Silver service

Graphisoft introduces the 25th version of Archicad, setting new levels of growth despite the ravages of the pandemic

We are so used to seeing the pace of technology accelerating every year that it's a shock to realise that one of the front runners in architectural 3D design software and a proponent of BIM for many years, Graphisoft, is now 39 years old! The company has also just released the 25th version of its well-known application Archicad.

But more of that later. The pandemic may have caused many construction companies to temporarily halt their projects but the design, construction documentation and collaboration amongst project teams has gone on unabated. Despite many people having to work from home, the ability to share models and data with partners and other team members has proceeded seamlessly, so much so that Graphisoft has met the challenges that the pandemic has wrought and recorded increased growth by empowering dispersed teams.

The introduction of free emergency licenses enabled users who had difficulty working at home to access their company's office based licenses, and free access to BIMcloud as a service gave remote architects and designers the ability to work together as a team. This was sufficient to persuade non-Archicad users to come on board, and it appears that many who made the switch are still happily using Archicad.

Those who made the switch during the pandemic will be delighted to see the latest version of Archicad tweaking productivity and adding more functionality and enhanced collaboration tools to the software, and it is interesting to see faster modelling workflows feature as the headline announcement of Archicad 25's new capabilities. This is attributed to the ability to unify navigation commands between 2D and 3D views.

As a design progresses, an architect switches repeatedly between 2D plan views and associated 3D models, homing in on individual elements in very large models. Now, an item can be selected on a floorplan, sections or elevation, and by right-clicking on it the user can bring up the context menu, where they can click on the new Switch to 3D command. Switching to the 3D model view locates the architect at the desired element. In reverse, the same action is enabled with a new Switch to Floorplan command in the Context Menu.

A further refinement allows you to select, say, an MEP component, which you would like to see in situ. Selecting Switch to 3D View might show you where it may be, but it may be hidden by a wall panel. Graphisoft has a highly pro- active user base (hence its popular support in our annual Hammers awards), and the inclusion of quantity estimation in the new release underlines its increased relevance to Archicad users. Quantifying materials in a structure, however, whilst encouraging them to adopt more free-form methods of design, puts architects in a bit of a quandary. This has largely been resolved by allowing architects to create custom shaped openings using plain polygons in either 2D or 3D environments, allowing them to define more precisely its volume and material components and to produce more accurate components schedules.

I am also quite intrigued to find the familiar stair design tools being updated. It's a regular feature to each and every software developer's arsenal of upgrades. I don't think local design standards have changed much over the years, and there are only so many ways you can create a flight of stairs. Graphisoft appears to have honed in asymmetric stair alignment for this release.

Many design projects incorporate increasing levels of interior design, particularly now that a greater emphasis on space allocation is more critical in design - the inclusion of a home office, for example - encouraging modular furniture to be incorporated in a design. Consequently, Graphisoft has greatly expanded its library of 3D parametric objects facilitating the creation of customisable interior designs.

Similarly, MEP is now an integral part of many current designs, and Graphisoft has provided Archicad 25 with the ability to automatically display MEP related information, providing a smoother MEP documentation workflow.

At the other extreme, Graphisoft has had a long association with Rhino and its algorithmic design capabilities. Freeform organic 3D Models created in Rhino 6 and 7 can be used directly with Archicad 25, either by importing them into Archicad to continue design development and create documentation, or to develop them as BIM components. You can also export them back out to Rhino for further creative development.

Enhancing design presentations increases customer engagement with designs, and it's always a challenge to improve on what often appears to be the ultimate in rendering. Archicad 25's latest innovations in this area include the ability to display surface textures in section and elevation views, which can be overlain with pattern fills, and to add more subtlety to an artistic render using soft shadows. Mac users will find their 3D rendering is significantly sped up as Apple's new graphics API, Metal, has superceded OpenGL

Graphisoft is renowned for the ease with which it handles the import and export of over 40 different file formats, from DWG and PDF to OpenBIM formats IFC and BCF. Support for Revit file formats up to 2021 is also built into the software, principally for the use of engineers using REVIT MEP software, and Revit to Archicad migration is now easy using RFA and RVT geometry exchange.

Streamlining data exchange and collaboration still further, Graphisoft has introduced the Native Survey Point, which establishes a common design location that can be set in the Location Settings dialog, instead of having to rely on a GDL object, and integrated into Archicad's coordination workflows including IFC, BCF, DXF and DWG. It's an easy to edit onscreen point, with displayable coordinates, that can be scheduled and published. It can also be placed out of the way and far from origin but zoomed to when you need to locate it quickly.

Forward is a new Software Services Agreement for Archicad users. It provides an enhanced customer support programme which, besides providing online technical support, professional training and access to the latest software releases, eradicates all of the support problems normally encountered when running a software dependent organisation.

Forward includes emergency licenses, license pooling, license key insurance for replacing stolen or malfunctioning licenses, access to Graphisoft's full knowledgebase and up to 10Gb of storage space for BIMx Model Private Hosting and Sharing. You don't have to worry about keeping your software up to date as Forward will cover that for you, and you will also get access to Epic Games' Twinmotion and the Library Part Maker add-on, enabling you to virtually create any custom object.

Emergency licensing was prompted by the pandemic again, as Huw Roberts. CEO of Graphisoft said: "During the early days of the pandemic, firm principals saw first-hand how crucial an emergency license of Archicad could be for their businesses. Providing a continuity of service, as we did, helped us decide to make it a permanent feature. Graphisoft Forward further proves why so many successful firms work with us."

There have also been some enhancements to Graphisoft's BIMx and BIMcloud applications, which we have explored in a separate article in this issue. Archicad 25 also includes new functionality in some other areas, as well, such as the ability to do quick, graphical quality checks, leveraging its long association with Solibri, MEP labelling and structural analysis model improvements.