On Land

Environment Information
At Rill Architects we run ArchiCAD on Mac OS X. If you work at Rill, this is your stuff. If you don't, but you work in ArchiCAD, you may find something interesting. Anybody else, I don't know.

After some experimentation, this is the best method I can find for using external, standard details. It definitely has room for improvement. The biggest improvement would be for AC to allow detail markers to reference external drawings. It's a huge hole in the program that has to be fixed. In the meantime this isn't too bad.

The executive summary: Copy details from projects and clean up their layers and other attributes. Place the details in a central PLN file, one per story. Or, draw them from scratch in the central PLN. Publish modules of the details. Hotlink or merge the modules into detail windows of running projects, and use detail markers to refer to them normally.

In this example I'm talking about the wall and other assembly types. It could used for any standard details you would like to share. Also, we will use this as a standard method beginning with AC10. In the meantime, everything here which concerns placing detail modules can be applied to current assembly modules at 3 Resources / Modules / Assembly Types.

The Details Project File

The assembly type details 'live' in a project file called Assemblies10.PLN. There is one drawing on each story. Each story is named after the drawing, e.g., 'Wall 2x4 Int'.

This project has three layers, ! Guide, +A Arch Note Reg Scale, and +A Misc Line. All the text, leader arcs, labels, etc. go on +A Arch Note Reg Scale. Everything else goes on+A Misc Line. The ! Guide is there just in case. There are two layer combinations, 'Working' and 'Publish'. 'Working' shows the guide layer, 'Publish' doesn't.

Why so few layers? To minimize the chance of creating redundant, obsolete, or otherwise unwanted layers when you use the details in running projects. Part of the process for sharing details is to normalize the layers in this way.

The project has a folder of views for each scale used in the drawings. For the assembly types, there are two scales, 3" and 1 1/2". Other than scale, all the view settings are the same. Layer combination: Publish. Model View Options: A1/A2. Dimensions: Detail.

The layouts in the project are not used.

There is one publication set, 'All'. It contains shortcuts to both (or all) the view folders. The publication method is 'Save Files', and the files are modules (.mod's). The path for saving the files is 3 Resources/Modules/Assemblies10. Other standard detail groups should have their own folders with descriptive names.

The modules are what we use in the running project, not any views or hotlinks to the Assemblies10.PLN.

When any details are changed, the publication needs to be run to update the modules.

Maintenance of the details PLN is an administrative job. In everyday work, we leave the PLN alone, and only use the modules.

Using The Detail Modules

The modules can either be merged or hotlinked. Merging simply pastes the drawing elements into the current project. Hotlinking (intro here) is a live external reference.

Why merge? Because you want to modify the drawing for the current project. Or, you're taking the project off network and you don't want the warning about the hotlinked modules being inaccessible. (This condition is harmless. The module data still works, but you can't update if you're off the network. It's just annoying.)

Why hotlink? Because you want to have confidence in the standardness of the detail. Whoever is administering that detail made sure it's right, and you don't have to worry about it. If the module changes, you can get the changes automatically by updating the hotlink. And you'll know when it changes because AC will tell you.

Of course you can decide on an individual basis which approach to take. And, if you hotlink the module, you can always choose to break the link at a later time, which basically turns it into a merge.

Either way, you will place the module in a detail window. This window should have the name that you want to appear in the automatic drawing title. Remember the detail's ID has to be unique. For types, I use Type1, Type2, etc. For other details, treat them the same as local details; the ID should help organize the details by type. E.g., Eave1, Eave2, Crown1 Crown2, etc. Then you need a view of this detail window, and that view gets placed as a drawing in the project's layouts.