One of the challenges faced as we move into this brave new world of information is what information we want users to complete within their models. When you first start looking at data it can be fairly daunting trying to work out what is and isn’t required. Of course we could leave this to individual users but then this creates inconsistencies between individuals, offices and projects. Without creating a standard approach it also makes it harder to set up standardised schedules and provide consistent training.
So a couple of years ago we really started to look long and hard about how we could standardise our data around open standards. One of the first things we did was to look at the data within the IFC schema. What immediately becomes obvious is the amount of data available is pretty daunting. So we needed to figure out 2 things: what data we were going to create and a way of clearly explaining to users what data they needed to complete. This post very much focusses on the second of these two aspects.
“Manage IFC Properties” for a Wall – As first opened
If you open any element/component placed in an ARCHICAD model using Tags & Categories you are faced with the following window (this example is for a Wall):
Image: Manage IFC Properties unfiltered for a Wall
Note: This data can also be accessed through the IFC Manager and this window and the ones discussed below are the same whichever way you access the data.
All standard Wall Property Sets expanded
If we expand each of the Property Sets we will see a vast list of standard IFC properties that can be completed by the user. The list just for a Wall is vast and it is a similar story for all other Element Classifications.
Image: Manage IFC Properties fully expanded for a Wall
“Show only Scheme items”
If we select the left hand of the 2 buttons in the upper right hand corner, “Show only Scheme items” we see that the AC_Pset_RenovationAndPhasing is filtered out as it is not part of the IFC Scheme.
Image: Manage IFC Properties with “Show only Scheme items” selected for a Wall
“Show only items with values”
Alternatively we can use the “Show only items with values” button which is the very top right hand button. This will show us any values which have been completed.
Image: Manage IFC Properties with “Show only items with values” selected for a Wall
“Show only Scheme items” and “Show only items with values”
Of course you can select both “Show only Scheme items” and “Show only items with values” together. Here we see that the AC_Pset_RenovationAndPhasing is filtered out and any data without a value. This only leaves us with IFC Type, GlobalId and the element Name field.
Image: Manage IFC Properties with “Show only Scheme items” and “Show only items with values” selected for a Wall
Adopting a simple solution to filtering data
So here is the secret to give you the ideal way to show a user which fields you want them to complete. It all revolves around the use of placeholders and/or mapped data. It is a pretty simple process.
- Go to the IFC Scheme Setup… (File > File Special > IFC 2×3 > IFC Scheme Setup…)
- Create either a placeholder * OR mapped value to the property you want the user to complete. This can be either for an existing property in the IFC (or COBie) schema or your own user created property.
* Manual text placeholders can be as simple for example as ‘n/a’ or ‘TBC as Stage X’. Note that placeholders for COBie are more specific as they will fail model checks if they have incorrect placeholder values, including sensitivity to capitalisation.
In the example below, to demonstrate this process, we have mapped ‘n/a’ to all the fields under Pset_ManufacturerTypeInformation.
Image: IFC Scheme Setup with simple placeholder mapping for a Wall
“Show only items with values” with IFC Scheme placeholders / mapped data
So once you have either placeholders or mapped data all you have to ask the user to do is open “Manage IFC Properties” and select “Show only items with values”. They then only have to complete the placeholder values or the native fields if they have been mapped and are not automatic.
Here’s what it can look like:
Image: Manage IFC Properties with “Show only items with values” after placeholder values have been created for a Wall example
You’ll notice that the data fields are greyed out signifying that they are mapped. Of course a user can still add other fields if they want to but again doing this at the IFC Scheme level is the smartest way to do it if it applies to everything for that Element Classification.
Creating simple placeholders and even basic mapped values is a very straightforward task. Asking users to manually input values without giving them an idea of what to complete will create inconsistent deliverables and won’t allow you to automate other processes around it. I urge all ARCHICAD users responsible for ARCHICAD templates to at least investigate the possibilities of using these kind of simple techniques to make life easier for users.
Rob Jackson, Associate Director, Bond Bryan Architects
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