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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #14 (January 30, 2007)

AEC CAD Standards and Projects in Autodesk Architectural Desktop

Bill Knittle
Synergis Design Applications Engineer, Building Solutions

While drawing templates, standard tools, and application lock-downs give many offices leverage when it comes to maintaining a standard of consistency, they all fall short when it comes to a project-wide standard of consistency. When Autodesk released Architectural Desktop (ADT) 2006, and likewise 2007, the AEC Project Standards feature was incorporated. This new tool configures and synchronizes the content of a project's many drawing files against that of a selected drawing file(s). The process is simple and designed to be fluid as a project evolves.

The key to making this feature work is using ADT's Project Management feature, also known as ADT Projects. Those using it will be all too familiar with the abundance of drawing files the process creates: Constructs, Elements, Views, and Sheets are all independent drawing files of the ADT project environment. When coupled with multiple users, this creates a management nightmare, making it all the more critical to maintain a consistent standard of content.

Getting Started

Create a new project by using or tailoring the existing project templates provided by Autodesk —C:/Documents & Settings/All Users/Application Data/Autodesk/ADT 2007/enu/Template/ADT Template Project (Imperial). These project templates are preset with Project Standards in mind. The project template creates an additional folder called Standards, which houses project standards, palettes, and catalogs.

The Project Navigator is launched automatically after the creation of a project. You will notice a new button on the Project tab, as shown below. This is the Configure Project Standards button. However, before clicking on it, a few steps have to occur.

Creating the Standards Resource Drawing

Switch to the Constructs tab of the Project Navigator. Create a new element under the Elements category to house the AEC standards for the project. Name it AEC Standards. (Note: This will utilize a template file designated by the project's default settings.)

Open the new AEC Standards element. Then open a construct that has many of the objects which need to be replicated in other constructs or elements. Begin dragging and dropping objects from the construct to the element.

The key to making it all work is located within the styles of the objects copied into the AEC Standards element. Select one of the objects and right-mouse-click. From the context menu, select Edit [object] Style. Switch to the Version History tab in the properties dialog window, and click the Version button.

Enter a "date stamp" in the description field. You may want to create a naming convention for consistency.

Configuring and Synchronizing the Project Standards

With the standards drawing, replicated content, and object style version history created, we can now focus on configuring the project standards. Save and close the AEC Standards element. Switch back to the Project tab on the Project Navigator, and click the Configure Project Standards button.

Check the box to Enable project standards for [project name]. On the Standard Styles tab, a field is provided to filter between All Objects, Architectural Objects, Documentation Objects, and Multi-Purpose Objects. Click the Add Drawing button to add the AEC Standards element drawing as a Standards Drawing.

Switch to the Synchronization tab. This tab provides three methods of synchronizing a project's standards: Automatic, Semi-Automatic, and Manual. The Automatic option will synchronize a project drawing with the specified standards when the drawing is opened, without displaying any prompts or warnings when discrepancies are encountered. The Semi-Automatic option will synchronize the project drawing file once it is opened, and will display prompts or warnings. The Manual option, on the other hand, will not automatically synchronize the project drawing file once it is opened. The process has to be initiated by the user. Workflow will be the determining factor in choosing the type of synchronization. If users need to be in sync at all times, choose Automatic. If the need arises for more user input, select Semi-Automatic or Manual.

The third tab in the Configure AEC Project Standards dialog, AutoCAD Standards, allows for synchronization with AutoCAD layers, dimension styles, text styles, etc. contained in a .dws file.

Click OK to exit the Configure AEC Project Standards dialog. A Version Comment dialog window will appear. Again, enter a "date stamp" to create a version history.

As you open project drawing files, ADT will acknowledge standards violations based on the method chosen.

This method is very useful for keeping users apprised of violations within project drawing files. With the Semi-Automatic and Manual synchronization modes, the task is a bit more laborious requiring the opening of each and every project drawing file. Not to worry—ADT comes with a batch checking utility. Switch back to the Project tab on the Project Navigator. To the left of the Configure Project Standards button is the Synchronize Project button.

Clicking on this button will synchronize all the project drawing files with the project standards in one click. Each drawing will be analyzed and violations will be displayed.

By holding down Ctrl or Shift, files can be selected and an Action can be applied to those selected files. Actions include Do not update, Update from Standard, or Ignore. Click OK once to synchronize the selected files.

Note: Object Styles being monitored by AEC Project Standards visibly display differently in Style Manager. The icons are blue. Styles out-of-sync are flagged by a small snowflake symbol on the main icon. Out-of-sync drawings or styles can be synchronized by right-mouse-clicking on them in the file tree of the left window and selecting Synchronize with Project Standards.

About the Author

Bill is a graduate of the University of Hartford in Architectural Engineering and has accumulated eight years of “real world” design, management, and CAD experience in the field of Architecture. At George J. Donovan AIA & Associates, Architects, he was instrumental in implementing, managing, and training his peers during their transition from AutoCAD to Autodesk Architectural Desktop. With Architectural Desktop, Bill was able to increase productivity, coordination, and profitability in a variety of key projects. His most recent achievements are within the Newtown Business Commons, where he documented a vacant building’s conversion into 75,000 square feet of leasable office and retail space for Cameron C. Troilo Properties, as well as designed a new five story hotel for the Homewood Suites, Hilton. Bill has a passion for Building Information Modeling (BIM) and what it can bring to the future of design for both professionals and their clients. He can be reached at

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