ArchiCAD: Correct Project Setup

Setting up a new ArchiCAD project or template consists of setting up the correct combinations of settings, to ensure your output drawings are of a consistent high quality.

The criteria for these combinations per view is:

Layer Combination


Structure Display

Pen Set

Model View Options

Renovation Filter

1. Setting up new views

By creating new views you can set up your entire project file to fit any design aspect or design stage from sketch plan to submission by simply building a model and working with the correct combinations of criteria.

To find out more about setting up views click on the images on the right.

The tutorial below helps you get accustomed to how the Navigator works and how to set up new views and to  discover the potential of working in your View Map.

2. Layer Combinations

Layer combinations enables you to work more productive on your drawings, by making it easy to view the correct layers for the type of drawing you are currently working on. For example the figure on the right shows how to use layer combinations to distinguish between two different types of drawings. For a explanation on how layer combinations work click on the image on the right.

For information with images, in ArchiCAD go to Help > ArchiCAD Help, when your browser opens click on the “Search” tab, and input “layer combinations” in the search box.

For a guide to updating Layer Combinations click on the image on the left.

3. Scale

Working with the scale is very straight forward. All you need to set is the scale you’re working with depending on the type of drawing. For a a better explanation of how this works as well as some tips click on the link below:

Working with Scaled Drawings

(Press Ctrl+0 to view the full size pdf  when loading the link above, or Apple+0 for Mac users)

4. Structure Display

The Partial Structure Display function allows you to display and output architectural elements in a simplified form, this is helpful when you want to show a detail or documenting your design.

To find out more how Structural Display works click on the image to the right.

Below is a tutorial on the different views you can create with the Partial Structure Display.

5. Pen Sets

An essential part of setting up a project is setting up your pensets. To get the most productive results it is very important that you understand how to set up your pen sets correctly and use the attribute to it’s full potential.

Especially if it’s your first time working on ArchiCAD; it can be tricky grasping the function and purpose of 225 different pens, when in 2D software all you used to require was 7 different pens with different line types.

Below is a very helpful tutorial to understanding pen sets:

For a descriptive blog entry by Francois Swanepoel, explaining the inn’s & out’s of Pen Sets click on the image on the left.

Working with Pen Sets correctly can be a time saver as well as a productivity tool to organize your design, thus learning to use Pen Sets will benefit yourself & your company.

Some more helpful links providing more information on Pen Sets can be accessed by clicking on each of the images to the right.

6. Model View Options

Setting up your model view options makes a difference in how your elements gets displayed, it is an essential part in setting up displays for different design stages.

For more information on how to access the Model View Options & the different settings & the effects of these settings click on each of the pictures on the left.

The video on the top of this post also deals with Model View Options.

7. Renovation Filter
The Renovation Tool is a new feature of ArchiCAD 15 which makes working with renovation plans & multiple option layouts much simpler.
Below is an set of video’s explaining the Renovation Tool & how it applies to your project:

Now that you know how to set up a project & how to use it’s associated settings correctly, you will find working with your project will be much less time consuming & you will become more productive and produce a better quality work flow.


Thermal Capabilities VS Economic Building Materials

Now that were all more “green” conscious, I noticed that Architects tend to use more passive strategies on their design, which is a brilliant concept, especially using materials that have a good thermal insulation. A problem that arises from these materials is that that they are generally more expensive thus the Quantity Surveyor advises the client of a less expensive material, causing the building to lose its thermal capacity.

A solution would be to somehow demonstrate these effects of materials to a client & let them decide if the more expensive material is worth a building that keeps them cool in the summer and cosy in the winter which in turn leads to less energy consumption as well.

An application I found that demonstrates this very well is EcoDesigner (an ArchiCAD add-on), it gathers all the info it needs from your 3D model gives you a detailed energy report. EcoDesigner has a database of pre-set U-values for multiple materials, making life very easy. It is also customisable, with new legislation coming soon to in SA that all suppliers & manufacturers must supply the consumer with their project’s U-value, you can input specific values.


To demonstrate my point I’ve constructed a simple flat roof structure inArchiCAD and

set the wall material/cut fill to “Masonry Block” & the roof slabs to “Lightweight Concrete”. When I ran a report the energy consumption added up to 301.80 kWh/m2a, which is unacceptable for any council or national regulations.


Thus my next step is to lower the U-value of my materials. Firstly I changed my wall material to “215 block insulated, cavity, plastered”, which is a very expensive choice, however it has an excellent U-value & gives your building an awesome rating. I also changed the windows U-value from 5.5 to 1.9,

thus changing them to double glazing (EcoDesigner has all these values pre-set into a database).  Now if you notice the overhangs on my building is massive thus solar radiation doesn’t influence the walls & windows too much. Thus the current evaluation will only make a slight difference.

This is another feature I like about EcoDesigner; it allows you to test your theories on the fly. Such as testing if my walls would make a difference, when I first ran the evaluation I was baffled when it didn’t make a significant difference, but now it allowed me to explore my design & made me realise what the cause was.


Now I changed the roof slabs material to “flat roof” which includes white pebbles on the roof to reflect the solar radiation off the roof.  When in EcoDesigner you can specify the exact pebble you want to use for the compositefill. Now if I run an evaluation you can see the energy consumption has dropped immensely, simply by changing building materials.

Even Google didn’t know what a .VUT file is…

I remember when I first started using VIP-Energy,I wanted to import my model information and just couldn’t figure out how or where you save a .VUT file, I even utilised Google’s full search capacity. I eventually stumbled upon it while I was doing an Green Energy Evaluation on EcoDesigner. Just in case I’m not the only one who is completely dependant on Google for all unknown information I compiled this how-to guide.

BIM – Productivity with a capitol “B”

By creating a proper BIM project, you have your entire project in electronic format, thus multiple processes can be performed to benefit your design including; carbon footprint evaluation, quantity take-off, visualisation & numerous other possibilities. It simplifies your workflow and enables project collaboration. Thus working locally or across borders has never been easier.

“Consultants can receive the building data in electronic format, regardless of which CAD platform they are on, make changes and return the file to you for further work without any loss of the BIM data in the process. Comprehensive schedules and bills of materials are available for builders and sub-contractors, as well as drawings of scale-sensitive details. Builders can plan tasks, create time-based animations and document any phase of a building’s construction or demolition. And developers can use the photo-realistic renderings for a sales brochure.”

-André Strauss

Is it just me? or is BIM ready for Quantity Take-Off?

From an international stand point the benefits of using BIM for QTO includes; minimising the time consuming process of obtaining quantities of elements and materials for estimation, as well as emphasise errors & assumptions one would not always identify when using drawings.

If the building was done on a BIM platform by the designer and insufficient information is given, it’s easy for the contractor to refine the model to a sufficient standard. For example with CostOS (Cost Estimating software from Nomitech, which enables the import if IFC files to do a QTA) even when the designer adds or changes the design it is easy to just select/import the new elements and add the estimation from that to the BOQ.

A presentation at Ecobuild in Washington, DC on 6 December 2010, two cost estimation vendors namely; Solibri ITO & CostOS was tested on their efficiency to calculate a BOQ from a BIM platform. In conclusion that when BIM is used the process of the QTO whether it is automatic or manual the tools are highly efficient & accurate. This enhanced performance will improve even more when professional teams get more proficient.

CostOS is BIM embedded & the thing that makes CostOS stand out is that you can import the IFC file and work directly on the 3D model to do a complete QTO of your design.

BIM can efficiently be used for QTO and even create ‘what if’ scenarios and different designs can each be tendered to select the best option, when used with CostOS. Thus the responsibility lies with the designer to set up a ‘tidy’ work environment for better productivity.

Using your building model, you can high-light elements and assign it to any material and Bill of Quantities item, making it easy to calculate the pricing accurately from the concrete used in the foundations to the paint on the plaster.

The user friendly interface makes it convenient for anyone in the office to make alterations and edit estimates, when a client changes his mind about a finish he insisted on.

Elements in your project can be used for multiple estimates, the volume of your roof slabs can be used to calculate the sufficient material & the area can be used to calculate waterproofing required.

You can integrate CostOS with your own cost estimating database or on-line databases. Thus every time you open a new project it’s a simple process of assigning BOQ items to elements and print the QTO.

Even when you have no prices, you use your model to get the correct measurements then use CostOS to request a quote from the

manufacturer and then it exports an EXEL sheet to e-mail and when completed by the manufacturer can then be imported into your project and automatically updates the BOQ.

Whether doing a local or international project CostOS supports any currency and updates the exchange rate to keep your project up to date and accurate.

You can customise the Work Breakdown Structure to your own preference or national standards.

CostOS supports all types of estimates, both Bottom-up and Top-Down and covers all classes of estimates according to the AACE. Also because it uses a relational resource database, it fully complies with the PMI standards (PMBOK).

Multiple reports can be generated for the total project cost as depicted below.

CostOS exports professional document to send to clients. The format is uncomplicated and less time consuming than entering all the information manually into an EXEL spread sheet.

EcoDesigner saved me from dropping out!

I remember at tech for a specific project we had to do a Carbon Footprint calculation for our design, and the lecturer’s gave us some links for on-line calculators, after which after what felt like an eternity of searching & inputting of specs I could not possibly be certain of at such an early stage of designing, the info it eventually gave me was irrelevant 😦 Out of nowhere my deadline was around the corner and I was still on Stage 1.

I eventually came across an article for Eco-Designer which I learned; that all you need is your ArchiCAD model (which I already designed) and in a few simple steps and inputs it exported a very professional looking pdf with colourful graphs & even a cute footprint representing your carbon footprint of your design. What I also liked is that I could do a comparison between my design with and without Green Building Elements 😀

Ronel –

DUT – 2010

P.S. Here is a tutorial which I wish I had back then: