New Ways to Use ArchiCAD: e-SPECS and EcoDesigner Star
ArchiCAD is a powerful tool that keeps getting ever more versatile over the years.
From the very beginning in 1984, it was a 3D design tool for architecture. By the late 80’s it was capable of producing full sets of architectural drawings, and the concept of Virtual Building™ started to take shape.
Essentially, Virtual Building is the same idea as Building Information Modeling (BIM), but since Graphisoft trademarked the term it didn’t come into wide use. As I’m sure you know, BIM is now the commonly accepted way to describe the intelligent building model that represents the design in 2D, 3D and for analysis including quantity and performance data calculation.
As a BIM project is developed, certain quantities, schedules and notes can be compiled directly within the software. However, more specialized software tools provide additional capabilities for structural analysis, energy usage calculations, and preparation of specifications documents.
e-SPECS for ArchiCAD
A widely used tool for creating specifications documents is e-SPECS. It can derive information from the BIM file and pull specification information from a standard or customized database to develop a standard specifications file.
It can be used stand-alone, meaning that someone can manually compile the specs using its database and reporting tools, but it becomes even more powerful and productive when tied directly into the BIM file. When used in this fashion, the specifications are created based on an analysis of the actual construction elements used in the file, and will automatically update if, for example, a wall assembly, structural column or fixture is replaced or added to the design.
As far as I know, the only BIM applications that e-SPECS supported until recently were AutoCAD, Revit and Bentley Architecture. This meant that ArchiCAD users could not take advantage of this workflow.
Last year, e-SPECS introduced support for ArchiCAD PLN files:
GRAPHISOFT and InterSpec, Inc. Announce ArchiCAD e-Specs Integration
To learn more about how this works and what benefits it may offer for your firm, tune in to the live webinar this Wednesday January 16 at 2 pm EST:
ArchiCAD EcoDesigner Star
For several years now, ArchiCAD has offered EcoDesigner as a tool to do energy analysis of your project. At first, this add-on was sold as an add-on, then in version 16 it was bundled with ArchiCAD at no additional charge.
EcoDesigner is intended to be used as a design aid, allowing comparison of multiple models to optimize energy usage. It uses certain simplifying assumptions to make the setup easy for a designer, and speed up the calculations. Given this approach, it makes it possible for a non-specialist to assess the effect of different design variations, to encourage more efficient site placement and orientation, as well as optimization of the general building envelope.
However, while the calculations were based on a robust and internationally certified energy analysis “engine”, the results and reports were approximations that could not be used for submission to building authorities. They also did not allow some of the more sophisticated passive and active energy strategies to be analyzed and validated for each project.
The next generation of this analysis tool is called EcoDesigner Star, which provides more precise calculations and handles a wider variety of energy-saving design methods. It is certified standard-compliant, which allows for streamlined collaboration between designers and energy consultants. It is my understanding that over time the detailed building performance reports produced by EcoDesigner Star may become accepted for submissions to various regulatory authorities.
For more information about this exciting new technology developed by Graphisoft for ArchiCAD users, you may register for a “Sneak Preview” webinar on January 29: