Saturday, February 12, 2005

ADT Standards Out of the Box for U.S. Users

For many firms beginning an ADT implementation, a key stumbling block is frequently the incorporation of company standards into ADT. In fact, this can sometimes be a seemingly insurmountable barrier to effective use of the product.

In many cases, while an organization may have a very detailed and well-documented set of internal drafting, CAD and procedural standards, they're loosely adhered to at best. Standards, in most cases, are nearly impossible to enforce. In the past, we've been able to get away with loose standards or no standards, but when you move to model-based design, and more automation in project management, plotting and content distribution, standards become an absolute requirement. ADT provides lots of opportunities for standards automation (not enforcement), however taking an existing set of standards and placing them in ADT is a herculean task. Not only do layers have to be accounted for in the layer key style (a relatively simple and fairly quick process), but display control must be set up and standard symbols and content must be incorporated into the interface. The single largest hurdle to jump is the incorporation of standards in the display control system. I know. I've done it - from scratch. For someone with an intimate knowledge of display control (something that takes some time to master in itself), you can budget a solid month of forty-hour work-weeks (or more) to get a display system to the point where it is ready for live testing on real projects. And then you can expect to do some further tweaking as the occasional unforeseen circumstance or issue arises in the course of real work.

That's the bad news - in a nutshell, even if you know what to do, incorporating your company's standards into ADT is a huge undertaking.

Now, before the good news - a disclaimer (and a suggestion): If you are absolutely married to an existing proprietary company standard that you are bound and determined to continue to propogate, you will find little value in what follows. If, however, you think you fall into that category, I would suggest you step back and consider objectively your reasons for doing so, and what it could potentially cost you in productivity if you're trying to make the move to model based design and building information modeling. Are you in the business of Architecture, or Standards?

The good news: There is a built-in, functional, widely accepted standard already in Architectural Desktop 2004 and 2005 - out of the box. The National CAD Standard is actually such in name only; there is no governmental mandate or set of laws requiring AEC firms to follow it. On the other hand, it is becoming more and more widely accepted in the industry (more so than any other set of standards), and many governmental and institutional customers are beginning to require adherance to it by their AEC professionals. Theoretically, it transcends disciplines and can apply to engineering disciplines as well as architectural, however since my background is architecture and not civil engineering, and since this is a discussion of architectural standards, I'll not go there.

While not explicitly documented (for valid, non-technical reasons that I won't go into here), the National CAD Standard version 2.0 is built in to the AEC Imperial templates that ship with ADT 2004 and ADT 2005. This includes everything from layers to dimension styles and text styles, all the way through to the title blocks and callout symbols.

Before going into some of the details of NCS support in ADT, however, a little review of what the NCS actually is comprised of might be in order. The National CAD Standard is really not a standard in an of itself, but is more of a collection of three separate but complementary standards:

The CSI Uniform Drawing System (UDS) makes up the largest part of NCS and prescribes drafting standards for symbology, schedules, title blocks, object lineweights (not layers, just what lineweights should apply to which types of objects), and folder structure. (Note: ADT does not prescribe to the UDS folder structure in Project Navigator).

The Tri-Services Plotting Guidelines is a list of 256 colors and what lineweights they plot to, and whether they plot monochrome or color. Admittedly, in my opinion anyway, this plotting guideline is archaic and became outdated and irrelevant with the advent of AutoCAD 2000, however it is supported if you want to be in full compliance. If you, like me, see it as limiting and non-functional with today's technology, you can still use the ADT NCS content and templates and choose to ignore that aspect.

The AIA Layer Naming Guidelines prescribe a layer naming format and some preset layer names (although there is a great amount of flexibility built in).

A thorough explanation of each and every bit of ADT content and it's relationship to NCS is beyond the scope of this article; I'm just going to present a few examples. I suggest that if you want to pursue this further you go to the National CAD Standard website and purchase a copy of the NCS for reference (ADT 2004 and 2005 are compliant with NCS version 2.0).

So, let's take a look at a few examples. First, you MUST use the AEC Imperial or Metric templates (either CTB or STB) for full compliance, primarily because of the display system, which has been pre-configured for you.

Layers and plotting:
Look at a wall. It should be created on the layer "A-Wall", which is what the AIA Layer Guidelines suggest. The "AIA (256 Color)" layer key style that the template loads by default is based on the "AIA Second Edition" layer standard that also exists in the template. The color of the wall is based on the fact that the UDS suggests that wall profiles normally plot with a lineweight of 0.5 mm (or "Wide" - all lineweights in UCS are given a name). Tri Services specifies a range of colors that will plot to a 0.5mm lineweight and plot black. One of these is color 113, which is the color assigned to the "A-Wall" layer by the layer key style.

Now take a look at the default plot style tables. If you are using a .ctb template, it should be "AIA Standard.ctb". You'll find that the color 113 is mapped to a pen weight of 0.5 mm and plots black. If you are using an .stb template you'll find that the "A-Wall" layer is assigned a plot style of "Wide". Looking at the default "AIA Standard.stb" plot style table, "Wide" is assigned a color of black and a lineweight of 0.5mm.

You have other options regarding plot styles. For example, you can also choose to use the "AIA LWT By OBject" ctb or stb styles, which map all colors or styles to the object lineweight, allowing you to assign lineweights directly to layers and objects (note that the "A-Wall" layer already has a lineweight of 0.5 mm assigned to it).

A thorough examination of other layers compared with NCS will reveal similar compliance and flexibility.

Display Control:
Again, look at a wall (one with internal components and hatching). Most likely it has a material assigned to each component and the plan display is set to "By Material" for the components and their hatching. Looking at the material definition, however, you'll find that the "Plan Linework" display component is assigned a color of 11, a lineweight of 0.25 mm and a plot style of "Thin". Hatching components are assigned a color of 30, a lineweight of 0.18 mm and a plot style of "Fine". All of this, again, is compliant with UDS, Tri-Services, and AIA.

Symbols and Annotation:
UDS specifies a standard text height for notes as 3/32" (or the comparible value in millimeters if you are using metric content). Going to the drawing setup dialog, you'll find that the annotation plots size is set to 3/32" for that reason. The "AEC_Arch_X" dimension styles that pre-exist in the template are modeled after the UDS prescribed dimension standards, as are the text styles that come in the template. Additionally, the stock schedule table styles that are located in the Design Content Catalogs are NCS-compliant. If you look up the annotation symbols that UDS prescribes for callouts and tags, you'll find that most, if not all of them are provided on the documentation tool palettes, and the text sizes are in compliance. Looking at the title blocks provided with the AEC Imperial sheet templates, you should find these to be NCS compliant as well.

The list goes on, but in short, if you're tired of constantly having to update your standards to the constantly changing technology that you're using, give the out-of-the-box content a try. For many who have, it's working, and they can now focus their efforts on their profession, Architecture, not on maintaining their standards. There's too many other things to spend your time on!


Blogger BethPowell said...

I agree that the ADT Standards are a good place to start for any company. Many companies can leave them in place as-is even.

The only problem that I have run into is that if you do want to customize it even a little, it can be a little overwhelming.

I would like to see a guide or book on this topic. For example, if you're going to create some window styles, you need to also create property set definitions for scheduling the way you want and adjust or possibly add display configurations. What is the best order to do this? Create the display configuration first? Create the property set definitions first?

It is a powerful product. No doubt about it.

Thanks for a good blog!

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using colors to define layer lineweights really makes little sense for architects.

Architects need to see a drawing exactly as it will plot.

AIA layer names should be used.

Lineweights should be layer specific and set in the 'Layer Manager.'

All line layers should be drawn on a white background, in black, with a variety of lineweights.

Screened lines should be drawn in grey.

Colored layers should only be used for colored hatches or presentation drawings.

Most printed architectural sets that have been drawn using AutoCAD are diffcult to read. Too many steps lie between the draftsman's mouse and the printed page.

Architects need to be able to use a modicum of intuition when they work. Drafting colored lines on black or shaded backrounds is essentially counter-intuitive, and therefore counter-productive.

3:18 PM  
Blogger naturat said...

I would strongly disagree with the comment from bubalus. I've taught hundreds of people how to use ACAD and the only people who have had problems with the concept of color are those who have computer problems in general. Most folks within a few minutes get the concept that when they see a specific color it represents a line weight. Looking at a monitor that at best may be only the size of 1/4 the sheet of paper it is difficult at best to see the lineweights. If you lower the resolution on the monitor to a point where you can see the size of the lines, you can no longer see anything of the whole drawing. We don't have high resolution 24x36 monitors out there that are resonably priced. Also, most monitors, unlike a piece of paper, have light streaming at your eyes 8 hours a day while you are working, and let's face, there's not many people in the architectural field who only put in an 8 hour day. Staring at a white screen all day long is hard on your eyes, whereas a black screen is much easier on the eye. Personally, spending a few minutes explaining to someone the concept of color = lineweight and saving a few years of my eyesight is important.

When the monitor stops spitting electrons at your eyes, is high definition and can support full sized 30x42 pages then this can be a topic to dicuss, until then like the chiseled fonts, it's time to use the computer as a computer - tool in your production tool belt rather that as a substitute for a piece of paper.

As for intuition, let's face it... we're talking here about the counter intuitive process of looking at lines on a piece of paper that equate to a 30 story building. There's a leap of imagination and thought process. As architects and draftpersons we need to be able to use our brians to see things graphically. We go to school to train our minds to extrude off the napkin the squiggles that represent a 40 million dollar theater. Having our minds convet a color to a thickness of line is childs play compared to what we are paid to do every day invisioning buildings as sections, elevation, details, etc.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Prof Designer said...

I agree with the last comment. I have been using AutoCad for about 17 years and we have always used the black background with colors to identify line weights strictly for plotting. Too many hours on the tube will make you go blind on a white background. Many designers that I have worked over the years have difficulty in seeing some colors, so there needs to be some flexibily in the color scheme for the standard. A standard is a must, but it must allow a little flexibility or now you have made the tool inefficient. Try seeing yellow or cyan on a white background, it is almost impossible. Use it on a black background and it becomes a very effective color to highlight areas of a drawing. Remember in mechanical and Architecture design 90% of the work is in revisions, so the plotted paper becomes not as important as the time spent of the computer to produce the electronic content to produce the paper output. Good discussion. Thanks.

4:16 PM  

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