Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Integrated Practice

This morning I had a chance to go to an AIA breakfast on Itegrated Practice (IP). It was led by Norman Strong, FAIA. Most of the people in attendance were prinipals, owners and managing partners of architectural firms from around our area. The great thing about this talk was that it was focused on how BIM allows IP, and how in reality to fully immplement BIM, and your BIM tool of choice, a firm must realize that what is required is a change in the way we practice. Firms cannot rely on their IT person or deptartment to immplement "BIM" IT can certainly help and support, and lead the training on a specific tool. However, should we fail as professionals to realize that we must alter our approach to practice then "BIM" will never be more than a glorified CAD package. An interesting point made by one of the other speakers at this morning's engagement was that when the industry transitioned from hand drafting to CAD the "experts" promised 3%-5% improvement on our productivity, however when you do all the math, we haven't really improved our efficiency. This can lead to two conlusions, a) either CAD did nothing to improve our efficieny, or b) as business people we managed to find a way to give away any improved value/productivity that resulted from our adoption of CAD. This is extremely troubling. Not only do we need to determine how to change our practice, but in doing so we also need to determine how to maintain our value, while sharing risk & reward, so that our clients and consultants see the value we can and do provide.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Yet another Blog graces my links list :)

Yes, if you are a regular reader of Revit & BIM blogs, you probably already know about James Van's blog. He was nice enough to leave me a comment, so I'm returning the favor by linking to his blog, "All Things Bim".

Thanks to the new RevitCity 2.0 for also posting a link to my blog!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tracking Your Families

I thought I would share a technique we've appplied to all of our family creation which helps a little bit with keeping track of families, and knowing where they came from. In any new family that gets created at my firm, or if a family is downloaded from a site like RevitCity or AUGI, we ask that the users add three text parameters under the "Identity Data" heading;
  • Version Number
  • Source
  • Author

In the case of creating a new family in the firm, version number would typically start at 1.0, Source would be the firm's name, and Author would be the author's name. For families that are produced by contracted consultants, Source would be the consultant's name, and author the employee of the consulting firm that creates the family. For downloaded content, source would be the website and author would be whatever the username is of the contributing "original" author, or as best can be determined. As part of integrating these three parameters with the process of creating new families we are planning/hoping to add them to all family templates so that the end user merely needs to be concerned with filling the parameters out. When creating new families in our firm we also require end users to provide a description, an assembly code (when it makes sense) and a keynote (also when it makes sense).

Why go to all this trouble? The tracking parameters help us to know where a family came from if it is in circulation. If we have the author and a version number we can to a certain extent more easily track down problems. If the author still works for us, we can just go back to them, version number helps, because there might be a more recently updated family that addresses the problem the user is having with the family. By requiring the descriptive data we are "future proofing" ourselves as we use E-Specs more, or if we work with contractors or other consultants where this type of data can be important, or if we figure out new and innovative ways to make use of the data.

We also include a version number in our Project Template file, which exsists as a project parameter under Project Info, no end user is ever going to bother touching it, and most people probably won't ever notice it. However, once again, if there is a problem with the template we can know what version the template is, furthermore everytime the template is updated we have an excel file where we track the version numbers and changes, thus, we can know what might be missing from an older template and or what needs to be updated to resolve an inherent problem with the template.

There is one downside to the "versioning" of our families, when reloading, even when "overwrite parameters of existing types" is selected the version number does not always update, which is rather unfortunate, as it makes it harder to track what version of a family is loaded into a particular project. Hopefully in the future Autodesk will provide some resolution to this issue.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Search Tool

Google has released a new custom search tool. I've added it to my blog to the left. Right now it searches a very limited number of websites. Over the next few days (ahhh, weeks... :) ) I will try to tweak it. I've given it a limited number of Revit related keywords which are supposed to help with the search results. If you give it a try leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you post a url of a Revit website I should be searching it will make it easier and faster for me to add to the search.

If you're a fellow Revit or BIM blogger (and I know who some of you are) and are interested in collaborting on building the search, and including it on your own blog, drop me a comment, or if I've already been in touch with you via other digital communiques contact me that way.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Improving Family Performance

There is a very simple method that can be employed to improve family performance when loaded in a project, the technique makes it much easier for Revit to "draw" views as it doesn't have to calculate anything with regards to cutting through the family's geometry. Using symbolic lines to represent what the family looks like in a specific view type (plan/RCP, elevation front/back, elevation left/right) with visibility settings set to turn off 3D geometry, allows Revit to automatically render the symbolic lines in the particular view, and ignore the 3D geometry. Revit doesn't have to calculate what the family might look like if it is cut by the view plane, or even if the family is being cut by the view plane, it simply displays the symbolic geometry. However there is one slight hitch, if you're working in any type of 3D family, and draw symbolic lines, when you place the family into a project you'll "see" right through the family! See the image to the right.

To fix this problem you need to create a detail component and nest into your 3D family. Detail components (2D geometry only) allow the use of filled regions (which thankfully can block patterns!). If you create a parametric detail component with a filled region, you can then nest it, and attach its parameters to the parameters of the 3D family. Once this is taken care of you can succesfully load the family into a project and get the results of the table on the left.

I highly reccomend creating a rectangular detail component with a filled region, with the lines set to "invisible", you can then use this component in a variety of situations. If you do not want the filled region to have a pattern or color, make sure to set the type properties of the filled region to "no pattern" and not a solid fill color. If however you want a material pattern you can choose whatever you like. You may also want some filled region detail components for other common shapes like circle, L, etc...

Setting the parameters to instance based will give you shape handles when the component is loaded that can be quickly grabbed & locked. These filled region detail components can be handy for detailing in project views too, rather than having to always create filled regions every time you need one. Instance parameters will make it so that you don't need multiple types.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New blog (though you've probably already seen it)

Because I like what she has to say, I've also joined the chorus of fellow Revit bloggers and added Laura's blog about using Revit in the contracting world to my list of links. Thanks to David & Steve where I found her, don't know who was the first one to pick up on her blog. Hopefully my firm can do some work with Tocci, seeing as we have a Boston office....

Here's to Revit!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reference Planes in Families

When creating parametric families we've found that the best way to control the dynamic geometry is to create a skeleton of reference planes to which dimensional parameters are attached. Once the skeleton works as expected we create geometry that we attached and lock to the reference planes. However recently we've discovered one minor issue that family authors should be aware of when using reference planes in creating families. On several occasions we've had symbolic geometry randomly showing up in views where it shouldn't. For instance an interior elevation had casework door elevation swing lines showing up when the cabinets were on the other side of the wall (see figure to right). Or, we've had door elevation & plan swing lines show up in views where the door isn't visible. The culprit in all cases has been "extra" reference planes that aren't being used in a family. What makes it even harder to track down is the offending reference planes are often in nested families. In both cases of the casework doors and regular doors it was a piece of hardware that was causing the problem. The hardware was created a "generic model" and the template used included some pre-defined reference planes that weren't required for the handle, because the reference planes were pre-defined they couldn't be deleted, and the author simply left the planes where they were. In the case of the handle, even though the planes were only a couple of feet away (see the figure bottom right) from the origin the handle was so small that it caused problems. In this case the solution was to move the reference planes in extremely close to the geometry so as to stop causing problems.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Construction Administration & Blog upgrade

You might notice a few differences, I took the plunge and upgraded my blog to the current Beta, I like it a little better, and I hope you do to. If you're not using IE or Firefox you may have problems viewing the blog, sorry folks, blogger says they're working to fix it all.

Construction Administration (CA) of a Revit project seems to be becoming a hot topic. There have been a couple of threads, some new, some ressurected, showing up on AUGI. Currently because of our average project sizes we are reccomending that projects should expect to export a full set of DWG documents when the Construction Documentation (CD) phase has ended. Generally we've found that while plans export very well, and sections generally do, we find that we need to do clean-up on elevations, and some general housekeeping on the other views. While on a very large project, it might take week to do this, we think its worth it. So far, from what we've seen when you have a large revit project, on a tight site, with a tight schedule, and unforseen conditions (that never happens right ;) ), Revit just doesn't lend itself to quickly producing RFI sketches and addendum. We want to keep the Revit model involved, but at the same time we need to face the realistic needs of our project teams.

Furthermore, the other kink in Revit is not being able to have a view on more than one sheet, this makes it very hard to issue an addendum sketch, and have the same drawing on the original sheet. There are some lenghty dicussions on AUGI about this topic, but suffice is to say, work arounds are just sometimes a pain. CA is fraught with enough difficulties, we don't need to make it harder for our own staff.

Hopefully Autodesk will find time to address this portion of Revit's use, and of course we will continue to encourage them to do so. :)


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Family Clinic (learning to create parametric families)

So the other big thing that happened before going to San Fran & the west coast was that I held an intensive day long advanced family creation clinic (my pastor thought this was a little sketchy sounding ;) ) based around my firm's family standards as defined by the family outline specification that was one of my first blog posts. The training session started with about an hour and half going through a power point that I created that illustrates best practices for creating solid parametric families that are easy to diagnose and distill; as long as everyone follows the rules such as; always name reference planes, and categorize your parameters, don't let them all sit under the "other" heading. There are more.... :) but you gotta come work for us first ;).

After the powerpoint, which was interspersed with live Revit demos to illustrate various points, we moved on to creating a family. Here's a pic of what I told them they would have by the end of the day.


2 pick family with arrayed nested cabinet family that can be user modified, doors are also nested and interchangeable. As a bonus they're challenged to write the formula that will limit the number of cabinet instances so that they don't extend past the overall length (yes I did write the formula as proof of concept).

All of them did it (I had about 8 people in the class, course my CIO was reading his e-mail, didn't see Revit open on the laptop ;) ). It was a fantastic training session and we covered just about everything related to families. Workplanes, subcategories, parameters, formulas, shared & nested families, visibility settings, shared parameters, keynotes, and of course general best practices on building complex families. Everyone felt that the course was a great success, and I was very happy with the results. I was very fortunate in that one of my co-workers in the course is a note taking nazi and she has provided excellent written documentation of what we did, making it much easier to make it repeatable and tweakable.

At the start of the day I provided them with a CD that included the power point, a PDF synopis of key points to remember (printed too), the required family templates, keynote file, shared parameter file, excel file of the firm's additional subcategories, and examples of the finished families, and the doors (I pre-made them for them). My favorite part though was that I was also able to include progressive copies of the families. By setting the number of back-up copies to 250 I was able to create a sequence of files by saving after every major action as I created the families. In the end I have 14 sequential files of the base cabinet, they proved very useful as I had a latecomer to the class, and I was able to catch him up ASAP by simply opening one of the 14 files and he was ready to go.

All in all this was a great experience and I was very satisfied with the results, and everyone who participated thought that it was great (though a long day). Now though, I know where I can break up the course to do it in shorter smaller parts. In addition to teaching the course internally, I hope to take it public at some point (with some modifications ;) ). I look forward to doing it again and perfecting it. :)