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Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Design, Home planing, AdditionsHere, we offer plans, help and advice about architecture, interior design and planning. We will answer basic quesitons for free so don't hesitate to send them.Our business is architecture, planning, interior design, and construction. We have offices in Italy and Southern California.We also offer drafting and 3D renderings to professionals. We work hourly or by fixed fee. Tell us about your project. Contact us: hmarch@hotmail.com and visit our main website http://www.hm-architects.com/

People Props for VectorworksVECTORWORKS PEOPLE PROPS A collection of props for Vectorworks using pictures of real people. To use them just load the file and select the symbol to place it in your drawing. Props take up very little file space and they always face the rendered view. To purchase them click on the links below. Use just a few of them once and the savings in time over making your own pays for them and you can use them as many times as you like. See a short video here: http://youtu.be/TfbmgxU8dJ0 NOTE: It is also available for previous versions of VW, let us know which one you need. Click on the purchase link and have People Props to use in minutes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Virtual Reality it's here for architects

Review of Vectorworks Virtual Reality

By John Helm, Architect

When Vectorworks Inc. releases their 2017 version there will be one new feature that just may change the way we look at architectural design.  Virtual Reality, better known as VR, is a hot topic these days; the big names are all involved as are a few startups.   For the last few months I have been allowed to watch and even give a few suggestions as the programmers at Vectorworks have developed their new feature Web View/Virtual Reality.
Here is a quote from one of the programmers:  We are making Virtual Reality available to everyone – we are taking design out from behind the flat computer screen, and placing it all around the viewer making the design a very real physical experience.  The shape and forms surround the viewer and, this is available at any time - for anyone.”

In keeping with their ever expanding list of tools for architects, engineers, set and lighting designers, landscaped architects, and designers of just about anything physical, Vectorworks will add this new feature which allows the viewer of a design to immerse himself in the design. And the ability to do this does not come with the usual heavy price tag.  There is no need to buy anything other than the Google Cardboard type headset which can be had for as little as $15.  One would also need a pretty good smartphone.  But most of us already have one.

So what does this thing do; how does it work.  Simplicity is the key word.  You the designer can take your 3D model, your BIM, of your latest project to the level of detail you want.  Then while being online click on a new export feature that sends the model to the Vectorworks cloud.  After a bit of a wait your model will pop up in your internet viewer.  Now you can explore the model in 3D.  You can send the link to a client and by clicking on it the client can also view the model in 3D.  But here comes the fun part.  Copy the link to and open it on a smart phone then click on the Virtual Reality icon. Now the image of the model will change to a stereoscopic view.  Put the phone in your Google goggles and you are in.  That is inside the model.  You can walk around and look around all you want.  You can go up and down stairs.  Of course there are a few limitations.  It’s not going to be high definition and I suppose there will be some limits on the size of the model.  There’s a little bit of a learning curve in order to export the model and get oriented and in the right location when you start viewing.  But really the sense of actually being in the space and being able to walk around in it is amazing. 

Imagine the set designer can put himself in the audience and actually see what the spectators will see.  The landscape designer can walk through the garden.  The interior designer can put his client in the living room with all the new furniture in place and if the client hates it, he can save making a big mistake.  The architect can walk through his design and get a real feel for it before letting the client do the same while giving himself a chance to make changes.  Or let the client and his partner view the model using two different headsets and both can be exploring the new design at the same time. 

In my review of Vectorworks 2016 I mentioned the possibilities of virtual reality, “The next step is the use of visualization goggles to let the viewer immerse himself in our architecture before it’s built. “  Well I didn’t think it would be happening so soon.  Vectorworks just introduced this feature at their Design Summit and in a recent press release.  This is the tool that will change how we work.  


From this screen shot imagine you can start walking and looking all around as you walk.

Never before have we been able to actually put our clients right in the middle of a design, then let them look around in all directions. They can walk from room to room, even up and down stairs as if they were actually in the completed structure.   The people at Vectorworks are not telling you to spend $3,000 on some googles and upgrade your computer.  It is practically free and easy to use.

Let your clients see how the remodel of their townhome will look as if inside it.

OK, so back to reality.  The system I have been trying out still needs a bit of work.  But these guys at Vectorworks are like a bunch of mad scientists working on this thing day and night. I’m sure that by the time they come out with the official release version it will be beautiful. 

I should also mention that this new feature is not just for Virtual Reality.  By putting it in the cloud a link to the model can be sent anywhere and opened with a typical web viewer and then viewed in normal 3D. One can then orbit around it or walk through on the computer screen.  That’s a nice feature by itself.

The Google Cardboard viewer, yes it is made of cardboard.  But there are more sophisticated versions.


Virtual Reality viewing of designs from buildings to gardens is the next big thing.  Gaming has made many if not most of us familiar with an immersive experience in which we feel as if we are in a place or a world that does not really exist.  Even though games are for the most part just a pastime they have really paved the way for much more important uses of the technology that has developed around them.  That technology is rapidly changing the way we view things, from medicine to engineering and to all the fields of design.

Vectorworks is taking a big step in making Virtual Reality available to anyone who has their program.  They are making it easy to export a 3D model, that once exported is very user friendly. Any client can just put on his Google Cardboard headset and go Virtual.

It may be the one thing that brings many of those reluctant to join the BIM movement into the community of designers already working their designs in 3D. 


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Virtual Reality - We have it now

Buildings in the future will be designed with people in mind. That is what the article posted below says. Wow I always thought that is what we architects always do.  At least that is what I do.  Anyway here is something I think is exciting.  Scroll down to the part about virtual reality.  This is one area where clients will be able to experience the design before it's built in a way that will truly allow them to provide input to the architect and participate in the design process.  Not only is this exciting in general but it is for me personally because we at Helm & Melacini Architects are already into the technology.  Yes we can offer our clients the virtual reality experience.  It is totally new and so we are still a couple of months away from the final product.  But think of it; take a walk through your new office complex, rearrange your furniture and add a wall or two to your home and immediately see the result as if you were actually in the space.  That's what we are able to offer our clients.  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35763753

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


By John Helm Architect
2016 could be the best year yet for Vectorworks.  There is one big addition to the software that might just make all the difference.  In just about every review I have written I have complained that it was still best suited for the small to medium firms due to its lack of file sharing.  That is it was possible but difficult for more than one person to work on a file at the same time. Well it looks like they took my advice that is, mine and many others.  And they didn’t just make file sharing possible they made it easy and intuitive.
Migration Manager
The first thing you will do when installing the new version is use the new Migration Manager command which can automatically migrate custom workspaces, preferences, templates, favorite files, and libraries to the new Vectorworks version.  This should be a welcome tool as it eliminates most of the tedious work of resetting everything when you install the latest version.  
File Sharing
From my initial look it will make team work easy and fun.  They have taken a sort of social networking approach in which team members can communicate with each other while working on a team project.  If you need extra layers, post a note and a team member can respond agreeing to make them.  A complaint which I might call an advantage is that individual objects cannot be checked out for work, one must check out an entire layer.  That’s what makes it intuitive; VECTORWORKS users are familiar with the layer setup so the team manager can easily assign layers to team members.   I can imagine the confusion without a lot of management in that rival product Revit where “work sets” can consist of just about any object. 
Working Offsite
I immediately wondered if file sharing could also be used over the internet, that is could someone work on a project from home or from another office while others worked on it in the primary office.  I could not really try this myself but here is a quote from Christiaan Briggs, “I’ve been using Project Sharing over a VPN between my home in London and our office in London, both on very good internet connections. The save and commits were quick (much much faster than WGR updates for instance). Very workable in my opinion. On a slower connection you might have to go get a cuppa tea but I suspect it would still be very workable.” I would say that this also opens up some great opportunities for smaller offices to joint venture on projects they could not do on their own.  I can even imagine joint venturing with offices in other countries.  Yeah, I could be available, get your office working round the clock using different time zones.
The 100
What else has changed; they talk about 100 improvements.  Of course those improvements are spread throughout the various disciplines that VECTORWORKS covers so my focus will be on the big ones and those closer to my field of architecture.  Here is a short list taken from the VECTORWORKS press pages:
  • Project Sharing is an intuitive means for teams to communicate and collaborate while working concurrently on the same Vectorworks design file.
  • Subdivision Modeling allows designers to transform primitive shapes like spheres and cubes into any form imaginable.
  • Marionette is the first and only cross-platform, Python®-based graphical scripting tool in the AEC, landscape and entertainment industries. Designers can create visual scripts that take advantage of Vectorworks software's 2D and 3D modeling capabilities, integrating seamlessly with BIM environments.
  • Energos offers a dynamic, intelligent gauge of a building’s energy performance during the design process and is based on the Passivhaus calculation method.
  • Point Cloud Support allows designers using their preferred 3D scanning device to capture a physical location and import a 3D point cloud object into Vectorworks software to manipulate and measure.’
  • Roof Components and Styles will interact with wall components ensure accuracy in the documentation of sections and elevations. Roof faces and roof objects now have the same component representation as walls and slabs, further extending the power of BIM. 
  • Landmark Site Modifier and Hardscape Tool Improvements help landscape professionals and urban planners design more efficiently and be more creative with pavements and walkways, including sloping hardscapes. 
  • Several New Features and Improvements in our Renderworks module include an upgraded MAXON Cinema 4D® render engine, Caustic Capabilities with refraction of light through translucent surfaces, Ambient Occlusion that adds depth to designs with more realistic shadowing and the New Grass Shader, as well as new camera effects, such as depth of field, exposure, vignette and bloom, allow for more realistic and striking visualizations and animations.
Subdivision Modeling
No it’s not for modeling your latest tract house subdivision project.  Take any shape and manipulate it until you have created that impossible to build shape that will get you fired either by your client or your boss.  But hey how much fun did you have doing it.  I imagine Zaha Hadid wishes she had a copy of VECTORWORKS, maybe she does.  This is one of those features of VECTORWORKS that most architects won’t get a lot of use out of but it also shows the breadth of the program. Design a chair as below to be 3D printed or that 1960’s looking concrete free form structure from the VECTORWORKS demo video.  Why not take the program home and design some cool toys for your kids that you can 3D print.
What you can do with Surface Modeling
There is one that brings a smile to my face.  They call it Marionette, the first industry, cross-­platform, Python®-­based scripting tool”.  Why am I smiling, it’s because it will allow one to write a program that automates some repetitive activities within VECTORWORKS without actually writing anything; just pick and choose from a list of predefined bits of script that appear in graphical form.  Connect the pictures with lines and there you go; you’ve “written” your own little program.  We architects who couldn’t care less about learning coding have got to love it.  OK so I’m not totally sure how I would actually use it but it seems a great feature and I’m sure the ideas on how to use it will arrive.

Above is my attempt at using Marionette.  First you connect the “Nodes” as shown then “Wrap” them to make the block called Create Column (the Wrapper) then proceed to run it.  Inputs of radius, height, etc. are input in the Object Info pallet of the “Wrapper”.   There is a learning curve but it’s doable.
Point Cloud Support
I admit I had to do a Google search to find out what the term means.  Point cloud is the name given to various methods of 3D scanning of objects which can be anything from a simple toy to a complex building.  VECTORWORKS now allows the import of point clouds in several formats.  The idea is that VECTORWORKS can use the imported images to manipulate and measure.  This is ideal for working with existing buildings.  The important thing to keep in mind is that the industry is going more and more virtual.  With VECTORWORKS and most other BIM software the virtual walkthrough has been around for a while and as the software gets better so does the virtuality of the walkthrough.  Can we now combine our BIM model with real world scanned buildings and environments.  The next step is the use of visualization goggles to let the viewer immerse himself in our architecture before it’s built.  Next step after that is that we don’t even have to build it; just let the occupants imagine that it exists and interact virtually.
When we look at new features we have to look at those that are really new features not just changes or improvements to the existing program.  Energos is just that. Saving energy is the hot topic these days.  Energy calculations have been required in states like California for years and in Europe many countries are requiring all new construction to meet high standards of energy performance.  So what could be better than a program that comes with VECTORWORKS and runs within it, no need to export to an outside program. That’s pretty much in keeping with what I have always like about VECTORWORKS.  That is that it’s one program that will do everything the designer or architect needs to do to complete a design and present it.   
Here is a quote from the VECTORWORKS help file: “Energos is the integrated energy analysis component of the Vectorworks Architect program. With both graphical and numerical feedback based on the Passivhaus calculation method, Energos allows you to evaluate the energy performance of a building even if you are not an energy analysis professional. Easy-to-understand feedback will assist you in both the early design stages and as the building design evolves.”
Of course there is a bit of work involved; your model must consist of elements that contain the information regarding energy consumption, heat loss or gain, etc.  However, to make the job easier the program comes with some basic configurations for residential and non-residential building types.

Typical readout from Energos showing a performance level
Renderworks is the rendering feature sold as an add on to the various versions.  It’s a must have as most of the 3D rendering capabilities are lost without it.  The question is why design in 3D and not be able to present it in the best way possible.  It is improved again this year with an upgraded MAXON Cinema 4D® render engine.  What this means is that the user need not go to any other software in order to produce spectacular photo realistic renderings.  Some people will tell you there are better choices for rendering, but do you really need to do more than you see in the picture below.  The only thing to be disappointed about is not having the projects that allow fully using the program.
Renderworks samples from the VECTORWORKS website
3D Export to PDF
You made that great model of your design now what.  You invite your client to your office or take your laptop to a meeting for a virtual walk through and you might even make a movie, or print out various views.  All of that is easy with Vectorworks.  But an even easier and more fun thing for your client is being able to send him the model that he can view, walk through, and play with at his leisure.  This was possible in the past with the viewer program.  But with the export to 3D PDF this becomes easy for the designer and the client.  The 3D PDF program allows one to turn layers on or off, make sections, walk through and fly over.  It’s all very easy and uses the Adobe program most of us already have.  This is a feature not given much attention in the news releases, but really, a very useful tool.
3D Modifiers for Slabs and Create Slab Style
This is a big deal.  You could do this in the past by creating a slab then combing or adding elements to an extruded polygon.  But how much fun is that.  The new tool makes it easy and you can even create slab styles for use on other projects. 

Slab Created with the 3D Slab Modifier Tool
Other changes and improvements
Here is a list of a few that I have not covered but think are important you can read about them on the VECTORWORKS website:
Roof Joining
Linked Section Markers
Wall Styles
Roof Framing
Auto Scale
Door and Window Improvements
Stair Improvements, woops they missed this one
Improved Autojoin Walls
Roof Component Styles
Section Elevation Marker
Story and Style Edit Menu
People Props
Props are symbols made in such a way that in 3D views they always face the viewer.  This is useful for making and placing objects in rendered views.  Since, they are 2D they add very little to the file size.  They are basically like props in a stage setting.  I have made several using pictures of real people and have them for sale on my blog: http://www.helpudesign.blogspot.it/ On the blog you can also find past reviews of VECTORWORKS.
File Compatibility
VECTORWORKS is both a Mac and PC program so the files can go between them without issues.  Many architects are afraid of AutoCAD, that is how can they work with all those consultants who use it; they needn’t be.  VECTORWORKS comes with a long list of import export options including, IFC, 3DS, Dwg, etc, allowing one to move easily amongst the various popular CAD and BIM programs. 
Training and Learning Vectorworks
I contend that anyone with experience using computers, and other CAD programs can pick up the basics and be productive with VECTORWORKS on their own in a few days.  But there are online and onsite courses and perhaps the best way to train new hires or learn oneself is to get a copy of Jonathan Pickup’s “Vectorworks Architect”.  He takes a step by step approach starting with the basics.  If you spend a week going through all the exercises you will be good to go on just about any project.  If you are really a newcomer to CAD start out with “Vectorworks Essentials”.  http://www.vectorworks.net/training/guides.php
I have not attempted to touch on all the features of VECTORWORKS but to discuss a few of the changes and additions in the latest upgrade.  As far as I can see nothing has been taken away and only new stuff added.  So have a look at my previous reviews which you will find on the internet for more discussion of other features.  http://www.helpudesign.blogspot.it/2015/01/vectorworks-2015-review.html. This year’s issue has made some really big changes which will make it an absolute purchase or upgrade for any but the one man office.  Primarily I’m talking about file sharing.  It has been the one big thing missing from the program and now it has it.  VECTORWORKS is a well-rounded program which is easy to learn.  Check around for user reviews on the internet and find how people have picked it up and been productive in just a few days of self-study.  The designer series comes with a full set of packages, lighting and set design, landscape design, architecture and just design in general.  Use it to design a poster, a chair, a tool or a cathedral.  In today’s world where we all have to at least be prepared to move sideways in our careers what could be better than knowing how to use a program that can go along with us.
I used it to modify this Logo, and I’m thinking about building a Murphy Bed for the guest room workout room at home.
The sad thing is that too few people use VECTORWORKS compared to Revit and AutoCAD.   And that has nothing to do with the quality of the program. 
Easy to learn efficient to use
It’s a one stop shopping program for anyone in the design business.
No need to learn and purchase 2 or 3 programs to get your work done 
File sharing is easy to use and learn.
Offsite file sharing is possible using VPN
Energy analysis included in VECTORWORKS architect.
The price is reasonable.
Allows cross over work from architecture to design, lighting, stage design, and landscape design.
Numerous import export options makes working with consultants using other programs easy.
Non plug in symbols cannot be modified in batches.
No multi view screens
Relatively low user base
Limited job opportunities in the architecture industry
I like and have used VECTORWORKS for years in my architectural practice.  I would like to see more people using it; I have not had a lot of experience with other programs and I am not capable of or willing to say other programs are better or worse.  I was also given a free copy so that I could write this review.
John Helm
Helm & Melacini Architects