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Walls set up as Basic give you a choice of Building Material; the thickness can be adjusted in the Wall Settings dialog. Surface Overrides are available to change the appearance for the Reference Line side, Other Side, and/or Edges. The Reference Line can be either side or centered, with an optional offset.
Building Materials are defined by a name, a priority, appearance in plan/section and 3D, and other data such as thermal properties. Priorities are very important since when elements overlap they define which volumes pass through and which stop or give way.
Building Materials can be renamed without a problem, since they are recorded internally (as in many things inside ARCHICAD) with an index number that stays constant. One can duplicate Building materials with a new name to create variations that are similar, but with different intersection priorities or Surfaces.
Composite Walls have one or more "skins" made of Building Materials with specific depths and annotation settings; these are set in the Composites dialog and cannot be changed within the Wall Settings dialog. There are similar Surface Overrides available.
The Reference line may be set as either face, either side of the core, or centered in the core, with an optional offset. This should generally be set to whatever location is most important or easily defined in the design; if you change the wall to use a different composite, the reference line will stay in place while the skins may adjust. For buildings laid out in relation to setbacks, often the outside face of the wall is a convenient reference line; for as-built measurements, the inside face of the wall is often best known so it can be used.
Edges of the wall show all skins in freestanding conditions. For marquee or cutting plane cutaway views, you'll see them unless overridden globally using the View menu > Filter and Cut Elements in 3D dialog.
The Composite Settings dialog allows you to create, duplicate or edit composite types for walls, floors, roofs and shells. Each skin has a building material, a thickness and a structural attribute of core, finish or other, along with 2D annotation options including linetype, pen number, and end lines.
For exterior walls, the top-most skin in the Composite Settings dialog is the Outside of the wall. For interior walls, this designation is less relevant but still used in dialog boxes.
The core of composites is generally the same as "framing" as in "face of framing". It is also referenced when Partial Structure Display options temporarily change the plan or 3D model to show Core Only or other options for Structural models and drawings.
Names of composites can be changed any time without affecting the design, since they are referenced internally using index numbers. Definitions of composites can be changed at any time; this will affect all elements drawn or placed with that composite.
Composites may be designated for use with Walls, Slabs, and/or Roofs and Shells. By designating their use in the Composites dialog, it simplifies the listings in these Settings dialogs, since ARCHICAD will only show Composites that are designated for the active tool. This can be changed at any time.
A common method for creating Composites is to Duplicate an existing one that is similar to the desired type while choosing a new name. Then the definition is adjusted to suit the new assembly.
Composites are always a uniform extrusion for the full height of the wall, as opposed to Complex Profiles which allow you to draw a full cross section.