The latest version of Graphisoft ARCHICAD was released earlier in the summer and whilst all the headlines will go to the big features like rendering and revision management there are new features which for workflows utilising IFC and COBie are really great improvements. To many these changes in ARCHICAD 18 will not be abundantly clear to the average user. However these changes will allow data to become more utilised even to those who don’t understand IFC or COBie particularly well. This blog piece is going to focus on the changes to the ‘Project Info’ dialogue box, although subsequent pieces will look at further changes.
‘Project Info’ is a dialogue box most ARCHICAD users are familiar and comfortable with. In my opinion it is a simple dialogue for even a novice user to get to grips with, in fact it is pretty much first on the training list. The changes that have been introduced are something we as a practice specifically asked Graphisoft whether the changes would be possible to implement and they have listened and delivered in this latest release. It therefore feels right that we share why we thought these changes were required.
Image: Left – ARCHICAD 17 Project Info Dialogue Box; Right – ARCHICAD 18 Project Info Dialogue Box
On the face of it, to most users, the changes look cosmetic and of little importance. In fact this is the beauty of this implementation. It is something that won’t scare anyone upgrading but this change has huge value to anyone required to produce IFC models and/or COBie data.
In order to understand why the changes made to ‘Project Info’ in ARCHICAD 18 are important it is necessary to understand a little bit about COBie (which is a subset (or what is also known as a Model View Definition (MVD)) of IFC). COBie stands for ‘Construction Operations Building information exchange’ and its output is in the form of a spreadsheet. In the UK this will soon be covered by BS 1192-4:2014 and will be a required output for all projects aiming to achieve “Level 2 BIM” for UK Government projects. The output of a spreadsheet is much debated but stepping away from this issue the key thing is to realise that COBie is simply trying to identify the right data to handover to a client. This data can then be used to assist in managing a building or infrastructure project during its lifecycle. The COBie data can be handed over in a spreadsheet form but equally you could simply provide an IFC file with the same information direct to a Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) tool.
The COBie spreadsheet format is split up into a series of worksheets. Each one represents different project data with some being connected to each other. These include for example: Contact, Facility, Floor, Space, Zone, Component, Type and System amongst others.
The two key tabs in the spreadsheet that are relevant to the changes of the ‘Project Info’ dialogue in ARCHICAD 18 are the Contact and Facility worksheets. This is the data required for these two worksheets:
Contact: The contact information includes all companies involved in the project. It is in simplistic terms a project directory for all parties involved in producing information on a project. Strictly speaking the contact information is not required from the model authoring tool but given most of the information is fairly straightforward, the extra work required to produce this data is minimal and therefore it makes sense to tackle our Contact data within ARCHICAD. Additional contact information will be required from the other project participants.
The following information is required as a minimum for COBie – Email, Company and Phone.
The following is required if specified by the client – Department, Organization Code, Given Name, Family Name, Street, Postal Code, Town, State Region, Postal Code and Country.
Image: Contact data in COBie format
Facility: In IFC terms the Facility data is basically made up of data from 3 levels of the IFC tree – Project, Site and Building. The following information is required as a minimum – Project Name, Site Name, Building Name and Category (Building Classification).
The following is required if specified by the client – Project Description, Project Phase, Site Description and Building Description.
Image: Facility data in COBie format
So where does ‘Project Info’ come into this? Well if you look at all the fields in blue above these can now be implemented within the ‘Project Info’ dialogue box. The only exception to this is the building Classification which must still be completed in the IFC Manager (this is still on my wish list for further integration!). Previously in ARCHICAD 17 the data had to be placed in various locations. Whilst the previous version allowed the data to be delivered, and achieve COBie compliance, the key issue was workflow. The workflow was more complicated (in my opinion) than it needed to be and this meant that training and documentation was more onerous. The changes make my life as a BIM Manager easier, as its easier to explain to a user and makes the users life easier to implement on projects.
The user now only has to deal with one dialogue box but the introduction of data mapping into ARCHICAD 18 (more of that another time) has also allowed this data to be mapped into the IFC Manager. The Facility data discussed above automatically maps into Project, Site and Building in the IFC tree within the IFC Manager. This tree structure is also seen in many of the free IFC viewers available on the market.
Image: Left – COBie data for the Facility worksheet, in this case Project, in the Project Info dialogue box; Right – The same data automatically mapped into the IFC Manager
Whilst some of the fields are identified as ‘required’ and some as ‘optional’ for COBie the reality is that completing all these fields, 20 in total within Project Info (plus adding the building Classification in the IFC Manager), is really not that difficult. In fact we have been using most of these fields for some time anyway so we are actually only asking users to complete 10 pieces of data at the outset of a project.
One final benefit of the change to ‘Project Info’ is that data within this dialogue can be placed as Autotext. This means that we can now place any of this data on a drawing sheet. In fact of the 20 pieces of data required for COBie, 10 appear on our drawing sheets.
Image: Drawing title block showing information from Project Info – red is required for COBie and blue is other information added to the Project Info dialogue box that allows global changes to be made. Our title block is compliant with both BS 1192:2007 and the soon to be released BS 1192-4:2014 meaning industry standards and traditional deliverable requirements can be achieved using Project Info as part of a wider workflow. (click to enlarge)
The key point of asking for this change from Graphisoft is that it can allow the use of IFC and COBie to become far more integrated with existing processes. Hopefully the changes and this post goes someway to demystifying both formats and will allow all ARCHICAD users to adopt these open workflows over time. In fact many will probably adopt without even realising it and if that happens then the change has achieved its goal.
Lastly a little thank you to Graphisoft and to the designer who worked on this. You know who you are! 🙂
For more information on COBie see our resources area – COBie. ARCHICAD users interested in COBie integration should refer specifically to the ‘GRAPHISOFT ARCHICAD 18 and COBie 2‘ document that has been prepared by Graphisoft.
Rob Jackson, Associate Director, Bond Bryan Architects