Architect Special Interest Group December 2017 (am)


In this session, we looked at how to set up design layers and stories for a project with a complex building design.

Topics Covered:

  • 00:17    We began by just discussing and sketching the concepts that we were talking about. A design layer is like a container—it has a level, or elevation. Some people like to put exterior and interior walls on different design layers—they use the layers to turn the walls on and off. However, I think it makes the walls difficult to connect. A design layer should be thought of as a shoe box that you just keep tossing stuff into until it’s full. However, there are a couple of provisos: If things get complicated, design layers are a great way to keep things simpler. For example, if you have an apartment building where there are three different ceiling levels—one in the building corridor, one in the apartment bath and hallway area, and one in the living room area—it might be too complex to use only one layer. Another reason to have this design spread out over more than one design layer is if you need to assign the work to more than one person. However, doors and windows must be on the layer with the walls, or they won’t fit into the walls. For our complex apartment building, we decided to separate the slabs, walls, and ceilings onto different design layers. So, for this project, our design layers don’t match up with our different stories.
  • 13:20    We agreed that we were going to have slabs, walls, and ceilings as different design layers. Next, we looked at how this translated into the stories. For each story, we would have different levels: a main ceiling, a high ceiling, a baseboard, a door head, a window head, etc. In our scenario, design layers contain objects, while levels control the elevations of things. The levels are relative to the Story Elevation. Classes would still need to be used for fine control. Design layers contain the objects, while the classes control them.
  • 23:40    Next, we switched over to a Vectorworks file to begin putting our discussion into practice. First, we looked at the story levels—we found that some of the standard Vectorworks levels didn’t make sense to us! We deleted some, redefined some, and created others. Soon we had all the levels that we needed. You need to decide whether your structural floor or your finished floor will be set as your Story Elevation. Many things—light switches, stairs, cabinets, toilets—are set from the finished floor.  It should be part of a company strategy so that every project is the same.
  • 36:20    We finished the session with more sketching. Often, you’ll need to sketch out beforehand the level of detail that you’ll need. This will be invaluable in setting up your story levels. You’ll need levels for the balcony, the balcony balustrade, the bottom of the cladding, the baseboard, the light switches, the power sockets, etc. If you know that you’ll need a level for a particular object but don’t know the exact level, you can set it up before your project and change the height later. We will continue discussing these concepts in future sessions. Vectorworks allows you to handle projects with great complexity by combining design layers with stories and classes!

Architect December 2017 am
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