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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #55 (Dec 16, 2010)

Assigning Information in ArchiCAD for Material Takeoffs

Thomas M. Simmons
President, ARCHVISTA Building Technologies

A Building Information Model is built on an integrated 3D database. This database allows you to automatically generate sections, elevations, plans, details, 3D views and more. In this article, we will examine ways that you can use this database to assign properties to building elements and generate a material takeoff.

This tutorial will take you through an example of assigning properties to a wall, programming these properties, linking these properties to the database, assigning the properties to building elements, and viewing a material takeoff. The concepts we present with this example are applicable to all construction elements in ArchiCAD including roofs, slabs, floors, columns and beams.

Step 1: Activating the Calculation Commands

Before we can start we must turn on the Calculate commands within the menu. To do this, select the Work Environment command from the Options menu.

With the Work Environment dialog open, click Menus within Command Layout Schemes within the Work Environment Profiles in the left column. Next, click Menubar Options and select New Menu. Type “Calculate” in the New Menu dialog and click OK.

Next, select the All Commands by Theme option in the pop-up menu within the Application Commands and Menus column.

Scroll down to the commands called “16 Calculate” and select the commands shown in the image below. Then click the Add Selected button to add these commands to the Calculate menu you created.

Finally, select the Command Layout Schemes option in the Work Environment Profiles column on the left and click the Store As button. Enter “My Commands” or your own custom name. This will save the settings so we can re-activate this menu in the future. Click the OK button in the Work Environment dialog and you will now see the Calculate menu within the ArchiCAD menus at the top of your screen.

Step 2: Building the Properties of a Wall

We are now ready to begin building the properties of a wall which we will use as the example in this tutorial. The first step is to create a Custom Property Object that we can assign to a wall type. To do this, select New Properties from the Calculate menu.

With the “Untitled-1” Properties dialog open, click the Components button on the left and then click the New button at the top of the dialog. A series of new Component properties is added that enable you to define the building element composition for use in listing and calculation features. They include:

  • DB Set
  • Key
  • Note
  • Code
  • Quantity
  • Unit
  • Proportional With

Next, enter the Components that describe the wall type. Let’s start with the wood studs. Enter the properties for each component category as shown below. Note that to space the studs at 16” O.C. we use “.75” for Quantity (12” / 16” = .75). This will produce a list of .75 studs per 1 foot of wall length.

To add another component, click the New button again and, this time, let’s link the new property to an existing database component. To do this, click the Link to Database Item button and in the Select Components dialog, open the ArchiCAD Library database. In this database, select Finishes within the CSI Chapters section and select the following Gypsum Wall Board finish:  

We now have two components assigned to the wall. To save the Custom Property Object, select Save from the File menu, enter “Shaft Wall Partition 2x4” and save.

Step 3: Link the Property Object to a Wall Element

The next step is to link the Property Object you created to a wall. To do this, double click to open the Wall Tool. Open the Listing and Labeling panel. Uncheck the Link Properties By Criteria button and click the Individually button. In the Link Properties dialog, select the “Shaft Wall Partition 2x4” you created and click the Link button. The property object is now linked to the Wall.

Finally, set up the wall by selecting a Fill or Composite Structure for the Cut Fill option within the Floor Plan & Sections panel of the Wall Tool. Set the Layer, Pen & Color settings and then click the Favorites button to Save as a “Shaft Wall Partition 2x4” as shown in the image below.

Step 4: Setup the Project Preferences for Listing

Before we can create a listing, we need to set up the calculation unit preferences to show the stud spacing as one stud per foot (default would show one stud per inch). To do this, choose Options > Project Preferences > Calculation Units & Rules and set:

  • Length Unit” to decimal feet
  • Area Unit” to square feet
  • Volume Unit” to cubic feet

Step 5: Create a Material Takeoff List

Finally, we are ready to create a material takeoff list. To do this, first draw several walls using the settings for the “Shaft Wall Partition 2x4” you created.

Once these walls are complete, go to the Document menu and choose the Basic list option from the Component Lists within the Schedules and Lists.

The Basic Component Lists will create a takeoff that contains a detailed breakdown of the number of studs as well as the number of gypsum wall board sheets, as shown below.

To learn more about using BIM in construction, including how to customize Material Takeoff reports, how to integrate Excel into the takeoff process using a BIM model, and how to track change orders during construction, visit

This exercise was part one of a three Construction focused series:

  • Assigning Data to Building Components
  • Creating a Material Takeoff & Cost Estimate
  • Tracking and Managing Change Orders

As a LearnVirtual member, you’ll have access to recordings of each eClass in the series mentioned above, as well as over 160 other recorded eClasses on a wide range of topics including modeling techniques, drafting techniques, process management, revision management and design review. Also, new LIVE eClasses occur each week! To learn more about LearnVirtual, go to

About the Author

Thomas M. Simmons, the founder of ARCHVISTA, Inc. and LearnVirtual, has spoken at major industry events including AEC Systems, Ecobuild, AIACC Desert Practice Conference, and the AIACC Monterey Design Conference. He has authored several books on Building Information Modeling, ArchiCAD, and architectural technology. He was formerly the Director of Technology with the award winning firm of EHDD Architects, San Francisco, and has earned a Masters of Architecture from UC Berkeley. He can be reached at

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