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Ecotect File Import Tips

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Ecotect 01 |

Tips for File Import

Although Ecotect allows for some modeling tasks but it’s typically an easier workflow for designers to use Ecotect’s import function to prepare the input file for Ecotect analysis instead of recreating the model from scratch.  Many design firms, during design phase, designers might go for convenient tools like SketchUp to model the buildings since the form can be easily manipulated.  

Ecotect allows for many file types to be imported but mostly .dxf, .3ds, or .obj files are used.

Import process:

File > Import > 3d CAD geometry

Import window will pop up with many options you can select. Important checkpoints are

Scale:  This is for scale conversion between different programs. I’ll mention this issue later on.

Auto-Merge Triangles: The program will merge triangulated surface into rectangular ones to reduce the number of objects from the import process. If your model is complicated, this process can take up to hours (- and Ecotect kind of freezes during this time – so you can’t do anything with it but wait until it’s done). If you want to kill this process, there’s no other way but the classic Ctrl+Alt+Del! So, for a large or complex model, it might be best to leave this box unchecked since you can always merge coincident triangles from the modify menu later on.

You can choose not to import some layers at this window also. It’s best to keep a small but workable file size (depends on your design question) in Ecotect since it uses quite some memory when running the analysis and the larger the file, the slower the simulation run.

For more details, use keyword ‘import’ under Ecotect’s Help section.

Modeling Programs:

AutoCAD |

– Can be modeled as 3d object or extrusion

– Explode model before saving the file to .dxf format

– Saved file should be R12 dxf (anything lower than 2000 should be fine), otherwise Ecotect will not recognize it.

– If CAD model is in meter, in Ecotect import box, use 1000 for scale since the default unit for Ecotect is mm.

SketchUp |

– Export > 3d Model

– Choose file type (For Ecotect, you can use .dxf, .3ds, or .obj)

.3ds – Gives you some useful options like separating layer based on SketchUp layer or materials (- dxf does not have this option). In the image below, a SketchUp model has 3 materials assigned to it and one default material. The model was exported to a .3ds with the option ‘by material’. In Ecotect import box, these materials will be separated items and you can assign each one to different Ecotect layer (zone) and material.

.obj - The most convenient format to work with when importing into Ecotect.

It’s good to have a proper layer or material setup in your SketchUp model so that your Ecotect model can be easier to work with. Grouping objects in SketchUp doesn’t have any effects when importing the model into Ecotect in a .dxf or 3ds format.  

If you have all objects in one layer (‘zone’ in Ecotect), separating object layers from within Ecotect can be quite a tedious task.

– In Ecotect import box

                        – Use 1 for scaling factor if SketchUp model is in mm

                        – Use 1000 if SketchUp model is in m

This is a fairly simple conversion but some programs, during Ecotect import process, works differently (like 3ds Max, for example).

Revit |

– Export model as polymesh/ACIS solid so Ecotect can read it

3ds Max |

                        – 3ds Max export for .dxf and .3ds does not have options to export by layer or material so Ecotect import box read the exported file as each item instead. For example, if your Max file has 4 objects (box 1 – 4), Ecotect import box will separate each object to different item, namely box 1 to box 4. Still, you can set it to be on desired Ecotect zone or material.

                        – For 3ds Max file unit of m. or mm., when you import to Ecotect, conversion scale of 1000 has to be used anyway for Ecotect to have a correct unit.

Checking model unit

After importing the model, you can use a measure tape to measure the model dimension to make sure it’s a correct scale before running any analysis. If the scale is wrong, you can re-import the file. Although Ecotect has a scaling option that you can use but the result doesn’t always turn out as expected, especially for complex model so I think it’s more efficient just to re-import the file with a correct conversion factor.

Optimizing your model

Sometimes, imported file will have a lot of unnecessary lines which takes a lot of space and increases simulation time. You can check the file properties in the import box to see how many polygons or lines your file has and you can choose not to import that layer. Still, if you have to import all, there is an option in Ecotect that you can use to delete these lines and reduce your file size.

Go to Select > Element Type > Line

Ecotect will select all the lines in your model and the number of objects selected will be displayed on the lower left corner (e.g. 1400/4000 – means it’s selecting 1400 objects out of 4000 objects in your model)

In the export process from modeling program, some programs give you the option to export only surfaces and not lines. For SketchUp, for a 3ds, you have the option not to export stand alone edges and for a .dxf you can uncheck exporting edges to reduce the lines for Ecotect file.

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