One of the most useful items within Architectural Desktop is the Project Navigator. Unfortunately this is also one of the more difficult item to understand and one that I get the most questions from new users/companies moving to using this. Whether this stems from having a traditional cad background, program terminology or other reasons the bottom line is that with a little understanding you can successfully start using this for you next project.
This post will attempt to explain the workflow and terminology for use with the project navigator to help get you started.
In traditional cad we have always worked with multiple files that related in some way to our project. What Project Navigator attempts to do is to manage that "flow" of information. This "flow" is what I like to call the "Information Life Cycle".
Information Life Cycle - The 4 Step Program
Step 1 - Creation
Step 2 - Organization/Management
Step 3 - Publication
Step 4 - Changes
More on the Information Life Cycle later...
To better understand the Project Navigator we need to examine the typical project workflow. This is typically where most companies/users have instituted some type of external reference structure (how xrefs should go together). The use of the PN can be summed up as a three tier external reference system.
For us this begins with our first tier or base drawing. This is typically where geometry is drawn such as Walls, Doors, Windows, etc... It is quite common that this base drawing is what is shared with other members of the design team (consultant) as a background reference.
Once we have the base geometry defined we move into the second tier or annotation. This is typically where annotation is generated such as: text, leaders, dimensions, symbols, schedules, etc... When working in the annotation drawings this is usually when you start to consider the particular view/region that will be showing when plotted and of course the intended output drawing scale of the "view" becomes important in this tier.
Moving to the third and final tier or plotting. This is typically where you will find the base drawing and annotation brought together to load onto the sheet for plotting.
Project Workflow Summary
First Tier - Base Drawing
Second Tier - Annotation
Third Tier - Plotting
The Project Navigator Palette is divided into 4 tabs; Project, Constructs, Views & Sheets. Each of these tabs has a specific role to play in your project. Let's define some terminology starting with the Project tab.
Project Tab - This is where non-graphical project data is entered.
Within here we have two areas that need some clarification; Levels and Divisions.
A "Level" separates the building in a horizontal plane with a physical separation. Typical uses include Grade Levels, Footings, Floors (partial & full), Roofs, etc…
A "Division" separates the building in a vertical plane and can be either a physical/virtual separation. More on what the physical/virtual is shortly. Typical uses include Building Wings/Extensions, Project Phasing (Phase I, Phase II), Construction Options (Demo, Existing, New, Temporary, Future), Design Options of differing configurations, Disciplines (Arch, Struc, PME,) etc… Essentially this gives you a controlled way to break up the building model.
Constructs Tab - This is where the base drawings begin.
A "Construct" is a unique portion of the building on a particular level in a particular division. Typical uses include Floor Plans & Roof Plans.
An "Element" while similar to the Construct in that your base geometry is drawn has a fundamentally different definition as it is a portion of the building WITHOUT a specific location, level or division within the building model. This is most often a repeatable type of element such as a bathroom layout, Unit Based Design, Titleblocks, etc…
Views Tab - This is where the annotation drawings begin.
A "View" is a report of the building model. By using the project navigator the needed base drawings (Constructs and/or Elements) are brought together to create the required view. Typical items within the views include Text, Dimensions, Leaders, Symbols for floor plans, elevations, sections, details, schedules, composite building models, etc…
Sheets Tab - This is just for plotting
A "Sheet" is a "Ready to Plot" report of the building model. Typically this involves the created view defined in the Views tab loaded onto the sheet for printing. Typical items you find in the sheets are the titleblock (can be an element) with fields referencing your project information.
We mentioned the Information Life Cycle Four Step Program above, so how does this apply to using the Project Navigator? Great question lets look at this one step at the time:
Step 1 - Creation. The creation of your project begins with the project browser. Once the project is started the creation of all new files associated can be done within the project navigator. Within the Constructs, Views, or Sheets tab you can right click to create a new working file. Depending on which one is chosen you will be presented with a dialogue box indicating which files will be referenced together to document your building model as required.
Step 2 - Organization/Management. With all the working files in one location anyone working on the project can see the files that make up the building model. From those working in/out of drawings on an hourly/daily basis or those less frequently you can find and work on the needed drawings at any time in one easy to manage location without going outside of your ADT session.
Step 3 - Publication. The sharing of this information whether digital (2d/3d) or hardcopy prints is a necessary part of the documentation. From sharing with Consultants to print shops to building owners; with all the design submittals along the way the most time consuming part (besides design time) is plotting. The project navigator alleviates this by giving you a simple right click on single or multiple drawings (without opening, printing and closing each manually) and deliver in any of several methods (e-transmit, printing to file, printing to plotter, etc…).
Step 4 - Changes. During the design process changes happen constantly. By having your project drawings in one easy to access interface (once you learn the basics) you can get in/out of your working drawings and make changes as needed. For those using ADT 2006 and higher the introduction of "Project Standards" allow you to make style/display changes and have these updated to the multiple files that make up your building model either manually, semi-automatically or automatically.
The ILC and PN concept is a repeating cycle as you create design data, organize and manage this data, publish/share and then continue to refine your designs through numerous changes all managed in one central location for your entire project.
There are plenty of additional items that the Project Browser and Project Navigator offer including migrating legacy projects (pre-PN days) that we have not covered. I would encourage you to explore this further once you begin your journey into using the Project Navigator. Now that you have the concepts understood the actual implementation of putting this into action should go much easier!