Algorithmic Design and the BIM workflow

Lesson 5: Examples for different workflows

Chapter 8. BIM tower

Download the Grasshopper file from HERE and the ARCHICAD file from HERE.

Watch the recorded version of this lesson and then continue to the step-by-step description.

If you do not want to examine the files, you have the option of jumping to the last quiz.

Step 1. Open an empty Rhino template and the file and organize them on your desktop.

The view settings of the Grasshopper file are set to “only draw preview geometry for selected objects”, so you can see only the selected elements in the Rhino preview. If you wish to change that setting later, click on the green icon in the upper right corner among the other view setting options.


A spiraling BIM tower is our last example in this training. A series of spiraling elements form both the facade and the structure of the tower.

Step 2. Go to the “components” view in Grasshopper and drag a selection rectangle around the first 5 components as seen on the image above to see the elements of the tower.

What are the individual construction elements in Grasshopper that are later on converted to ARCHICAD elements? The ARCHICAD type of the elements is shown in capital letters, in parentheses. Before the parentheses, the Grasshopper component name is shown.

Step 3. Click on the Boundary surfaces (SLABS) components

A series of surfaces follow the spiraling shape. Each surface contains a hole for the concrete core of the tower. These will be slab elements in ARCHICAD.

Step 4. Click on the Ruled surface (RULED SHELL core) component

The core of the building is a ruled surface in Rhino that is fed to a Ruled Shell ARCHICAD Grasshopper component.

Step 5. Click on the Pipe (COLUMNS) component and proceed to clicking on the Pipe (BEAMS) component as well.

Columns and beams are defined for both the horizontal structural frame and the vertical structure.

Step 6. Click on the Pipe (MULLIONS) components.

The facade is made up of Grasshopper pipes that become ARCHICAD mullions and also a Morph element for the glass surface.

Step 7. To see the surface, click on the last component.

Step 8. Click on the Mesh (MORPH glass) components.

A model of similar size takes a bit of time to synchronize with ARCHICAD, since ARCHICAD is creating parametric BIM elements, not just a preview as Rhino does. The construction elements should be synchronized one by one by switching on the Boolean toggles. Switch each toggle from “false” to “true”.

Step 9. Open the BIMtower_temp.pln file and start the Grasshopper-ARCHICAD Live Connection. Navigate to the ARCHICAD sync view in Grasshopper and switch the Boolean toggles on by clicking on the right side of the toggles one by one to synchronize the tower with ARCHICAD.

Once we synchronize the model with ARCHICAD, we are able to generate plans, sections and elevations easily. It also becomes intuitive and fast to query the model for schedules that give us information on the BIM elements of the model.

Step 10. Open the ARCHICAD file BIMtower.pln from the folder “Rhino, Grasshopper and ARCHICAD example files. This file has different schedules preset in it. Click on the “floor areas” schedule from the Navigator Project Map.

The net and gross surface areas of the slabs can be listed as well as gross volumes of the slab with or without holes.

If we unlocked and deleted the current BIMtower in this file, then reconnected the file to Grasshopper and decided to change the design at this point in Grasshopper, the schedules would update with the changed information instantaneously.

Step 11. Click on the “radial beams” schedule from the Navigator Project Map.

The beams and columns can also be listed. For columns, it can make sense to list them based on their slant angle as shown in this schedule view. It is an option to schedule the columns e.g. based on slant angles.

In ARCHICAD, we can also create visual overrides to represent information in a graphical way.

Step 12. Click on the “structural hierarchy” view from the Navigator View Map.

Structural Hierarchy can be visualized by coloring the main structural core red, the slab supporting beam system blue, and the mullions/transoms of the façade green.

Step 13. Click on the “function categories” view from the View Map.

Functional Zones can also be visualized based on ARCHICAD properties of the spaces.

Step 14. Click on the “floor plan area” view from the View Map.

This last image shows floor plan area measurements in a graphical format.

These The examples and different workflows above demonstrate the major benefits of the algorithmic BIM workflows:

  • Geometries that have been impossible or troublesome and time consuming to design and manufacture have now become possible and straightforward
  • Native BIM elements can be manipulated from Grasshopper, with their metadata included
  • This metadata can be visualized in ARCHICAD early on in the design process, using Graphical Overrides
  • The integrated workflow makes documentation cheaper, more precise and more efficient
  • Quantity takeoffs and schedules become part of the design process early on, aiding the design process from the beginning
  • Grasshopper's robust analyzing tools become part of the design process


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