The article on Graphisoft’s 2022 Product Launch published last month captured the key updates that were shared at the launch event about the latest versions of Graphisoft products including its flagship BIM application, Archicad; its cloud collaboration solution, BIMcloud; its mobile and web model viewing app, BIMx; and a new building services solution, DDScad, that was recently added to Graphisoft’s portfolio. In this review, we will take a detailed look at the features and enhancements more specifically in the new release of Archicad, version 26, which are almost evenly distributed along each of the key areas of the application: Design, Collaboration, Visualization, and Documentation.
Each new version of Archicad typically has one or more signature buildings that capture the essence of the release, and one of the signature buildings for Archicad 26 is the Charles Perkins Centre in Sydney, Australia (Figure 1), a 6-story research and educational facility featuring three additional basement levels, a 360-seat underground auditorium, and a cafe. With such a complex design being worked on simultaneously by two separate firms — including one of the region’s leading architecture and urban design practices, fjmt —the project presented numerous challenges that were overcome with the help of Archicad’s BIM technologies.
In a nod to the increasing complexity of BIM projects with a growing amount of information in the model, Archicad 26 has made it easier to manage the corresponding increase in project attributes with the ability to organize key attributes such as layers, building materials, composites, etc., in hierarchical folders. This keeps the project attribute set clean and structured, making it easier to navigate and find specific attributes, as well as share data between projects. Similar to a file system, sub-folders can be created, and attributes can be dragged and dropped into folders (Figure 2). As with a file system, attributes can be searched within specific folders or across the entire project. Overall, these improvements should make attribute management less cumbersome and tedious, which is important as BIM models continue to increase the amount of data associated with the individual building elements that is required for design, analysis, construction, as well as facilities management.
Another conceptually similar enhancement that is aimed at reducing the tedium of everyday tasks in Archicad is Navigator Search. As projects get more complex, they can have hundreds of sections, elevations, details, 3D views, and layouts, all organized in the Navigator, and it becomes time-consuming to find specific items in the Project Map, View Map, Layout Book, or Publisher Sets, the four main components of the Navigator. The new Navigator Search feature helps to find and navigate to specific views and layouts in the design project faster and more easily without endlessly scrolling through folders.
Other design enhancements include the ability to assign different surface materials to openings in order to over-ride the surface material of the cut elements that are applied to them by default (Figure 4); the ability to add multiple rules to graphic override combinations to make it easier to reveal model data at a higher level of granularity (Figure 5); and an expanded library of parametric kitchen cabinets with more customizable options and compliance with local design standards and requirements (Figure 6). Users can also create their own parametric library objects more easily, using graphical editing and no scripting, with an add-on called Library Part Maker. However, this is only available to subscription customers at the moment.
While the addition of the building services application, DDScad, to Graphisoft’s portfolio was the highlight of its 2022 product launch, Archicad is also continuing to improve upon its interoperability with structural engineering applications for multi-disciplinary collaboration. It already had a robust structural analysis model that could be automatically created from the building being modeled in Archicad (described in last year’s review of Archicad 25). This has been further enhanced in Archicad 26 by providing support for multi-segmented columns and beams, representing them with multi-profiled analytical elements for more accurate structural analysis calculations. Live loads for structural analysis can now be automatically generated from the Archicad zones based on their designated space usage (Figure 7).
Archicad 26 has also improved upon the workflow that structural engineers use to export the structural analytical models created in Archicad to structural analysis applications. This is done using SAF (Structural Analysis Format) translators, and in earlier versions of Archicad, there were only two SAF translators, one for export and one for import. Since structural engineers use several structural analysis applications, they had to adjust the translator settings each time they exported to a different software. This workflow was time-consuming and prone to errors. Archicad 26 has addressed this problem by providing the ability to create and store multiple SAF translators to quickly connect to different structural analysis applications, streamlining the communication process (Figure 8). The concept is similar to how Archicad has multiple IFC translators to quickly connect to different BIM applications.
IFC interoperability has also been improved in Archicad 26. IFC export can now include customized data for individual components, allowing the exported IFC model to include component-level information on the properties and functions of Archicad elements, which may be critical to some of the collaborating applications importing the IFC files.
And finally on the interoperability front, Archicad now includes reliable out-of-the-box energy and CO2 data for all its building materials, which is important for sustainable design. This data comes from the certified German ÖKOBAUDAT database, and it can be adjusted, if needed, based on standards in other parts of the world for local building materials. When the Archicad model is now exported to dedicated building lifecycle analysis tools, the ready availability of this data in the model allows more accurate calculations of the sustainability of the building design (Figure 9).
On the visualization front, Archicad 26 has significantly expanded the content in its Additional Surface Catalog, which contains hundreds of surfaces for creating high-quality renderings. This catalog is offered as an added benefit to Archicad’s subscription customers, and the new surfaces that have been added reflect contemporary residential and commercial design trends. They are also fully compatible with Archicad’s built-in Cinerender and Redshift rendering engines and can be used to create realistic, high-quality visualizations without the need for third-party applications (Figure 10).
Archicad 26 also includes better integration with the real-time rendering application, Enscape. The connection is bi-directional, so not only is the Archicad model rendered in real time in Enscape, the model can also be populated with objects and surface materials from Enscape’s extensive library, which are then translated back to the Archicad model (Figure 11). While this capability is currently available via a promotion to Archicad’s subscription customers only, it is still a technological leap forward for Archicad.
Publishing an Archicad model for viewing in Graphisoft’s mobile and web model viewing app, BIMx, has been improved with more control over texture, file size, and export time. The visualization itself has also been enhanced with real-time shadows, as shown in Figure 12.
The enhancements for documentation in Archicad 26 include updated Autotext capabilities for Master Layouts. Autotext is a tool that automatically updates documentation-related data in title blocks, and Archicad 26 offers several new Autotext options including Master Layout Name, Width, Height, Layout Number in Current Subset, and more (Figure 13). These help to increase the level of automation in the title block data, save time and reducing errors.
Additional enhancements for streamlining the documentation workflow in Archicad 26 include the ability to import and place selected pages from a multi-page PDF document in one click, radial stretch copy of circles and ellipses, and improvements in the Level Dimension tool that make its text content easier to customize.
Archicad 26 packs a useful set of enhancements along all the key focus areas of the application — design, collaboration, visualization, and documentation — many of which have been developed in response to user requests. The enhancements for collaboration and interoperability have, in particular, been picking up steam in recent releases, reflecting the building industry’s increasing focus on multi-disciplinary design and integrated construction. Being able to use Archicad more easily in conjunction with other structural design and analysis tools allows architects and structural engineers to work more closely together as part of an integrated project team, and the recent addition of DDScad to Graphisoft’s portfolio should extend this close integration to MEP engineers as well.
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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