Graphisoft unveiled the latest versions of its three main products a few weeks ago: its flagship BIM application, Archicad; its cloud collaboration solution, BIMcloud; and its mobile and web model viewing app, BIMx. This year is a special one for Graphisoft as it marks the release of the 25th version of Archicad. Right from the launch of version 1.0 in 1984, Archicad included 3D in addition to traditional 2D CAD, and it continued to become more object-oriented with each subsequent release. By the time I reviewed Archicad in 2004 shortly after AECbytes was launched, it was in version 9.0 and well-established as a BIM application in the AEC industry.
Archicad’s position as a leading BIM application was further strengthened by Graphisoft’s acquisition by Nemetschek in 2007, and it has continued to make several breakthrough enhancements since then, including server-based collaboration in Archicad 13 in 2009, bidirectional integration with Grasshopper for design scripting in Archicad 20 in 2016, and rule-based design in Archicad 21 in 2017. Its capabilities were further extended by BIMx and BIMcloud that were introduced by Graphisoft in 2014, both of which are complementary to Archicad.
The latest version, Archicad 25, features new capabilities and enhancements along each of the main pillars of Archicad as a full-fledged architectural BIM application — Design, Visualization, Documentation, and Collaboration. Let’s see what they are.
Design has always been the central focus of Archicad, given that it is what architects do. To that end, all tools and enhancements are engineered to make the design workflow as seamless as possible so as to not hamper creativity. In Archicad 25, one key enhancement to making the workflow smoother is improving the navigation from 2D to 3D and vice versa, as architectural design happens as much as in 2D as in 3D. It works as shown in Figure 2, where an element can be selected in a 3D view, and you can choose to open up the corresponding 2D view with the element still selected. The 2D view is automatically zoomed in to be able to view the element. The reverse process is shown in Figure 3, where an element is selected in 2D and the corresponding 3D view with the element selected is opened. Essentially, this allows architects to continue working with the same element in 2D as well as 3D, switching between the two as often as they need. This capability also works across 2D views, so you can, for example, select an element in an elevation or section view and open up the corresponding plan view, as shown in Figure 4.
Another design enhancement in Archicad 25 is the ability to create polygonal openings, as shown in Figure 5. This builds up on the Opening tool that had been introduced in Archicad 23 to model openings as a dedicated element type just like any other building element. In Archicad 25, these openings can now be polygonal in addition to being rectangular or circular as they were previously, enabling them to better accommodate MEP elements and thereby improve Archicad’s multidisciplinary collaboration workflows.
Archicad 25 has also made some enhancements to the intelligent Stair tool, which had been introduced in Archicad 21 to automate different aspects of staircase design such as total height, width, riser height, tread width, landing configuration, total run, etc., based on established rules and standards for usability and safety. In order to better accommodate local standards and compliance in certain countries as well as provide more flexibility and control in stair design, there are now more options including a new “along chord” stair calculation method in addition to the existing “along arc” method, new tread symmetry options for winders (Figure 6), and more control of the automatic landing geometry.
Archicad already comes with an extensive library of parametric building objects, and this has been further expanded in Archicad 25 to include more interior furniture elements and modular kitchen cabinets that support contemporary interior designs trends. All library objects are in the GDL (Geometric Description Language) format, which is Graphisoft's parametric object definition language, and they are fully customizable with hundreds of options, as shown in Figure 7.
On the visualization front, Archicad 25 has some useful enhancements for architects to better present their designs to clients without having to rely on image-editing software like Photoshop to improve their visuals. These include the ability to apply surface textures and shadows in elevations and sections as well as to 2D fills. In addition to improved communication of design intent, this also makes for simply more beautiful drawings, as shown in Figure 8, which would be important to the aesthetic sensibilities of architects.
Another important enhancement, both for visualization as well as documentation, is the ability to create custom colors for graphic overrides — for both the background pen as well as surfaces — instead of just being limited to preset colors. An example is shown in Figure 9, where custom colors are created for the graphic override for the fire rating of elements. The same colors can be applied in 3D as well as 2D, allowing for a consistent representation across all types of views. This kind of visualization is very helpful to check the quality of the model and ensure that all elements have the desired properties.
One of the key benefits of BIM is the ability to derive accurate quantities of elements from the model, including the individual components that the elements may be comprised of, such as the layers of a composite wall. The calculation typically has to account for any exclusions such as openings, and Archicad 25 has added the ability to make this calculation more granular in order to comply with specific local standards in different countries for quantity takeoffs of different components. Now, in addition to simply calculating the net and gross area (or volume) for components that have openings, you can specify a conditional in the calculation. An example is shown in Figure 10, where the calculation for concrete masonry includes a conditional of the opening size being at least 0.5 sq m for it to be excluded from the calculation.
The approach to collaboration in Archicad has always been to allow architects to work better as part of a multi-disciplinary design team, while at the same time, still keeping them at the center of the process. Archicad 25 builds up on several collaboration enhancements that had been introduced in the last release (described in the Graphisoft 2020 Product Updates article). The ability to automatically create a structural analysis model from the building model has been enhanced so as to reduce the manual adjustment of the analysis model that needs to be made by the structural engineer. This has been done by refining the rules that create the structural analysis model from the architectural model. An example is shown in Figure 11, where the rule for the Column to Beam offset calculation is adjusted so that the analytical members are continuous at the intersection — a requirement for structural analysis.
Additionally, Archicad 25 includes support for loads and load-related data that have been added to the structural model by the structural engineer. When the structural model is imported in Archicad using the SAF format, the loads are imported as well. A new dedicated Loads tool allows the loads to be adjusted if required (Figure 12). Since the analytical model is fully aligned with the physical model, any changes made to the physical model in Archicad updates the associated loads as well, and these can be exported back to the structural analysis application and are immediately available for the engineer to work with. Thus, engineers no longer need to re-create loads during round-trip collaboration with architects using Archicad.
Support for Revit model files (RVT format) and Revit family files (RFA format), which were earlier available as an add-on to Archicad, are now built into Archicad, available out of the box. This should greatly help to improve collaboration between multi-disciplinary teams using the two applications. In particular, the native support for Revit’s RFA format (content libraries) allows the vast content of manufacturer product data available in RFA format to be brought into Archicad as parametric GDL objects and used in the same way. In Archicad 25, this ability to import Revit families for BIM content has been extended to include MEP objects, and as shown in Figure 13, the imported Revit MEP element behaves in the same way as a native MEP object created in Archicad — you can change its settings and connect it automatically with existing MEP elements. This significantly expands the MEP modeling capabilities of Archicad and the collaboration between architects and MEP engineers on a project.
And finally, Archicad now has a native Survey Point, which is used to set a project accurately to real-world coordinates (Figure 14). It is especially important for a multi-disciplinary project where the model is exchanged between multiple applications, helping to ensure that the project will stay synchronized across all disciplines, and all objects will be located in the same position in all the applications. The Survey Point object can be imported from and/or exported to other applications in IFC, BCF, and DWG formats.
25 major releases is definitely a milestone worth celebrating, not just for Graphisoft as the developer of Archicad (and for Nemetschek, its parent company), but also for the large number of architectural firms who are so happy with the product that they have stuck with it despite the market pressure from larger competitors. In return, they have been amply rewarded, not only with a well-rounded BIM application that places the design process front and center, but also with a software vendor that has built a reputation for caring about its customer base and listening to its users. (Many of the enhancements in this release have come directly from user requests.) If you can ascribe human attributes to technologies, Archicad can be seen as a trusted long-term friend whose companionship gets better every year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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