Monday, April 21, 2014

Get to KNOW your Status Bar in Revit

Not sure why, but the status bar has some of the most overlooked - and cool - tools to help you be more productive in Revit. The 2014 release added more features, and they could really help some of my users out. Let's take a look at the other guys...

Starting in the lower left corner, you'll see the reigning champeen, and ongoing command line for Revit - the  Tips/Hints/Progress Bar Area!

I'm thinking, I'm thinking, I'm thinking....get me some gum-gum!

The Progress Bar displays the progress in percentage for loading a file, or regenerating a view - and lets you know just how slow your computer really is! And if gets stuck at 90%, don't panic - there's only 30 minutes more to go!

Hints – like a kid at Christmas, these guys let you know what they really want - they display available program options for a view, but only if you're paying attention:

Put it there! No, that's no gonna work...put it here!

The Selection Hint - No objects are selected, no command in progress, this nugget displays selection tools by default - if you don't know how to use TAB to cycle through elements for selection, you're going to really be frustrated in tight and congested areas! And it doesn't work like AutoCAD - you have to use CTRL or SHIFT to make multiple element selections!

The Placement Hint –  he provides suggestions and/or directions for placing objects - if it's non-hosted, you get to place an instance and set it free! And if you want to spin it in circles, tap the spacebar really fast - there's not place like home!

What the he** is that?

The Object Preview Hint – when the cursor is placed over an object without selecting it, the family name and type are displayed. It looks like a might be a IS a light! Where's the layer?

Yes, you must connect your devices!

The System Hint – when an object has be defined as part of a mechanical system or electrical circuit, the tab selection tool displays any system or circuit the element is associated with. I watched a post where a user said systems are useless...tell that to somebody sizing pipe or duct, or wanting to see quickly what lights belong to a circuit. Winning!

Now to the center ring! Once you get past the hints, you start getting more useful stuff...

Worksets – icon opens the Worksets dialog, selector allows you to choose active workset...if I had a dime for every time I had user forget to set their workset current, I'd have ten dollars. Can you say lottery winner?

Hello...anyone home?

Editing Requests – displays if requests have been made, and number of requests. I said, I want to edit the electrical data for your air handling unit. Are you there? Can anyone here me?

Like a client ever changes their mind...meh...

Design Options – icon for enabling and setting design options, selector for choosing current options, and toggle to exclude options from being applied. Like this works with MEP objects...snicker...oh wait...does it?

Only select the tasty ones...

Editable Only toggle – limits selection to items in active worksets. Like I said...I could be rich...maybe I'll start secretly turning this one to really mess 'em up...

Turn me off and I'll never move again!

Select Linked Files  – Like the smelly, messy roommate that won't go away...this is the toggle that allows you to select linked files when using window selections or picking by mouse click in a view. I like to pin mine, but I still wind up picking this things...argh...

Go ahead,,,try to pick me...

Select Underlay Items – Like grabbing your underwear through your jeans...this is the Toggle that allows you to select elements in underlay files in a view. Unless you really don't want to grab these...or anyone else's...

Go ahead..pick me...ain't moving...

Select Pinned Items - Toggle that allows you to select pinned elements in a view. I pinned you for a reason, since I don't want you to move. So...stay! Good boy...

Not the Face!

Select Elements by Face - Toggle that allows you to select elements such as a wall or duct by face instead of edge in a view. Now I like many times have I been training someone, and tell them to pick a duct. What do they pick? The blank space between the lines. OK, I win.

What a drag...

Drag Elements by Selection - Toggle that allows you to drag elements in a view without selecting them. I'm not sure I like this. Go ahead, get a good grip on that chew toy, then drag that dog all over the place. Let go? Naw, I don't think it works that way...come to think of it, why'd I add this in here?

And, to wrap it up, in this corner...
Pick me! No - Pick me!

Filter Tool – allows you to refine the list of selected items by category. OK, so it's the same tool in more than one place. Don't care, I like it. It even counts for you on the button!

OK, so all of this is a little corny. But I'm so used to looking in the same places, that it's easy to miss new stuff they sneak in there. Check these tools out and make them work for you!

Happy Easter! David B.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Post #200 - A milestone, and review of AU 2013

First up, thanks to all the folks who've followed along. With close to 200,000 hits and 200 posts since we started, it's been an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to share ideas and opinions. Thanks for following along, and here's to 200 more...

AU 2013 – Ten Years in the Can…

And a great time was had by all. Thank you, good night!

It was definitely an interesting year, starting with the infrastructure symposium and keynote address, right down to the labs and lectures this year. Back at the Sands Convention Center (the Venetian by far is my favorite venue), about 9600 of my colleagues made the trek to the desert. The big focus continues to be on the cloud by Autodesk, but long terms apps also got a lot of attention.

First up, my take on the cloud services. While some concepts (such as running Revit or AutoCAD on a cloud machine as opposed to a local hard drive) are ones I’m keenly interested in, I’m not convinced the security of stored files and projects is where we need it to be. Since many firms like ours are still doing a lot of high security work, we need to work on a better way to wrap our firewall around Amazon’s servers (who Autodesk uses as their cloud source). We had some good conversations on this, but newer tools such as Simulation CFD are infinitely more productive in the cloud than on my laptop. I think we’re getting closer, and as we move into 2014, I’m sure we’ll be giving this a much harder look. If the costs work out better than upgrading systems every three years, then it’s definitely a strong selling point.
One item I covered I was surprised more people didn't know about was Inventor 2014's ability to convert equipment models to RFA/ADSK files for easy use in Revit. I covered this in both of my Revit lectures (MP1304 and MP1507), so download these handouts. I also included a sample template and IFC conversion file for AutoCAD MEP to Revit MEP, so download these early and often. Thanks to the Pleasant Hills Water Authority and Mon Valley authority for letting me use their projects as great examples of our work.

Next, the crowd part. It was interesting to see how many first timers there were this year. In my lab on AutoCAD MEP, as well as one I assisted in for Matt Dillon, the overwhelming majority were new users to the software. Concepts such as Project Navigator were some of the items they weren’t familiar with, so covering “out of the norm” methods and features can easily get lost. I think next year will be a good time to bring back some quick start labs for this level of user, holding these labs early in the event, and holding the intermediate/advanced topics on the later days.

Speaking of labs, we definitely needed to improve on this year’s methods. Missing datasets, unzipped files…all are usually conquerable if the instructor is aware they need to touch every system prior to the class. After checking a couple of systems, I made the assumption the rest were OK, but that was far from the truth. Scratch one up to losing my diligence – that won’t happen again next year. I recommended that the instructor desktop Autodesk provides serve as a lab backup just in case, with the datasets shared from that box. If there’s an issue, it’s easy for the assistants to overwrite the local files and catch everyone up. If files are missing or need to be added, it’s much faster to use the share drive than running around with a bunch of USB keys.

There were definitely a lot of good classes this year – on families, large projects, and newer tools. While I understand the desire to have a greater quantity of classes, shortening the afternoon sessions to 60 minutes left too little time. I think it’s viable to go back to the 3 ½ or 4 day event, and offer sequential courses to help the users learn from beginning to end how a program is supposed to work – even if it’s from a 5k foot view.

Next year, we’re back at Mandalay Bay from Dec. 2-4th, along with several overseas events. Hopefully we can take some lessons learned and continue to make AU one of the signature events in the world that everyone wants to attend.

And for all my peeps that came to my classes and lab this year, thanks! It was great fun, and I’m looking forward to sharing more secrets (and crazy gifts) next year.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Analyze This! New and updated Apps...

One big theme I've got this year in my classes at Autodesk University relates to interoperability between Revit, AutoCAD MEP and other external applications. Autodesk has made some strides in this area, and having tools that help us make better design decisions is always a good thing.

It's not just Autodesk - there's a lot of other vendors that have tools you can leverage with your BIM model - even some that don't need it. I'll start with my old friends at IES - Virtual Environment is still one of the best and most comprehensive building analysis tools that you can import and link your Revit model to, and we're getting ready to start learning more. The ASHRAE and LEED Navigators make studying designs easy, giving you step by step directions to make sure your designs meet their criteria. The lighting and HVAC analysis tools are easy to use, and the graphic outputs are first class. Find out more by visiting their booth at AU 2013 this year, and by visiting

Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I've been taking Autodesk's Building Performance Analysis course, at This course runs you through all of science and topics regarding sustainable design practices, and how building analysis tasks such as psychometric charting, building enegy loads, thermal loads, solar radiation and more, are completed. One tool they've included is a little old school, but fairly neat. The Climate Consultant tool, from UCLA ( uses psychometric chart tools to determine what design strategies, based on local climate data, can give you the best results when designing for human comfort and more.

The BPA course also leverages the latest version of Autodesk's Project Vasari, which is currently in Beta 3 form and available at This beta only runs through May, 2014 - after that, we'll see what happens next. Vasari uses a Revit style interface to bring in models, from conceptual (where it works best) to detailed building element models. The same energy modeling tools in Revit are also available here - add to it wind tunnel and wind rose tools that make for great air motion study and presentation materials, and a solar analysis tool that helps create data tables that include the tool's results.

Speaking of the energy analysis tools - Revit 2014 allows you to perform energy studies based on conceptual constructions or building elements directly from the program. The Building Elements version leverages the Green Building Studio tools to perform climate and energy costs studies, without having to go and manually define the project. This is a great time saver, and is helping our users use this tool more frequently. gbXML import is still accepted, you just need to follow the same steps that have been there for a while now - allowing you to also leverage your AutoCAD Architecture models as well.

A recent addition to the Autodesk lineup are the Simulation tools, including SIM Pro 360. This tool, which can be locally installed, or cloud-based, allows you to link architectural models directly into a project tool. This tool then allows you to perform CFD studies on the model. While it's better suited to very early conceptual models, you can use Revit models as well - just keep them broken up into chunks, and use the cloud based version as much as possible. Local crunches can get a little slow, so why waste your computer's time? Check out the offerings at

Getting more out of your BIM model is one of the reasons why we've pushed our firm in this direction for the past few years. As the tools get faster and easier to use, they reduce the need to repeat steps during the design process - saving us time and money. Check them out - and for more detail, check out my AU courses, MP1304 - Autodesk Revit in the Process World, MP1523-L, Fast Track for AutoCAD MEP Power Users, and MP1507 - it's a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD Autodesk Revit MEP World.

One other shout out - one class I wish I could attend but can't due to scheduling conflicts is the MP2845 - Virtually Human: Modeling the Human Body Inside and Out Using BIM Platforms. Andrew Duncan and the guys from Arup use Revit tools to model the human body. about analysis tools...instead of just structural analysis, can we get Autodesk to add these apps?

- The Carb/Fat balancing tool
- The Alcohol Consumption Stabilization app
- The Decision Making Rectification Analysis Module
- The "What Happened to my Hair" Correction Tool

I'm sure there's more - add your own here...

See you at AU 2013!

David B.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Moving Ahead...and Counting Down

With AU starting in just a couple of weeks, it's time to do a little housekeeping, and get some updates out there...

AU Class Updates!
For AU 2013, good news on the attendance front. So far, about 200 people have signed up for each lecture, and the AutoCAD MEP lab is full. It's cool to see the high interest level in AutoCAD MEP. During our Tweetchat last week, Dana Probert from Autodesk asked the question about advice for users migrating from AutoCAD MEP to Revit. My answer is to learn how to use as much of AutoCAD MEP's object tools as possible, since they're both similar from a work process standpoint. IFC conversions up from AutoCAD MEP to Revit are fairly smooth, given that you won't get systems like you do with default Revit elements. But the software is getting better in terms of translation.

Data? What Data?
Speaking of translation, I did some internal training on exporting and sharing data from AutoCAD MEP schematic objects out to Excel, CSV and now database tables. One of the items I've been looking into is linking property set definition data to different databases or files for power riser and plumbing isometric objects, to actual Revit engineering objects. Our development team has been working on different data validation tools between AutoCAD P&ID and Revit for a while (I'll be covering this in my MP1304 AU class Wednesday, Dec. 4th - which will also be recorded live, and available via AU Virtual after the event this year). The programming process really isn't that different. The challenge is how to be selective with the data you want to extract, and then how you tell the different databases to compare data.

It's amazing how many different tools are available to check and coordinate physical objects and their interferences, but how little thought over the years has been put into the data coordination (in the lower cost CAD/everyday design arena), from the building design standpoint. Which rolls me back to my Autodesk vs. Bentley topic line I've been working on (more on this later), but one big thing I was interested in was how Substation handled managing the data between the protection and controls diagrams, to single lines, to panel layouts and then the 3D model. I'd love to report more on that, but we had an issue getting Projectwise to work with Substation that delayed our implementation over a month. To their credit, Bentley did get it fixed, but it was tough to watch the issue hold up momentum Quality control should be handled much better by software companies - it can be the simplest thing (i.e. telling a program how to create a folder and get it working with other applications) that gets missed, and gives you a black eye. It's as important as missing a design flaw, that causes something in one of our systems, not to work correctly. And boy when something doesn't work, it's hard to get users to keep from throwing the whole baby out with the bath...luckily, cooler heads prevailed...I'm looking forward to learning what Autodesk could be doing about this in the future.

Back to AU...
Here's a little something I'm working on. In this year's Revit tips and tricks class (MP1507), I'm going to add a golden nuggets segment at the very end of the class - stuff you won't find in the handout but will have to show up to see. One item I'm going to cover is how to get Revit to perform at optimal levels when using Projectwise. We were getting major slowdowns, that turns out were related to how the Projectwise Integration tool was working with Revit 2013, Update 2 (note: it doesn't work with Update 3, which we also found out Revit 2014 doesn't work without it being installed, if you're running 2013 and 2014 on the same computer, due to .NET 4.5 - that was a mouthful). Bentley recommended double-clicking on the Central file straight out of Projectwise Explorer, with integration enabled. Create a new local when prompted every time, and the Revit model runs much faster, and eliminates command delays. I also turn OFF all notifications for sharing, updates, permissions...that really threw our users for a loop.

Another tip is related to annotation families. I've started using more reference lines and dimensions to control the size of annotations. This helps the user when the box around a label needs to get a little bigger. We add a label parameter to the dimension, so the user can change this on an instance basis, once the tag is placed in the view.

We've also been dancing around the schematic symbol versus real world model issue with particular types of families. One big tip is to add a visibility parameter for symbol graphics versus model graphics - and not relying on the detail level or scale of the model to control visibility. This one is a work in progress that I hope to have finished in the next couple of days. If you're planning on coming to this class on Thursday, Dec. 5th, make sure you plan on staying for the whole thing - these little secrets are gems that we look for all the time, and I plan on making everyone suffer through the rest of the class first (BWAahahahaha!)...

Speaking of predesign...Infraworks!
We had a great visit from some Autodesk folks a short while ago, and got a first look at Infraworks ( We've needed a tool that allows us to take an existing site, and work with schematic locations for some of our water treatment facilities. This tool was easy to use, and could go a long way towards helping do a better job of defining hydraulic profiles for sites. For more information on these, check out sessions GS 2644 - Beyond 3D in Autodesk Infraworks: Simulate What Happens in Real World Models, and GS1998 - Autodesk Infraworks: From Concept to Completion. This is one of those promising tools that I hope to post more about...soon...

It's time to wrap it up...still got some videos to record, powerpoints to figure out, and pre-class skits and scripts to hammer out. Dr. Shots will be making a comeback...albeit a brief one, with tragic I'll see you in two weeks...

Later - David B.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm all a-Twitter...#gfBIM

Trying out a tweet chat today from 11:00am-12:00pm EST on Twitter, ( where you can ask questions about how we're integrating BIM into our water resource, process and transportation projects. Sign in today, send your message with #gfbim in the message body, and keep it clean - under 140 characters, that is...and my handle is @dabutts7 in case you want to send me a direct message, or follow along. I'll be happy to return the favor for all the BIM folks!

Join us for the fun!

Thanks - David B.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Want to find out more about BIM? Tweet with us!

Now this is a first for me...doing a live Tweetchat! Next Wednesday, 11/13/2013 from 11:00am-12:00noon, I'll be live on Twitter (, answering any questions you might have about leveraging BIM in our designs. While we'll mainly be talking about how to integrate tools like Revit into your process and water resource jobs as we've done at Gannett Fleming, the floor is open for any BIM related questions.

Just send a message to #gfbim, or to my handle, @dabutts7, and we'll help you out!

So join us next week, and tweet away!

later - David B.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rising back up...and getting ready for AU 2013!

I just realized it's been about 4 months since I posted anything. It's mainly due to the fact that we've been pretty busy, with a lot of new work, different software packages and new work processes we're trying to get out to the masses.

So, it's time for my annual Autodesk University pre-game show (twitter: #au2013; This year, I've got three classes, plus two that I'm helping with.

First up - Wednesday, Dec. 4th, 8:00AM PST, is MP1523-L, Fast Track for Autodesk AutoCAD MEP Power Users, takes an out-of-the-box look at how to leverage projects that are designed using AutoCAD MEP, and how to get more detailed models for better results. We'll be looking at traditional and non-traditional methods to build MEP models, using custom UCS features in addition to the project level controls.

IFC compatibility is becoming a larger issue in the design industry, and this class looks at IFC functionality both ways - coming into an AutoCAD MEP project, and heading out for use with other tools such as Revit. We also will be examining space and zone usage to go with the model, which is leveraged to build gbXML files for external analysis tools like Green Building Studio. The class wraps up with a couple of quick lessons for leveraging manufacturer's 3D content, editing a part directly from a drawing, and adding custom symbology to inline accessories such as valves. The class goes by fast, needless to say...and should help you do the same with your AutoCAD MEP models.

Immediately following this lab on Wednesday, Dec. 4th at 10am PST  is MP1304, Autodesk Revit MEP in Process and Water Resource World, is mid to high level course about how we, Gannett Fleming, are using BIM tools to work on this particular types of projects. This class reviews some examples of water treatment projects that we've recently been working on, and discusses how we defined the models to get the most benefit for our design teams.

We're also looking at tips on working with various, non-traditional BIM suppliers of content, and how we work with and convert file types into something usable on our projects. The class also covers how we leverage our design models with different analysis tools, such as Autodesk's Simulation CFD and Green Building studio products, and others. We wrap up on the long term benefits to the client and contractor. This includes ideas for where our Design Build team can leverage the work we've done to keep control of project costs and deadlines, and where the owner gets more value from a BIM model that supplements traditional 2D documentation.

Thursday, Dec. 5th at 8:00am PST is one of my favorite classes to teach, MP1507, It's a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD Autodesk Revit MEP World. This out-of-control tip sand tricks class is here to make sure your last day at AU starts with a bang, and gives you valuable help for solving MEP secrets. We start off talking about customizing templates for maximum efficiency. and move right into family customization tips. We spend some time talking about view control with templates and custom views for non-traditional (re: not flat) plans, sections and elevations. The course wraps up with examples of how leverage your BIM model for Simulation CFD, Fusion 360 and more. It's my chance to have fun with my fellow BIM fans and friends, and give you junk to fill up your bag for the ride home.

One recent addition is a panel discussion I was asked today to participate in. Joshua Benoist, a senior support specialist with Autodesk that's had to put up with all my challenging (and sometimes dumb) support questions about the Autodesk BIM products, has asked me to help offer some insights on Autodesk's 360 products. MP3174, Come Fly with Us in the Cloud: BIM Panel Discussion is Thursday, Dec. 5th at 2:30 pm PST. I'll be joining some long-time cohorts to offer up our opinions and advice on how to use the Autodesk Cloud services in a BIM collaborative workflow. This one should be really entertaining and interesting, and gives you a chance to interact with your peers in a wide open discussion. Get there early - this could get packed!

I'm really looking forward to this years event - with fewer classes to teach, I'm really looking forward to attending some sessions on really interesting topics this year. And the best part of AU is the networking, so hunt me down - and let's talk shop this year!

See you in a month! David B.