Graphisoft has updated its flagship BIM modelling tool, ArchiCAD, with a host of ‘themed’ new features and enhancements. BIM lives in the details.

Every Building Information Modelling (BIM) vendor claims to be ‘BIM’, but they usually come from a 2D document-centric world and offer a far less integrated solution than the latest ArchiCAD offering. Many AEC authoring tools and users break the BIM model by dropping back to 2D CAD at the end of the design phase and start of the detail design phase, according to Akos Pfemeter, vice-president in charge of product direction at Graphisoft, ArchiCAD’s owner.

Solar analysis

One of the reasons for this retrograde step is that BIM solutions have been used to produce 1:200 or 1:100 scale drawings but lack the level of detail at 1:50 and so many users resort to ‘old’ 2D CAD to complete the job. ArchiCAD 17 automatically provides structurally correct sections and details, reducing the need to break the BIM process, and increases productivity for submittals.

The key theme for ArchiCAD 17 is ‘details’, and there have been a raft of enhancements to its ability to hold, display and manage BIM details. The release also includes a number of ‘under the hood’ upgrades, which propel the speed of operation, or improve the ability to handle complexity. Graphisoft is serious when it claims to want to provide an end-to-end BIM workflow without having to drop back to ‘dumb’ CAD documentation.

Background processing

When it comes to BIM, nobody has ever said ‘my workstation is fast enough’ and yet most applications do not make use of all the power that is available in today’s CPU architectures. Most modern desktops and laptops have CPUs with at least two cores, some four, eight and even 16.

Graphisoft claims to be the first BIM developer to code its BIM tool to make maximum use of CPUs, allocating tasks dynamically to parallelise the workload and complete processing of complex calculations. The net result is a faster ArchiCAD that can also deal with bigger models, more detail and simultaneous tasks all in the background. This will be the ideal product to test out the forthcoming new Mac Pro (which looks a lot like a peddle bin). Graphisoft has also improved the use of OpenGL to considerably accelerate graphics performance, even on large models.

Priority-based connections

ArchiCAD 17 supports the automatic association to construction-level sections and details, which apply to the majority of standard conditions. It automatically cleans-up intersecting construction elements like walls, slabs and beams. This is based on the priority of the building materials, which are assigned to the elements within composite structures.

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The details that come with the software are obviously set but users can also develop their own with priorities to simplify the modelling and documentation at different phases of design.

This could provide a massive benefit in productivity downstream in the creation of 1:50 scale drawings. The larger the building, the bigger the time saving. This development means that the model better simulates the way the building will actually be created but there is a cost in that it does add to the processing load of the system.

This is less of a problem on a powerful machine but for those without a fast computer ArchiCAD 17 can be kept in legacy mode where the details feature is turned off. With it is switched on, ArchiCAD will perform the automatic detailing process even on old ArchiCAD models.

Connected elements

Building elements can be linked to storeys, allowing for automatic editing of the height of walls, columns and zones. This dynamic capability reduces the need to rework models when changes are required but only works with vertical adjustments. It is still possible to keep elements such as walls with fixed heights that do not automatically update. This gives ArchiCAD some Revit-like whole model editing capability but it is still not quite there.

Real-time 3D cutting planes

The cutting planes for sections has seen some consideable upgrades this release, enhancing on-screen design visualisation. Multiple cutting planes can be assigned to a model, generating enlightening views of complex areas within a design. This can be used for communication or used to inspect the model for consistency and co-ordination.


3D Views can be now quickly created with one click from the model using floorplans. Picking a standard section or cutting plane in the floor plan window will produce a ‘3D document’. This is similar to Bentley Systems’ Hypermodel feature in AECOsim.

Improved morph

One of the key geometry improvements is the Morph tool, which enables users to create complex geometrical components. ArchiCAD 17 provides new scheduling and editing capabilities to aid conceptual ‘push/pull’ design and mass modelling. Architects can list the volume and surface area of single Morphs separately by storey.

Other improvements

Element placing has been improved with new positioning and intersection logic. Reference planes can be assigned to either side of a wall or a wall’s core skin. Here edits to thickness or material make-up are made to the core’s central reference line. Reference planes can also be applied to the top and bottom and edges of slabs

Curved beams can be created to a horizontal plane, enabling their use in the generating support structures. Here wall/beam intersections will automatically be displayed correctly. This a very useful addition.

Loading libraries is now twice as fast as the previous release and there is increased feedback in door/window placement. Graphisoft has also signed a deal where BIMobject content will now be available through the component store. BIMobject provides real-world BIM objects direct from building supplier manufacturers.

Connections with Google Earth and SketchUp are now fully-integrated into ArchiCAD and allow opening, merging and exporting models with Google Earth or SketchUp. The related add-ons are now fully-integrated inside ArchiCAD.

Intelligent materials & energy analysis

Priority based connections

Graphisoft has improved the underlying materials and energy analysis tools to support multiple thermal blocks with material definitions now flowing through from building design through to energy analysis and documentation.

ArchiCAD 17 correctly displays materials in cut fills, surfaces in views and thermal properties in analysis. The calculation input data and the evaluation results can be shared in various formats including PDF, XLS and Industry Foundation Classes (IFC).

Industry foundation classes

Graphisoft has always been at the forefront in supporting the latest IFCs, the main interoperability standard for BIM models. ArchiCAD is now certified for IFC 2x3 Coordination View and 2.0 Export. Graphisoft also claims that the program is 100% COBie compliant for the forthcoming 2016 UK Government mandate of using BIM on its future construction projects.


BIMx is Graphisoft’s accurate and interactive way to share 3D BIM models with clients and project participants. Models, including materials, are compressed into self-executing files for desktop, laptop and tablet computers. This year the company has incorporated a cloud-based model transfer site to allow users to quickly share their models from anywhere in the world. In the past this capability has been a charged for item but now it is incorporated into every subscribed license of ArchiCAD and a professional account to the cloud-integrated model sharing service.


ArchiCAD 17 is the culmination of a lot of ‘under the hood’ development over a number of releases. The move to 64-bit, now multi-core, multi-CPU support and improved graphics allows ArchiCAD to deal with much larger models and to get the benefit from the latest workstation hardware. There is undoubtedly an increase in processing should users opt to switch on the priority based connections, increasing the load.

There is an element of Graphisoft looking at making ArchiCAD a bit Revit-like in its element association with storey heights and pushing the boundary of combining intelligent building materials, the latter allowing many more combinations than Revit.

The real-time 3D cutting planes have taken the lead from Bentley’s AECOsim Building Design ‘hypermodelling’ capability, integrating drawing and models. The battle between these firms is leading to some excellent BIM capabilities.

ArchiCAD 17 is yet another feature-rich update, enhancing modelling capability and speed while dealing with additional layers of complexity. The company maintains its commitment to openness through IFC, OpenBIM and expanding the downloadable content available with new links to BIMObject.

Looking beyond this release, Mr Pfemeter said ArchiCAD was looking at the possible benefit for public and private clouds in enhancing data and aiding collaboration, together with increasing trends in mobile usage and perhaps eventually, the support for point clouds (laser scans) — although at the moment that is not a priority.