Friday, November 16, 2012

The mighty zone tool – poetry in BIM-ming

I’ve been besotted by ArchiCAD’s ‘zone tool’ lately.
I had not always been a fan of it, early in my career, seriously disliked it even, mainly because of its ugly, big zone-stamp.
That was when I was still working and thinking as an ‘architect’ and the aesthetics of the drawings I produced were high in life’s priorities.
Have grown out of that stage, thank’ goodness and amongst other more crucial things in life, I rediscovered the ‘zone tool’.
Sadly, the stamp is still pretty unattractive, yet the tool behind it is pure magic.

Not only can you use it for dynamic space planning with instantaneous monetary feedback on design decisions, it is a de facto massing tool too, you can track your shapes in 3D.
And not just boxes, but almost any shape, cut and trimmed to suit perfectly.
Should try it out, sometimes!

Other programs have ‘room’ tools, area calculators or slabs for massing.
Virtual clay to carve your virtual buildings out.
Yet, there is so much more to this (so poorly named) ‘zone tool’.
It sits somewhere between the real and the imagined – tangible and abstract even in the digital worlds of fuzzy reality.
It treats the user as an adult professional with sophisticated needs.
As an engineer and an engigneor – recognising when one works with ‘real’ virtual elements that need to be accounted for within its boundaries, columns, walls, furniture for the QS, the developer client, the project manager-hawk keeping track of GFAs.
Simultaneously, it shows the various imaginary spaces in 3D, blurring them out to the level of vagueness the particular design or project stage requires it while still knowing when the space hits a real element (like a curtain wall) and reports back on it faultlessly.

There is a little fault in it nevertheless; the zones do not show up in sectional views.
Maybe that no one ever asked for them to do so.
Am now. Please!


  1. Zolna,

    I'm in agreement with you about the virtues of the Zone tool...and it's only becoming more developed and versatile.

    I wanted to recommend two ArchiCAD 3rd Party add-ons you might find very useful.

    The first is the Masterscript Total Zone ( I've implemented it in my office already, but Jeroen continues to tweak and improve this object, integrating it with MVOs in impressive ways. The Total Zone is issued by a 'site license' so it's a single purchase for all workstations on site. It is well worth the small investment.

    Secondly, Miklós at has created an add-on that will display zones in Section views. The price for his suite of add-ons is also very small, but does require one license per AC seat.

  2. Loved this honest view! I have felt exactly the same... wishing our office could implement some of the automation this might bring...

  3. the image in the post - is that the 3d rep of the zone tool? if it is, how did you make that shape for that? if the zone tool is a truly powerful tool for the early conceptual design phase? making shapes like that would be invaluable for architects for "conceptually imagining" space.

    all help is appreciated! thanks ...

    1. Jonnel,
      Yes, the shape is created with the zone tool; It is important that the zone tool is visible in 3D for it to be shaped to your liking;
      Go to : View/Elements in 3D view/Filter Elements in 3D/tick zone
      Create zone – create cutter – use ‘solid operations’ … and almost any shape can be achieved;

    Structural Analysis in USA