Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Revit 2013 - Droppin' Like You're on Subscription.

It's official, Revit 2013 is here, or coming, or at least we can talk about it now. In reality very few firms decide to move to new versions of software until the Fall, Winter, or Spring following the release. So these new features might not be implemented in your firm for quite a while but without a doubt it will happen so let's discuss a couple of items.

This one is personally my "holy crap!" improvement of 2013. They have been tweaking the material dialog box for a couple of releases now and I always scratched my head at the changes which seemed somewhat cosmetic and only marginally beneficial to the everyday user. Certainly it never improved in a true game changing  way; that is until now. I do a lot with energy analysis and the dreaded gbXML file and the complaint from most is the lack of intelligence to derive thermal characteristics from the modeled elements. You always had to pick from a static list of construction assemblies whose assignment were determined by an adjacency calculation not from what was modeled. Now you can calculate thermal properties of layered elements based on Thermal assets of the individual materials in a wall/floor/ceiling/roof system family. Component families (doors/windows) are still picked from a list as a type property. You still have the option of assigning thermal assembly types in the traditional way but now we are one crucial step closer to intelligent integrated analysis.

Stair Type Properties and Their embedded Type
properties dialog boxes
Stairs can be modeled with run and landing components or as before with a sketch. The components are really a fun and flexible way to model stairs that help you understand what your stairs will look like in 3D before leaving your create stairs mode (images below are while still in the stair creation mode). In addition to the new ways we can create stairs, they have also provided us the flexibility to convert any component based landing or run to a sketch. The stair types now have  embedded type properties dialog boxes for the landing, support, and other elements that define the stairs.

 I don't mean to oversimplify everything that is going on in these releases but  only have so much time to write here. If you want more information attend one of the web based presentations that will take a much deeper dive on each discipline. IMAGINiT's Know It. All.  Virtual Event will be held at the beginning of May 1-3 with 1 day dedicated to each market sector (building is on May 2). As always, stay on top of the new features and keep opportunity in the forefront of your mind as we go through another year of software releases.

Finally, if you are not using the 2012 version of Revit yet? Get with it. It is time. You are only hurting yourself, and your MEP consultant. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why Would You Model Gyp Board?

Ok, time to get a little more technical and I guess quite a bit more nit-picky. Before I begin I will just say that I have completed jobs in the industry as a production guy and as a BIM manager at first including Gyp Board modeled in walls and then acquiescing and going without. What I have found for myself seems to go against the grain of how most firms I see using Revit model walls.

I am a recovering Gyp Board modeler. Its known on the streets as "sheet rock", "Gypsum", "GB", "white wall candy".  Well I am off it and I am not looking back. Ok, now lets take a look back.

In the early days of BIM it was cool to see what you could model, the possibilities were endless, base board, casework section information, roof drains, 3/4" reveals. Then, the realities of system performance and general practicality sunk in. To model the minute means to over-embellish the overall.

Gyp board seemed acceptable, I mean what if I want to do a material takeoff of all the gyp board on my model? I had core boundaries if I wanted to dimension to the stud face so that worked, everything was great. These were the salad days.

Unfortunately, these days were short lived as the workload that needed to be undertaken to realize this dream was, well… realized. It forced me to make many more wall types and take what should be a very simple and repetitive area of the floor plan to model and turn it into something far more complex. And for what?

What about when gyp board stops above the ceiling but the wall structure keeps going? Are we really unlocking the gyp board layers and modifying that everywhere, not just the documentation views? Its no wonder firms want to up their fees, its no wonder there is significant concern over modeling scope and budgeting hours. What about when the model changes? Too much work for too little benefit.
The data is what's important: Type Marks, Partition Type Legends, Fire Rating, detailed views.  How could an estimator effectively use your model without gyp board? Easy, they probably weren't using it in the first place. Linear feet of wall, Areas and Heights of rooms, these are the limitless possibilities chosen by the people that most directly benefit from your modeling workload.

 I've been gyp board free for 3 years now and I can't tell you how good I feel.  Join me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Owner Standards

One thing that I can say is lighting the fire of change across the industry is the owner BIM guideline. If you haven't been able to pour through one of these documents I highly suggest you do especially before bidding on one of these projects. It can drastically change your scope of work and if you are not aware of that impact you run the risk of losing you shirt on these projects. In my opinion these guidelines have the potential to make AEC firms more profitable by increasing the workload/fees, and therefore the value of a delivered model. Message: Don't fear the guideline, saddle it and take it for a spin.
Here are a few examples of these owner guidelines for your reading pleasure. These are in no way meant to represent the full range of owner BIM Guidelines.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Vasari Makes Me Happy

With the new Vasari Technology Preview Version 2.5  available free from Autodesk Labs (link to Vasari 2.5 website) I wanted to take a post to point out some of the new improvements as well as to share my general affection for this software.

I would like for Project Vasari to be taken seriously… eventually. I have done a lot with energy analysis and energy modeling during my time at IMAGINiT: Ecotect, Integrated Environmental Solutions <Virtual Environment>, Green Building Studio to name a few. The sad fact is the GbXML file from a model built for documentation is not viable for most energy modeling and analysis. Don't get me wrong, I can make it work; but when I take a look at the simplicity that I need in an energy modeling application and the intricacies of a building model in Revit the best of us balk. Vasari allows me to be generic and still tangibly communicate something powerful.

By Vasari I really mean Revit.  The tool is easy to use for existing Revit users, uses RVT files and has the same general interface and features, with some advancements over the Analysis tab that was included with the 2012 release of Revit. Vasari can be used to integrate early design modeling and leverage-able analysis and data into a meaningful and cost saving BIM process.  Here are my thoughts on some key features.

Enabling an Energy Model - The 2.5 version of Vasari greatly improved the automatic zoning. The 2.1 release saw the Divide Perimeter Zones option abide by the ASHRAE 90.1 Appendix G Thermal blocking requirement and the 2.5 version has improved the  Core Offset functionality to correctly zone courtyard spaces. Basically a higher fidelity model that would therefore give you higher fidelity results. Or export the Mass model GbXML file and use it wherever. This, if it continues to improve and maybe include some per zone modeling flexibility, could really be a game changer in the building performance analysis software market.
Ecotect Wind Tunnel - This was released with 2.1 this past Fall but it is too interesting not to mention. External CFD: airflow around buildings, through courtyards, very cool visuals. Unique and simple in its execution. The only question I am left with is "what could I use you for?".

2D slice shown, can be 3D flow lines, and runs as an animation.

Ecotect Solar Radiation Tool - This one has been around a while but its worth noting. If only I could use it on a building model and not just a mass model. Interesting information for design taking advantage of sun and shade from the surrounding site and form based self shading.

Working in perspective view  - New in 2.5. Its kind of like Navisworks Orthographic and Perspective 3D view options, also reminds me of another free modeling application from another massive software company.
    3D Modeling  - I personally don't get too revved up about improvements to the massing tools, I guess my needs are simple. Massing in Revit always seems to turn into a practice on impractical architecture, but it sure is fun.  The message should be: it doesn't matter where your design starts, you can quickly mass its shape and get some great data. Regardless of that design options, schedules, parameter driven mass forms, all very cool and all absolutely possible.
      Export to FBX - Mass, analyze, and render. FBX files allows you to take your mass form with materials into 3DS Max design for photorealistic renderings. I think the conversation needs to be revisited: What are we showing our clients, and when are we showing it to them? This turns the early design deliverable on its ear, unique and meaningful design communication with less upfront workload.
        Vasari has proven itself to be provocative, continually improving, and just plain cool. As modeling expertise expands in this industry I hope to see more architects dabble in these sorts of massing forms and the data/analysis/visualization that is easily gleaned.

        Thursday, March 15, 2012

        BIM is Software

        Ok, is this topic is one of those that I think is interesting in that, in my personal experience, the people that seem most passionate about it are those that have the least experience with working on a project involving BIM, or they work for an Autodesk competing firm. Either way I'll throw my 2 cents at this oft beaten topic. Let us first define BIM in its most basic form:

        Building - well that's the goal at least, it has to represent something we build.
        Information - There has to be data behind it, intelligent AEC centric data that understands the general types of objects as well as the flexibility to leverage the minutiae of data that we add for a multitude of purposes.
        Model(ing) - It has to be in 3D.
        Ok, so for those that say BIM isn't software I will in short agree with you. It is a bunch of software. Revit is BIM unless you use it exactly like CAD (detail lines, detail components, filled regions only) and that is a huge "if". No one does that. Many users don't take advantage of every nook and cranny of Revit but as long as they use walls and doors, that's a BIM. I guess my point is: BIM begins at conception.
        There are other tools, I admit, but as far as the de facto BIM Authoring tool? Revit, without equivocation. If you doubt that just look at every BIM guideline out there 10 to 1 is specifies Revit (probably 100 to 1 but I am ballparking it). Now the bunch of software that I allude to is meant to show that there are BIM authoring tools (e.g. Revit, Tekla) and there are BIM leveraging tools (e.g. Navisworks, e-SPECS, Solibri, Virtual Environment, Affinity, SmartBIM). It has to come from somewhere and that is software and then it exists and is taken advantage of in software.

        So for those that say "BIM is a process not software" please rethink this. Is Sketchup BIM? No. it might be a building model but it lacks the AEC intelligent information (I guess it’s a BM them, ha ha). So Revit is BIM, ok I feel better now.

        Wednesday, March 14, 2012


        As an IMAGINiT Technologies technical expert I get to see how a lot of different firms use the software tools we sell and service. The industry seems to have reached a critical mass of firms us BIM with more major dominoes falling every day. Now owners are dictating a lot more than just the software tools used and firms are having to truly open up their process to downstream use.

        This owner standard is what ultimately got me to the decision to begin this blog and start a Twitter account (My Twitter homepage). Why social media? Because for me this is undiscovered country and after participating in a recent Tweet Chat (#bimspectrum) I woke to the power of connecting for the greater good.

         This is a pretty big leap for me considering I have successfully shunned Facebook, much to the chagrin of my friends and family. I figured I spent enough time in front of a computer when I work, so why make up another reason to stare at a lit screen. So technically this is work but I sincerely hope that the information contained will aid the industry as a whole. At the very least you will get my honest opinion and lessons I have learned while I travelling and interacting with all types of firms . Here is what to expect in the posts to come:
        • Updates on software tools in and out of the Autodesk realm
        • Trends in the industry around standards and collaboration
        • Information on new content being released through the IMAGINiT portal portal.imaginit.com (registration is free)
        • News on upcoming marketing events like BIM Spectrum (www.bimspectrum.com), and other virtual and in person events
        • And some other things as I can come up with them...