CARMELHILL

Chief For Commercial? Where Do You Think It Lacks?

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I was using Vectorworks years ago. At the time I was almost 100% residential work. I hated 2 things, I felt they were starting to gear the program more towards commercial work like Archicad or Revit so they could pull in more corporate money. I also hated that the program truly lacked automatic elevations, sections, and details. So I switched to Chief X2 and have since been EXTREMELY happy.

 

Now my practice is starting to pull in some commercial work, and I find Chief is woefully lacking. I don't want two programs in the office and I must stress I HATE Autocad. I feel Chief has done a tremendous job refining Chief into what it is today, and adding a Mac version was probably a good idea since so many schools have converted to Mac...you have to provide those graduates with a drafting option. But isn't it time Chief starts coming up with a few solutions for some commercial projects?

 

What do you think could be improved or have you found a work around that you could share?

 

I might be doing some things wrong, but here are some problems I encounter......

 

1. Their solution to reflected ceiling plans is absurd. Have you ever watched one of the training videos and tried to make it work? Because it doesn't. I think they are mirror image backwards from what I've done in the past. Vectorworks had a great tool where you drew a 2d polygon, it filled with a 2 x 2 or 2 x 4 pattern and you could adjust the pattern within the polygon. You could then insert lights into the pattern. The pattern self centered in the polygon. Simple but genius. If you could transfer that into a 3d method so it appears correctly with interior renderings and 3d 2' x 4' light fixtures it would be awesome.

 

2. Input a symbol like a smoke detector or carbon monoxide sensor into a 1/8" scale project and the symbol is tiny on the sheet. Can we get some auto resize instead of having to create a new 1/8" 2d symbol block and reattaching it inside the plan.

 

3. A basic commercial symbol library would be nice. The restaurant symbol library we have is a good start. A dedicated commercial electrical and HVAC symbol library that auto scales the 2d plan symbol into an 1/8" or 1/4" scale plan would be perfect.

 

4. More useable macros that we can use to compile complicated site plans for septic designs, parking designs, parking drainage, landscaped area as opposed to paved impermeable areas, etc...

 

5. A better door and window schedule. X8 looks better so far, but in most commercial projects, each door needs it's own number. I know there is a work around to attach a specific number to each door/window, but it's needlessly time consuming. That needs to be improved. It would also be nice to be able to modify a door or window directly through the schedule and have it update in the plan. Vectorworks had this ability way back in 2010.

 

I still use Chief for lite commercial but I know it's not the best implementation. Can we get some commercial stuff moving along?

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A few major deficiencies (IMO):

1. Hollow metal doors and frames.

2. Storefronts.

3. Parapets.

4. Handrail and guardrail extensions, returns, etc.

5. Ability to parametrically draw modular office partitions (cubicles) and toilet partitions. I currently use railing walls, but there are certain drawbacks to this technique.

6. Allow lavatories to cut custom countertops without a base cabinet beneath.

7. Better stair controls for steel pan drop-in stairs, metal stairs, etc.

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I designed this initial concept in CA of a commercial strip mall.  The largest thing CA lacks IMO is any method for creating "components".  Commercial often has elements (both large and small) that are repeated.  In Sketchup, Vectorworks, Revit, ArchiCad etc etc you have the ability to make master components and copy those while retaining their link to the master (or then isolating as a new individual component).  CA has "blocks", but the limitations on what you can put in a block is too great to be effectively used for this purpose.

 

Modular design for hotels, schools, office buildings is a major aspect of commercial architecture.  CA has no support for this currently.  This project was a great example of why components are necessary - I had repeating elements that included walls/doors/windows etc that I couldn't "group" (block) and reuse in other areas of the design.

 

 

 

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I for one hope Chief NEVER moves in the commercial direction. Almost everything out there is commercial based as it is so the need for a software program totally focused on residential design is paramount. Mixing the two will only end up with broken focus and neither discipline will receive the company's full attention. As of now there are certainly more than enough areas needing more attention in Chief without moving off in another direction. Chief is as good as it is for home design because of the fact it is purely a home design software.

 

The cost for commercial design software is much higher but the typical Architect / Designer's return is much higher too. I would have no problem paying for a second application to produce commercial designs if that was something I cared to do. One job would pay for the software and the user ends up with a program dedicated to the commercial discipline.

 

I can see where a lite commercial building now and again works in Chief, I designed two different church buildings and was able to make it work out with the tools Chief offers but let's keep Chief Architect, Inc. doing what Chief is famous for, residential design. Be careful what you ask for as you very well may end up regretting it. 

 

My two cents....

 

As it is currently is CA already markets the app for light commercial.  I personally think "light" commercial is where the line should be drawn, as the app is nearly there now and light commercial isn't very far off from residential construction methods.  CA development in this area would benefit residential only users as well.

 

I agree though the focus should remain residential.

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Where have I heard that before?

 

Hum, I think it might have been from Lew come to think of it.  :)

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I do agree that the program is top notch for residential. But part of me says you never turn away work, even if it's outside you comfort zone. If your not expanding, not growing, your not truly successful.

So how do we accomplish lite commercial with the limited tools we have? Give us some basics. HVAC schematic design symbols.

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I was using Vectorworks years ago. At the time I was almost 100% residential work. I hated 2 things, I felt they were starting to gear the program more towards commercial work like Archicad or Revit so they could pull in more corporate money...

 

I think you said a lot with this statement.  Chief has to be careful how far they go.  I'm sure they don't want to alienate their main user base and its my strong belief that we need to keep things specialized.  The best and most effective tools are always specialized.  Might sound a bit harsh, but I think if a business wants to grow and really get into doing commercial work, great, but just switch programs.

 

That being said, I agree that there are a few minor things Chief could probably add without being sellouts and without screwing the program up.  I was talking to an architect a while back who chose Archicad over Chief simply due to the fact Chief had no curtain wall tools.  I'd say the 4 most common things I've heard in passing throughout the years are...

 

1.  Curtain walls

2.  Sloped walls

3.  HVAC tools

4.  "BIM"

 

I think the first 2 would be an excellent addition even for the specialized tool Chief is now. 

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From what I have seen, the problem Chief faces is the same problem that all of the automated systems currently face, and that is creating viable automated systems while still providing the tools req'd for customization.

On one side of the spectrum we have programs such as AC that you can pretty much create any geometry that you may want. The cost is in the time it takes you to learn how to use these tools at an effective level, and then the time it actually takes you to put all of these customized pieces together into a complete model and then pull CD's. It can be done, but most folks really don't want to have to beat themselves up with this level of detail. So then a measure of automation is introduced out of necessity.

The other side of the spectrum focuses on automated systems that work wonderfully, up to a point. Where I see the divide is that Chief seems to shy away from creating more powerful CAD and 3D Solid modeling tools, at least at this point in time. Whereas their competitors are actively trying to incorporate these types of features that have been around for quite some time in programs such as AC into their automated systems.

To each his own as far as which way to go IMO. The problem that I see is that so much is being lost when we only have one option or the other to choose from. For all of the hype about BIM by certain developers, the reality is that what they really want is not an open playing field where the best products win, it is simply market share. There is actually considerable push back from government agencies world wide on these issues. It seems that what they want to do is to promote the development of BIM tools that actually aid in the exchange of information between all parties early in the design process. Un-American it may appear, but still rather interesting IMO.

What I would like to see is better file exchange so that the best tools and processes win. Chief does appear to be moving in that direction, but a bit slow for what I would like to see. So, how I see it, and I believe market pressure will direct this development is toward hybrid systems where file exchange is fundamental. Actually I have found that a lot can be done in this regard with Chief currently, so long as you are willing to fight your way through the lack of compatibility. Too bad, so close but yet so far, IMO.

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As of now there are certainly more than enough areas needing more attention in Chief without moving off in another direction. Chief is as good as it is for home design because of the fact it is purely a home design software.

It's not unusual for custom homes to incorporate some features that are more often seen in commercial work. We run into problems executing our designs using Chief on a regular basis because the software lacks the tools for some aspects of high-end custom residential work.

 

The cost for commercial design software is much higher but the typical Architect / Designer's return is much higher too.

I disagree. The commercial market is just as (or more) competitive as the residential market. Just because project budgets are higher doesn't mean the architect is able to jack up their fees or percentages.

 

I would have no problem paying for a second application to produce commercial designs if that was something I cared to do. One job would pay for the software and the user ends up with a program dedicated to the commercial discipline.

In an office with several employees the cost of software multiplies very quickly. 

 

I can see where a lite commercial building now and again works in Chief, I designed two different church buildings and was able to make it work out with the tools Chief offers but let's keep Chief Architect, Inc. doing what Chief is famous for, residential design. Be careful what you ask for as you very well may end up regretting it.

Every day I regret what Chief is not able to achieve.

 

This is taken directly off the Chief website:

"For all aspects of residential and light commercial design."

 

How can they make this statement without providing the basic tools you need for even the simplest commercial job, such as a tenant build-out? No hollow metal framed doors? No storefronts? Unless they mean to say "home office", any claim to catering to the light commercial market is an outright lie.

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Ok, so, from what I have read, Chief needs to be used in conjunction with another package, like ACAD or even Sketch-Up.  Chief's 2D CAD is or has been, Painfully lacking.  Presently I use a combination of Sketch-Up, Chief and ACAD, each for their strengths.  I have a business model for architecture that Real Estate uses.  The biggest issue is scalability from one office to the next office.

 

It seems that Chief has a real potential to scale with other software packages in mutual support of each other.  To try to accomplish the entire range of building types with just one platform is probably not there and rightly so.  For residential, Chief is fine.  For Lite commercial, it's reaching it's limits and for heavy commercial, it's not going to do the job.  But it has it's strengths, as we all do.  So, use it for it's strengths and supplement the other needs with other software. 

 

After all, one doesn't need to have the newest version each software platform.

 

Just my humble observations.

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It seems that Chief has a real potential to scale with other software packages in mutual support of each other.  To try to accomplish the entire range of building types with just one platform is probably not there and rightly so.

I would point out that X8 has a few features that make working with other software packages much better. Not good, but quite a bit better. So, I would say that in order for this to work best one would need to think about using the latest version of Chief, and, as you say, maybe not the latest version of another package, but one that at least works well enough to get the job done.

I would like to point out that there are currently far too many workarounds slash secret handshakes required to be what I would call practical. The potential is there IMO, but Chief would need to make a few improvements to symbols and file exchanges for this to be a reality.

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Will,

 

I primarily do residential projects.  However, I do some commercial using Chief.  During my career I've done all kinds of projects including hospitals and office buildings.  Some of those projects were Steel Frame, Masonry and Concrete.

 

I have no problem using Chief for any of the above.  The tools exist within Chief to do everything that's needed except the actual engineering.  But none of the other Apps do the engineering either.  Chief will do up to 30 stories.  It probably wouldn't be suitable for a Stadium or most other non-linear shaped structures, but otherwise .....

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I've been kicking around making the move from 9.5 to X8 but would like to use it more for commercial type projects.  From what I see, no program has moved totally away from 2D drafting capability.  Detailing is still the critical aspect of any CD set.  Sections Still need to be tweaked with 2d information.  The biggest aspect seems to be the learning curve for the many platforms.  From my point of view, Chief can do a great job with 3D renderings that export out to ACAD.DWG.  Each to their strengths.  After all, we are STILL directly tied to paper 2D drawings that are used in the field.  Until we figure out how to cross that threshold, it seems that we use what we know the best and are most comfortable with.

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1.  Curtain walls

 

Interestingly, i've seen many new modern homes with curtain walls in them - so I agree this is something they should add no matter what. 

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I've used 2D CAD from 1980 to 2006.  The last 20 years of that was AutoCAD.  When I started using Chief (Version 9.5) I learned to use Chief's 2D Tools which don't work the same as AutoCAD but they actually provide all the functionality - but just differently. 

 

Learn how Chief's tools work - including the ability to generate 2D from the 3D.  I do all details in Chief and I can do it faster than I ever could with AutoCAD.

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Interestingly, i've seen many new modern homes with curtain walls in them - so I agree this is something they should add no matter what. 

What are you really looking for in curtain walls?  Do you want 3D Symbols that snap in place as walls or something else?  There are ways to do this in Chief.  Give me an example and I'll show you how.

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Here is a 3D PDF file to check out.  Not to say 2D documents are not important, but I was talking to a framing sub the other day about setting him up with a similar 3D PDF file to the one below.  The first thing he said was, can I use it on my phone?

 

The answer to that question is a long story, but it can be done if you know how to go about it.  The younger generation would far prefer to use a phone or tablet to a set of plans it seems.

 

To view the file you will probably need the newer Adobe Acrobat Reader DC in order to get it to work.  It is a free download.  Once you open the plan click on the allow once option in the upper right of the screen if req'd.  Next click on the white portion of the screen and wait until the file loads.  This should only take a minute or less.  Make what ever setting you want to make to the render styles or lighting and use the mouse to fly around the model.

 

You can control the layer display by checking or unchecking the boxes on the left side of the screen.  I am still learning how to set these files up properly, so you will probably find a few places where to model is not quite as detailed as I would like.  But, my later ones are getting much better and faster to produce as well.

 

Even though this is a residential project, the basic principles are the same for commercial applications with the exception that many of the components may require custom modeling.  There are also methods when using Chief and other applications to produce plan and section views that include dimensions.  This goes a long way toward lessening the need for 2D detailing.

TC 2015 McC Z 3D PDF.PDF

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Perhaps the best alternative is to have Chief make an "add-on'. I know that the heavy duty 3D solid modeling software we use for our engineering  work has "add ons". if we need sheet metal, plastics or other types of materials, we just buy the on on package specific to the material we work with. Maybe chief could make one that is a more advanced package specifically for commercial design that those who do heavier commercial designing can use. :unsure: Just a thought.

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This approach might be in line with what your seeing on the Library portion of the site. Did anyone notice the "specialty" librarys like crime scene investigation are now an ADDITIONAL cost? Make sure you export it from X7 and import it to X8 before uninstalling your old program. Otherwise you'll have to buy it.

 

but this approach would make sense for specialty add ons. Even Sketchup Pro has hundreds of extensions that are free and pay for. I saw a great HVAC ductwork and an engineering piping extension that would be great for cheif work. And I'd be fine paying extra for it because I realize many core residential users wouldn't want any of their SSA development money going into it.

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No one made you buy the software.

 

You're right - nobody made me buy it. Unfortunately, my boss decides what software we use. If it were up to me we'd still be using AutoCAD and Revit. But that's beside the point. When we started using Chief they made no claims about it's suitability for commercial use. Now they do. If they're going to make the claim, they need to back it up.

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Will

 

I just checked it and the model is there.  In the older versions of the adobe reader the model would load automatically.  With the new DC Reader some files require that you both allow the file to be opened, and then you also will need to left click once on the white model viewing area in the center of the screen.

 

Sometimes it takes a while for the model to load so that it shows on screen.  I am not exactly sure why it works that way, but I have found that some 3D PDF files would not open unless the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader DC was used.  Another quirk that used to come up was that sometimes a file would not open unless the file was first downloaded and then opened rather than just opening from it's online location.

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I think Chief ought to have more commercial friendly also. I design Light commercial - up to 115,000 retail centers, warehouses, resturants, clubs, auto shops, beauty salons, 2 story office buildings, climate control facilities, medical facilities, wedding halls, gas stations, private schools, space planning, lease spaces, churches and other commercial projects. 

 

Newell Cheatheam, CPBD, FAIBD, TIBD 

www.newellsdesigns.com 

Katy, Tx. 

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