ArchiCAD 15

SHELL building

A year has rolled by and Graphisoft has succeeded in keeping up its annual release cycle. If ArchiCAD 14 was more about minor improvements and fixes to legacy features, ArchiCAD 15 has a number of new things to offer. ArchiCAD 15 is about Wow architecture, BIM collaboration and renovation – three of the hottest trends in current architecture.

ArchiCAD 15 introduces two new design concepts. As the existing number of concepts is already high, you may ask why offer more. The reason is that there is a great demand for these new concepts known as Shell and Renovation. Presumably, few people seriously object to devoting a little time to studying them because they open whole new vistas for ArchiCAD users.

ArchiCAD 15 includes other innovations as well. The ingenious new Multi-Plane Roof tool makes it extremely easy to design complex roofs. At the same time, the tool introduces a new concept. A major improvement facilitating modelling is the automatic joining of complex elements. Other features designed for easy modelling include the 3D Guide Line and the 3D Editing Plane.

Additionally, improved IFC support helps designers in countries where BIM technologies are used. Library Migration has been improved and objects / library parts developed further.

New Feature for Editing Roofs

The new Multi-Plane Roof drawing tool treats a complex roof as a single element just like any other polygon element. As a result, designing roofs with complex planes is child’s play now. It encourages you to play around and push the application’s limits which are not easily reached. In ArchiCAD these roofs are called as multi-plane roofs. The overall shape of the roof can be edited just like a slab. You can add new corners, curve edges or add or remove other polygons.

The palette accompanying the Multi-Plane Roof tool offers two new choices for editing – one for moving the roof ridge and one for moving the ridge gable. A multi-plane roof is quickly transformed into a traditional gabled roof, either completely or in part, when the ridge gable joins the eaves line. Only horizontal ridges can be edited.

If you draw a hole in the multi-plane roof delineated by pivot lines, a courtyard is created. If you draw a hole in the plane, there will be an actual hole.

Incredible Shells

No doubt the new shell structure is the most impressive feature of ArchiCAD 15. A wide range of shell shapes permits accurate modelling of any architectural surface with mathematical precision. Modelling of completely arbitrary shapes is still beyond ArchiCAD 15 but other applications are available for such needs. However, projects like Guggenheim museums and equivalent structures can be designed with the new tools with relative ease and accuracy.


It only takes three clicks to create a curved extruded shell in the plan. You can edit the shell profile in a 3D window like any broken line with straight and curved parts

A 3D double-curved or otherwise complex surface is hard to comprehend and visualize. Modelling such a surface on a 2D computer screen is challenging and requires some idea of the preferred final outcome. Graphisoft has developed a range of ways for creating various spatial surfaces in ArchiCAD that have a thickness. Again, I am using the slightly misleading generic terms ‘shell’ and ‘shell structure’ for the purposes of this article.

There are three basic types of shells. Extruded Shell is a sort of prism or profile with more freedom and potential. Revolved Shell is used for creating domes, bottles, balls and curved-ceiling halls and Ruled Shell for designing surfaces linking two spatial curves. All these shells can be freely positioned in space. Unlike other elements, the shells can be rotated in any direction.

Accurate and Complex Editing

Since modelling 3D spatial surfaces is difficult on a 2D screen, it is essential to learn how to model with shells and use the new tools, such as the Editing plane. Because of the complexity of the elements, defining a shell always involves more steps than ordinary designs.

Once shell modelling is completed, it is possible to delineate it with a polygon in an arbitrary position in space. Similarly, skylights can be specified or drilled in the shell from any direction. Shell edges are adjusted in the same way the eaves.

In the plan, the shell is shown as a realistic projection exactly as it is. A composite structure can be specified for the shell. Due to the abstract character of the shell, its element category (roof, wall, floor, lamp, etc.) is determined separately. Also, it is necessary to determine whether the shell is a load-bearing element or part of the building envelope.

There are a lot of new things about the shells and it is not always easy to choose the right procedure. Accuracy may also suffer at least in the beginning. For example, turning a shell up exactly 90 degrees took me two attempts. There is no numerical setting for the shell position in space, which can be regarded as a serious and unnecessary flaw.

Trimming Bodies

Additionally, complex elements need to be joined, preferably seamlessly, because cold and hot air passes through the slits in the building. A new concept called Trimming Body is introduced specifically for fitting in walls and roof-like elements. Trimming Body feature specifies, directly below or above the element, a space within which the fitted elements are brought together. For instance, only the portion inside the Trimming Body is left of a wall fitted to a roof.

Trimming Body also defines how two roofs or shells are inter-connected. ArchiCAD automatically cuts off the portion left within the trimming body of another roof or shell element. What is confusing is that a shell is correctly projected onto a 2D plan whereas a wall delineated by the trimming body fails to match the 3D model on the plan.

Trimming body

ArchiCAD is fully capable of joining two extruded shells and the intersecting wall.

Renovation at Last

One of the two main themes in ArchiCAD 15 is the renovation concept. It is easy to explain: For each element, it is possible to specify whether it is original, new, or something to be removed or dismantled. A display view can be defined for new elements and elements that are to be removed. In the view settings, you can specify the stage whose elements are to be shown in the view.

Again, preparation is useful. If the settings are correct and the status of building components remains unchanged in the hustle and bustle of design, renovation planning can be quite a pleasant experience as the frustrating fiddling with layer settings is a thing of the past.

The concept can be used for another purpose as well: to present two alternatives to a client in a new housing project. It is a pity that there are only two status choices for renovation: original and new. If there were an unlimited number of status choices, the same concept could be used for multi-stage renovation projects as well as for presentation of a range of optional designs – something for the wish list for version 16.


The initial state is shown on the left and the final outcome on the right. In the middle, the building components to be removed are shown in yellow and the new ones in red. Note how ArchiCAD can even split the wall into parts when a large window in the wall is removed and replaced with two smaller ones. The same status colours are shown in the 3D view as well.

Improved IFC Automation

In ArchiCAD 15, the synchronization of IFC parameter values has been improved in a number of ways. Now IFC parameters are, logically enough, transferred to favourites and template files when elements are copied, just like other parameters and values. IFC parameters are easy to add to individual elements by clicking. Another obvious added feature is the Undo function meaning that it works with IFC parameter settings as well.

Special touches include the conversion of object parameters to IFC parameters. For individual object parameters, you can specify the IFC parameter in which value in question is stored. While it may sound complicated, it would be even more complicated to define those values for the model and several objects later, and probably it would have to be done several times over as designs change. Once again, thorough preparation saves a lot of time and effort otherwise spent with settings.

Another revamped module is IFC Manager. Now it also shows converted parameters and is capable of providing a logical presentation of groups of complex building components. For team work purposes, IFC values can now be converted without reserving all IFC data to a single user. Also, special characters, such as Ä, Å and Ö, are now correctly set in Unicode.

Moreover, IFC files can be imported to the selected layer. When you save your work, you can choose the preferred curve settings and edit them, as well as select the BREP (boundary representation) geometry for correct rendering of the 3D model. A new feature is the Merge to IFC Model function that can be used to add items to an existing IFC file. Naturally, the renovation status is also stored.

Advanced Library Manager

When new and existing libraries are combined, ArchiCAD 15 automatically uses the latest versions of objects. Similarly, if you save your work in a previous format, the objects are replaced, where possible, with older versions.

Library Manager detects duplicates automatically. However, the beta version displayed non-existing duplicates in the library itself, something that remains a puzzle at this point. The recurrent messages about duplicate objects that used to be displayed when ArchiCAD was started are now history. This little detail is likely to boost the self-confidence of most users and direct their attention to creating better designs as they no longer need to worry about errors in the object structure.

New Objects

ArchiCAD Library 15 contains a multitude of new objects, some of which directly support the new concepts and the current design trends. There are five new objects for ecological design from windmills to solar panels and six new objects for hospitals and dental care facilities. For office and home decoration, there is a new, highly versatile cabinet-shelf object. Additionally, there are new fireplaces, a urinal, a shower cabinet, taps, washbasins and luxury boats.

The door selection has been extended with 12 new doors, raised sidelights and garage doors. The window parameter logic has been revamped. New windows include a four-part sliding window and six historical windows for modelling old buildings.

New objects

The new objects include luxury boats, etc.

Increased Efficiency

Aside from the introduction of new features, the performance or speed of the application has been improved. ArchiCAD 15 is available only as a 64-bit version on Mac OS X. 64-bit technology increases performance particularly in large projects. The Windows version has been 64-bit even before.

The automatic backup feature is now real-time. In principle, nothing should be lost since all changes are immediately stored in a backup copy using the same delta technology applied to team work server.

Better than Ever – User Feedback Duly Recognized

The new Multi-Plane Roof concept is excellently implemented. Modification of complex roofs is a lark and raises a justifiable question: Is building them in the real world also a lark? This same question applies to shells, but with the introduction of the shell tool, ArchiCAD will shed its reputation as an application unsuitable for Wow architecture. No other application comes anywhere near the freedom and accuracy of design provided by ArchiCAD without sacrificing ease-of-use and full BIM compatibility.

The renovation tools are more than welcome and will no doubt be put to good use. However, if a little more thought had been given to the concept, it would have responded to user needs better than it now does.

The improvements to IFC conversion considerably enhance collaboration with other designers through automation and better overall functionality.

The new objects are excellent additions to the existing library, and the redesigned Library Manager with automatic duplicate detection is a truly welcome feature.

All in all, ArchiCAD 15 is a positive surprise. It inspires you to experiment with the new tools while making it possible to skip many tedious and unnecessary routines in renovation design and IFC import/export. It should be pointed out that the beta version never crashed during testing. While the upgrade is definitely good value for money, it is advisable to reserve a few hours for learning how to use the new tools.

writtenbySeveriThis article was published in the 2/2011 issue of ArchiMAGin June 2011. Subscribe ArchiMAG now to read the latest articles.

3 Responses to “ArchiCAD 15”
  1. michael peculiar says:

    when will Archicad 15 32-bit will be out?

    • Nazrul says:

      #brendan. I would not endorse one uordpct or another, but yes! concurrency is completely reliant on quality and therefore checking.. I am extremely gratified to read your comment and hope you will not mind me interpreting it as a confirmation of my own viewpoint on this subject. What i would add is that IFC’s are often less than perfect whether due to the software producing them or the software operator. The only limitations therefore are the cost of uordpcts and the imperfect nature of the IFC data they must act on.. (and a few others i won’t mention.. )

  2. phil says:

    cool cool cool!