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Floor to Wall Relation

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Should I draw a 4" thick concrete basement floor inside or outside of the perimeter and interior walls? This is causing me trouble with setting the wall heights. I would think the block walls are outside of the poured floor, and the stud walls are set on top of the poured floor. How do I set the wall heights so the tops of the walls are in the same plane?

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Not only can walls be moved to somewhere other than the layer Z, so can other objects like floors, furniture, etc.

I think the plan should be to set your layer Z the height that you want most objects to come in at.

If you are going to put furniture into a layer, you don't want to have to manually adjust the Z height of 50 chairs so they sit on the floor.

Likewise, you don't really want to move the Z of 20 walls. Put them on a layer with the correct Z. if your walls need to run below the floor level, consider using two layers, one for the walls and one for the floor. But watch out for your doors then as they want to go in at the bottom of the wall, but can be moved.

Remember also, that objects can be moved to below the zero level of a layer, so you can give your floor a bottom height of -12 and a thickness of 12 and have it be below your walls on the same layer.

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So where does one typically start with a Z setting of 0"? Is that the top of the floor of the basement, or the top to main floor's floor, or somewhere else? I don't do this Architect stuff often, as you can tell! I've been learning by drawing my house. I'm not sure what's going on with my Z and Delta Z settings in my drawing, but I do see I set them both at minus 7'7-1/2" which is the height of the basement ceiling.

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I like to keep Z=0 to be the finish floor level of the ground floor. (As Pat described I typically make the floors with a negative Bot-Z, so that the top is at the "0" for that design layer.

And like you described, I use negative Z for basements, etc. But the Layer Z-height is a positive number.

It is all relative though, so as long as your relationships between floor levels are right, then you are fine.

Also notice that if you go into a front or other elevation view, the ruler on the side of the screen will so "0" to be at the Z-height of the Active Layer. So you can within levels.

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Z=0=top of subfloor @ Main Level. I work up (and down) from there. So for example the design layers might be set as follows:

BASEMENT PLAN LAYER: Z= (-) 9ft / Delta Z = 8ft


MAIN LEVEL PLAN LATER" Z=0 / Delta Z = 8ft

I also often key a building's Z values to the actual survey data.

You just need to decide. Make it logical (to you!).

Remember also that more than one design layer can actually share the same Z space.

Also remember that you can change these settings AT ANY TIME in the Layer Setup Dialog...

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I would say that layers have no Z height, despite the implication of the settings boxes found in the Organization palette. Setting a Z height in the Org palette merely tells certain objects where to hang themselves in space. If you don't input a setting, the object will default to zero, as Pat says with his "chairs" example. So layers are really like big gas filled voids that go on forever with only the objects within moving up or down as we determine. Peter makes the point about design layers sharing the same Z space and I would underline this by saying this is the only way layers exist.

A rectangle extruded into a cube has to be set manually, typically by shifting to a front view (if extruded when in Top/Plan View) and using the Move command (Command+M or Control+M) to go up or down. There is no way for the layer to tell it where to be. Floors and walls are more intelligent and can be set in space by using the Object Info palette.

You need not ever use the Z settings in the Org palette if you don't want to. Keep them all at 0" and use the Object Info palette and the Move tool instead. You can work up to using the input boxes of the Org palette as your model becomes more complex and you find yourself struggling with too many items winding up at zero.

Edited by tguy
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tguy, I think you're missing the point here, and although the method you describe might be workable it is certainly not optimum (or intended). Please do not put words in my mouth. While it's true that [design] layers *can* share the same Z space, it is *not true* that they *must* do so. Layers *do* in fact have Z height. Each design layer is, or can be, a three-dimensional container in which to place objects. Denying that shows a very narrow and naive view of the software.

Take a simple example, based on Pat's chairs (above). What if I want to place a chair or chairs in the second floor of my building? If I have the second floor design layer set to it's true (or relatively true) Z height then all of the chairs will automatically find the "floor" (z=0) of the layer on to which they are placed, as will floors, pillars, walls, etc. etc. If however the second floor plan layer is set to the same value as the first floor I am forced to move each and every object up. A true waste of time (at least to me).

One of VW's greatest strengths is the ability to use both [design] layers and classes in an interwoven "visibility matrix" (my term). And although [design] layer Z and delta Z settings can be a little confusing at first, once you understand how they work they are a fabulous tool.

Another one of VW's strengths is the ability to use it in many different ways. Each of us will eventually come to find our own optimum workflow based on many factors, not the least of which is what type of work we do (ie: Architecture, Machine Design, etc.).

When a user posts a question to this board I feel it is important to give an answer that allows the user to discover more about the program, in other words, give them options, not absolutes. In this way we can all learn from each other and enhance our own personal (or office) standard of use. P

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The real power of layers is that each one has its one local zero. This means that when you draw a wall, by default it is drawn at the zero point of that layer. When you put a door or window into that wall and you know that you want a 6'8" head height on the window, it will be 6'8" above that local zero.

It does not matter if it is the first floor or the 17th floor. If you set the layer Z (zero) to be 27' 3 3/16", you don't have to add that strange value to every object you draw, just create a layer with that dimension and draw eveything else using the local zero.

When you make any 3D object, it is drawn at the local zero of the layer it is drawn on. You can then move it up or down from there as needed.

But, tguy is correct that layers don't really have a "height." The two fields they do have are Z which is the offset value of the local zero compared to the "universal" zero, and the ∆Z. The ∆Z is really only used with walls, and then only if you check the Link Wall Height to Layer ∆Z. In the ancient past (Minicad 4 or 5?), the layer ∆Z was added and it was (maybe?) the only way to set wall heights.

I think a better way to think of layers is to ignore the ∆Z (except that it makes it automatically get a value for the next layer Z), and just consider the Z as the local origin offset.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Here?s my current thinking for American platform framing ?

In an attempt to hold true to the ?BIM/model it as if it were real? scenario, I?m trying something a bit different than my prior models.

I will use the methodology of setting the sub-floor of the first floor at Z = 0?-0? - the rationale being I don?t know what finishes (and their thicknesses) will be selected at the beginning of a project. The same will be true for any subsequent floors, i.e. Z = elevation of subfloor. All other elevational information will be worked ?up? and ?down? from there. I will model the subfloor on the First Floor Floor System layer but the finished floor material will be modeled on the First Floor layer (see Layer Settings below) This system requires that the ?Z? of floor layers be set at the underside of the floor framing system plus the thickness of subfloor and COULD require adjustment of the ?Z? height of the layer if the framing system changes from what was first chosen ? like going from 2x10?s to 2x12?s...

The walls on the first floor will have the following height? Z = 0?-0? and delta Z = top of top plate. ( See Layer Settings below) and will be modeled to stop there. The walls will be set up such that face-of-stud = face-of-foundation wall below (a typical detail I use?)

The second floor floor system will be modeled such that it contains the second floor floor slab and any joists and beams required (also true for the first floor floor system) ? in plan view, the slab will be modeled to stop just behind the sheathing ?in plane? with the STUDS below. This will provide the correct ?offset? for the Floor Framer. Additionally, I will create a wall style called ?Band Filler? that is as thick as the sheathing and exterior cladding combined. This will provide me with the ability to model things correctly and hopefully get wall area take-offs that are fairly accurate.

Ceilings will be modeled on the floor layer they are associated with ? i.e. the first floor ceiling will be on the First Floor layer ? along with any framing to deal with tray, vaulted, barrel, etc. ceiling forms.

The second floor walls will stack on top of the second floor floor system (just like the real thing?) and will stop at their top plate.

The Attic?in keeping with this methodology, I should have an Attic Layer containing the framing and any flooring required.

Last time I modeled cathedral ceiling or double-height spaces I had a moment of concern as I couldn?t get windows that are ?high? or that are up in the triangular portion of a gable-end wall to show correctly in plan. My solution was to model that ?triangle? on the Attic layer (along with its window(s)?

The Roof will be modeled on a Roof Layer

Layers for a two-storey house -



First Floor Floor System

First Floor

Second Floor Floor System

Second Floor



Taking a look at what?s below - Footings Layer ?Z? is set to accommodate the majority of the footings ? stepped footings and smaller pier footings can just be moved up as required ? (I use a Wall Style to model footings so I can easily run reports for take-offs)

Foundation Layer ? ?Z? is set to top-of-footing and delta ?Z? is set to top of block (or top of poured-in-place concrete), this retains the ability to set the wall height so it is linked to delta Z. I also place the Sill Plate here (and need to allow for the thickness of it...)

BTW - I have NOT tried this methodology across an entire set of drawings, so as yet, I have no idea where it will break down...

Any comments are always welcome


Edited by Wes Gardner
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

My current "test file" is 13 megs and won't be appropriate for uploading here - I can certainly e-mail you the file using YouSENDit...my e-mail address is wgardner@vectorworks.net

This is very much a WORK IN PROGRESS with a fair amount of non-standard Class names, etc.

Attached is a pic of the framing to date...

Edited by Wes Gardner
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Let me add some clarification to the above points.

First off, some editing for clarity offline on my part prior to posting would have been wise. Second of all, Peter: as a great admirer of yours, let me say I did not intend to dismiss nor construe your points.

I must say again that a new user MAY elect to draw all of his or her 3D elements on one layer set to zero and then move on to setting Z heights, layer by layer, as the complexity of the drawing demands. Beginners and many, many others may elect to place all their 3D elements on one layer OR organize them on as many layers as needed, all set to zero, if they so choose, moving them up or down, as needed. Choosing this path allows the user to move ahead more quickly, eliminating quite a bit of overhead in my opinion, and so is worth considering.

Layers can have a Z setting for when you want or need objects placed in relation to a second, third, or fourth Zero. This is an aid to organization but not a requirement. Those of us drawing architecturally benefit more by setting Z heights of layers than other users, I would submit.

Bruce K. says "I know that using the appropriate Z value for each layer is necessary." Helpful perhaps, but not necessary.

Just to add my own point to Pat's last post about windows and doors (i'm not in disagreement). A wall can be drawn on a layer set to zero but can be moved up in space to 25', let's say. A window or door placed in that wall will be set off its bottom to a default height of 6'-8". It won't be placed 6'-8" above the bottom of the layer. WIndows and doors take their first cue from the wall, not the Z of the layer. They can be reset by using the OIP to move in relation to the Z height of the layer if you wish them to not relate to the bottom of the wall.

The one thing I'm not sure about is if layers are really gas filled. Whether I am or not is best judged by others.

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What I'm saying is, if you are drawing a house, which will typically need several layers to hold various groups of 3D objects, go ahead and set the Z height of each layer holding those objects, as Pat Stanford has laid out.

If you are drawing something whose parts could easily reside on one or two layers, leave the Z at zero and just move your 3D elements manually, above or below the zero base line as needed, whichever layer they are on (since they share the same base line), in order to make a complete model.

In either case, use Stack Layers to assemble those layers holding 3D info.

The potential problem with setting Z heights and Delta Z (typically used to automatically set a wall's height) is that Vwks tries to help you by taking the last setting for Z or Delta Z and adds it to your newest layer, whether that layer was made in order of the building's construction or not. Thus it assumes you intend to start from the bottom and work up to the top in a very organized way. Vwks expects you to know what you want beforehand and this is contrary to the way some of us work. Therefore one needs to keep track of this pesky habit and zero out the additive amounts when needed or risk finding their objects launched into space.

Those working on simpler projects or those with fewer blocks of 3D elements need never fight this tendency if they keep Z and Delta Z at zero at all times and just move the objects relative to the Z height shared by all layers.

You can also mix and match. Set the layers for all stories holding walls as Pat has said, and make one layer set at Zero to hold misc. 3D elements like floor volumes. Create each floor, then manually move it to up or down to fit between the walls. Setting this layer to 0'-0" simply gives you a solid reference that you can return to in your thinking. You also gain the opportunity to make this layer invisible when printing floor plans (Top/Plan) if the extra lines from these misc. items complicates the view.

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ok everyone how about this. i have a current job where all my z are the same and i just stack everything in the design layer.

my stepped foundation is then just "cut & pasted in place" into my "1Frame" layer and my rim walls are the stretched down to fit.

just try to do a "paste in place" w/ different layer z hts. you end up getting lost.

the project before this one was done w/ each layer having a z ht. this new project where i build it like it is (not using an automatic z adjuster i.e. layer z hts) has been very easy to adjust. i actually enjoy working on this project ware as i dread making changes on the other.

please see attached pics

also when i did set the layer z ht i would set the top of the basement slab to be 100ft and go up or down from there. that way i never had any - dims.

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