VisualArq 2 issues and VA 3 update

Hi all,
I am using visual arq evaluation and I I tried creating a 3 storied building. I already built the structure in Revit (after getting frustrated in VA) . Ultimately I was planning to buy a VA perpetual license. But after using VA for a week I am really disappointed with how buggy it is and still it has many command missing that is essential while BIM modeling. I really miss basic commands like wall align feature, auto dimensions, trimming of VA objects in plan, no snapping features to building levels, Creating a basic U shaped stairs (most annoying one) etc. So now I am really confused to invest on this. Can anyone has any insight for Visual arq3. Does VA3 include more BIM accurate commands and should I buy it now !

I understand your frustration 100%. Just be aware that a 100% full workflow in Rhino requires an entirely different approach and mentality compared to working with Revit. I’ll share my perspective along with a couple test projects I’ve whipped up recently:

I created what seems like a basic house and did up some plans fully in Rhino (using native Rhino… I have Visual ARQ and didn’t use it for this… I’ll get to that later). This stems from a previous discussion about whether you can actually do this in Rhino (or not) - that is having a fully documented project. And you can. Comparing to Rhino to Revit, Revit has much better annotation capabilities, among other things (so does AutoCAD). Revit of course is “full BIM” as well of course.
Yet… a house like this (or it’s final form at least) can actually be completed faster in Rhino, even with the slower documentation tools.

The reason is quite simple: Revit is blazingly fast but flounders when dealing with some of the finer details. Or anything outside the general purpose of the software. Just making some relatively simple exterior trim for example:
image

I could model the shell of the house WAY faster in Revit. But then dealing with things like custom trim, railings, windows, etc… I actually make up the time difference and then some. I’ve modelled an even simpler house in Revit and it took longer than this one in Rhino. It can be done in Revit but it’s slower.

If you have very basic repetitive work, and deep enough pockets to afford Revit, then it’s a not brainer. If your projects are well suited for Revit then a full-Rhino workflow with or without Visual ARQ will not work. For me however, I rarely get the change to take advantage of the same window family project to project. I have to 3D model custom objects every project and Rhino is way (like way way waaaaaaaaay) faster at it… but it took me a lot of time to get fast.

I have annotated plans and it was significantly slower than in Revit or AutoCAD. But I’m 1) getting better at handling the annotations and 2) currently working on a few custom tools to speed it up. So let’s say, said and done, I will be able to document my projects at 75% of the speed of which I can in Revit/AutoCAD. And that 25% time loss isn’t enough to tip the scale.

Here’s an example of my ‘actual’ work (another sample but closer to the projects I actually work on, and my original reason for getting into this):

I guess a simple explanation for this mess is that the same building in Revit (surprisingly) would be an even bigger mess. Modelling a flat slab in Revit is easy enough (nobody believes me but I can model it faster in Rhino). But pretty soon you learn that if you want to model it accurately; like bi-directional slopes for things like drains and ramps, and pour breaks in their actual locations… it’s actually slow and cumbersome in Revit.
All the pink/purple lines you’re seeing are clipping planes… it’s a mess… and that brings up one big advantage to using Visual ARQ: It has really good features for managing and viewing your levels (and sections). It has other features that make it worth buying the add-on that aren’t related to the VARQ objects themselves; it’s a multi-faceted add-on.

What I’ve found personally with Visual ARQ is that there’s some stuff I use and some stuff I just ignore. And then there’s some stuff I don’t use because it doesn’t work. I’ve complained that some of the dialogs contain options that do nothing, which can really confuse new users (as well as myself when I’ve been away from it for awhile). It would be nice to know what’s worth your time and what isn’t ahead of time. The house project, being done totally with native Rhino, helped me with that because it gave me a very clear picture as to which VARQ features were helping and which weren’t.

Modelling in Rhino is far more “manual”. The way my plans are set up is actually similar to how Revit does it. But I just do it manually (one clipping plane cuts the plan and the other cuts the projection - similar but not quite the same as Revit also has the “below” if I recall).
image

I’ll leave off this post with a summary (that got a little long, sorry… but this is kind of a thesis subject for me at the moment):

  • I’m faster in Rhino creating small custom projects than I am in Revit (or larger projects that are only concrete and not the whole works).
  • More manual work is involved. For the most part I prefer this. But as the project grows, manually managing everything becomes exponentially harder. For this reason, small(ish) projects are better suited (in my opinion, but I’d love to hear what others have to say on this).
  • You have to be willing and accepting to manually model many things. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily slower than other programs. I can correctly model a custom staircase/ w railings faster in Rhino compared to Revit for example. For repetitive work that fits well within Revit’s capabilities… the business case for Rhino shrinks.
  • VisualARQ, for me at least, helps with managing things, especially on the larger concrete example.
  • Proven, useable workflows are almost completely undocumented. This presents quite a big challenge because there are so many approaches you can take. There’s also lots of approaches that simply won’t work.
  • Custom content/templates don’t really exist. It means we’re all starting from scratch. I think this is low hanging fruit, especially with VARQ.
  • TIME!!! → it’s taken me A LOT of time to get to where I’m at. Perhaps too much for the average person. There’s definitely ways to shorten the learning curve however.

I’m working to fix many of these things. I’m working on a custom template and to document a workflow (inspired by people that have done similar with Sketchup).

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Thank you @keithscadservices for a detail overview of the workflow possible. A lot to learn from an expert like you. As we all know Bim tools are getting expensive year by year and I was hoping that Visualarq will be a saviour for us. It has capabilities but i feel the urge to develope this tool to higher level is vey slow. Hope VA gets stronger faster in todays BIM industry.

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They are. I also enjoy modelling in Rhino more than the expensive BIM programs. Why exactly? I’m not 100% sure. But I just do. A day of working in Rhino is much less painful than a day of working in Revit.

The things I’m working on at the moment:

  • A template that anyone can just grap and start off with, and edit to suit their needs,
  • Block… which are kind of related to the template but a task in itself. Just a basic set of blocks a person (or small firm) can start off using.
  • A workflow demo/tutorial. 1 to 3 of them actually (time dependent). One very basic one so people can get the general idea, using the most basic project possible. One more thorough where we’d model a small project (similar to that house, maybe even a bit simpler) and then one undertaking a custom luxury home (probably a long term project, not so much for the project itself but making videos/tutorials).
  • Custom code to make everything quicker. I have similar code for AutoCAD to quickly insert text, leaders, etc… If I can make the same for Rhino I really make up the gap when it comes to documenting the project. This doesn’t sound like much but I think it’s key to making everything work. And unfortunately it’s not going well right now (but I may have picked the hardest part of it first).

I’ll have that house project uploaded on Food4Rhino probably within a week or two, so you’ll see just how I did everything. The other stuff will really depend. I want to keep moving forward but also when Rhino8/Visual ARQ 3 come out it might make some of the stuff I’m doing redundant. But we’ll have to see. Time permitting I want to create a GOOD beginner tutorial, maybe even on the weekend (should only take a day, but a good full day).

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Can you please ping me here once your done it will be of great help!

Hi!
Interesting thread.
However, don’t forget one important topic: scheduling - creating numbers and lists out of all the modelled goodness. How do you go about this, Keith?

The first and foremost thing our clients want and need are the numbers. Moneypeople think that way - no blame, because they pay for the party.

How many apartments, how much space with this and that usage, gross and net, access areas, fire protection maximum areas, percentage of facade glazing, younameit…
Right from the beginning of the project. Pretty complex topic actually, regardless of the software.
Check, double check, triple check… forget one apartment, and the whole calculation doesn’t work out.

Then in later phases it gets really fancy, when exact cost calculation is needed, right down to the last beam and bolt.
An art and craft in itself. You can specialize your career in this.

In the past, this has been done by hand, with Excel orgies (still around). That’s why BIM was invented in the 90ies (under different names maybe).

I’ve done this one study for a residential building with Rhino (and parts of VisualArq), where the area calculation was of the essence because of budget constraints. I had to squeeze every last m² out of the site.
image

Right, you can use Grasshopper scripts to get the numbers. That’s what I did (plus Human/Elefront). Know what? It worked, but it was cryptic, and you need to be fresh and focused to wield that GH script. But what about teamwork - when some colleague(s) needs to take over for any reason, and you have to explain your setup?

Then we swung over to Archicad last year, which is built from the ground up around a BIM workflow - meaning getting the numbers easily, with all sorts of powerful filter rules. (BIM in the narrower sense is more of a discipline, or an agreed upon workflow).
Scheduling is simple and reliable now. Better off doing it here.

I guess it very much depends on the project size. The smaller, the easier it us to get away with a ‘homegrown’ workflow.

And I agree: Rhino is and will remain my favorite modelling tool. We use it in tandem with Archicad now.

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The short answer is that I don’t lol. I just need to get things like my concrete volumes. Possibly other stuff. VisualARQ has a “rooms” feature that would/should schedule wouldn’t it? My AutoCAD/AutoLISP intuition tells me to use hatches - different layers for different rooms/spaces, and getting the areas of those hatches - that would be easy for me to program in AutoCAD. I wish I could do it in Rhino.

I’m of the opinion that I can make Rhino work for my larger concrete jobs. And that I can make it work for more complex, but smaller jobs, because the manual workload doesn’t factor in. For something like in your picture I don’t think we have a business case right now.

VA has of course some scheduling/tables, but in v2 they are so rudimentary that I didn’t use them. V3 will bring improvements, according to here, which are even finished already.

Alternatively, it’s fairly easy to extract surface areas in GH, even utilizing custom user data to filter the parts you want to be listed. Nonetheless you need some GH knowledge to set things up. (A weakness of all things GH imho: I want a simple UI that encapsulates the complexity of the script - something VA can do, interestingly).
In Archicad or Revit, it’s common basic knowledge to set up lists, not a special skill.

Btw: I tried analyzing hatches in GH, because it sounds so intuitive. Strangely it wasn’t as simple as expected, but I found a solution. In Rhino8, this became more straightforward.

To get back on topic: yes, so much is missing in VA(2). The eagerly awaited v3, together with Rhino8, will be a big step forward for sure, but don’t expect it to be on par with the big BIM solutions, which are so much more expensive, but also incredibly feature rich and mature. The project size will dictate the choice of software, I’d say.

Remember: Rhino is a general purpose 3d app, with focus on production. Using it for architecture is done all the time - but not as a one stop shop.
The fun is in proving this statement wrong…

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Hello everyone and thank you for all your comments and feedback, we really appreciate it.

@asisintel, I have been reading your requests and I think we already have some of them available. Maybe they are not working exactly as you wish? If this is the case, please, let me know what else you would like to have.

You can change wall alignment in the wall properties:

You have got a command in the VisualARQ Labs to change alignment quickly: https://www.visualarq.com/labs/#vaWallAlignmentToggle.

We don’t have this feature available yet (I will let you know when it is ready) but we have this workaround you can use if you have spaces in your model: https://www.food4rhino.com/en/resource/space-dimensions.

I don’t understand very well this request. Please, could you send me some more information about it?

We are working on this feature. I will let you know when it is ready.

I this what you mean?

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Hi @alfmelbev. Thank you for the response.
The alignment tool what I mean is not the alignments of individual wall. The align fetaure means aligning VA object to another VA object as we have a command in revit. It really increases the accuracy in keeping elements in straight line.

In case of trimming of object means, for example if we have a wall extending beyond another wall, using trim command we can quickly trim of the extended wall.

For U shaped staircase I was talking about a landing between two flights of stairs and after a landing the steps start and end at same line.
I really appreciate the effort of VA team for this tool set and I would like to see more feature in VA 3. Can you pls add me to the list.

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Hi @asisintel,

There is a similar tool in Rhino:

Align

You have different options here. You can use the vaFillet command with radius 0 or you can use the vaSplit command.

This is possible: after creating the stair, you need run the _vaProperties command (you can do it by double-clicking on the stair) and define the midle stair flight as a landing.

I have uploaded the house project to Food4Rhino. Remember that it’s just a “test”. But you can see how things can be done in native Rhino, no plugins or anything. Although I would conclude that incorporating VARQ into the mix would be helpful, even if you only use certain features. But that will depend much on personal preferences and project types. Rhino 8 might also change the way I do things.

I have to confess that some of the stuff I did was horrendously slow. I would probably do my general notes in another program. Other stuff wasn’t so bad. If I’m able to find solutions to a few of the bottlenecks I could really see this as being viable. I’ve been writing some commands in RhinoCommon that will fix half of it. And maybe VA3/R8 will fix the other half :slight_smile:

I’m staying a bit quiet about it for now (quite busy with the day job) but my longer-term goal is to create some sort of architectural consortium where we share content and build template(s) together. I’ve invested two huge chunks of time between jobs/projects to try and make things work. But in my case it’s just too much work for one person. The template itself, workflows (lots of dead ends!!), learning Grasshopper, learning how to create a Grasshopper definition for a Visual Arq component, learning C# for RhinoCommon… For one person it’s impossible but for a team it would be a fun little side project.

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This is an exciting discussion. In fact, although both visual ARQ and revit are BIM software, they have significant differences in certain aspects, so the usage scenarios may also vary greatly.
In fact, one of the reasons I don’t like revits is that they appear slightly “bloated” and many of their operations are “anti intuitive”. Additionally, the learning cost of Dynamo may be higher than that of Grasshopper.
I think archicad is a good choice, but occasionally there may be some bugs in its linkage plugin with rhino, which has led me to continue using visual ARQ

I deeply agree with this, just as I will not invest heavily in rhino during the conceptual phase of the plan, I would rather use software such as hand drawn sketches or Sketchup. As the ancient Chinese saying goes, “specialist only masters his own field.” that’s all.

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Here it is again.
What is it that makes Sketchup so seemingly easypeasy compared to Rhino?
Maybe the new pushpull in R8 plus better layouting will swing this around a little.
(No argue against handdrawings, btw.!)

I always thought this was not because sketchup is “easier” but that it’s a broader brush. Similar to how using a very fine pen isn’t as useful for diagramming and conceptual sketches simply due to the suggested detail of a finer line.

But I agree, totally irrational.

I think they were simply stating that they would choose Sketchup over Revit for this type of project and not comparing Sketchup to Rhino. And for that matter (let’s say Rhino didn’t exist), If I ran a firm doing custom homes (or relatively small and/or unique projects) I too would choose Sketchup over Revit.

It might… it might not… Not everything is necessarily intuitive in Rhino. Some of the push/pull stuff has already been given their own unique names. And there is a strong requirement to be able to memorize a lot of stuff. The push/pull, although useful, adds to that overhead. For a lot of the stuff I’m working on I realize that if I can’t teach it to someone else, I’ll basically be a one man band. But of course… you can pick and choose what you use in Rhino and don’t necessarily have to memorize the best and fastest way of doing things. That’s one of the few useful things I learnt from years of using Revit: Spending hours trying to figure out why something wouldn’t tag properly when I could just draw the tag manually.

I’ve seen people who were really good at Revit. They were terrible at Architecture and understanding building codes, constructability, etc… I’ve become somewhat guilty of the same… I’ve spent so much time playing around with the software that I no longer have the stair code memorized.

In fact, I don’t know how your country/construction company views BIM, at least in major architectural design institutes in China, it is still difficult for BIM to conduct forward design (referring to BIM led design), in other words, BIM is still just a tool for model transformation. A considerable portion of these people have a career in “BIM” rather than architecture.
I am curious to know in what form BIM has entered the architectural stage in other parts of the world.

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This is also largely true in the USA.

BIM is generally reserved for documentation and not design, especially in larger firms. Schematic is in rhino and grasshopper, particularly in large projects that are facade focused where panelization and massing is most of the work. Specialist computational teams that are skilled in grasshopper and Rhino Inside Revit workflows will shepherd the model back and forth between design and documentation teams.

Smaller firms don’t want to use that model however, since maintaining standards for two different pieces of software is more work unless there’s a big enough payoff. This is where VisualARQ is solving problems for us. Rhino schematic flexibility, grasshopper computational power, and BIM strength for documentation. We just need to iron out a couple kinks first…

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