AECOsim Building Designer - Compound Cells and Metadata

Compound Cells can be a powerful tool to manage change during the design process. In this piece I'm going to look at an example involving cladding panels.

To keep things simple for demonstration purposes I'm using a single panel size 1500 x 4000mm. There are various workflows that could be involved, e.g.:

  • The initial panel is very simple, variations are introduced as the design evolves.
  • There is an initial kit of parts, each part evolves as the design progresses.
  • New panel designs are introduced replacing existing modules.

In each of these examples, or combinations of them, the relationship between the panel and the metadata may be different requiring use of different tools.

Broadly the operations involved are:

Panel replacement:

In this case the both the 3D graphics and the related metadata will need to change (the metadata will at least need to change the name of the panel type for scheduling even if all other properties are identical).

Panel versioning:

In this case the metadata may need to be left unchanged, the panel type and other metadata will be the same, it is just the design version shown by the 3D graphics that needs to change.

I have created five Compound Cells, the two on the left are type 01 versions 1.0 and 1,1, then types 02-04 to the right:

Types 01-04 are added to the DataGroup Catalog:

For placement as User Defined Types:

I'll start with an array of Type 01:

Tip: use AccuDraw rotation shortcut F to make the array vertical

Having placed my array of cladding and created an appropriate schedule

I have list showing 20 Type 01 panels.

Now the modification routes.

First a warning: we have encountered cases where people have used the MicroStation Replace Cell tool to update/replace Compound Cells. This may require a few steps to browse to the Compound Cells library location and needs the file types option to be opened up to all to make the appropriate Compound Cell active (there is a warning in those steps, we don't offer .BXC as a cell type for a reason!).

The replacement looks like it has worked, graphically it is fine and if you don't and are never going to care about the DataGroup metadata may not be a problem. But… if you want to change the DataGroup metadata to match the graphics for scheduling you are in trouble. You cannot use the Replace Compound Cell, it is now an ordinary cell as shown below:

Please don't do that!


For Panel replacement there are two methods, I recommend the first in most cases (you will need to assess the suitability for your particular circumstances).

Method 1 - Graphics and Metadata (Recommended)

Using the Modify User Defined Type tool will change the graphics and the associated metadata|:

Here I've changed the top row to type 04, the schedule now correctly shows 10 of each type.

Using the Edit in Excel feature available in SS6 I can add ID number to each panel, then using the Modify User Defined Type tool can change the panel type, note in this list that the two at the bottom are now Type 02 with their previous ID numbers retained:

When modifying ensure that only the metadata items that you want to update are ticked, here I do want the ID|Type ID to update to match the panel type but I do not wish to change the ID|Number so it is left unticked:

For Panel versioning there are two options.

Start by creating the new Compound Cell for both.

One method is to create a new Catalog Item and replace as shown above. That will extend the list of available Items which is either a good thing if you may need to go back to the previous version or an annoying addition to what may already be a long list. It may be the desirable route if you want the schedule to list the panel version, however as that version is most likely to be a design development version with no relevance to construction this may not be appropriate.

The other is to change the existing Catalog Item to use the new version of the Compound Cell. The allows design development to take place without disruption to schedules (that have no interest in the internal model creation process).

The Catalog Item is edited with version 1.1 of the panel:

Once the DataGroup is refreshed the Modify User Defined Type tool will update existing version 1.0 cells to 1.1:

See the new panel graphics shown in the preview. Once applied note that the ID|Type ID and ID|Number are both unchanged so the schedule remains unchanged while the graphics are developed.

Method 2 - Graphics Only (not Recommended)

Replace Compound Cell Tool

This tool will replace one Compound Cell with another giving the correct graphic results and retaining the ability to replace it with another Compound Cell in the future.

It does not change the DataGroup metadata.

Here I have replaced the top row of panels with a different type, the schedule is unchanged:

This may be suitable in some circumstances but when scheduling is required will need further work to update the metadata so Method 2 is best