creative design, custom houses, and the limits of Chief?


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I think some of this could be addressed by the programmers at Chief simply stating what the organizing principles of the software are, and how they can be worked around.  Obviously that could get complicated fast, but I would appreciate a list of basic principles baked into the programming.  What I'm suggesting is a little different than reading the manual, which of course is an expression of the programmed principals.  But for example, the statement could say something like (these examples are not meant to be true, but just examples):

 

1) the primary function is drawing walls, which create rooms

2) rooms are understood to have walls, floors, and ceilings

3) ceiling heights determine floor levels based on platform thicknesses, which default to X unless changed

etc etc

 

Then the more interesting part would be:

1) a ceiling will always overide a wall change

2) walls will follow a roof up or down in these particular instances (give examples)

3) a manually created roof will not form a proper valley unless x or y

 

Clearly the program has a particular logic based on choices that the programmers made, but the logic is not visible except in practice.  The logic is discovered by users, who often post both the limitations and useful work-arounds.  However, this is a somewhat ad-hoc, hit or miss way to inform all users.   For example, Scott seems to suggest that a complete understanding of the program would enable me to work in the way that I would like.  I would like that to be true, but there must be a more efficient way to get to this stage of advanced knowledge than simply spending thousands of hours making mistakes and then learning how to fix them.  Does anyone else beleive that a concise, organized statement of the programming language and assumptions, apart from the user's manual, would be useful for them in order to develop a working method that enabled them to use Chief to it's maximum advantage?

 

To my mind, this is similar to any design program I encounter- my first question is: what do I want to acheive and what are the parameters and limitations that would inform my choices?  If I knew for certain (and not just because someone posted it on Chieftalk) that I should always establish floor heights higher than I might want, because it's easier to move them down than up, I would do that.  But I tend to see things offered as "best practices", which imply that better outcomes are more likely with this method but other methods might still work.  This is not as specific as actually describing the logic assumed in the programming.   Is there a reason to not clearly state the programming logic?  Is it too complicated?  Trade secret?  Not good from a marketing standpoint?  Time consuming and not interesting to most people?  To be clear, I'm asking Chief Arch to do this, not the user community

When I first started with Chief I would start by trying to 'sketch' out an idea but quickly ran into Chief's learning curve which was mainly comprised of learning how Chief works and learning the "particular logic based on choices the programmers made".

 

Alluding to your list above I didn't realize that roofs always cut walls, or that walls will always rise to meet roofs, but room heights/ceiling won't rise when roofs are raised, plus a myriad of other 'choices' made by the programmers. Did not fit my way of thinking - at all.

 

Gradually I learned the "choices made by the programmers" and can now sketch out ideas rather quickly. Like sketching out the idea presented in the VectorWorks video above would take very little time and with the proper skill set in Chief that exercise would be in no way daunting or limited by 'defaults' or any other constraints. There's no push/pull equivalent but there's no real lag in the model creation, given adequate knowledge in the way Chief works. That last statement is key, of course, and I personally have spent many, many hours learning how Chief 'thinks' if you will.

 

There are still some "choices made by the programmers" that make me nuts and that seem to embrace no logic I can discover, so I adjust the best I can, but overall Chief has become a really good tool for even rough sketching and creating many different model types without too much creative interference.

 

After that initial model creation is complete sometimes getting that model to 'behave' with proper floor heights/sections can be another, sometimes daunting, adventure and that's where knowledge of Chief's ways must be understood or you can spin your wheels for hours trying to grasp the "choices made by the programmers" or bail out to the forums for help when needed.

 

Chief is unique in its approach and I think that can be a severe detriment in fully grasping its capabilities. No other program uses similar terminology or approaches design in a similar fashion. Push/pull is a decent example. Everyone knows what that is but you won't find anything similar in Chief - but - when you draw a wall or create a room it is a 3D wall/room with all the attributes you assign and if you understand (again big 'if') the "choices made by the programmers" it can be a very powerful and creative tool.

 

EDIT: And thank you all for showing the videos of other software and how they work. I don't see any real benefit to learning any other program and watching an expert leaves me with no impression that any operation is 'simple' in any of the design programs. I'll repeat, it's simple with many hours of experience, but nothing will substitute no matter which program you choose.

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Nice topic, it touches upon a couple of interesting dilemmas.

 

One particular area of grief in Chief (and many other tools) for me is the lack of a way to handle ‘parallel’ design alternatives. Just like Lighthouse, I dislike having to first create a detailed as-built before I can start experimenting with design options on a copy. For a remodel I therefore typically do a very rough model first that I immediately start to play around with, and when I’m getting close I create the precise as-built, which I similar to Lighthouse’s first choice, and then save a copy of. I would love to see a way to handle this better, so that the detailing of the existing as-built and the proposed design can continue in parallel without having to update two (and in worst case several) separate models. Revit has a concept of Phases so that a wall can be labeled Demolish for example, which can then be hidden as needed. It also has a concept called Design Options where one can basically switch between ‘modes’ and everything you do from then on only affects that design option until you switch back to another. I’m not entirely sold on this idea, it reminds me of recording macros, and I have tricked myself into a mess on occasion with it. It seems to be a complicated workflow problem and not easy to come up with an elegant solution.

 

Another interesting discussion in this thread touches upon sketching of massing and how that can be expressed as freely as possible. Vectorworks massing tools seems similar to those in Revit, and the biggest benefit in practice seems to be to be able to create walls and floor plans from the ‘poly solid’ model that has been generated. In this aspect I don’t see it as something extraordinary difficult to achieve for the Chief programmers. After all, similar poly solid tools exist in Chief already, albeit not the ever so popular push and pull, and Chief can generate walls from a bubble diagram so why not from a shape. The few times I’ve created something very organic, Zaha Hadid style, was in Architecture school and I then used 3ds Max for the massing. However, just as working with pen and paper, scale can sometimes be deceptive when you have too much freedom, and once it is time to transform the schema into a practical building and reality sets in it often ends up very different. For the kind of houses I design I find that playing around in Chief not only works well, but it keeps me grounded. Still, I certainly wouldn’t say no to a massing tool.

 

What I did like in the Vectorworks video, and something I really miss from Archicad, is the extent a polysolid can be categorized and defined. The whole point, at least for me personally, with creating a polysolid bracket or front step concrete slab is to be able to define it as an object with properties such as volume, manufacturer, cost, etc. and have it go into a schedule. Both Archicad and Revit allows the adding of IFC properties to objects and this is something I hope is on Chief’s radar.

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Interesting points and I have found that "create(ing) a detailed as-built before I can start experimenting with design" to be a necessary part of the design process and have structured my contracts to specify a charge for that single scope so it's not an onerous task and just part of the process. It sounds like you just don't like it but it has to be done at some point, and only once, so I'm not quite getting the problem. If you just can't wait to get designing and dreaming up new ideas that's understandable but the early investment in a detailed as-built pays off in the long run - for me.

 

As far as working on simultaneous models such as the as built and various 'proposed' plans I'm not sure there's a way to do that that isn't software programming magic. Maybe the programmers can comment but that seems a very difficult, if even a desirable task.

 

New construction is an entirely different apple (orange?) and obviously an as built isn't needed but the freedom to 'play' in Chief without deep knowledge of the program is limited at best.

 

Personally I'd love to see some sort of massing tool in Chief (beyond the existing room planner) that would then convert to Chief's floors/walls/roofs, but again is that even possible given the programming paradigm Chief as chosen?

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Personally I'd love to see some sort of massing tool in Chief (beyond the existing room planner) that would then convert to Chief's floors/walls/roofs, but again is that even possible given the programming paradigm Chief as chosen?

With a little tweaking it might be possible.  It would be pretty cool if the "Space Planning Tool" was 3D so we could move the spaces around and change their heights.

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If you just can't wait to get designing and dreaming up new ideas that's understandable but the early investment in a detailed as-built pays off in the long run - for me.

 

That's just it, I find it hampering to my creativity that I have to create a carefully measured and detailed as-built before I can start with my ideas. My process is iterative, I want to add more and more detail as the project is refined. The architects I know hate this part and typically outsource the as-built to the intern.

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One thing I found that's kind of interesting is using the "Space Planning Tool" to quickly arrange spaces within the confines of the exterior walls of a "Floor".  Then using the "Build House" option to convert that to "Rooms".  You still need to do some editing of Wall Types, Door and Window Locations, etc but it's a pretty quick way to get the basic layout.

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That's just it, I find it hampering to my creativity that I have to create a carefully measured and detailed as-built before I can start with my ideas. My process is iterative, I want to add more and more detail as the project is refined. The architects I know hate this part and typically outsource the as-built to the intern.

Yeah and I hate correction lists from the city, and I hate dealing with uncooperative l clients, and I hate creating ConDocs and I hate, etc. etc. but whatcha gonna do? Really. Are you asking Chief to eliminate a necessary process you, and other architects you know, simply don't like? Seems a bit narrow minded and not something I would expect Chief to find a way to deal with - but maybe it's possible - and desirable. And getting an intern to create an accurate as-built might be the perfect solution. Been tempted many times myself.

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That's just it, I find it hampering to my creativity that I have to create a carefully measured and detailed as-built before I can start with my ideas. My process is iterative, I want to add more and more detail as the project is refined. The architects I know hate this part and typically outsource the as-built to the intern.

Funny, I find creating a carefully measured as-build essential to starting the design process.

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Let me give an example. You have a Craftsman and are thinking of how a possible addition could work, and if it would be possible to add a balcony as well. The existing house is elaborate with many details. What if you could quickly measure up the exterior measurements with your Disto/tape and add the roof and some quick windows and doors, and then start to play with possible options. As you iteratively work on it you add more and more details to get a feeling for how it will look in it's context. The main model is the same, but the walls that are different are on mutually exclusive layers, one called Walls, Demolish and one called Walls, New. Same thing for other items. In Revit for example you can say that this part of the wall is in Phase Demolish and this one in Phase New. If you chose to show the model in Demolish mode it won't show the new walls and vice versa.

 

This workflow isn't possible today in Chief and you have to update the as-built and the new proposed model twice. I agree that the existing as-build can be essential for understanding a building, but not all of it and certainly not all brackets and millwork on a Craftsman. I like to show detailed as-builts as well and end up doing this finishing touches twice, once for the as-built and once for the proposed.

 

CAD software is meant to improve workflows, and just because we've always done something a certain way...well, you get the drift.

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Funny, I find creating a carefully measured as-build essential to starting the design process.

 

I agree totally. As mentioned above, how many times have I (we) sketched a great idea for a remodel/addition only to find out it just won't work like I envisioned it would because the existing walls, roofs, floor platforms, etc. just don't move where we would like them to be in our sketch (at least without spending money)? :) I always create an as-built model first, that way I know what I have to work with.

 

Mike

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Niclas,

 

You can add Walls, Normal Demo, Walls, Normal Existing, Walls, Normal New Layers and edit the appropriate walls to be on those Layers.  You can define the Linestyle for those Layers and control what shows in a Camera View Layer Set.

 

This all takes a bit of set up but it's not that hard to do and once done and saved along with appropriate Wall Types..........

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Let me give an example. You have a Craftsman and are thinking of how a possible addition could work, and if it would be possible to add a balcony as well. The existing house is elaborate with many details. What if you could quickly measure up the exterior measurements with your Disto/tape and add the roof and some quick windows and doors, and then start to play with possible options. As you iteratively work on it you add more and more details to get a feeling for how it will look in it's context. The main model is the same, but the walls that are different are on mutually exclusive layers, one called Walls, Demolish and one called Walls, New. Same thing for other items. In Revit for example you can say that this part of the wall is in Phase Demolish and this one in Phase New. If you chose to show the model in Demolish mode it won't show the new walls and vice versa.

 

This workflow isn't possible today in Chief and you have to update the as-built and the new proposed model twice. I agree that the existing as-build can be essential for understanding a building, but not all of it and certainly not all brackets and millwork on a Craftsman. I like to show detailed as-builts as well and end up doing this finishing touches twice, once for the as-built and once for the proposed.

 

CAD software is meant to improve workflows, and just because we've always done something a certain way...well, you get the drift.

Not the worst idea - at all - and it seems feasible on some level. Hard to wrap my brain around the how but that's usually best left to those who would actually know how. I'm usually committed to the as-built from the beginning so it's not that much extra work or inconvenience but I think your idea has merit - but what if at some point you don't like it any more? :D  :D  :D

 

BTW Nicinus I'm not sure iteratively means what you think it does. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/iteratively or at least I don't understand the context you are using it within.

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With a little tweaking it might be possible.  It would be pretty cool if the "Space Planning Tool" was 3D so we could move the spaces around and change their heights.

 

+1

 

Either that or perhaps the ability to turn 3D Boxes into "Rooms" or Other Objects, so you could use "boxes"  for the Massing part , a similar idea, to what I watched in the FormZ vids.

 

 

typically  I do Remodels so an As Built is numero uno  , as anything done is restrained by the Site/Existing Structure .........and the Client's Budget usually.... 

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...and I think it would depend entirely on the nature of the remodel. I'm adding a second floor to an existing craftsman with a lot of detail so the concept ideas will be pretty straight forward and the as-built is a necessary 'evil', I'm working on it now, but I like creating all the details.

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Yes sorry , not sure I was Clear last post , I work like you actually Larry .....very similar,  

 

The Space Planner with 3D Rooms or  3D Boxes idea comment was aimed at the New House Full Design Guys , but I'd like that ability too, as like Joe I sometimes "Play"  with the Space Planner Tool for Quick Layouts/Ideas , I would think a 3D Space Planner was possible since with a click you can turn 2D into full Rooms , it would be a nice 2nd step to be able to 1st turn the 2D into 3D Boxes (unconnected), and the next step be "Build House" from those "Boxes"

 

M.

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Niclas,

 

You can add Walls, Normal Demo, Walls, Normal Existing, Walls, Normal New Layers and edit the appropriate walls to be on those Layers.  You can define the Linestyle for those Layers and control what shows in a Camera View Layer Set.

 

This all takes a bit of set up but it's not that hard to do and once done and saved along with appropriate Wall Types..........

 

You can't do that if walls or windows share the same physical space.

 

 

Not the worst idea - at all - and it seems feasible on some level. Hard to wrap my brain around the how but that's usually best left to those who would actually know how. I'm usually committed to the as-built from the beginning so it's not that much extra work or inconvenience but I think your idea has merit - but what if at some point you don't like it any more? :D  :D  :D

 

BTW Nicinus I'm not sure iteratively means what you think it does. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/iteratively or at least I don't understand the context you are using it within.

 

Like what anymore? A new design idea? I would just delete that design option/mutually exclusive layer/phase or whatever it is called and create a new one without disturbing the core model.

 

Iterating means to repeat and refine something until one gets closer and closer to the end result, i.e. you start with a rough idea and refine it over and over until you are happy.

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You can't do that if walls or windows share the same physical space.

 

 

 

Like what anymore? A new design idea? I would just delete that design option/mutually exclusive layer/phase or whatever it is called and create a new one without disturbing the core model.

 

Iterating means to repeat and refine something until one gets closer and closer to the end result, i.e. you start with a rough idea and refine it over and over until you are happy.

Sorry Nicinus, sometimes I'm not smart enough to keep up with the intellect on this forum and can be a smart a$$ as well.

 

I was trying to say that your idea was a pretty good one then the smart a$$ kicked in and I suggested that you might not 'like it' any more like you don't like drawing as builts - sigh - hard to communicate without hand gestures and eye winks on the forums. No offense intended either way.

 

In the mean time I'll iteratively work on my forum posting skills. :)

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It's been really interesting to read all the responses, and I feel less crazy knowing that others would like some of the features I'm looking for.   I want to clarify that I agree it makes sense to create a detailed as-buillt model before starting the design of a renovation.  I was asking for schematic design modeling tools for massing that would be quicker and more intuitive than what Chief offers now.

 

For massing, it is not critical to work with "walls" and "roofs" which imply a hollow volume.  It is quicker to work with solid volumes that can be pushed, pulled, extruded, and cut away.  Yes, this could be done in another program, but if it were done in Chief then at least some of the intent and effort could be captured in a conversion to a conventional "hollow" model.  For example, I could establish some default characteristics of walls (2x6, sheathing, etc) and roofs.  Then I could create a massing model out of solid primitives (in Chief, using the soon to be invented tools) and "convert" it to a hollow model based on the defaults.

 

 I think Chief is fast enough with wall creation, but drawing individual roof planes, or defining gablle lines to generate roofs, is too time consuming in the massing stage.  I agree with others that polyline solids have the potential to be much more versatile in this respect.  An impressive part of the formZ example was the hip roof extrusion created by placing an X on the roof plane and pulling up. 

 

CA has always suffered from a bit of a bad reputation as a "builder's" design tool.  As a builder I appreciate what's great about the program, and I don't think the criticisms are fair, but the prejudice against pure modeling makes it easier for architects to reject.  Chief has matured to the point that it should go head to head against any architectural software.  There has been huge emphasis place on photorealism and presentation tools, but not enough on pure design.  As Gehry has shown, people are ready for canted walls and parabolic roofs.  Why can't Chief go there?  Chief would gain broader acceptance by architects if some unusual and cutting edge homes and buildings were created and showcased, rather than just fancy builder houses.   Maybe it just the ethos and values of the company-  are the lack of modeling tools a technical issue or a cultural one?  Is modeling for snobby architects and not practical builders?

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Isn't a room made up of walls, floor and ceiling just a box that you can drag in 3D - plus I can have auto roofs to roof it as I go, and get auto dimensions as I edit, plus...plus...plus...?

I now do all my concept and design work in Chief.

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Joe,

 

Your talking about layer sets. Part of the problem with Chief is the ability to truely define your layers and materials.

 

Attaching an example from Rhinoceros ........ Note: how you can do sub-layers, then sub-layers and so on..... I also opened up a layer material as an example of a lot of the power that other programs offer simply through being able to use layers much more effectively.

 

If Chief offered some of these possiblities items could be in the same space and different shapes, sizes, colors, etc. could be played with by simply turning specific layers off or on.

 

Blessing,

 

Kevin

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