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Product Review: Vectorworks Architect 2016

In this product review we take a look at the big ticket items new in Vectorworks and Vectorworks Architect 2016. Introduced this fall but previewed at the Vectorworks Design Summit in Philadelphia last spring, this is arguably the largest update in the product’s history, with the introduction of not one but two major sub-program feature categories—in integrated energy modeling in Energos and in a rival technology to McNeel’s Grasshopper in Marionette.

2016 could be the best year yet for Vectorworks Architect.  There is one big addition to the software that might just make all the difference.  In just about every review I have written I have complained that it was still best suited for the small to medium firms due to its lack of teamwork features and ability for more than one person to access the same file at the same time.

That is, it was possible but difficult for more than one person to work on a file at the same time. Well it looks like they took my advice, mine and many others.  And they didn’t just make file sharing possible they made it easy and intuitive through a new Project Sharing structure.

Migration Manager

The first thing you will do when installing the new version is use the new Migration Manager command which can automatically migrate custom workspaces, preferences, templates, favorite files, and libraries to the new Vectorworks 2016 version.  This should be a welcome tool as it eliminates most of the tedious work of resetting everything when you upgrade to the latest version. Those frustrations are a thing of the past!

Project Sharing

From my initial look it will make team work easy and fun. They have taken a sort of social networking approach in which team members can communicate with each other while working on a team project. If you need extra layers, post a note and a team member can respond agreeing to make them. A complaint, which I might call an advantage, is that individual objects cannot be checked out for work, one must check out an entire layer.  That’s what makes it intuitive; Vectorworks 2016 users are familiar with the layer setup so the team manager can easily assign layers to team members.  I can imagine the confusion, without a lot of management, in rival BIM products where “work sets” can consist of just about any object.

Working Offsite

I immediately wondered if the new Project Sharing could also be used over the Internet; that is, could someone work on a project from home or from another office while others worked on it in the primary office?  I could not really try this myself but here is a quote from Christiaan Briggs, “I’ve been using Project Sharing over a VPN between my home in London and our office in London, both on very good internet connections. The save and commits were quick (much much faster than WGR updates for instance). Very workable in my opinion. On a slower connection you might have to go get a cup of tea but I suspect it would still be very workable.”

I would say that this also opens up some great opportunities for smaller offices to joint venture on projects they could not do on their own.  I can even imagine joint venturing with offices in other countries.  Yeah, I could be available, get your office working round the clock using different time zones.

The 100

What else has changed? They talk about 100 improvements.  Of course those improvements are spread throughout the various disciplines that Vectorworks 2016 covers so my focus will be on the big ones and those native to the Vectorworks Architect 2016 product.  Here is a short list taken from the Vectorworks, Inc., press pages:

  • Project Sharing — is an intuitive means for teams to communicate and collaborate while working concurrently on the same Vectorworks design file.
  • Subdivision Modeling — allows designers to transform primitive shapes like spheres and cubes into any form imaginable.
  • Marionette — is the first and only cross-platform, Python®-based graphical scripting tool in the AEC, landscape and entertainment industries. Designers can create visual scripts that take advantage of Vectorworks software’s 2D and 3D modeling capabilities, integrating seamlessly with BIM environments.
  • Energos — offers a dynamic, intelligent gauge of a building’s energy performance during the design process and is based on the Passivhaus calculation method.
  • Point Cloud Support — allows designers using their preferred 3D scanning device to capture a physical location and import a 3D point cloud object into Vectorworks software to manipulate and measure.
  • Roof Components and Styles — will interact with wall components ensure accuracy in the documentation of sections and elevations. Roof faces and roof objects now have the same component representation as walls and slabs, further extending the power of BIM.
  • Landmark Site Modifier and Hardscape Tool Improvements — help landscape professionals and urban planners design more efficiently and be more creative with pavements and walkways, including sloping hardscapes.
  • Several New Features Improvements — in our Renderworks module include an upgraded MAXON Cinema 4D® render engine, Caustic Capabilities with refraction of light through translucent surfaces, Ambient Occlusion that adds depth to designs with more realistic shadowing and the New Grass Shader, as well as new camera effects, such as depth of field, exposure, vignette and bloom, allow for more realistic and striking visualizations and animations.

Subdivision Modeling

No it’s not for modeling your latest tract house subdivision project.  Take any shape and manipulate it until you have created that impossible to build shape that will get you fired either by your client or your boss. But hey! how much fun did you have doing it?  I imagine Zaha Hadid wishes she had a copy of Vectorworks 2016…maybe she does…? (see images 01 – 02)

01 - an example of what one can accomplish with the new SubD modeling tools.

01 – an example of what one can accomplish with the new SubD modeling tools.

02 - Such forms are much easier now using the Subdivision modeling tools.

02 – Such forms are much easier now using the Subdivision modeling tools.

This is one of those features of Vectorworks 2016 that most architects won’t get a lot of use out of but it also shows the breadth of the program. Design a chair (see above) to be 3D printed or that 1960’s looking concrete free form structure from the Vectorworks 2016 demo video.  Why not take the program home and design some cool toys for your kids that you can 3D print!

Users, particular architecture students, will no doubt find many uses for the Subdivision modeling features new to version 2016, while many if not most architects, will have to spend time mastering these new modeling tools to find their utility over other modeling methods already in the program.

Marionette

There is one that brings a smile to my face.  They call it “Marionette, the first industry, cross-­platform, Python®-­based scripting tool”.  Why am I smiling, it’s because it will allow one to write a program that automates some repetitive activities within Vectorworks without actually writing anything; just pick and choose from a list of predefined bits of script that appear in graphical form. Connect the pictures with lines and there you go—you’ve “written” your own little program. (see image 03)

03 - Marionette offers Vectorworks 2016 users algorithmic graphic scripting that drives Vectorworks modeling and more.

03 – Marionette offers Vectorworks 2016 users algorithmic graphic scripting that drives Vectorworks modeling and more.

While it is true that the next generation of architects may have interests, some of them, in coding, us older era architects could care less about learning how to code. But that is precisely why Marionette should call your attention. Marionette doesn’t just compete with the combination modeling powers of Rhino plus Grasshopper, it also enables your Marionette work to be saved as Vectorworks plugins (themselves tiny customized software modules). For this reason all Vectorworks users should consider the power of Marionette for automating certain types of time-intensive tasks.

next page: Point Cloud Support, Energos and More…

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