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Preparing architectural models for better BIM visualization in Unity

April 17, 2019 in AEC | 5 min. read
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Now it’s easier for AEC professionals to use the Unity platform to create real-time experiences. When you convert your CAD model to Unity, you can use Tridify BIM Tools to visualize your project, and keep your BIM data attached to your 3D models.

Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals can use the Unity platform to create an immersive 3D experience, allowing them to visually differentiate their work from the competition.

For an architectural model to be useful, beyond establishing the basic geometry of your project, it should let you experiment with tiling, flooring, lighting etc. But if wall objects and floor slabs aren’t defined correctly, you can’t apply or replace materials efficiently.

When you convert your CAD model to Unity, you can use Tridify BIM Tools – available free on the Asset Store – to get automated lighting, material, colliders and building information modeling (BIM) data attached to your 3D models. In Unity, you can click on a component and access the associated BIM data right away – so you can visualize your AEC project in real-time 3D.

Instead of spending days – or weeks on large-scale projects – cleaning and fixing your model, or even rebuilding it from scratch, just a few hours spent preparing your model will ensure highly usable files for 3D visualization.

Preparing the BIM model for virtualization: Best practices

A good model is the foundation for a digital twin that can be used throughout the building’s life cycle. In this way, you’ll get the best possible use from the Tridify BIM Tools, coupled with a smooth workflow. Invest in creating a good model and your model will become a valuable asset, serving as the basis for lots of future use cases.

When you receive a BIM model from an architect, make sure it follows the following five main modeling practices:

  1. Mark every object as an appropriate element type (i.e., tag doors as “door element,” walls as “wall element,” etc.). As you can select objects by type, this will help you find objects fast, so you can, for example, easily create colliders or remove unnecessary ones.
  2. Separate multi-storey buildings into storeys. Each storey should contain floor slabs, a ceiling, and everything in between. Architects’ models don’t usually contain ceiling elements; in Tridify, upper floor slabs serve as ceilings for visual purposes.
  3. Place all objects and structures on the correct storey. The lighting algorithm takes all the structures into account when you create floor lighting with the Tridify tool.
  4. Connect walls according to surface materials. This enables different materials to be visualized on each wall section. If the walls are not connected correctly, the wall material layers will be visible on the end of the wall. Ensure separate material layers for each room for elements in common; for example, a wall that continues from the bathroom to the living room might require ceramic tile for the bathroom wall and plaster for the living room wall.
  5. Specify the material layers for exterior walls, and give the material layers thickness. This lets you specify walls (exterior and interior layers) in different materials (e.g., brick on the outside, plaster on the inside). If all the exterior elements are typed as external objects, you’ll be able to extract the shell of the building.

Following these modeling practices will give you a smooth workflow from architect model to Unity.

A platform-neutral standard

Tridify uses IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) files, an international standard designed to facilitate interoperability and collaboration in the AEC industry. IFC can be exported from any major CAD software, and it allows anyone to exchange digital models across different software. Using IFC files allows data to be combined in Unity – with the same workflow – from different sources: architectural models from ArchiCAD®; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) models from MagiCAD®; and furniture models from BIMobject®.

As such, IFC files offer a great deal of flexibility and enable the automation of repetitive tasks.

Unity workflow using BIM data

By having object-specific BIM data and scriptable access to it , you can simplify or automate several tedious tasks, solving the problem of repetitive, slow, and error-prone remodeling. You can assign textured materials, light rooms, assign colliders, and perform many other tasks. With Tridify and Unity, you can cut the development time and focus on making your model more interactive.

  1. Use Tridify Cloud Service to generate Unity-usable optimized geometry. Create a new Unity project, choosing the High-Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) template, and install Tridify BIM Tools (available from the Asset Store). Log in to your converted projects in the Conversion Projects window, and load your building to the scene. You can upgrade project materials to HDRP Materials. Save the scene.
  2. Use Tridify’s lighting tool to generate emissive light planes and light probes. Bake real-time global illumination (GI) lightmaps. Create a high-dynamic range image (HDRI) Sky cubemap to add environment lighting to the scene.
  3. Use Tridify’s material mapping tool to replace the original materials in the scene with HDRP materials. Tridify includes some common materials for you to get started with. Save your mapping file.
  4. Use Tridify’s search feature to find floor, wall and other elements. Add mesh colliders to selected objects. Furnish your building model and add camera control to your scene. Now you are ready to build your application.

This workflow will spare you from routine cleaning and remodeling work. For more details you can download the Tridify manual or ask in the Unity forum.

From BIM to Unity and beyond

Tridify’s technology bridges the gap between BIM and Unity, allowing AEC professionals to focus on designing and creating instead of importing files. By following best practices in model creation, architectural models can easily be converted to Unity with all BIM data intact. Unity’s HDRP then allows you to visualize 3D models with dynamic lighting, materials and more.

Tridify and Unity together give AEC designers and developers the productivity tools to optimize data and save time while creating real-time experiences. The technology allows 3D immersion, interactivity, a life-like level of detail, and simulation of light, sound and other environmental conditions, all of which contribute to enhancements and efficiencies across the AEC project lifecycle in planning, collaboration, and sales.

Check out Tridify on the Asset Store!

April 17, 2019 in AEC | 5 min. read
Topics covered