in earnest, would I need to purchase a full commercial license from ArchiCAD. Until money first changes hands, though, I'm just a guy, using the program for personal use, so there's no legal issue there. 


This can be problematic. If you work out a lot of things in an EDU version, possibly also create a Template File in the EDU version, when you open those files in the FULL commercial version, Archicad switches to EDU mode and it will place a watermark in your Views, which will be visible in your outputs (PDF or printed).

Also, someone correct me if I am wrong, but I think the license does not allow stuff done in the EDU version to be later used in the FULL version for commercial purposes.

Loving Archicad since 1995 - Find Archicad Tips at x.com/laszlonagy
AMD Ryzen9 5900X CPU, 64 GB RAM 3600 MHz, Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB, 500 GB NVMe SSD
2x28" (2560x1440), Windows 10 PRO ENG, Ac20-Ac27

I certainly prefer AC for more precision in design and documentation on a more professional level of presentation. I prefer CA if I am designing timber framing and taking things off for estimating purposes. CA is still professional. From my experience if your future will involve Architectural Design & Drafting and very little construction then I would lean towards AC. You can certainly do framing in AC and the Contrabim method would take much longer to design than it would in CA.

 

In AC estimating and take off is more time consuming to set up and deliver. Given that you are in the USA the price of CA makes good sense or even Home Designer Pro for a minimal outlay will help you get your work done. In CA you can still frame manually as well as automatically. I have done hundreds of framing plans in CA and some in AC but CA is definitely quicker for me.

If in the end you opt for AC then the Shoenome template by Jared Banks will help you greatly because he is located in the US. He has many video tutorials to help you get your work done with AC. Also John from Contrabim has many videos to help with framing and estimating in 5D who is also in the US and uses imperial units.

 

Hope that helps you out with whatever you decide.

 

AC8.1 - AC27 ARM AUS + CI Tools
Apple Mac Studio M1 Max Chip 10C CPU
24C GPU 7.8TF 32GB RAM OS Ventura

Thank you for your comment! For what it's worth, I'm actually in Canada. Do you know of any good templates or resources for Canada? We use American Imperial units for our construction industry too, though, so I would be designing everything in US Imperial feet and inches, if that matters.

 

And yeah, the discussions I've had about Chief Architect VS ArchiCAD, and the footage I've seen, have left me with the following impression: Chief is a lot more automated, and therefore a lot faster, when you're using a typical workflow that a typical construction professional or architect might use. Once you start to stray from this expected norm, though, and try doing things that are very custom or very element-by-element, ArchiCAD starts to pull ahead, as the program doesn't have any many issues with that kind of granular design as Chief does. 

 

Is this analysis more or less correct?

 

I think you're right, framing in ArchiCAD will take longer than in Chief, but I think element-by-element framing, where I'm manually modelling and placing every stud, every sheathing panel, every batt of insulation, etc., will actually be faster, because the program fights me less. 

First of all welcome to Archicad. I don’t know of any template suppliers in Canada but the one from Shoenome could be of benefit to you.

 

I would certainly use AC for the type of house you are looking at designing. There is allot of work involved in learning how to use AC correctly but you don’t appear to be afraid of that.

 

Have you seen this video on the roof wizard yet ? It’s a pretty standard type of roof and the type of building you are looking at will probably have raked ceilings in much of the design. The principles in this video might help you when you start modeling roof framing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9mLsDjN5z8

 

@Laszlo Nagy , did an excellent demonstration on how to model a raked roof using the curtain wall tool if you are interested we can find it for you.

 

Have you started training at the Graphisoft Learning Portal yet ? Some basic training on there is free.

 

I personally think it’s faster to model in AC than SU once you know how.

 

All CAD software systems require extensive work arounds in certain areas of each program. 

Have fun learning because there is certainly heaps to do with AC.


Edit: Link to uses of the curtain wall tool by  is here. You will need to forward to the example he uses for creating a cathedral ceiling. This will be your main tool for creating the facade of the designs you posted here on your picture list of the Modern Alpine Chalet.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT-Be0S5AOU

 

 

 

 

AC8.1 - AC27 ARM AUS + CI Tools
Apple Mac Studio M1 Max Chip 10C CPU
24C GPU 7.8TF 32GB RAM OS Ventura

Thanks for following up.

 

I've been consuming as much video content on the various CAD/BIM programs as I can, but there's something about ArchiCAD that concerns me.

 

I actually had come across the videos you linked to, and had watched them. I will touch on them later.

 

My concern is that ArchiCAD has beams and columns, which work in fairly predictable ways, and in ways I'm a bit familiar with from my time practicing in Revit. Unlike Revit, though, they're much easier to manipulate in ArchiCAD, as it has an inference engine very similar to SketchUp's, which allows you to just grab corners and drag and drop and stuff. 

 

What I couldn't find any footage of, though, is when you need to tweak a beam by giving it a cutout, or a notch, or a birdsmouth, or a hole for an anchor, etc. Maybe it's all possible, but I can't find footage on it. With Sketchup, it was as simple as taking that beam, and drawing a line across it wherever you need to make a cut, then push/pulling. Same with holes, or anything else. 

 

Likewise, I can't find any footage on modelling custom assets in ArchiCAD, like if I wanted to make a joist hanger. I know it's possible, I saw one guy make a special mending plate for an A-Frame cabin, but there's very little content out there on it. With sketchup, it's easy, just draw some shapes, push-pull your way till its done, define it as a component, and bam, you have parts. You can then put them wherever you want. 

 

Additionally, I can't find any footage on modelling sheathing, or modelling fasteners, or modelling masonry blocks. Not on an individual level. Everything involves a workaround, like using curtain walls to create a block wall. Yeah, it works visually, but I don't know if it will work mechanically. If I go about making a block wall using the curtain wall workaround, can I just pluck one of the resulting blocks out if I need to replace it with something special? Or do I have to go back into the curtain wall system and completely redefine it to somehow include that special block?

 

The timber framing part of ArchiCAD seems doable. It's nice to be able to do it all from a plan view, which SketchUp doesn't allow for, but the actual 3D CAD Modeling tools seem much more limited in ArchiCAD, at least based on the content I've found.

 

Take things like the roof wizard. It's great, as long as you stick to a traditional roof. If I want some kind of crazy portion to my roof, though, I'll need to model that out with beams, and model out special hardware, and I can't seem to find much on the modelling side of ArchiCAD.


@--Ty-- wrote:

My concern is that ArchiCAD has beams and columns, which work in fairly predictable ways, and in ways I'm a bit familiar with from my time practicing in Revit. Unlike Revit, though, they're much easier to manipulate in ArchiCAD, as it has an inference engine very similar to SketchUp's, which allows you to just grab corners and drag and drop and stuff. 

 

What I couldn't find any footage of, though, is when you need to tweak a beam by giving it a cutout, or a notch, or a birdsmouth, or a hole for an anchor, etc. Maybe it's all possible, but I can't find footage on it. With Sketchup, it was as simple as taking that beam, and drawing a line across it wherever you need to make a cut, then push/pulling. Same with holes, or anything else. 

 

Likewise, I can't find any footage on modelling custom assets in ArchiCAD, like if I wanted to make a joist hanger. I know it's possible, I saw one guy make a special mending plate for an A-Frame cabin, but there's very little content out there on it. With sketchup, it's easy, just draw some shapes, push-pull your way till its done, define it as a component, and bam, you have parts. You can then put them wherever you want. 

 

Additionally, I can't find any footage on modelling sheathing, or modelling fasteners, or modelling masonry blocks. Not on an individual level. Everything involves a workaround, like using curtain walls to create a block wall. Yeah, it works visually, but I don't know if it will work mechanically. If I go about making a block wall using the curtain wall workaround, can I just pluck one of the resulting blocks out if I need to replace it with something special? Or do I have to go back into the curtain wall system and completely redefine it to somehow include that special block?


If you want control of the individual elements then you will have to model each element separately.

So, individual beams and columns for a framed wall, individual blocks for a block wall (but if course they won't be 'walls' as such, just beams columns and blocks).

To me, that is taking it to the extreme, and not something I would do.

But, you have mentioned before you want individual elements, so that is what you would have to do.

 

As you will have discovered, there are library parts for more complex structures you use all of the time.

And in some cases, add-ons or wizards that control groups of objects.

 

If you need to manipulate these objects (or in fact any element further), you can convert them to a 'morph' and then you will have sketchup like control to push/pull them into shape.

You can even re-save as an object for making repeated use a little easier.

They won't be 'parametric' objects, but you can solve that by scripting your own objects in GDL, or to a lesser extent automatically creating the scripts with Param-o.

 

Barry.

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Barry, thank you very much for the detailed reply.

 

Now, as you mentioned, doing individual beams and columns for a framed wall, individual blocks for a block wall, individual plywood panels for the sheathing and flooring, individual cupboards, individual electrical boxes and HVAC lines, all modeled out in true 3D, is exactly what I'm needing, as extreme and as crazy as it sounds.

 

So, given that reality, do you still think ArchiCAD is the best for me, or would I be better served by a true 3d modelling program like SketchUp? To ask the question a different way, do you say you would never do this simply because you don't think it's worthwhile in terms of time investment, or because it isn't possible in ArchiCAD?

It is possible in Archicad, and I assume it will be much the same in any software.

You will have to model each individual component - a long and laborious process.

 

The thing is, in Archicad (and it would be the same no matter what software you use), if you create a framed wall with studs and beam, it will not be a wall.

You can't stretch the length or insert doors and windows, without modifying each individual element making up that 'wall'.

 

I don't model individual elements because there is no need for me to do so.

I will just place a wall and note that it is a 'framed' wall or a 'block' wall.

Placing one wall is very quick, placing individual columns, beams and blocks, will be a much, much longer process.

 

But if it is important to know where each stud, beam or block is located and how it is cut, then yes, they can be individually modelled.

Or of course you can just detail in 2D.

 

Barry.

 

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Ty, do you mind me asking if this is a one off exercise to design and construct this project ? If it is and time needed to learn a new software would have a great impact on the time invested.

Re: Detailed 3D framing member modeling, you can do it with various methods as mentioned by @Barry Kelly. You can however use SU and import into many other CAD apps like AC,CA etc. There are expensive add ons that can also help with the process in AC.

 

If your budget and the time needed is a significant problem, why not just use Revit Lt since you are already familiar with that software ? Will it allow you to import framing members designed in SU ?

 

Sounds like that you will need a specialized 3D timber framing modeling app to do what you are asking. Probably best to do the whole lot in SU if possible ?

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It's not a one-off, but it is a first. If things go well, and my life does start to steer in this direction, then after building this first structure, I would do it all again, and then again, and then again. 

 

If it doesn't go well..... then I'll just keep being broke. 🙃

 

As for the modelling, picture it this way.

 

I want to lay out the concrete foundation walls myself. I then want to lay out the floor joists, one by one, exactly in the shape, length, orientation that I need them. I then want to model some critical components, like anchor bolts and hurricane straps. 

 

I then want to model the plywood paneling that forms the floor on top of those joists. I want to see each 4'x8' panel. I then want to model all the studs and headers that form the walls, then the plywood panels that sheathe them. 

 

Repeat this for the roof rafters and sheathing, then model the drywall panels, then cabinets, and electrical boxes, and HVAC lines, and main plumbing stacks, all with actual 3D geometry, albeit simple geometry (a simple cylinder for a plumbing line, for example, a simple rectangular prism for an electrical box, etc.)

 

This is what I don't know if I can do in ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD's layout and drafting stuff is much stronger than SketchUp's, but its modelling features are less known to me, and I can't find any footage discussing them. On the flipside, modelling this all in SketchUp seems trivial, but generating all of the documentation and detail views and whatnot is much more difficult, not to mention that ArchiCAD has easily reworkable room shapes and size when using the standard wall families, before i start modelling the framing. With SketchUp, you HAVE to model EVERYTHING right from the start.

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