Version 1.8  (Released 07/19/2017)



This module provides an easy way to create wood beams, joists, rafters, plates, hips and valleys, along with tags and beam schedule, using AutoCAD Architecture (ACA) or MEP. This module provides not only the members, but also the MVBlock (tag), Property Set Definition, and Schedule table style. All this is contained in one dialog, accessed by one command - no need to access various palettes and ribbon tabs. This module may be used with or without the KCS Productivity Pack for AEC.

Wood Shapes

All standard lumber sizes are available, in nominal, rough, and pressure treated varieties, along with engineerd wood product members as provided by the major manufacturers. A multiple member option is provided for all member types that allow it.

This module greatly simplifies the process of defining and placing these members. Select the member you need, specify the Bearing Ht. elevations, and click Add Member to draw it. Width and Depth of the selected beam are shown for reference. Length may be drawn on screen, as you would a line or a wall, or may be pre-specified.

Arched beams (possible for GluLam beams only) may be specified by either the Radius, if known, or the Spring Height. Arched beams are very difficult to create in standard ACA, but here it can be easily done.

Normal procedure would be to start with End 1, usually the Brg Ht but alternately the T.O.M. (Top of Member), depending on what you are doing. Values entered here are automatically applied to End 2. 


"Sandwiched" headers may be created with Nominal or Pressure Treated lumber. The option to add spacer(s) is enabled for these member types when the Multiple Member Option is chosen. The spacer is normally 1/2" (the default value) but may be set as required. Note that the resulting shape name then includes a "-S", followed by a number to denote the space value (8 means 8/16, for 1/2", etc.). This allows you to have spaced and unspaced members with no confusion between the two. 

A note about the spacer is also automatically added to the Note field for the schedule.


Match Existing 

This button allows you to select a member already placed in your drawing. The dialog will re-display with its shape selected (with the correct tab and group selected), and also with the placement options set to match the selected beam. 

Placement Options

Several option govern how a beam is placed at Add Member

Length Options
A member may be drawn from point to point on screen, like a line or wall, or you may preset it to a desired length. In this case you will be prompted for the starting point only, and then the direction. If preset, the length is the horizontal run distance (even if the member is sloped), exclusive of any extensions. With either method, the point(s) you specify should be the bearing points (normally the outer surface of a supporting wall or other support) - extensions (if specified) will be added outboard of these points.

Straight or Arched Option
The beam may be straight or arched by specifying either the spring height or radius, whichever you know at this point. Note that the schedule will always indicate the radius, regardless of which method was used to specify the arch. Note: only GluLam beams are capable of being arched. This option is not available for any other member types.

Sloped Members
Normal practice for rafters would be to enter the Brg Ht for End1, then enter the desired Pitch (or slope angle), which will then calculate the Brg Ht for End 2. For typical "bird's mouth" construction, a Seat Cut width (normally the wall width) may be entered for End 1. This will lower the Brg Ht of End 2, based on geometry springing from the inside corner of the wall. Note that a preset length (run) must be specified. Alternately, you can enter the Brg Ht for both ends directly. A help button [?] next to the Seat width entry helps to make this clear. Note that when a seat cut is used, T.O.M. (Top of Member) cannot be entered - it displays the result only.

End Cuts
Sloped beams and arched beams may be cut Square or Plumb as required. (Does not apply to straight horizontal beams.)  Note that the beam length takes the plumb cut into account. Also note that if plumb cuts are specified for an arched beam, ACA will not draw them as plumb cut; however, the program recognizes them for the schedule, and it takes them into account in calculating the length.

Extensions are measured horizontally from each bearing point, and are added outboard of these points. This applies whether you have specified a preset length or are drawing the beam from point to point on screen.
Plates are placed differently from other members. Preset length, extensions, and pitch are all disabled. The member is normally drawn point to point (either right or left justified) along the perimeter of the building. You can choose among three methods of drawing:
  1. Continuously - This will create mitered corners, including the starting corner if you end on it. This method has the disadvantage of not showing end conditions realistically, but it's quick and easy, and all lengths in the schedule will be at least long enough (with some longer), and it lets the builders determine which way the ends should meet.
  2. One run at a time - With this method you would start drawing the plates for all the "by walls" (those whose ends extend all the way) first, then fill in the "butt wall" plates in between. Here you are in control of the end condtions, and it will be shown in your drawing.
  3. One piece at a time - much the same as #2, except that you can control lumber sizing better. For example, if you know that 12' long plates will be purchased, you could draw the first plate for a 20' wall at 12' (easily done with standard Direct Distance input), then continue drawing another plate in to the corner. In this case, the schedule will show a 12' plate and an 8' plate instead of a 20' plate.

Preset Elevations

If you are using a drawing system that sets the Elevation system variable, note that the current elevation will be added to whatever you specify as the framing member Bearing Height.

Fascia and Soffit

New for version 1.5, this feature allows you to create a fascia cut and soffit at the end of a rafter. This option is enabled only when the member is sloped and has an extension at the lower end. The result is not visible in plan, but will show in a 3D view.


Chamfer Corner(s) to Match Rafter 

New for version 1.6, this option allows you to chamfer the top corner(s) of a ceiling joist to prevent it from protruding above the adjoining rafter. When you click this option, it will display a dialog to calculate the required chamfer:

 The chamfer may be applied to either or both ends. The result is not visible in plan, but will show in a 3D view.

Options of Right/Left/Centered are provided for all members, and Top/Bottom for some. Bottom justification is most often the right choice, but a Top justification (where available) may be used in the case of a beam where, if you were to change the depth of the beam (see Modify Existing below), you would want the top of the beam to remain unchanged. Your choice of justification is retained until chosing a different member - it then changes to the default for that member. Rims and Plates default to BR, while all others default to BC. 

A Note About Justification Nomenclature
AutoCAD seems to have it backwards for beams. It calls a beam that lies to the left of its layout line "Left justified", which is just the opposite of walls, text, or anything else anywhere else. The prompting in this program uses "Right" and "Left" as is understood for walls, etc., to avoid this confusion. So if you go to the Properties window, know that the justification reported there by AutoCAD is incorrect.


Modify Existing Beams

This button will allow you to modify the properties of any one or more existing beams to match the style, BrgHt, and arch properties (if any), as currently set in the dialog. The beam will retain its endpoints, except as modified by the current BrgHt setting. Any preset length in the dialog will be ignored. Hint: It's usually helpful to to use Match Existing on the beam to obtain its current values, then change whatever you wish before applying this command.


Add Hip/Valley

This button allows you to place a hip or valley, using the specifications currently entered. That information will be transferred to a secondary dialog and applied to Surface 1. If Surface 2 is to have a different pitch, its run will be adjusted accordingly.

Steel Beams for AEC - Add Hip or Valley


Tags may be placed on members automatically as you draw them, or they may be placed on members already drawn by using the Add/Update Tags button. 

Tags are automatically assigned a prefix, depending on the type of member, and how it is being used (J for joist, R for rafter, etc., according to standard practice. Tag numbers are incremented automatically for each unique member, with respect to its physical properties and its elevation, and its prefix. Number starts at 01 for each prefix used. Every time a member is tagged, all previously tagged members are checked, and if a match is found, that number is used for the current member. Thus different lengths of the same member shape get different numbers, and different elevations of the same member also get different numbers.

A direction arrow is placed near the tag for all members. This is to provide orientation in the field for any members having precut openings or any other non-symmetrical detailing, and to indicate which end is which for sloping members.

Previously drawn members may be copied, moved in elevation, and stretched in length before tagging. However, if you change one of multiple beams that are already tagged, you should re-tag it to avoid having the same number for two different beams. You can update the tag by simply tagging it again. 

The Tag Beams Automatically option will speed up your work when placing new beams and is recommended, unless you want more control over which beams get what numbers. It is also better to turn this off if members are to be trimmed, such as when trimming common rafters to a hip or valley, as this will create members with varying lengths.

Note that the members, tags, and schedule must all reside in the same drawing

The Schedule

The Wood Beam & Joist Schedule is an ACA Schedule Table Style created specially for this module. Text styles used are the same as used by ACA in other schedules and may be easily modified by the STYLE command according to your preferences.

To create a schedule, once you have placed and tagged members, click the Add/Update Schedule button and place it as desired. If you later add more members, they can be added to the schedule in three ways. If the Update Schedule Automatically option in turned on, the member will be added to the schedule as soon as it is tagged, whether tagging it automatically as drawn or afterwards. If you find too much delay in updating the schedule for each member added, you can turn this option off, and simply click the Add/Update Schedule button to update the schedule. (Note that Update Schedule Automatically is disabled if Tag Beams Automatically is turned off.)

If both ends of the member are at the same height, T.O.M. and BRG HT for END2 will be blank, for easier reading. (The arrow near the member tag indicates which end is which.)

Note that for arched beams, the radius is given here regardless of whether it was specified by Radius or by Spring Ht, as needed for fabricating the beam. Note also that the length given is the arc length of the beam.

Pitch for Hips and Valleys
The schedule does not use the convention of stating the pitch of a hip/valley as P/17, as that applies only to a hip/valley at a square corner where both slopes are the same. This program can handle a hip/valley at any corner and with unequal slopes. Pitch is therefore given as P/12 for all sloped members, including hips and valleys. In the hip roof sample above, R01-R06 are the common rafters at 8/12, and H01 is the corresponding hip at 5.66/12, where (NC) denotes "Not Common" to help make this clear. (This means there is no need for a special framing square or calculator - this program has done the calculation.) 

Layer Key Overrides

An optional feature of this program is the ability to place each member, along with its tag, on special layers for each (according to it's purpose). This is done through the use of Layer Key Overrides, which it sets temporarily as needed. The Minor 1 and Minor 2 overrides are used. These overrides are part of any Layer Key Style based on "AIA Layer Guidelines version 3", or "NCS 5.0". This option is accessed via the Layers button on the main dialog. 

When placing members with this option in effect, you will be prompted for your choice of override for the Minor 1 field (to follow "S-Beam"), or for none at all. This way you can differentiate between members by layer, to allow visibility control for various plans. You may add and/or remove LKO's from the list, for whatever works best for you. The program will remember the last selected LKO. Tags will ways be on that same layer but with "-Iden" added for the Minor 2 field. 

If you happen to have either of these overrides set (not commonly done), this program will restore their value after the temporary change. So this will NOT interfere with your normal layering. In addition, if you have set any other overrides - perhaps Status, or some custom override - that override will also be applied to the resulting layer. 

Note that this program uses layer keys STRUCTBEAM and STRUCTBEAMIDEN, so whatever properties you have set up for them in the current Layer Key Style will govern, whether you choose to use our member overrides or not.

Your layer standard does need to include the Minor1 and Minor2 overrides for this feature to work. This feature does not modify your layer key style, and Layer Key Overrides are immediately reset to the way the were before placing the member.

Layer Creation and Display

When working in viewports, the layer to be created (as described above) will be created Frozen in all other viewports. This avoids needing to freeze it in other viewports manually. If you have a viewport set up for a 3D view, you will most likely want to see the wood beam elements on all layers. This can be easily done by clicking the Show All button when in that viewport.

Member Color

Member color can also be controlled in this dialog. As seen below, it is set to a color intended to represent wood when seen in a 3D shaded view. The color is applied to the member as it is created - it does not affect the layer color.


Display Properties

NOTE: For most purposes, we now have an easier, and usually preferable, way to achieve a good display. See Display Config, below. This Display Properties info is retained here for anyone wishing to go this route.


Members placed by this program will assume the same standard ACA display properties as any beams. Most significantly, when placed below the drawing current plane they will display their outlines; when placed above they display the axis line only. This may be just what you want, but if you would rather see the outline for all members there is a way to achieve this:

1. Select and right-click a desired member to modify, and select either Edit Style Display or Edit Object display, depending on what you wish to do. Either choice will allow you to modify the display of all members, if you wish. To do so, leave the Override box unchecked and click the button at the upper right (in the Display Properties tab). 


Which method to use?
Modifying the display properties for all styles is by far the simplest way to go - do it once and you're done. However, it may give undesired results if your drawing also contains structural members other than wood beams. Doing this would also affect steel beams, for example, which you may wish to show as centerlines only. If this is the case, then modifying by style or by objects would provide more flexibility and control.


2. If not checking the Override, clicking that button (circled above) will take you to the following dialog. Or, to modify only the style or member, click the check box to take you to the same dialog. In the Properties screen (Layer/Color/Linetype tab), Above Cut Plane Visible is turned off by default. Turn the light bulb on by clicking on it.

Here is the display, before and after the modification:

I-Joist Display

I-Joists, being made of three components, require an extra step, as just doing the above would result in lines showing for the web as well as the outline. Make sure Comp 2 & 3 are both turned off. Then go to the Other tab and change two check boxes as shown below.

Doing so will have the side effect of displaying the member in its assigned color (see Member Color below) rather than the standard color of the style definition. If this matters to you, you might want to perform this step for each style.

Display Configs

Two optional Display Configurations are now provided, as an easier (and usually preferable) way to achieve a desired appearance to your Framing plans.  The two configs are KCS Framing (High) for members above the cut plain (typically Ceiling and Roof), and KCS Framing (Low) for members below the cut plain (typically Floor framing).

When using either of these, architectural objects (walls, doors, etc.) will display as "screened". The appearance of these objects is controlled by the properties of the A-Anno-Scrn layer. This is a default ACA layer - you may change it's properties as desired (Hint: do so in your template file). The framing members will display as outlines, rather than axis lines, in all cases, with tags.

The above sample shows some rafters, with a 10" extension, that have had a Fascia cut applied. Note that when displayed as an axis line, the extension is truncated. There seems to be no way to avoid this, but when the members are displayed as outlines as in the KCS Framing (High) config, they display properly. Here, the A-Anno-Scrn layer color has been changed from the default 250 to 252. 

Beams Dialog Control     

The ACA functionality used by this module to create an arched beam displays a dialog box that does not need any input in this context, but has no means of being suppressed. To avoid confusion and extra clicks, we provide an external utility that dismisses this dialog automatically. You will see it on screen briefly before it is dismissed - this is normal. The name of this utility is Beam Dialog Control, and you will see it in your Windows taskbar. It is automatically activated by this module whenever needed, and may be exited whenever you wish.


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Version History

1.8   - Update for R2018
       - Preset Elevation handling added
1.72 - Ribbon and toolbar buttons added
       - Tag update message revised (and only shows once)
       - Bogus layers removed 
       - Zero length in schedule for TJI's at 180 deg fixed

1.71 - Tag updating fixed 
       - Chamfer now does all joists in array
       - Several I-Joists fixed (3D)
       - New layers now display only in current vport, Show All button added

1.70 - Update for R2017

1.60 - Chamfer Corners added, Display Configs added

1.50 - Updated for R2016

1.40 - Fascia cut added

1.30 - Updated for R2015

1.20 - Updated for R2014

1.00 - Initial release (R2010 - R2013)

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