Monday, May 10, 2004

Work flow - Modeling

What a great subject, this one always gets people talking. There are many methods of modeling geometry for Architectural Visualization. If asked how many people started in this industry with modeling in AutoCAD I am sure we would see many nods, and of those how many remember the fond days of solid modeling? Modeling your geometry is the first of 3 important steps in rendering and I too started out with solid modeling. No really, I hated the changes that would occur as much as you because solid modeling with AutoCAD was very unforgiving in a project work flow. The focus of this article is what works for me as I get asked this question in numerous e-mails from many users.

For the architectural industry it makes sense to use a set of tools geared with architecture in mind. I have modeled with AutoCAD, Form Z, and several other products over the years, but found a tool that not only can do production drawings (construction documents) but also with the power to do object based modeling with architecture in mind. My perfect match was a program called Architectural Desktop. ADT completely changed the way I viewed production drawings and changed my work flow. Simply put ADT uses 2d & 3d "objects", for those not familiar consider the real world example of how a door and/or window fit into a wall system. For more information on this please visit the link above and also your local users group.

ADT is an amazing program and I will not sugar coat the fact that it can be complex and at times overwhelming when you start using the advanced features and designing with the Z coordinate in mind, but with persistence, some reading and a few great resources you can get it to do most anything.

Let's talk about the basic modeling workflow itself:

1. For architectural exterior models I typically start with the building components that are known, typically this involves ADT walls, doors, windows, curtain wall and assemblies, roofs, slabs etc... The "building structure" tends to have numerous design iterations during the early design phase. With the use of a composite building model (each floor stacked on top of each other at their respective height) numerous people can work in and on specific areas of the building design.

Design Note - With the release of ADT 2004 and up you should learn to use the project navigator as this keeps track of the building elements for you.

2. Because of the planned changes that occur and my software choice of VIZ/MAX, I tend to use file linking quite a bit. This works out quite well as numerous people can work on the individual sections of the composite model and I tend to just need to reload the geometry to use the changes. Even with all the powerful features of ADT, there are still areas and times that I prefer the tools from VIZ/MAX. Generally this is to add additional features or details that would be either difficult or time consuming to create in ADT. A few of the toolsets that are very useful include; lofting, scatter, shape merge.

3. At a certain point when the building has reached a “design stop” phase to continue with rendering I tend to break the link and bind the drawings into one or more .max files. From here the building design and construction documents can continue to change and update and I can just focus on the scene at this moment.

While the many various versions and types of software available present different advantages to modeling and rendering I would encourage you to try as many as you can until you find the one that works for you. The ultimate goal is to get a great looking image that represents your building and invokes a feel of the proposed space, and of course it needs to be done in a timely fashion. =)

From here we head towards the most critical part of rendering, these being materials and lighting.

happy rendering...


Anonymous said...

Hi Beau,

I have found it interesting to see how ADT changes the way you work.
I find you tend to think, "Build the building" rather than "Draw the building". Although those two should be the same they sometimes aren't.


Beau Turner on 9:26 AM said...


Good to see you here. :)

You are correct I do tend to consider the BIM approach to be representative of "build the building". Part of this thinking comes from my experience in visualization, with the ability to combine renderings and the many phases of building set documentation. Object based design has presented a manageable workflow in a changing industry.

IMO one of the profound changes ADT brings to people/users is they tend to start thinking of how the structure they are working on goes together. The byproduct of conventional lines, arcs and circles is that, though it works well for almost anything you wish to draw it does not inherently understand its role nor what it graphically represents. A line could be a wall, part, duct, ship, piping, etc… whereas object based designs understand their role and relationship to each other.

How has ADT changed your workflow process?

RobiNZ on 8:27 AM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RobiNZ on 8:30 AM said...

I'll try again, learnt what the Rubbish bin icon does...

Your question inspired an article on my Blog in response. Have a look at "ADT Workflow - Modelling Benefits":


The Don on 12:20 PM said...

I hear exactly what you are saying. I I ant to follow your suggestions, but I mainly work on brownfiled sites on mixed use deveolpments in London, UK that noramlly always require retaining and remodelling, refurbishing existing buildings. I always assumed that BIM was more suitable for green-field sites especially as all the examples and tutorials that you see are for those type of projects. I'm sure I can implement ADT on these projects in this way but given that the rest of the offices are using ADT in the 'plain vanilla' AutoCAD mode I'm going to have to be a bit of a maverick forging ahead with it on a large job. The problem is I have'nt gor any small jobs to practice on and I reckon its the bigger ones that will reap the most benefits of all the ADT modelling and documentation features. Basically I just need to get some kind of reassurance that it will be feasible and somewhere I can get an insight of someone else talking about transferring from "lines and arcs CAD" to BIM... any ideas???


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