Graphisoft had the 2023 launch of its product portfolio at its “Building Together” Connect event earlier this month where it demonstrated the new releases of all its applications, including Archicad, its flagship BIM application; BIMcloud, its cloud collaboration platform; BIMx, its presentation and communication mobile app; and DDScad, the full-fledged MEP design application that it brought into its fold last year. Coming on the heels of its “Building Together” Design event a few months ago which showcased some amazing work by its customers (Figure 1), it was helpful to get a deeper insight into the Graphisoft applications — and their latest developments — that are enabling this work.
While the launch event was held online, I had the opportunity to attend it in person at the company’s headquarters in Budapest and learn about the product updates in more detail. An overview of the main updates that were shared by Graphisoft at the event is provided in this article.
The top feature in the new release of Archicad — which is version 27 — is a Design Options tool, which allows multiple design options to be explored for different parts of the design. Users can create and save these different variations in a palette and switch between them to quickly evaluate and communicate different options. Previously, this would have required them to use workarounds such as hotlinks, layer settings, or making copies of the model. Now, the new Design Options capability provides a dedicated workflow for exploring different variations much more easily, which can be especially helpful in encouraging creative thinking at the conceptual design stage. Figure 2 shows some examples of this new tool being used for different design scenarios.
A number of enhancements have been made to improve BIM modeling, workflow, efficiency, and productivity. These include the display of distance guides, which can also be edited, for placing elements on floor plans more intuitively and accurately relative to surrounding elements (Figure 3); improved attribute management with the ability to organize attributes into folders; a similar ability to group graphic overrides; several enhancements in the GDL Editor that is used for scripting and creating parametric objects; expanded search capabilities; and interactive schedule formatting that allows the creation of well-structured and c0lor-coded lists right inside Archicad.
On the visualization front, Archicad now includes an option to activate physically based rendering for its built-in renders, making them more visually pleasing and realistic by simulating the soft shadows that naturally occur when indirect or natural lighting is cast onto a scene (Figure 4). Also new in Archicad is support for the industry-standard FBX format, which will allow Archicad designers to connect to various VR and AR applications for immersive visualization as well as to dedicated rendering applications like Enscape (Figure 5), Twinmotion, Lumion, Nvidia Omniverse, 5D Render, and Cinema4D.
While Archicad is primarily an architectural design application, it includes the ability for modeling structural and MEP elements, and both these multi-disciplinary capabilities have been enhanced. On the structural front, there is now the ability to manually adjust the structural analytical model in addition to the automatic adjustment rules, allowing structural engineers to fine-tune the connections between structural members before exporting them to dedicated structural design applications like Scia, Frilo, and Risa. The built-in MEP modeling capabilities includes streamlined routing and an updated user interface that makes laying out ducts more intuitive (Figure 6), along with the ability to enable custom add-ons using the API.
Additional enhancements in Archicad include support for the latest IFC4 format for interoperability and OpenBIM; the ability to export models as RVT geometry to import as a reference in a Revit model; an Archicad Design Checker for BIM quality assurance, powered by direct integration with Solibri, which checks element data such as classifications, types, positions, etc., as well as performs attribute related checks such as layers or materials in the model; and integration with One Click LCA, via a plug-in, for automated assessment of the design’s whole lifecycle assessment and achieving green building certification credits.
Graphisoft’s BIMx, the mobile and web app that allows Archicad projects to be viewed and navigated on all devices including iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, as well as computers — making it the go-to tool for client presentations as well as for design team collaboration — has several new features. Top of the list is a built-in issue-creation capability, which extends the usefulness of the app for project coordination during design as well as for on-site reporting during construction. The issues created in BIMx, using markup tools, can be exported to Archicad where they can be resolved by making the requested changes to the design (Figure 7). The issues can also be exported in the BCF format to external applications like Solibri and BIMcollab.
Another key enhancement to BIMx is the ability to specify the date and time for accurate sun positioning and real-time moving shadows, helping architects to optimize the design for the building’s environment as well as helping clients to better understand natural lighting conditions in the proposed design (Figure 8).
It is also possible now to view the detailed specifications about building components not only in the 3D model but also in 2D layouts in BIMx with a feature called interactive labels. You just need to click or tap on the interactive labels to access the BIM data straight from the drawing (Figure 9). Additionally, the label also has a go-to-3D button which smoothly animates the 2D layout transitioning to a 3D view of the model element.
For BIMcloud, Graphisoft’s cloud collaboration platform, enhancements in the new release include multi-factor authentication for enhanced security, the ability to log into BIMcloud using the same Graphisoft ID rather a separate BIMcloud user account, easier user management through a new Company Management Portal interface, and easier management of subscription licenses.
DDScad is the Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) BIM application that is now part of Graphisoft following its merger with the developer of DDScad, Data Design System (DDS), last year. DDScad includes intelligent MEP design tools, integrated calculations, and comprehensive documentation solutions for all building systems, and with its support of the OpenBIM workflow with IFC, it enables MEP engineers to work as part of a collaborative, multi-disciplinary BIM project team.
There are several enhancements in the new release, version 19, of DDScad, including the ability to access manufacturer data, a crucial part of MEP design, out of the box; automatic generation of an overview diagram for the electrical design which allows the power supply system to be quickly reviewed; the ability to drag and drop objects from the circuit list to the design; connecting and routing cables easily; a new visualization filter for analyzing pipe network dimensions (Figure 10); easier modeling of potable water systems; the ability to laterally connect cable ladders; connecting conduits directly to cable ladder/trunking; modeling cable guides and calculating fill levels; parallel power feed of distribution boards; and cooling load calculation with the ability to display the results in both the VDI and ASHRAE standards.
In addition to the product updates in the latest releases of Archicad, BIMx, BIMcloud, and DDScad, Graphisoft also shared some of the features it is working on for future releases. These include enhancements to Archicad’s point cloud capabilities; further development of the bidirectional ArchiCAD-Grasshopper connection to make it easier to create Archicad models using scripting; support for the IDS (Information Delivery Specification) standard from BuildingSMART which would allow the information needed in an IFC-based exchange of BIM to be clearly defined; support for version 3.0 of the BCF (Building Collaboration Format) standard; advancements in the structural/MEP modeling and documentation capabilities of Archicad so that it can also be used by structural and MEP engineers, allowing them to work on the same model as the architect; a direct connection from Archicad to Allplan for reinforcement planning and structural detailing; and support for designing photovoltaic systems, which are becoming increasingly crucial, in DDScad.
And last but not least, there is AI (Artificial Intelligence). A recent article in AECbytes described the technology of generative AI in detail and showed some initial work in the area of automatically generating renderings using text prompts in design applications like Adobe Firefly. Graphisoft is working to provide the same “text prompt to rendering” capability in Archicad which would enable conceptual massing models to be quickly fleshed into high-quality visuals by running them through a powerful AI engine, as shown in Figure 11. It is calling this “AI-assisted inspiration.”
As always, the new annual release of Graphisoft’s product portfolio strikes a balance between improving design capabilities while enhancing productivity and efficiency. Features like design options and enhanced visualization will go a long way towards making Archicad an even better design tool than it already is, while features like distance guides will add significantly to its intuitiveness and ease of use. The ability to create issues in BIMx is a significant development, and I was blown away by how slick the animation from 2D to 3D is with the new interactive labels. And of course, the upcoming AI-assisted inspiration promises to be almost magical, at least for those of us who are not AI developers.
Overall, a solid set of product releases, and lots to look forward to!
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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