Material benefits

Editorial Type: Feature Date: 2020-10-05 Views: 1,693 Tags: Software, CAD, BIM, Building Design, Architects, Vectorworks, Vectorworks 2021 PDF Version:
Adding Materials to the Vectorworks 2021 Resource Library provides Vectorworks users with an unlimited range of possibilities, writes David Chadwick

I am going to start this review by breaking the rules. I will refer to another application in favourable terms before I discuss the latest features in Vectorworks 2021. Discussing the new release with Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar, I mentioned the introduction of some tools that immediately brought to mind one of the best features of SketchUp - the Push/Pull tool - and I asked him how much the revolutionary design software influences the development of applications like Vectorworks.

Dr. Sarkar was quite open about it. Although there are constraints in the basic design engine that prevent SketchUp from developing a full-bodied BIM tool, otherwise catered for by various third party BIM add-ons, some of its intuitive and direct design tools are very popular and where feasible could be taken onboard in future versions of Vectorworks.

Accordingly, Vectorworks has enhanced its Push/Pull tool in Vectorworks 2021 as part of its enhanced 3D modelling capabilities, like the Line tool, which creates a streamlined method of splitting the face of a solid, allowing users to manipulate the geometry. Other modelling enhancements include the simplification of editing solids that had been created with fillet, chamfer, shell solid and more. Rather than navigating through layers of history, you can simply highlight a face or edge for direct editing and speed through the 3D modelling process.

Vectorworks is well known for its wide scope of features covering all elements of architectural and landscape design, enabling users to take a project through every stage of its development within the same application. The quid pro quo of that is the sheer volume of tools that are available for the user. To reduce the effort needed to dig out a specific tool from the appropriate palette, Vectorworks places the tools you need to use at the tip of the mouse arrow.

At any point in the design workflow, users can tap the space bar on the keyboard or click on the middle key on the mouse and activate a tool palette comprising tools related to the functions you are working on, or recently used tools. Fully customisable for most tool sets, the floating tool set at your fingertips can show icons only, text, or a description of the tool you might wish to use.

The range of tool sets available with this option include: drawing views; snapping parameters; navigation; 3D modelling; space planning; GIS; MEP and others that you might like to keep fully available and very handy.

The Smart Options Display tool is complemented by the Quick Search tool, which you can find and activate any tool or menu suggested by typing in your request. Activated by clicking on the 'F' key on the keyboard, rather like Google, the tool displays suggestions based on the first letters keyed in until it hits the function you want. Once selected, the tool or menu associated with it is automatically activated. The next time you want to use that tool, it is automatically presented as the first search result.

The Quick Search feature can also be used to set 3D views and to align layer views. Both functions are designed to speed up and simplify the user interface. There is another tool that takes the software's performance levels up to another level, and that is the Vectorworks Graphics Module Cache. Used on multi-processor machines, this optimised VGM speeds up file loading, providing faster transitions when changing 3D views and layer visibilities and eliminating delays in 3D navigation and flyovers.

Documentation workflow management is a big feature of Vectorworks 2021, and Smart Markers are a major part of that, allowing customisable section, interior elevation, reference, detail callout and other types of markers to be created from scratch with unique graphics representations and auto-creation of hyperlinks. This streamlines navigation through multi-page production plans and construction documentation.

As the styles are saved in the Resource Manager, users can create graphic libraries for any type of design project, or object styles can be updated throughout a complete set of drawings, or back references made to associated drawings -making it much easier to find files, references, plans, elevations and so on.

Materials Placing Materials in the Resource Manager is probably the most important change in the new release. Besides providing an object's graphical attributes and building materials in one location, and its 2D and 3D representation in plan and section view, Materials can now be provided with a wide range of construction properties, product data and physical characteristics, such as its classification, texture, rendered appearance, etc. This is the sort of data you would expect to find with any material, but it also includes its field strength, thermal coefficients, embodied carbon, density per cubic foot, acoustic impedance and other attributes.

As physical attributes, this information can be used for many different types of analysis, and exported for use with structural analysis software, environmental studies, acoustic analysis, CFD calculations and much more. Taking that one step further, materials can be applied to multi-component features such as walls and floors, and a final value calculated from a compound analysis of all materials in use. The amount and type of data that can be applied to any material is entirely customisable, and therefore offers a great deal of scope for future applications.

Materials can be applied to any object selected from the Object Info Palette, including hardscapes, landscape areas, walls, slabs, roofs, stairs and structural members. Since it uses the software's 2D/3D data visualisation tools, Materials can be used as a quick check of early designs to see if all material data is correctly assigned to a BIM model.

Site modeling is one of the main features of Vectorwork's Landmark product, which comes under the same Vectorworks 2021 release. Contour shaping has been enhanced in it, making it easy to create and remodel the site with grade networks. These networks automatically upgrade contours associated with grading requirements when the enclosed shape and the project plot boundaries are changed, according to the underlying GIS site information.

One of the features I particularly liked, and which I am sure landscape designers will appreciate as well, is the ability to assign Materials to different layers of subsoil on a building plot. As a Material resource it provides yet another example of its potential usage. On one of Vectorwork's own YouTube videos you will find a defined plot which has an exploded view of the different qualities and types of soil that it contains, perhaps from a clay heavy loam at the base, to an enriched loom above it and on top a compost rich layer, all of which have different growing characteristics for particular plants. This provides an opportunity for a planting scheme to be created which is beneficial to each plant type.

The customisable Grid Line tool rounds off a substantial software upgrade for Vectorworks 2021, streamlining the creation of structural grids, viewable in all drawing views and in multiple configurations, condition or building orientation. The grids are also IFC compatible and accompany model exports to aid collaboration. Grid Lines can be created in a plan view and appear in elevations, sections and detail drawings and can be customised for unique presentations. They also come with automatic grid numbering and resequencing for faster documentation.

I enjoyed discovering the interesting developments and potential benefits that Vectorworks have provided their users in this new release. And I can’t help but wonder if the developers of other rival applications will be casting envious glances at the software’s fluency in handling data exchanges too...