SST_1804 – Putting a Project Together

1804 – Workflow, putting together a large project

In the past we have looked at Design Layers, Classes, Viewports, Sheet layers, and other organising concepts. The purpose of this manual is to look at how to bring all these together to work on a large project. We will be looking in detail at some of these concepts to see how they would come together for a larger project.
The workflow that we can use for a large project depends on the type of large project that we’re talking about and the number of people working on the project:

  • Large single building (school or office)
  • Multiple building (school or office)
  • Hospital
  • Medium-density housing subdivision
  • High-density housing (apartment building)
  • Multiple building project with a single large building (holiday resort)
  • Large hotel
  • Motel
  • Etc.

Some of these projects can be grouped together and dealt with in the same way:

  • Large single buildings with repeating units (hospitals, apartments, hotels)
  • Multiple building projects with repeating buildings (holiday resorts, schools, low-density housing, medium-density housing)

We should also look at the number of people that will be working on each project. Some of these projects tend to have several people working on them, mainly because of the project’s scale. Some projects, while large, can still be worked on by a single person. The number of people working on the project will affect the way that you structure the project. For example, a large single building like a school or hospital might have several people working on it and because of this, it should be set up using project sharing. A project that has multiple repeating buildings does not have to be set up using project sharing, but could be set up using referencing so that one person might be responsible for drawing a single building and another person could reference the model and locate it on the site.
I have worked on a medium-density housing project that had about 15 houses on it. For that project, I was the only one working on it. The project was easy to draw as there were several units that were repeated. All that was required was one unit that could be mirrored, rotated, and copied. In this case, I used a symbol for each unit. That way, any changes to the original plan would automatically update the site plan, floor plans, sections, and elevations.
This is the real aim, to set up the drawing so that changes to the plan or to an apartment will flow through the document set.
For this manual, we will be looking at an apartment building that has repeating units.

Basic Concepts

At the outset, we need to ensure that we understand the basic concepts and when to use them. These are the building blocks of our project. If we do not learn to use these basic concepts, then we are creating extra work and leaving ourselves open to mistakes.

Design Layers and Classes

Design layers are the main way to locate information in our model. You can think of each design layer as being a part of the building. For example, the Floor-1 design layer is where we would create the walls, doors and windows, furniture, fixtures, electrical, etc. for the first floor of the project. If the project was complex, we might separate the slab for this floor into its own layer. We could also create a separate layer for the ceiling of this level of the building.
Classes are what things are. For example, furniture could be on its own class so that you can turn furniture on and off separately from something such as sanitary fixtures. You can put all of the electrical lighting on a separate design layer. Because the ceiling can also include the electrical work in the ceiling, the electrical work should be on its own class, but stored in the same design layer as the ceiling. Electrical work that relates to walls and floors should be stored in the same design layer as the walls and floor finishes, but on its own class so that it can be made visible or invisible as required.
We have covered design layers and classes several times previously. A good manual to start with is 1704 Creating Drawings for Building Projects.
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Symbols are relatively small repeatable objects. You may know about using symbols for things like furniture, electrical work, sanitary fixtures, etc.
You can also use symbols for parts of a building. For example, you could create the furniture layout for an apartment with the living, dining, and kitchen furniture as part of that symbol so that when you update the symbol, all of the apartments that use the symbol would automatically update. If you are using stories, you can link the elevations of symbols to a story level. When you edit the elevation of the level, all the symbols adjust.
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You could use a symbol for the entire apartment, including all of the walls, doors, windows, etc. The challenge with this method is what to do when apartments have walls that overlap. When you use a symbol for the plan of the apartment (including the walls), Vectorworks ignores the wall layer height of the layer and it also ignores any of the story levels. If you have set up your wall styles to use stories or a layer wall height, the walls will lose their heights in the symbol. The answer is to manually set the wall heights or to use wall styles that do not connect to a layer wall height or story levels. If there is a substantial change in the floor-to-floor heights in the building, you will have two edit the symbol and update the walls.
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Stories are collections of design layers and are useful when creating a multi-story building. If you have to adjust the floor-to-floor heights of the building, stories will move all of the design layers to keep the model in order.
Stories will not work with walls that are inside symbols or with referenced files; they will work with files set up for project sharing. The example that I am using here is a project set up with a single large building, which means that I can use stories in this project. We can set the project up using stories and use them to control the external walls and some of the internal walls. I would suggest that the shell walls could be connected to the stories, but not the walls inside each apartment, because these could be part of an overall apartment symbol.
If you have a project that has multiple buildings or buildings with multiple floor levels, stories will not be suitable. A story cannot occupy the same volume as another story.

Object Styles

Object styles are part symbol and part individual. The concept of object styles is very powerful because it allows you to control some parts of the object while leaving some other parts flexible.
For example, in the case of our apartment, we could use an object style for a window. If our building had more than one type of cladding (siding/weatherboard and brickwork), we would normally need two symbols for each window to suit the installation type. If we use a window style, we could set the options so that the jam size and depth are flexible to suit the overall wall thickness, which would make it easier to control all of the windows.
We covered the concept of object styles in a manual 1711 Door and Window Styles.

Intermediate Topics


The workflow that we are going to use will be based on setting up the project with stories. Each story will have a series of layers for the  floor plan, slab, and ceiling:

  • Floor-1 ( walls/furniture/fittings/electrical/doors/windows)
  • Slab-1 (foundation/slab)
  • Ceiling-1 (ceiling/electrical/HVAC)

There will be a separate design layer with the building grid. We could use a symbol for the building grid and then apply it to each floor layer, but it is often easier to set up a separate design layer for the building grid so that it can be shown on every layer that requires one.
The exterior walls and the interior fire separation walls are drawn on the design layer (Floor-1). These walls will include any doors and windows. Door and window numbers will be included in this layer. We will not include door or window numbers in the apartment interior symbol because we will have to make door and window numbers individual to each apartment.
Apartment interiors will be symbols including furniture, sanitary fixtures, floor finishes, small power, and doors. Apartment room names can be included in the symbol. Apartment room numbers can be included in the symbol if we create them using the Link Text to Record command. This would allow us to edit each apartment symbol and change the room number specifically to suit that apartment. However, it might create a rather complex room numbering system.


This is going to be a multi story apartment building and there has to be repeatability between the apartments. For example, this building has four apartments on each floor. If each apartment was drawn individually, there could be an opportunity for each apartment be slightly different. If each apartment has to be identical, then we have to find some way of making sure that each apartment is the same.
One way to ensure that the apartments are consistent is to make the interior of the apartment into a symbol which can then be repeated for each apartment layout. The symbol could be in this file or the symbol could be referenced from separate file.
Another way to ensure consistency is to draw the apartments in a separate file and create a reference from that file. This takes the form of a design layer viewport.
There is an advantage in separating the apartment layout into another file. This would allow another designer to draw the apartment plan, allowing multiple users to work in the same project.
There is no clear preference for using a symbol over using a design layer viewport. If you require several people to work on the project, you can still use symbols and you can still use separate files. Instead of referencing a design layer viewport, you would be referencing the apartment symbols. In both cases, the walls were no longer be connected to the stories of the building and would have to be adjusted manually if the building heights changed.

Door and Window Numbering

We require repeatability in the apartment layouts. We require every door and window number to be an individual. If we put the door and window numbers inside the apartment symbols or inside the apartment design layer viewports, then every door to the bathroom in every apartment will have the same number. This gives rise to problems on-site. A common solution is to have the floor number or the apartment number as part of the door number. For example, the entry door for the first apartment might be A1-D01. The next door in that apartment would be A1-D02, etc.
A solution is to use a separate symbol for the door numbering and another symbol for the window numbering. The symbol could then be connected to a database so that you can record whatever you want to about the doors and windows. The symbol would not be located within the apartments but would be used on the floor layer, in the same way that we drew the exterior walls and the shell walls for the apartments.
One way of elevating or giving full details about the doors is to create a door elevation drawing which shows the details of each door type. On the door schedule you would then say that apartment door A1-D01 was Door Type A, for example. The contract only needs to look at the elevation of Door Type A to know the size, configuration, and what jambs, head, and sell details are required. The door schedule might also give unique information for that door about the hinge colour, door handle type, etc.
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This might seem like a very long and laborious process. Remember that you can use the eyedropper tool to copy record format information from one door to another. For example, every bathroom door might have the same handle, privacy lock, hinges, et cetera. The only difference would be the door number. The eyedropper could be used to copy the record format information from one door to the next. All that needs to change as the apartment number.
One of the advantages of setting up your own door or window key along with the record format, is that you now have total control over what you want record about each door or window.
The Vectorworks door or window has a lot of information about the door size, configuration, and hardware. This may not give you the information that you require. Creating your own record format does give you the ability to have any information that you want.
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When you create your record format you can choose to use pop-up fields that will limit the information for each field. For example, the window configuration might want to be limited to:

  • sash
  • casement
  • fixed

Allowing the user to type these window types into the record format could lead to typographic errors or the user choosing the wrong type of configuration. Creating a pop-up field makes it easy for the user to choose the correct spelling, the correct configuration, and it limits the user choosing or creating the wrong configuration.
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Finally, creating symbols allows you to choose the classes that the symbol will be assigned to. You should always make sure that your symbols are set up so that they are always assigned to the correct class. This will avoid mistakes with symbols turning up when you do not want to see them or them not showing up when you do.

Wall Styles


Creating Drawings

The final stage is to bring all this together to make your drawings. With the correct workflow, creating the drawings should be a reasonably straightforward process of creating the viewports and sheet layers.
Remember that most of the hard work in organising has already been done by making sure that our resources are correctly created.

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