ArchiCAD 13: First server-based BIM utility

August 11, 2010

ArchiCAD 13, the latest release of Graphisoft's flagship building information modeling application, includes the first client server-based BIM collaboration utility of any of the major BIM programs (ArchiCAD, Bentley Microstation, or Autodesk Revit). An internal culture of collaboration is vital for a company to effectively adopt BIM, but how can many architects and designers—even within one office—work on a project in one model without erasing or changing each other's updates and causing a slowdown in design time? Both Revit and ArchiCAD, the applications that rely on one large file for one model, previously used fixes based on borrowing certain parts of the model and locking the model while one team member used it, but these solutions were less than ideal. Enter ArchiCAD BIM Server technology, part of a complete revamp of Teamwork in ArchiCAD.

Delta Server enables BIM sharing

The new Graphisoft BIM Server maintains the complete and up-to-date model of a project. Building Team members can use their individual ArchiCAD licenses to work on the model on their own computers, so there is still only one main model housed on the BIM Server and copies of the model on workstations. What makes the new interface different from the old Teamwork, though, is that instead of the whole model with all its parametric information needing to be copied back and forth between the BIM Server and individual machines, only new and modified elements are copied onto the BIM Server from an individual workstation. This allows synchronization of the master model and local copies to take much less time to update. BIM files can now be updated almost instantly, no matter how big your model is.

This change was made possible by a new Graphisoft technology called “Delta Server” that can detect and transmit only model changes over an Internet connection or LAN. Graphisoft has applied for a patent for Delta server. Graphisoft's software engineers have also made individual model elements and project data much easier to share and use in the new version of Teamwork. Project attributes and views can be reserved and released on the fly, so there's no need to plan ahead, reserve areas to work on, and restrict other team members from using them. With ArchiCAD 13 you can reserve only the elements you need and release them to the rest of the Building Team immediately after you're done working on them.

The setup of BIM Server is intuitive and simple. Two included applications, BIM Server Control Center and BIM Server Manager, need to be installed. The control center lets you set up your server or servers (you can make multiple virtual servers, if necessary) and define how it will be used. The Manager function is used to create and define project models, users, roles, and responsibilities.

Both are quick and easy to install and use with Teamwork, ArchiCAD's project information sharing utility for local or Internet-connected computers. All users can log in from their local machines using Teamwork. I created a fake project on my home computer, shared it on a BIM server located in my office, and invited a friend to work with me from his home. We were able to collaborate quite efficiently without seeing or talking to each other. The two of us used the Teamwork palette to share, reserve, and release elements very fast using BIM Server. When one of us had an element the other wanted to use, we would simply use the Request command to ask for it, and the other person would be prompted to Grant Request. Sending only changed elements to the server made the whole process fast and easy, resulting in very few inconsistencies in our final, albeit quite simple, model.

'Rotate Orientation' and other enhancements

While vastly expanded BIM collaboration is the big news about ArchiCAD 13, Graphisoft has improved the modeling, annotation, interoperability, and speed of the program, too. A new “rotate orientation” option allows any project view—floor plans, worksheets, or details—to be rotated while keeping project orientation the same. This makes it much easier to work with models with odd angles since the dimensions automatically adjust based on the orientation. Annotations such as text, labels, markers, and zone stamps have a “fixed angle” option that can make them automatically adjust to a new view, too.

The ability to apply an image to any roof, slab, mesh, or zone with a cover fill is the best of the new fill enhancements. The modeling enhancements for version 13 include the ability to direct edit reference lines and other parameters of a curtain wall in plan, section/elevation, or 3D windows. You can also slant edges and slabs of roofs to match slope angles of connecting structures and assign building materials to them. ArchiCAD 13 has improved its OpenGL display of 3D views, with sharper contours and better color shading.

Although ArchiCAD 13 is still very much an architecture and design-only BIM program, interoperability with structural engineering software has been improved by including thousands of standard steel profiles from an industry standard profile database that can be used for creating columns and beams.

Most impressive of all these enhancements is that ArchiCAD supports both multiprocessors and 64-bit computing with version 13 (ArchiCAD 12 supported multicore processing, but not 64-bit). I used an HP workstation with four processor cores to test ArchiCAD 13, and the improvements in speed thanks to multicore processing were dramatic. Soon all BIM programs will need to support multiprocessing, and don't be surprised if other software vendors start rewriting their code to enable the kind of collaboration as Graphisoft's BIM Server does.

Autodesk launches 'Cooper'

Autodesk recently launched “Project Cooper,” a new design technology that gives designers of all levels—from interior designers to landscape architects and DIY remodelers to furniture designers— 2D software for creating quick, polished drawings, layouts, and plans. A free download is available at

Bentley, Pointools partner

Bentley recently announced that it has entered into a technology agreement with Pointools Ltd., a manufacturer of software to exploit point clouds captured by 3D laser scanning of infrastructure assets. Through the agreement, Bentley has licensed Pointools' Vortex API engine (and its ongoing upgrades) for incorporation in MicroStation and all other software products that leverage Bentley's platform technology.

Nemetschek expands Scia structural tool to US market

Nemetschek Scia has expanded operations into North America. The company produces software products such as Scia Engineer, one of the leading BIM structural engineering design, analysis, and optimization tools in Europe. In partnership with Nemetschek North America (a division of Nemetschek AG, headquartered in Munich, Germany, which also owns Graphisoft) Nemetschek Scia has opened a new office in Columbia, Md.

Vico, Newforma announce product integration plans

Vico Software and Newforma, Inc. recently announced a partnership to jointly develop product integration between their 4D/5D construction and project information management solutions using the agcXML file format. The partnership will utilize, as its strategic basis, the Newforma Project Center and Vico Office programs.

Vectorworks SP1 released

Nemetschek NA recently released its first Service Pack for the Vectorworks 2010 product line, which came out in September. While addressing issues with wall joining and the snap loupe in particular, Nemetschek NA says service pack 1 has also improved the overall stability and performance of the package.


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