The new 2022 version of Allplan, the flagship AEC application from the Nemetschek Group, is notable not just for its many new features and enhancements for Allplan’s core markets of architecture and engineering, but also for its growing expansion to infrastructure as well as inroads into construction and buildability. Also noteworthy are the enhancements specifically for the US market, including standards and best practices, which should help to expand the scope and reach of the application, not only in the US but also in many other countries around the world where US standards are adopted.
Before exploring the 2022 release, a brief overview: Allplan started off as the main product of the company Nemetschek, which was founded in 1963 in Germany to develop software for architecture and engineering. Given its long history in the AEC industry, Allplan’s tools and capabilities have been honed over decades of deployment and development, and its implementation is especially widespread in Europe (Figure 1). Nemetschek expanded to being a publicly traded company in 1999 and acquired several additional AEC applications including Archicad, Vectorworks, SCIA Engineer, RISA, Solibri, Bluebeam, dRofus, and Cinema 4D. All these applications — including Allplan, which was spun off as a separate company in 2008 — continue to be developed independently by their parent companies, but they are closely integrated with each other and strongly support the OPEN BIM philosophy of openness and interoperability.
Let’s move on to look at what’s new in Allplan 2022, starting with the features and enhancements that are applicable across the board to all the disciplines it serves.
Allplan 2022 has several improvements for navigating and inspecting the model which should be helpful to users from all AEC disciplines. You can now select any point in the model and rotate it about that point, making it easier to zoom in on any specific area of the model to work with (Figure 2). The Objects palette has also been enhanced with more options to hide/isolate elements, allowing you to further hone in on a specific object to work on it in more detail.
The “I” in BIM is all about the information in the model, specifically the attribute data of the various elements in it. There are some additional enhancements in the Objects palette to work with this attribute data, including the ability to display a color-code view of the model based on specific object properties (Figure 3) as well as filter elements by attribute, which can help to find elements with attributes that have been assigned incorrectly or not assigned at all. Both these enhancements make it easier to inspect the model to make sure it has been created properly.
Allplan had launched its design scripting capability as a technical preview in the 2019 version, and it is now a core feature of the application, useful in all disciplines for carrying out design automation and optimization tasks (Figures 4 and 5) and creating unique parametric objects and complex structures, all without the need for programming skills. In Allplan 2022, several enhancements have been made to the Visual Scripting interface to make it easier and faster to create scripts, including the ability to search and quickly insert nodes, place parameters selectively on multiple tabs, use sliders to specify a range of values, and access additional building components such as columns and beams in the script. Also, scripts can now be added as tools to the Allplan taskbar, making it easier for modelers to use them without being aware of their mechanics and complexities or even the fact that they are custom scripts.
It should be noted that the visual scripting capabilities of Allplan are in addition to a full-fledged API in the Python programming language, which is aimed at developers and allows full customization of Allplan.
In addition to specific tools, there are also three cloud initiatives that are relevant to all the AEC disciplines in which Allplan is used: Bimplus, which is a collaboration platform in which multiple disciplinary models can be brought in and coordinated; Allplan Share, which allows project teams to work together using native Allplan data; and Allplan Exchange, which allows project data and documents to be distributed to anyone on the project team who needs them.
Allplan 2022 has several modeling and visualization improvements specifically targeted towards architects. On the modeling front, the intersection of different components with each other can be better controlled by specifying different priority values, railings can now be placed along splines, and the workflow for modifying openings has been simplified by putting their options within the Properties palette rather than in a separate dialog (Figure 6). A new feature called Provision for Voids allows openings to the model to be created in one step for MEP elements based on the required voids as specified by the MEP engineer (Figure 7).
For architects, there are also some striking visualizations enhancements that can dramatically improve the quality of the renderings generated from the model and reduce the time it takes to create them. There are now settings for volumetric fog, bloom and lens flare, which can take advantage of the capabilities of modern graphics cards and the Vulkan graphics technology used in Allplan to create some spectacular visuals, both still and animated (Figure 8). Other visualization enhancements include the ability to do a white render of the model, remove noise from a rendering using the AI denoising technology of NVIDIA Optix, and add lights and shadows to the Sketch display mode (Figure 9).
On the engineering front, Allplan 2022 has new components for bolted and welded steel connections and the ability to detail base and stiffener plates, cleats, bolts and welds for structural framing (Figure 10). A new tool also allows structural braces to be automatically created. The display and labeling of the structural axis grid has been improved, and structural components now automatically receive unique item numbers, even across the different drawing files comprising a project. Standard or country-specific material catalogs can be downloaded via Bimplus and linked to structural components in Allplan. All these enhancements improve Allplan’s ability to create more detailed structures with flexible connections that are customizable and extendable.
Another significant enhancement to Allplan for engineering is the ability to create automated reinforcement for columns, beams, walls, and slab based on reinforcement rules such as clearance, minimum diameter, maximum spacing, etc., all of which can be adjusted based on standards or requirements (Figure 11). Because the reinforcement is already created based on rules, it will result in fewer errors. Under the hood, this automation has been created using the Python API, and similar to the parking garage example shown in Figure 5 where the structural elements were automatically warped as needed, it shows the ability of smart tools to reduce the amount of tedious and repetitive tasks that would otherwise need to be manually done.
For precast structures, Alllplan now includes deeper integration with the dedicated precast design and detailing software, Planbar, that came from the recent merger of ALLPLAN with another Nemetscheck company, Precast. Planbar includes numerous automation features for precast elements including one-click reinforcement, import of architectural models and fixtures, fully automated creation of shop drawings with dimensioning and labelling (Figure 12), and easy switching between 2D and 3D working methods. Allplan also has improvements in its Shape Code Manager to allow precast manufacturers to better support their local shape code standard (Figure 13).
The article “BIM Software for Infrastructure” published a few months ago captured the growing momentum behind extending the model-based concept of BIM from the building domain to the infrastructure domain and the software available for it. Allplan, with its sophisticated engineering capabilities, is already a key player in this domain, enabling concrete structures with complex geometries to be fully modeled, reinforced, and detailed in civil projects. In 2019, a dedicated parametric application for bridge design called Allplan Bridge was introduced, and the push towards infrastructure continues in Allplan with new tools for terrain modeling, road design, and the design of utility lines for water and wastewater.
For terrain modeling — which is useful to model the context for any infrastructure discipline such as bridges, roads, and tunnels — the terrain data can be imported into Allplan using a format such as LandXML. You can select which surfaces to import, reduce the number of points on the surfaces to simplify them if needed, correct border lines and any discontinuities in the terrain (Figure 14), and define the project area that you need to work on so you can see it more closely.
The new road design tool is parametric. The position of the road axis can be adjusted, and the model is recalculated in real time. The road alignment created in Allplan can be sent to other infrastructure design applications using Bimplus, or the road design can continue to be developed in Allplan. For the road geometry, cross-sections can be created and assigned to individual sections, and there is full support for all the documentation that needs to be created for road design (Figure 15).
There is also a major enhancement to Allplan Bridge in the 2022 version which allows it to accurately model precast girder brides, in which linear elements are used to span bridges as shown in Figure 16. This is important because a large percentage of bridges are designed in this manner. The geometry of these linear girders is governed by the geometry of the substructure and their position along the axis. Parametric 3D templates are used to define repetitive elements such as the girders, so they need to be modeled only once and can then be placed parametrically as many times as necessary. The placement is done by selecting the starting and ending points on the supporting substructures of the bridge. Another workflow improvement is the use of 3D Boolean operations to quickly generate the haunch between the deck of the bridge and the girders.
Also, Allplan Bridge now supports the AASHTO LRFD standard for the design and code-checking of concrete bridges. While this is a standard that originated in the US, it is used in many countries around the world, making Allplan Bridge a compelling choice for parametric bridge design globally.
In addition to the push to expand to infrastructure, Allplan is also attempting to expand further into construction by providing content libraries for site equipment such as cranes, pumps, formwork, and so on, which can be used to better plan the layout of a construction site. Similar to building elements, most of the elements are parametric. Also, some elements such as cranes are intelligent with the ability to rotate them, make their jibs shorter or longer, change the position of the hook or the height of the tower, and so on (Figure 17).
To add the 4th dimension to an Allplan model to enable it to be used for construction scheduling, it can be published to Bimplus, where the model elements can be connected to a project schedule imported from Microsoft Project. This can be done using the Bimplus add-on to Microsoft Project (Figure 18). Once the connection between the model and the schedule has been done, you can run a simulation of the project schedule in Bimplus.
Allplan is one of the most established applications in the AEC technology industry with powerful BIM capabilities supported by full-fledged CAD functionality, making it a strong contender to be the main software for AEC firms around the world as they transition from a primarily CAD-based to an increasingly BIM-based workflow. The enhancements in the 2022 version continue to improve upon its already comprehensive suite of tools for architecture and engineering, and its growing expansion to support the design of roads, bridges, terrain, and utilities will help it to better serve the growing number of infrastructure projects worldwide. The concerted effort to incorporate US standards and requirements should help it to not only cater to the US market, but also all other countries that have adopted US standards.
The design of quality buildings and infrastructure is a complex challenge, and we need all the help that we can get.
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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