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Product Review: Graphisoft ArchiCAD 12

In this product review Architosh looks at Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD 12, the industry’s leading BIM (building information modeling) solution used worldwide by architects and building AEC professionals.

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Other New and Improved Features

Of the remaining new and improved features the Hotlink module is an important update. Hotlinks are separate files linked into a larger master file. They are used for big projects where repetitive units, say hotel or hospital rooms, residential units, et cetera, are repeated extensively. These files get embedded into a master ArchiCAD file. From the new Hotlink Manager we find a revised setup that enables better visual understanding of all hotlinked files, as well as the ability to update all nested hotlinked files at once.

13 - Four new winder types of stairs have been added to the StairMaker tool.

13 – Four new winder types of stairs have been added to the StairMaker tool.

Another new feature is the improved StairMaker tool, which is accessed from the Stair tool’s default settings palette. Key new features include the addition of four types of winder stairs (single winder at lower end, single winder at upper end, winder u-turn, and double winder u-turn). Stair settings include more parameters with a particular emphasis on the ability to make the floor plan view of stairs conform to standards. (see image 13).

Final enhancements to ArchiCAD in version 12 include excellent improvements to dimensioning input logic and the company has good videos of this on their website. The big difference is the ability to change dimension line direction during placement not just before. This is particularly interesting in diagonal situations. New Nudge and Align & Distribute functions are new to version 12 but in all honesty such new features are not ones any CAD company should be bragging about circa 2008.

Rounding things out ArchiCAD 12’s new transparent and image fill capabilities are most appreciated and enable far more sophistication in presentation drawings capabilities, building on its gradient fills addition in version 10. And the company of course has improved AutoCAD DWG support, but perhaps most impressive in this regard is that a new ACIS import option allows AutoCAD 3D Solids, Regions and Bodies to be converted into GDL objects. You can also transfer and convert all layouts into DWG model space and map all ArchiCAD fills to AutoCAD hatches.

Earlier we mentioned the performance improvements and in this time of economic difficulty many firms are looking to workflow efficiency. ArchiCAD 12 has plenty to offer in dramatic speed improvements and its ability to utilize multi-core processors. Back at the May National AIA Convention Graphisoft showed us an impressive demonstration of its algorithm improvements and multi-threading.

Final Thoughts

This update to ArchiCAD marks a turning point for the product with its new “systems technology” at the heart of the new Curtain Wall tool but soon to be at the heart of most of the future of ArchiCAD. While the new Curtain Wall tool is deeply impressive for its introduction there are clearly some areas where the methodology behind the new systems technology could be improved.

The introduction and methodology behind the Edit button, the new 3D editing window with its contextual and focused menu palette is strong. We especially like how the Tool Box collapses down into only tools related to the Curtain Wall. However, we feel there is a graphical disconnect between these “collapsed tools” and the “pale green-backed” menu structure contained within the Edit 3D window itself. We would love to see the same color highlighting (pale green in this case) tie these two sets UI controls together so as to cue the user that they are editing a “system” or editing at the system level. It is not yet clear how future versions of ArchiCAD will work but at the moment the systems technology behind the Curtain Wall represents a “different” way of editing.

In terms of addressing other weaknesses we cited in our last review, ArchiCAD 12, like other BIMs, doesn’t have built-in NURBS modeling nor does it have a simple SketchUp-like explicit modeling capability. However we understand that Graphisoft rolls its own when it comes to its geometric modeling kernel and that advanced form-making capabilities are already inherent in the code base. Getting at these vis-a-vis GDL however is not what is being advocated here. What is is more direct, explicit modeling tools in lieu of the “ancient” palette-based primitives-based modeling. Interestingly, in a demonstration of the MEP Modeler at Graphisoft’s offices in Massachusetts, it was made very apparent that capabilities in more complex form making using explicit modeling tools is well within ArchiCAD’s grasp.

It should also be cited that while other reviews of ArchiCAD 12 have noted that the product doesn’t provide “collision-detection” for advanced BIM coordination (we said that about version 11) Graphisoft’s new MEP Modeler extension to ArchiCAD 12 does precisely that with a very nice set of features. (Editor’s note: we will review the MEP Modeler at a future date).


ArchiCAD 12 at first sight doesn’t seem like it has as much to offer as maybe other updates of the past, but we spent some time with its new Curtain Wall tool to learn about its new “systems technology” and what we see today we like very much. For architects working on buildings with a lot of curtain walls they will very much appreciate the power of this tool. Graphisoft also seems, despite its relative size to Autodesk, content on beating them to the punch on key advances in hardware and software technologies, being the first to serious multi-core processor support. We will not be surprised at all if ArchiCAD is the first BIM to utilize Apple’s OpenCL open industry standard — like OpenGL now managed by the Khronos Group– to rapidly speed up aspects of the BIM program through further parallel processing.

For architects looking for BIM adoption paths ArchiCAD 12 is today a “must evaluate” option. The BIM program offers creative architects in particular superior capabilities in the areas of envelope design (eg: curtain walls, facades) and in general documentation with such strong features as 3D Documents and Partial Structure Display. In terms of learning BIM no other company does as much in interactive (voice-led) training materials — of which Graphisoft has no rival. Their BIM Learning Studio suite, which was utilized a bit in this review, is a gem!

Our recommendation to ArchiCAD 11 users working on larger projects (think HotLink module) or those with extensive curtain wall requirements is ArchiCAD 12 is a must upgrade. For those working in smaller scales or residential this upgrade has less to offer you specifically. And as we said in our last review, for those looking to jump from 2D to 3D BIM ArchiCAD offers some killer technologies and some technologies that make the jump to 3D BIM more graceful (such as its Virtual Trace) than other competiting BIM products. —- ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, EIC.

Pros: Multi-core processor support and algorithm optimizations have dramatically sped up this version; New “systems technology” based Curtain Wall offers dramatically powerful new ways of handling large curtain wall designs with support for advanced features like glass corners, custom shapes, and angles and curves; Excellent new Partial Structure Display and 3D Documents capabilities; new MEP Modeler offers excellent MEP integration; matchless interactive help system and tutorials integration for learning BIM; excellent integration with sister product Maxon Cinema 4D Architecture Edition for high-end visualization and animation. 

Cons: Needs updated modeling capabilities, more direct path versus complicated GDL editing/programming; no real associativity between systems or elements; no built-in collision-detection, though some exist with MEP-Modeler extension; no direct file support for sister product Nemetschek Vectorworks.

Advice: No BIM adopter should skip ArchiCAD 12 as part of their evaluation stage. For those architects on the Mac platform ArchiCAD is a top choice for your future on the platform. For those who long for the Mac and can’t get on it with their BIM tools today, ArchiCAD 12 should be looked at as a pathway to platform nirvana.

Cost: $4250.USD new; $895.USD upgrade / Mac OS X Universal Binary Support.


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  1. […] Product Review: Graphisoft ArchiCAD 12 | ArchitoshDec 19, 2008 … With ArchiCAD 12 Graphisoft — which is now apart of the German Nemetschek Group – has done major work on a new underlying “systems … […]

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