AECBytes Architecture Engineering Construction Newsletters  

AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #7 (June 26, 2006)

Using Cover Fills for 2D/3D Ceilings in ArchiCAD

Jim Mahoney
Director of Technology, Integrated CADD Services

One of the numerous advantages of ArchiCAD's Virtual Building model is the ability to leverage the 3D model to create your 2D drawings. One prime example of this is using cover fills for 2D/3D ceilings. When drawing the Reflected Ceiling Plan (RCP), instead of using a 2D fill, use a 3D slab with a cover fill. This gets you the RCP plan, plus all of your 3D views and sections of that room will show the ceiling as well. All that is required are a few one-time setup items. After you make a Ceiling Tile Material and a Ceiling Grid Composite, you'll be good to go. You will use these items over and over, making the initial set-up time well spent. Let's get started!

Create a New Ceiling Material

Creating a few typical ceiling materials in your ArchiCAD startup template allows you to use these items over and over in all of your projects.

1. From the Options menu, select Materials…

2. The Materials dialog box will come up. It usually makes sense to create a new material rather than altering an existing one. Library objects may use an existing material and will display odd results if you've altered that material. To create a new material, pick a material off the Materials pop-up that is similar to what you wish, and click on the Duplicate button.

3. Name the material, using the prefix Clg as shown. This helps to group similar materials together on the list, making them easy to find later.

4. Change the color of the new material if required.

5. Go to the Vectorial Hatching portion of the dialog and pick an appropriate fill pattern. To make a 2' x 2' ceiling, we will use Tile 24.

6. Next, go to the Texture portion of the dialog. Click on the Search button to bring up a dialog where you can select a texture to use in photorenderings. In this case we will choose White Tile 1.jpg, which has a similar appearance to ceiling tiles.

7. Using the Sample pop up menu, select 1x1 to view a single instance of your texture.

8. This texture has 2 tiles in each direction. For this texture to display as 2' x 2' tiles, you should set the spacing to 4' x 4'.

9. The preview picture will update to show the texture you've selected.

Create a New Composite

Creating a few typical composites for ceiling types in your ArchiCAD startup template allows you to use these items over and over in all of your projects.

1. From the Options menu, select Composites …

2. The Composites dialog will come up. It usually makes sense to create a new composite by duplicating a material with a similar number of skins. We will duplicate a 2 skin material, Slab: 4" on gravel.

3. Click on the Duplicate button, and name the new composite, using a leading first letter such as C=Ceilings, W=Walls, R=Roofs, S=Slabs, F=Floors. This helps to group similar composites together on the pop-up lists, making them easy to find later. In this exercise, we will call our composite C-2x Lay-in.

4. There is a filter you should use with composites to tell ArchiCAD what type of composite you are creating: a wall, slab or roof. This particular composite would never make sense as a wall, so you should deselect the Wall Tool icon.

5. Use the Edit Skin and Line Structure portion of the dialog to edit the Composite's fills. Choose Line types and Line weights to suit your grid.

Now that we have a Material and Composite to use, we can continue on with the Slab tool in order to create our 2D/3D ceiling.

Set up the Ceiling in the Slab tool

1. Open up the Slab tool. Go to the Section portion of the dialog and select your ceiling grid from the lower half of the pop-up menu. The composites are grouped in the area outlined in pale blue.

2. One of the advantages of using a composite in ArchiCAD is the ability to set up the appearance once and let the user take advantage of the stored settings. To do this, select the opitons to use the Composite's Fill Colors, Composite's Background Colors, Composite's Contour Lines, and Composite's Separator Lines. Your pre-set settings are now loaded.

3. Set the ceiling height in the Geometry and Positioning portion of the Slab tool dialog. Slabs are placed by their top, so to get an 8' finished ceiling height, take 8' and add in the thickness of the ceiling grid composite, which is 1 5/8" in this example. So the slab should be placed at 8'-1 5/8" above the floor.

4. Go to the Floor Plan portion of the dialog. Click the Cover Fill button (the cursor is pointing to it in the image below). Additionally, select the Use Fill of surface Material and the Link To Fill Origin options. We have told ArchiCAD to use the same material with the same user defined origin in 2D and 3D.

5. Go to the Model portion of the dialog. Click the Chain button (the cursor is pointing to it in the image below). This allows you to change all 3 materials at once.

6. Change one of the material selector pop-ups to the Clg-2x2 Tile that you created previously.

7. All three materials will be changed. Set the appropriate layer and you'll be ready to go.

Place the Ceiling

1. While you could draw the Ceiling by hand, we suggest taking advantage of ArchiCAD's Magic Wand tool. This will allow you to place your mouse inside the space and click once to draw the outline of the ceiling. The Magic Wand tool is found in the Control Palette; alternately, you can simply hold down your keyboard's Spacebar and your cursor automatically changes to a Magic Wand. Place your cursor inside the room, hold down the mouse, and click. The Magic Wand tool automatically traces the shape of the room for you.

2. The cursor form will change to a crosshair with an arrow. You are being asked to place the origin of your fill, and its direction. Click on the plan where one of your grid elements will occur, then move your mouse to establish the direction of the fill.

3. You now have a slab that serves as the ceiling grid for your Reflected Ceiling Plan and appears in all of your 3D views and sections. Any revision updates the plans and the model.

About the Author

Jim Mahoney has been using ArchiCAD since 1993. He currently runs all ArchiCAD training courses for Integrated CADD Services and has an active role with the Graphisoft Reseller team, which consults to Graphisoft's tech support division. He is a seasoned Architect with experience in restaurant design, multi-family housing, office building design and medical facility design. In addition to ArchiCAD training and support, Jim is a Senior Architect for Integrated CADD Services' sister firm, Conyngham Associates Architects, where he uses ArchiCAD daily to produce virtual building models of the projects which he is controlling.


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