Home > Features > Product Review: VectorWorks Architect 2008

Viewports: Some Issues

In the Ellicott project discussion PDF document Nemetschek North America describes two methods of dividing the BIM data. The horizontal method involves dividing a building by floors, each constituting a data set. Each would be a separate file, view ported into a master file containing the whole project. The second method is the vertical division, each programmatic function constituting its own data set, regardless of floors. The Ellicott project (see images 13 - 14) utilizes both approaches.

13 - The Ellicott project is a sample BIM implementation. Over 1.5 million square feet the view above shows a sample floor level file representing horizontal organization of the data. Team members could be deployed to focus on overall plans.
14 - While other team members could focus work on apartment unit plans, as seen in the image above. A 3D view of the plan above is shown at left in axon view.

However, we encountered a few quirks within the tools when applied to a horizontal versus vertical approach. In the more straightforward "horizontal" approach separate plan files would constitute the floors of the BIM geometry, including a roof level in its "own file." However therein lies a small problem. If you have anything but a flat roof and need your walls to fit up against the geometry of the roof, you cannot access this layer from within the "Fit Walls to 3D Geometry" command (see image 15) unless the roof object itself is within the same file.

It first appears that you can perhaps utilize the "old-style" workgroup referencing approach and "import" those layers from referenced files -- in this the case the roof plan file -- into the target document; however that approach denies you the ability to use the new design-layer viewports methodology -- which is far superior. This essentially means that in our personal test files we simply had to add the roof layer into our "level-1" VectorWorks file so we could utilize the Fit to Walls to 3D Geometry command. Could there be another and simpler way to deal with this?

15 - The Fit Selected Walls to 3D Geometry tool doesn't work unless the roof geometry resides in the same file so its layer is visible in the drop-down menu shown. This negates a complete "horizontal" distribution method as sampled in the Ellicott project.

Nemetschek's response to this is to create a design-layer in the appropriate floor plan file (in our case: level-1.vwx) and set its Z height to the correct level for the roof's bearing. Now place a design-layer viewport to the external roof plan file on that layer. Now it is possible to utilize the "Fit Walls to 3D Geometry" command because -- the layer on which the roof object rest is within the file in which you execute the command above. This is a workable methodology but we wonder if and how it could be improved.

Viewports Summary

The true-file referencing through the new design-layer viewports is such a large feature addition that it bears us summarizing and touching on some final points. Firstly, design-layer viewports allow for quick and easy duplication of data both within and outside your current file. This flexibility is limitless. A new feature is the ability to support class and layer overrides for referenced layers in design-layer viewports. Why would you use these? Because you could reference a plan below or above your current plan level and make it semi-transparent, enabling an alignment comparison (a very useful thing for coordination). Likewise for elevations comparisons (both types). (see QT-07).

Finally there is the new capability (not discussed in the manuals) of using what is called a "shuttle file" for handling the importation of AutoCAD DWG or DXF data from consultants. Rather than importing, say, your structural engineer's plans into your main files, you can import them into a "shuttle" file, which itself is used as source data for a "viewport" of the structural plan data. Why do this? There are several reasons. Firstly, note that xRefs in VectorWorks via design layer viewports don't add new layers to your target or main file. Nor do they add new classes. This keeps your main files clean and simple. Things are simply "referenced" but you still have control over these referenced layers viz-a-viz the new layer overrides so you can change colors, transparency, gray view or turn off a view of individual layers in these references. (see QT-07 - QT-08).

QT-07 - In this QuickTime we show updating a design-layer viewport of an external file. We use a "shuttle file" to contain our exported in AutoCAD structural information. With this data updated via a new import
process into our "shuttle file" we can clean things up in the shuttle file and then update its reference in our level-1.vwx file, which holds are main building plan.
QT-08 - In this QuickTime we show how layer overrides work. A very useful feature, it can be used to turn a referenced plan layer semi-transparent for overlay comparison and coordination.

More BIM Control

In VectorWorks Architect 2008 Nemetschek North America has truly arrived as a full-fledged building information modeling (BIM) application. Not only was true-file referencing a necessary ingredient but so too were the following features.

This latest version now supports two-way worksheets for door and window schedules. Two way editing means that the door object placed in the wall can be edited from the door schedule worksheet and it will be updated in the 3D model automatically, and vice versa. (see image 16).

16 - Two-way worksheets enable editing of doors and windows in their schedules with the plan/model and the corresponding components will auto-update elsewhere throughout the BIM data.
17 - Wall components can be classed into separate classes for further visibility control in viewports (both types). This degree of flexibility is very powerful.

And now there are classable wall components. This means you can break down your multiple-element walls by class, affording you advanced opportunities with visibility of elements at different scales, in different situations, views, et cetera. For instance, you may decide to "class-out" certain wall components at smaller scales like 1/4" = 1'-0" or smaller, or "class-in" components at larger scales. You control your wall components in the Wall Preferences dialog box where a double-click will allow you to edit an individual component (see image 17).


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