Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Welcome to the New World…

It’s been way too long…but nowadays it’s tough to really find time to sit down and put thoughts to paper. Work/life items have their own balance that take precedence, and it’s easy to let time slip you by. But it’s been a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

Ironic as it is, I just received my first promotion based on performance in the engineering world. Most of the time, it was a case of just taking on more responsibility or changing jobs to get ahead. That’s the nature of the technical world, which unfortunately means the design world never has really figured out how to retain and keep good people. But this time around, I was sticking around for a lot of good reasons – not as much financial as wanting to see things through. It was one of the reasons why I left the reseller channel, which is even worse at recognizing and rewarding talent. Getting to see a project completed and in use is still a real kick to me – good or bad, no matter what happens, it’s one of the best things to be able to say, I had a hand in making that happen.

So, my new role is Engineering Technology Manager – and we’re still really working out what that means, but in this role,  we’re making two important changes. First was the practice of embedding technical representation on our business line practice leadership teams, and second was to regionalize these positions to help us focus on the needs of the area, rather than spending a lot of time crossing the country. We’ll still be doing everything we did before, but the focus really helps, as we can now more specifically target the technical needs of the people that do amazing work for us. The tools, as they are, should not hamstring the teams, or at best help them radically change their workflows so we can get back to the right work/life balance. It gets frustrating to watch team members working substantial overtime, or never be able to leave for vacation without taking the apron strings off.

Left to Right: Richard Binning, Eric Blackburn and Mike Massey at Guardsman Pass, UT


Over the past week, I’ve gotten to spend some amazing time with BIM managers and directors from across the country to help define what it means to be a BIM manager…or whatever the role name is, but a leader for technological change. It was really fascinating to hear all of the different ideas from people who have had this role for some time, and to really try to understand how to quantify this position. As an industry, we’ve really had a backwards view of the impact of technology. It’s akin to giving someone a hammer, who then promptly uses the handle to pound in the nail – and then have them refuse to see why what they’re doing isn’t what that part of the tool is designed for.

Throw in a nail gun – but it’s useless if you don’t understand all of the coincidental parts to make it work. Without a compressor, or a hose long enough so you’re not moving it around all day, and don’t forget the electricity, nails, and Band-Aids for when you miss). I’ve been doing some carpentry work in the house trying to get it ready to sell, so we can move to the coast and get more out of the life we seem to be stuck in today. That nail gun is a hell of a lot better hammer that my old one, and I’m getting more done with than I ever did by muscling it the old way.

This is where BIM technology is today – and the rate of adoption and adaption is accelerating at a higher rate than even just a couple of decades ago. Reviewing a project on my phone seemed like a pipe dream when CAD came out, but now a millennial expects you to provide the phone, the software and the latte’s to help them work faster in fewer hours per day.

So, my first steps are going to be step back and take inventory of what we have and do – and figure out where the gaps are. Who’s still on AutoCAD 14…who’s using their phone to do a three-way Skype call and share a project on the phone so I can help them figure out what’s happening with design options. Who’s told their users that you don’t have time for training…and who’s taking the software and laptop home at night so they can get better at their job. Too often, we spend way too much time bemoaning between the haves and have nots, and not enough time figuring out how to lift all up, instead of tearing some down. I’m a firm believer in the former – that you don’t get anywhere by taking things away from people, but instead putting the time and tools into those that don’t so they can get ahead. The only ones I’m less likely to help are the ones that won’t instead of the ones who can’t for whatever the reason.

One of the big takeaways I had from the meeting last week was in regard to identify roles and responsibilities for a typical BIM Manager. As we mind-mapped the daylights out of the tasks, we (led by my buddy Mike Massey who deserves the credit for this) came up with four key categories that address these tasks, that all add up to PIE2:

  • Planning and Research – this category relates to the preparation a BIM manager needs to be doing to help move and keep a company in the right mindset for BIM workflows:
  • Implementation – setting up all of the background tools, tasks, documentation, standards and more that sits behind what BIM applications and workflows need;
  • Education – stepping back and looking at technical training from a different light, and being able to take the best of what we’ve learned about education delivery methods and integrating them into today’s technology to provide a better learning experience;
  • Execution – no, we’re not shooting people, but we are shooting for PAC – better productivity, more accuracy and improved coordination. The BIM manager has to understand how to execute everything in the previous categories and apply to the new project world. How to run more efficiently from go/no-go, project execution plans, design phases and post design tasks in all disciplines, a variety of project types and with a wide variety of user abilities and tools…a witches brew indeed.

So, taking a step back and looking at the big picture – what does it take to make a good BIM Manager? Patience? Virtue? Irreproachable technical expertise? An affinity for the keyboard and mouse that can’t be explained? A certain level of insanity for taking all of this on?

As I’m staring down the R word in my somewhat near future, I’m really appreciating the confidence from my leaders to challenge me more and take on this role to help solve these issues. There’s going to be days when I want to pull all eight hairs left on my head out, and others when I’ll feel like a proud dad when I see the lightbulb go on for someone who’s struggled. Wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Notes from the Support System – Revit Lighting Analysis


Autodesk continues to expand its analysis capabilities, with the addition and improvement of the Insight 360 tools, heating and cooling load analysis, lighting analysis and solar analysis. I’ve been seeing more trends of users taking advantage of these tools, but encountering errors that at first glance seem un-explainable. The lighting analysis tools have had a rush of support questions lately, so let’s clear up the air on this tool, and help you get it working for you.

First, refer to this document that was provided by Autodesk in October, 2017 by Krishnan Gowri, Ph.D. FASHRAE, LEED AP, Principal Engineer, Generative Design Group:


Here are my tips to help you get the best results:

The lighting analysis should be conducted early in the design process, prior to a lot of heavy modeling that adds content such as furniture, equipment, structure, MEP systems and more. The more complex geometry can cause the model to fail, especially with the addition of highly detailed components containing small surfaces. This includes content modeled to LOD 350 and above. If you want to include it, keep it in separate models that can be easily removed, or in worksets that can be turned off.

Make sure your model includes all of the bounding elements, including floors, ceilings, and roofs, in addition to walls and openings (including doors and windows). Keep the detail level at a minimum – for example, if you are placing curtain walls, avoid panels and mullions that include complex shapes, such a louvers, or frames that include the caulking (yes – this has happened. Great for detail but lousy for analysis). Avoid using extra surfaces like wall sweeps – these can cause a known issue with the lighting analysis tool. One additional tool – don’t make items like column enclosures room bounding – at least not during the early stages of design, where you’re using this tool. The few the surfaces, the more like the tool is to work.

Assign materials from the material library to the bounding elements that include surface settings for color, reflectance and more. As with the bounding elements, keep this simple. You’re trying to gain a general knowledge of the lighting conditions for illuminance and LEED credits, and how altering these materials can affect the overall energy and lighting performance of the building. but not drill down to  the specific foot-candle levels at 2” intervals.

Rooms. Rooms. Rooms. You have to model these and do it correctly. Every area of building that is going to be analyzed must have a room object, with Height assigned. I recommend at a minimum to set the room upper limit to the next bounding floor level above. When a ceiling is placed and set to be room bounding, it will automatically cap the room to that level. It will pick up the materials assigned to the ceiling, and as the ceiling is moved, the room height will automatically update. Take the time to assign the room name and number, even if it’s preliminary. You’ll need this for the schedules the tool produces, since the analysis is primarily based on room properties.

Fix your errors – avoid overlapping elements such as walls, deleted unplaced rooms, and find/fix  voids. For example, don’t model your interior walls 8’ tall, if they should extend 6” above that 10’ ceiling you just placed. If you build a crappy, half finished model, you’re going to get failures every time – and this includes all of the other analysis tools too. You can find your list of model errors on the Manage Tab, Inquiry panel – click Warnings, and you will get a list you can export and review.

Speaking of levels – make sure you’re using these correctly as well. Floor datum levels should not be used to define the height of a countertop – use a workplane instead, or use a level that does not defined a story. This can affect your upper limits on the rooms if you’re setting them to be bound at the next level – you don’t want 42” tall rooms that match the level you added for the countertops.

Leverage the Insight energy model first. This tool is great for checking your model and making sure it’s well defined for analysis. The heating and cooling load tool also includes tools for reviewing the room and space volumes, as well as each analytical surface for walls, doors, windows, floors, etc. You can review this first before perform any analysis, and get a good idea of how well formed your model is defined.

Make sure you have all of the available updates for Revit installed, and the latest build of Insight installed. There have been a lot of updates that fix earlier issues, so don’t stick around on Revit 2016 and try to do this – get on 2018.3.1 (the latest build as of this article date for 2018) or 2019, and you should reduce the number of potential errors.

Worse case – you do all of this, and still don’t get the results you need – start a support case at support.autodesk.com, and make sure you include this information – your version of Revit, a link to the Revit model and any linked files.

Thanks – David B.

UPDATE - Autodesk is hosting a series of online classes all about Insight 360 - for more details, follow this link - the sessions are offered on June 14, 2018"

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/revit-products/learn-explore/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/How-to-access-the-Learn-everything-about-Autodesk-Insight-webinar-series.html

Friday, January 12, 2018

AU 2017 and End of Year Wrap Up…Time’s Flying!

When I started this article, I was just getting back from the Thanksgiving break, and busy pulling out Christmas ornaments. One of the things I’m liking the best is moving AU from after Thanksgiving to before, as it gives me more time to spend with family and friends over the holidays, and not feel so rushed. So this, we took a little pre-vacation, and spend some time in Park City, UT before driving down to Vegas.




If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. The Waldorf Astoria we stayed in displayed that customer service, done correctly, is what makes a trip like this a memorable experience. The items that don't cost a thing - like remembering guest's name, saying hello in the halls, and making sure everything is perfect for your stay...reminds me that it's the little things found in kindness that makes a difference.



So a couple of personal notes. 2017 was my last for producing training videos for 4D Technologies and CADLearning.com. I really liked working with the crew, and learned a heck of a lot about producing a web-based training program. In my eyes, Dan Dolan and Matt Murphy have the best online training program for Autodesk products out there.  My leaving has more to do with finding the elusive item known as “free time”, as my projects around the house have been piling up lately. Combined with my involvement with the Expert Elite and Directly programs, plus expansion efforts with technology at work, had me working way too many hours, nights and weekends. I’ve also been itching to get back to writing for the blog, as the industry is going through some pretty serious changes now.

On AU 2017. You ever have one of those days where you know you can do better than what you do, and wish you had done things a little different? That’s how I left Vegas this year. Adam Sopko and the AU staff are really starting to push the boundaries of what a tech conference should be, and the additional benefits and features really leave me believing that 3 days (plus a pre-day) aren’t enough. I’m wishing we would go back to a 3 ½ day full event, and get the labs back on Fridays again that would go 3 ½ hours.




Part of that is my own fault. Last year’s Perfecting the System for Revit lab, we were able to cover everything, but this year, I couldn’t get it done, and wanted to apologize to all the attendees. I should have shortened up the first section to focus on the system behavior, but hope that the handouts are detailed enough to fill in the gaps. My other regret was agreeing to take on some new technology for a lab – the attendee interaction tool, Freeman XP Touch. Before you react, I want to point out that I really support this – I like the idea of attendees being able to ask extra questions and poll questions during the class, but the technical hiccups basically amounted to a dry run during the class. The attendees shouldn’t pay the price on the time we’re allowed, so next year, I would encourage the AU staff to plan this out a little better. Two weeks notice on this type of change isn’t enough, even though we had worked the kinks out by the last class.

The other thing that it convinced me to do was to shorten up my presentations. Here’s a note to all speakers – you can put all the detail you want in the handout, but if you’re writing novels like I do, don’t try to present it all. Shorten it up to the key points, and keep the live parts to main areas, without doing too much. I’ve been speaking long enough that I should have known better, and probably would not have stressed out as much as I did this year. I’m also going into self-cap mode – four classes is a little much, and took away from my time to enjoy the event. There’s so much going on, that I really need to get back into more classes myself, especially on the Forge/Quantum side of things.



Back to the event – the AEC keynote was the only one I could attend, but I’m really excited about seeing where my industry is headed. As I look at all the different programs, getting them all to play together in the same sandbox is challenging. I think the best way to simply the concept is to break it down into a couple of ideas.

The data associated with any physical representation of an object – such as dimensional, electrical, mechanical, etc. – is one of the most critical components of a design. Regardless of the delivery of this information, keeping the data in silos – Revit, Inventor, AutoCAD, etc. – is what keeps projects bloated and slow, as well as uncoordinated. Pulling the data out in a cloud database, where the design models can access it directly and without duplication – is a critical step towards true generative design. Just the act of syncing this data across multiple applications that all handle the information differently, is incredibly time consuming. But pulling it out of the modeling program and into its own environment could free up the modeling programs to focus on the design itself, and allow more parts to interact with other.

Generative design represents the next evolution of BIM, and with Quantum on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how 3D modeling evolves. But as an MEP user, it can be tough to quantify, so what would I look for in this realm?

A few features of generative design I would like to see may look like this:

- The MEP geometry should recognize rules on interferences, so they can automatically prompt, or even respond, and reroute, without having to spend excessing time working out alternatives that don’t alter the design criteria of the system, such as air or fluid flow.
- The electrical connector should recognize the available resources, such as panels, and be able to create connection during placement (as opposed to a post-placement editing task), as well as maintain electrical design criteria, without having to depend on spreadsheet and hand-based calculations. For example, the electrical code states what apparent load in VA is translated to for a circuit, based on the horsepower of a pump - adding that table based on rules should be an easy add, rather than through tedious if/then programming in an external text file.
- Control systems in the model should be able to be maintained out to the end user, and integrate with the control software. Water, wastewater treatment, chemical and biological manufacturing and more should be integrated into the BIM environment – and the data related to usage be able to provide feedback in real-time to the designer that needs to make modifications and improvements over the life of the equipment. This requires better integration between Inventor and Revit, eliminating the “conversion” process that’s currently required.

These were just a few of the takeaways I had after listened to the keynote, and talk to other attendees. So what do you look forward to in 2018? Where do you think the future of making things is taking you? In my case…hopefully towards a fish that knows where I am and when to jump on hook…and then fillet itself and season just nicely so.



Overall, AU 2017 was a blast. The Venetian/Palazzo/Sands is a perfect place to hold this event, and the crowds were well served. The exhibit hall this year included a caricature artist - and yes, mine is my new avatar. The special events, where users got to meet with and share ideas with product managers, like Martin Schmid, help give us the sense that Autodesk is keenly interested in your input to help make the products better.



AU is also about connecting with friends, cohorts and like minded geeks. This year's Wednesday night event was a little hectic (way too many people in Tao), nothing beats sitting down with some of my friends and mentors, and catching up. Always great to see these guys - they're the best in the industry, and make AU the great event it is.




Two of my coworkers that attended came back motivated, and loaded with information and ideas that could help them produce higher quality work. It’s great to see younger people (i.e. those a couple of generations removed) really get into the technology that has made my career. This year looks to be promising, so stay tuned…

Happy New Year! David B.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

AU 2017 Proposal Time – and now you can Vote!

I’ve been a speaker at AU for a long time now (well, about 13 times) and every year it’s challenging to come up with new and updated topics. But this year is a little different – for the first time, you, the user, can vote for the classes you would like to see. So if you have a topic, like learning Dynamo for Revit, understanding how to bring Inventor families into Infraworks, or gain a better understanding to make your AutoCAD documentation look and behave like Revit documentation, then you get to pick until June 16th. It won’t be the only criteria used to pick a class, but it will be an important one.
So here’s what I’ve ponied up for this year. You can vote by following this link:

http://au.autodesk.com/speaker-resource-center/call-for-proposals/voting

Perfecting the System for Revit

Last year’s co-winner of the top lab at AU 2016, this lab set several firsts. It was a first for me as a two time winner from 2011 and 2016, but the key part was how we taught the class. We covered three tracks – duct, pipe and electrical – at the same time, showing the similarities and highlight key points for each system type. The handouts were the most detailed I had written for an AU lab – an overview, one for each track, and a key points document to narrow it down. Here’s the lab description:

“Revit systems help us to define the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design in several ways, but the main purpose is to understand the relationships between system equipment, such as air terminals to air handling units, or from light fixture to panel. This multiple-AU award winning lab will teach you the key steps needed for controlling project system settings, and then demonstrates how to capitalize on (or disable) sizing and analysis tools related to the system. We’ll cover creating the target-source relationship between parts, and then we’ll review using the systems to improve the quality of your documentation. On top of this, you’ll get a project template that already defines everything in the class, so you can take advantage of these topics right away. The class will cover HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), piping, and electrical items, so come and join us for this fast-paced but thorough lab—you’ll be glad you did! This session features Revit MEP and Revit.”

- Learn comprehensive steps for controlling project system settings, including mechanical and electrical system project settings
- Learn how to capitalize on the system sizing and analysis tools, and learn how to maximize project performance when you don't need these features
- Understand how to create the target and source relationship between equipment without routing a duct, pipe, or wire
- Learn how to improve the quality of your construction documents by capitalizing on system-based features

Managing BIM Projects Without Going CRAZY

This course was featured as a live event a few years back, and was one of the most watched online sessions for the AU site. Working from a higher level, this class is geared more towards the BIM manager and focuses on high-impact areas of an implementation. We’ve also added some new features to cover from the 2018 release. With the inclusion of fabrication tools in Revit 2018, we step back and learn when and why you would use this content, over the default design content that’s already been shipping with Revit.

“This course covers effective practices for project managers, architects, engineers, and designers working on Building Information Modeling (BIM) projects for all areas of architecture, structure and MEP systems. Learn how AutoCAD and Revit software have altered the traditional design workflows and processes, and discover how to manage the disruptive changes. The course will cover pre-project planning, dealing with project content and understanding what tools can really help the project bottom line. We will also review key CAD and BIM standards, and where Revit software alters typical project tasks for higher levels of development. The course is well suited for the first-time manager and experienced user. If you're ready for an energetic, fast-paced class that packs in a lot of information, then sign up early and often!”

- Discover key points for the project execution plans and staffing
- Understand how to clearly define CAD and BIM tasks for a project and how standardization between both should be approached
- Learn how to migrate third party content and filter essential data into a project family
- Examine different levels of development (LOD), and when to use design versus fabrication tools

I also added two new classes, including one on AutoCAD that was based on training demands we’ve had at our firm, Gannett Fleming.

AutoCAD versus Revit - Common Annotation Tips and Tricks

We still have a lot of AutoCAD users, but it’s kind of surprising how few of our users have really had any training on AutoCAD. As part of a standards initiative, we discovered how little (and how poorly) many of our stuff used features such as annotative scaling for text, dimensions and blocks. We also had some attempts at dynamic blocks, but only a handful of user understood how to use them, much less make them. So this class was born out of the need to create similar workflows and use tools that have the same behavior in both AutoCAD and Revit.

“When you have a lot of old school and productive AutoCAD users, sometimes it can be tough to get them into the Revit way of thinking. One way to get these users on board is to help them relate AutoCAD features to Revit tools, and learn how these similar tools can increase their productivity. In this lesson, we being by learning how annotations such as text and dimensions are controlled by the scale of the drawing. Next, we review the similarity of dynamic blocks in AutoCAD and Revit 2D symbol and annotation families. We examine how actions and parameters in AutoCAD help the user match Revit family placement behavior and features. The session closes by learning how to make AutoCAD dynamic blocks behave more like Revit family types, using visibility and lookup tools. If you need more consistency between your AutoCAD drawings, and Revit documentation, come join this old timer to learn some new tricks, and get a cool template to help you get started!”

- Learn how to define AutoCAD annotative Text, Multi-Leaders and Dimensions to match Revit annotation types
- Understand basic similarities between AutoCAD dynamic blocks and Revit 2D symbol families
- Review specific dynamic block actions and features that emulate Revit behavior
- Examine how dynamic block visibility and lookup table features are similar to Revit family types

Last, but not least…we’ve been working with Autodesk for the past few years to gain a better understanding for methods that link drawings and models together, and share the data seamlessly between programs. Without going into too much detail, the end result is a new product that is now in public beta.

Taking Your Data into the Cloud: Introducing the Revit P&ID Modeler

“In the design world, it’s not uncommon that key project data is stored in application silos, and requires a great deal of manual coordination. Autodesk has taken the first steps for AEC projects to make data available to multiple applications at once, by introducing a connected workflow that shares data from schematic diagrams with a Revit project. The Revit P&ID Modeler breaks silos down by letting the user begin with P&ID schematics in AutoCAD Plant 3D to create intelligent, data rich diagrams. The schematic data is hosted in the Autodesk 360 cloud and is referenced by Revit project models. The 3D model consisting of elements such as piping, equipment, and accessories, is then developed using information defined in the schematic, such as pipe size, type, valve type, and equipment IDs. As the model is developed, and the schematic iterated, the user receives feedback to help ensure consistency and design intent is maintained. Join us to see the next evolution of Autodesk design tools.”

- Learn how a process and instrumentation diagram is defined in AutoCAD Plant 3D, and to determine the key data to be shared
- Understand how to define a hub in the Autodesk 360 environment, and how to prepare for sharing this data with other modeling tools
- See how the Revit model is associated with a hub project, and how the P&ID model interface is defined
- Examine how design data is tracked and coordinated during the modeling process


So that’s my classes in a nutshell – we’re taking some old school to the next level, and jumping in early to get a peek into new products that can really streamline the design process. Vote early and often – I appreciate it!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Design Review is updated and Back for 2018

A few years ago, we had started to make some major strides getting some of our design office to use the Autodesk Design Review program for markups and presentations for clients. I was a bit disappointed that Autodesk stopped developing it with the 2013 release...or so it would appear.

Now Autodesk has updated the tool and re-released it with the 2018 software that has already begun shipping. You can get your free download here:

http://www.autodesk.com/products/design-review/download

Design Review allows you to print sheets, views, models, drawings and more to the DWF format. The program allows you to add markups, which can then be reference back into Revit models, AutoCAD drawings and more, and track/sign off on the changes. It also have sectioning tools that allow you take a peak inside a 3D model without turning layers off.

If you haven't given a try, do it today - with everything moving endlessly towards the cloud, this tool helps you keep some of your system based dignity again.

Have a great day! David B.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thank you again – another Top Speaker award at AU 2016!!!

Man…I can’t tell you how happy and honored I was to find out one of my labs at Autodesk University 2016 (au.autodesk.com) finished in a two way tie for top speaker. The lab, Perfecting the System for Revit, included my first ever perfect score in one category, with an overall rating of 4.79 out of 5, based on a minimum number of responses. The class tied with another lab taught by one of my good friends, Mike Massey from Applied Solutions. This was Mike’s first win, and well deserved. He’s taught at AU for many years, and now that I’m out of the Autodesk reseller channel, has been the guy in the Southeast US that I’ve been referring people to for years. He provides the same service I used to – training, consulting and program optimization, and came up through the Building Design solutions ranks the same time I did. He was one of the first MEP Implementation Certified Experts, a title we both received at the same time when Revit MEP was first getting its feet wet.

It’s a tough job to win one of these awards, but the real effort goes into the prep and planning for the class. The lab this year was the first time I taught three sets of discipline tools – duct, pipe and electrical circuiting – concurrently in a lab. We went through each of the keys areas, focusing on the similarities and differences. The course would up with five – yes, five – handouts, including an overall document that explained the features; three separate lab exercise documents for each track; and an overall tips and tricks document that featured key takeaways.


But I think what made the difference was fixing one of the things about labs that drove me nuts – and almost got me to where I didn’t want to teach them anymore. For years, we had problems with datasets in the labs – the wrong files, users not be able to locate the files, as well not understanding the software well enough to know the difference between the applications (yes, I had users a few years ago open AutoCAD MEP in a Revit MEP lab before). We also had users that could not keep up due to the lack of familiarity with the software.


To make it easier, it started with Autodesk using a web-based version of Revit for the labs this year. This made the files open quickly, and kept local users from editing items like the interface and location of palettes, etc. Another key step was having the lab datasets stored by lab location and day of the lab, which helped us locate the files easily. But I think what made the biggest difference came from my lab assistants – Matt Dillon, Matt Stachoni, and Ron Onderko – who went around and opened Revit 2017, opened the dataset project files (2) and made sure they were all already open to the view we needed to start in. When the student came into the lab, everything was ready to go, allowing us to focus on the lesson, rather than waiting for everyone to get where they needed to be. Even a few of the early arrivals pitched in and helped the lab rats get everything open and ready – for that, I can’t thank you guys enough.


The course included learning how to use Revit software systems help us to define the MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) design in several ways, but the main purpose is to understand the relationships between system equipment, such as air terminals to air handling units, or from light fixture to panel. We taught the users comprehensive steps needed for controlling project system settings, and then demonstrated how to capitalize on (or disable) sizing and analysis tools related to the system. We also covered creating the target-source relationship between parts, and then how to use the systems to improve the quality of documentation. Included were project files based on a project template that already defines everything in the class, so the user could take advantage of these topics right away. The class covered HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), piping, and electrical items.

AU is already over, but if you want the handouts or datasets for the lab, let me know and I’ll send you a link.


And for all the folks that came in, spent 90 minutes and walked away with a fresh perspective, or learned something new, and showed your appreciation – I can’t thank you enough. We’ll see you again next year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Expanding the Narrative from AU 2016, and Wrapping the Year…

This year has been a busy one…too busy to be paying much attention to the posts, but it’s time to get back to some writing. So here’s the latest….

Live at AU – Energy Modeling!

AU 2016 turned out to be one of the fastest ones I’ve ever attended. The days screamed by, but it was cool to see Autodesk extend some events into the Monday before. We’ve always had our Expert Elite and Speaker/Blogger socials on Monday, but getting the rest of the crowd together as well for a social expands what I consider to be the most important parts of AU – the networking. I learn as much from my co-workers and fellow attendees just from sitting down and talking shop, so that time is valuable to me.

I did three classes this year, two labs on Perfecting the System with Revit, and a lecture on Powering BIM – Capitalizing on Revit for Energy Modeling. You can see the latter at au.autodesk.com under the live streaming section. The labs were a blast this year, since we made sure everyone’s datasets were open to the right models, and even to the right view. That way, we could focus our time on the key topics, rather than having to wait for users to find and open the projects. There was a lot of good feedback as well (as well as a bizarre comment about not willing to have an open discussion, since the class was based on my personal beliefs – huh?  A lab?).

But the lecture, which was featured live, left wishing I had more time to expand on why conservation is important to me. So here’s a clearer view of my belief this time, to help fill up a few holes.

First – climate change. Yes. The climate changes. The climate has always changed. Nothing about weather and related events is static. While science can give us averages, most models are based on current conditions, human assumptions and past trends. The input can cause a wide variety of results, based on what outcome you want. That’s why I don’t believe climate change should be used as a political football to force human behavior. The world is so culturally diverse that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get every person on the planet to go back to the dark ages, even though some areas may seem like that’s where they already are.



I love the outdoors. I love to hunt and fish. I love to hike. Was raised by a family that loved to camp, and enjoy a lake. Love being able to play with my dogs. Get awed by the beauty of God’s creation, whether it’s standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, straying 20-30 miles of the coast to fish and seeing more life than you can possible imagine, to the beauty of an early morning sunrise in central Tennessee, turkey hunting on my uncle’s farm. You can’t sit still in those times, and not appreciate how important it is to save all of this – and share it with others.



In the US, we’re consumers – always have been and always will be, as are most developed countries. If you look around objectively, you’ll learn that we are already of the mind to be conscious of our resources. The impact of this consumption goes back centuries, and became prevalent during the Manifest Destiny. But we’re only talking about one country on one continent. It’s probably just as likely that pollution, deforestation, and other behavior that was occurring during this period, already has had its impact. Wholesale changes in the US alone, won’t be enough to alter the outcomes – you’ve got to get other developed nations around the world to also uphold the same standards that we’ve come to now. And some governments see this strictly as a US problem, expecting us to be the leaders but not necessarily taking the same steps.

Where does that leave us? It’s not the fact that we have abundant resources. It’s the fact that we have them, and use them like there’s no tomorrow. As I stated in my lecture, I come from a different time – my approach of conservatism is rooted in the belief that we have an obligation to conserve our natural resources for future generations, and is why I support hunting and fishing organizations that promote resource conservation. As long as it’s not at the expense of relieving property owners of their assets, but rather working in conjunction with them to set aside a reasonable amount that assures a balance between personal/private needs with the overall common good. It can be achieved as long as you don’t fail into the fears disseminated by the extremes of our political parties. It can be achieved by providing non-biased, easy to understand education about conservation combined with personal responsibility.

Second – this is why I say that leveraging our energy models tools and practices is an industry obligationnot a government one. We don’t need a group of politicians – which are far more likely to follow a trend to win votes that actually be of service to their constituents, or being technologically savvy enough to understand the science – to be the ones making decisions about leveraging design technology to reduce our impact on the environment. All natural resource utilization should be based on how, in the free market, providers can develop the technologies that we need to move past the consumption of non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas. We should have a balanced plan for using and managing these resources that are not based on the government’s selection of favorites.

That’s why I’m such a large advocate for the use of solar power, which offers the best small scale ROI compared to the larger scale energy industries. If government is going to be involved, it should be to incentivize both individuals and small businesses, the backbone of our country, to integrate and leverage this growing technology. Make the tax incentives enough to offset the early investments costs, so that homeowners aren’t breaking the bank by adding solar power to their homes. I’d do it, for nothing more than being able to kick the energy providers to the curb. That kind of independence will do more to reduce residential consumption that any other idea on the market. Even giving large scale corporations similar incentives frees up other financial resources, which can be used in other areas of a business – such as salaries…

What influences peoples beliefs more than any government program is the fear of the unknown, of what’s to come. Fear in and of itself is counterproductive, and only serves to prevent us from making the changes we need. We need clarity in the message, all the way down to the layman – my mother. She’s a great woman, but not technologically savvy. We have to be able to frame the discussion in her terms, which was a point I was trying to make in the lecture.

And that’s where I think Autodesk – and other energy modeling software companies – have a large, untapped gold mine. The details are not in the reams of variations in data, which are compiled by PHD’s based on complex models. It’s in the ability to make the complex, understandable. It’s what I love about tools like Insight 360, which provide simple, easy to use graphics and reports to explain how changes in a design can dramatically affect the building energy performance.

Here’s a thought – BIM is a sales tool, not just a process. It’s being able to take what were a complicated series of documents stretched out over hundreds of sheets of 2D documentation, and convert it into a visual that a client can more clearly understand. It expands our ability to make sense of design decisions, and helps us avoid the short term construction issues, while also helping us see the long term implication of the same design decisions. Insight 360 is just one of those tools that will help us sell these concepts to the general population, and achieve the common goal – preserve our resources for future generations while allowing us to still enjoy what we have developed from the same resources for centuries.

So, don’t get caught up in the TV and the hype, and the politics and scare tactics. Instead, do your part – get your boss to let you work from home more often – and actually work at home. Spend the extra money to get a high efficiency HVAC system for your house – and don’t give the money to the power company in the first place. And pick up the cans and newspapers, and put ‘em in the recycling bin. Like we say at church – reach the Triangle and change the World.

By the way – if you watch the live stream video recording from class, I didn’t finish the joke. We’re a rock blazing its way through space at 268,000 miles per hour, and we get behind an asteroid – driven by a blue haired old lady doing 35 in the fast lane with her left turn signal on.

Forgot to say we ran over it – and caused a tsunami that wiped out the Pavilion in Myrtle Beach, causing widespread vacationers to go back indoors to turn up the AC, advancing climate change by 20 minutes…

Back to AU

Did I forget about AU? Man it was packed – love the fact it is before Thanksgiving, and lets me stay home more for the holidays. But the Sands is by far the best place to have the event. The people were awesome, and the accommodations worth the price. Of course, I need to find cheaper places to eat – they do think highly of their food.

The keynotes were a little much – not fond of Autodesk taking an extra block of time away from classes, and offering fewer choices in the time slots. I know, we’re still getting in over 700 classes, but I’d really like to see more of them. Consolidate the keynotes back to opening and closing, and we’re good.

The industry sessions were also cherry – I like the fact that Autodesk is opening up about their future plans. Even though it’s only a crack in the door, I like the idea that they are trying to communicate better with their clients, and make sure we’re all headed to the same goals. Nice!

And the people that hang out with me when I present...man, I love you guys, especially the ones that keep coming back year after year. I've always wanted to make sure you left with more than just a set of directions or tips. Keep plugging, and improve your own world. I'm glad you're in mine!



Having the Expert Elite program members, which I became a part of last year, as guests to the event, shows the appreciation has for this extraordinary group of users. Since the program has started, we have taken – and solved – over 30 percent of all the support cases that are posted to Autodesk. The new Directly program that I’ve been involved with puts the general users directly in touch with Expert Elite team members, who bring their solutions based on real world project experiences – and the same ones you encounter every day. These folks are family, and have a great respect for one another. I’m happy to say I appreciate the opportunity to become friends with some awesome people in this program.


And thanks to Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO, for hanging out with us at our annual lunch meeting. Your insights help us keep moving in the right direction. One of these days, maybe I'll get to see Pier 9 myself...



Next year, we’re back at the Sands on the same week before the holidays, 11/14-16. And I’ll be happy to be there again – and hang out with my extended family.

So it's Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the 'Quay. Ya'll have a great rest of the year!

thanks - David B.