Friday, August 28, 2009

Why go BIM from a State Government Perspective

Whether we like it or not, technology is driving major changes in the design industry. The good news is that there are a wide variety of new ways to increase efficiency in the design process on the side of the architect and engineer. The bad news is that many of the receivers of these services still reside in the chalk-on-a-rock stage. It's amazing to me how many entities - which are so driven by the call to reduce our impact on the environment - still rely on the very technology they want to legislate out of existence. It's one thing for a federal/state/local government entity to pass laws mandating reductions in emissions, forcing the recycling of sustainable materials - but it's another thing for these same industries to walk away from the paper copy.

Which is why it's so important for government entities - for example, our very own State Construction Office, which manages projects for state-owned buildings in addition to maintaining these facilities, to adopt a plan to move away from that deliverable. And this is where the fundamental change to BIM needs to occur. No matter how much we improve this process on the design side, until these entities are willing to devise standards that allow for BIM applications from any manufacturer to be the standard deliverable, we can't move completely to a whole-life cycle of the building. And since our state is the largest land/building owner, it's a shame these standards haven't already been addressed.

SO how do you do it?

The first step is address the legal issue of shared electronic documentation. I've heard from so many designers that their primary concern is the fact they can give a file to an owner or agency, and there be no control over any changes that may be made by that entity. This is pretty simple to resolve - set the timeline as the controlling factor, and use technology such as file locking and digital signatures to assure authenticity - the electronic form of a seal. The seal itself can become an electronic entity that becomes disengaged once the file is edited or saved by the receiving party, so it becomes quickly documented that the file has been altered.

Once the legal aspect is addressed (IMHO, fire all the lawyers - that'll take care of it), the standard for deliverable needs to be worked out so that the brand of software used is open to the point that it is a BIM deliverable. The scope of work should state continuity of applications - if they can't share data via IFC, then the entire product should be on one platform - i.e. Revit Architecture, Structure and MEP should be used as the deliverable file. Autodesk still has some work to do in this arena, but don't think there isn't some work to be done on the Bentley/Graphisoft side as well - we still hear of translation issues between all three applications.

Regulatory agencies also should NOT be the receiver of the BIM file - it should be the owner, contractor and designer that is sharing this file. But the agencies must specify this standard, so the government entity has a guideline to follow. We'll talk about this in the next post on electronic deliverables...

But WHY should this become the practice? For starters, the model itself takes on a longer life term than the paper document. Requiring models promotes use of more efficient energy/LEED/Sustainability concepts and automates the process. With applications such as Ecotect, Virtual Environment, Green Building Studio and others refining the ability to work with these models, and quickly generate design alternatives, life cycle costs, etc., there's no reason these agencies should be continuing to accept applications that can't work directly with the building model. Read my lips - 2D CAD docs are dead in the water, and have outlived their time.

The roundtrip of as-built models can reduce design cycle time and cut down on expensive on-site time to verify as builts - while it may add some time to create a more accurate model in the forefront (no, you can't use TYP. anymore - see the previous post), it can save a great deal of time for this activity - provided the tool contains all of the features necessary to represent the major components of the building.

SIDE THOUGHT - part of the standards must specify the level of modeled detail - you're not going to drawing every nut and bolt, every stud or every wire - but you are going to provide major equipment, large size connecting geometry that has less flexibility than something like a wire or cable.

Instead of having staff spend large amounts of time maintaining paper docs and 2D files with little to no common standards (all based on each design firms process) switch to the GBXML model, IFC Model, or direct Revit model delivery - have state staff maintain one central model instead of hundreds of drawings and paper documentation. UNC campuses alone have hundreds of thousands of drawings dating back so many years, and taking up so much valuable floor space that could be used for other purposes. And accuracy? Take a guess...knowing how many different design firms that have worked on government buildings, should give you a good idea of how many different approaches have been used - BIM forces more consistency.

On the facilities management side, BIM requires a different type of worker - a combination of real-world design experience and next generation understand of computer technology. the user doesn't need to be at either end of the spectrum, but a non-designing FM "documenter" (to quote my redneck heritage) should have enough design sense not to stick a screwdriver in a live light switch. They have to have a fundamental understanding of construction and design, but should not have to be at the registered level.

So where do we go from here? Depends - on how well you know your congressman or state agency rep - are they really interesting in reducing their own impact on the environment, or reducing the costs of government? Or are they there for some other purpose other than serving the people they represent...

Any comments?

Have a great Labor day weekend - enjoy the fruits of your work by taking a day out of petty cash and going's on me!

later - David B.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

IES VE Pro 6.0 - Check it out...

got a look at the new IES VE-Pro 6.0, VE-Toolkits and VE-Ware...the only thing I can say was WOW...check it out for yourself:

I've ordered my copy, will put some posts up here soon on both Ecotect and IE VE-Pro in the coming weeks.

thanks - David B.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Content from CAD Details

These guys are a third party aggregator and developer that have some pretty good content for Revit, Sketchup and AutoCAD - check it out and let me know what you think -

thanks - David B.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Return of the MEP Blog from Autodesk

Just heard from my old buddy Dave Pothier at Autodesk (he's one of the first ADSK guys I met, but I'm still the better looking one)...they've updated and resurrected Kyle Barnhardt's Inside the Typepad blog and are updating it with new content for both of the MEP products - check it out when you get a chance, there's going to be some really good stuff here.

The link is under the Helpful Links...section on the right...right down there...that's it...

Thanks, Dave!

later - David B.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Wish List for Revit MEP...

Having messed around with this for a while, it's time to come up with the list...Autodesk is making progress with the app, but there are still things that really need to be addressed. Most of this stuff can be worked around, but if I was the product manager, this is what I would focus on...

1. Conduit, Cable Tray, Bus Duct, Flat Oval Duct...'nuff said.
2. Connectivity into linked files - ultimately, there's going to come a day when a project simply has to be broken up. The ability to read a connector's info through a linked file (without have to place a dumb connector in the current project) is vital. We've got that for the most part in ACAD MEP - at least in there we can pick up on pipe, duct, cable tray and conduit connectors...
3. Which leads to point 3 - ACAD MEP SNAPS!!! create connection point snaps -add this functionality to Revit- it works great in ACAD MEP and really helps clarify what the connection point is..
4. Make the undefined connector type (the general system) usable as a source equipment connection. I had a bizarre conversation with someone that tried to tell me that pumps are only considered inline accessories. Tell that to the base mounted pump. It can't be placed like an inline pump the way the connectors are defined - so autolayout freaks out when you try to treat it as any other device in a system. And in many cases, the pump is the primary source of fluid flow (see sprinkler system) - the valve is already treated as an inline component and behaves correctly. Our workaround has been to make a copy of the pump family, and then set the connector to a specific system, such as fire protection wet, hydronic supply, etc...
5. Which leads to point 5 - open up the systems to allow user-added options. There are so many subsystems under hydronic piping, "other", supply, return, exhaust...there has to be a better way to do it. If you can't open it up, then allow for a subsystem option that lets the user control the sizing and design parameters - not every supply duct will be sized the same way, and a subsystem would make it easier to control this.
6. Schematic Symbol improvements - try making a custom valve in Revit MEP, or editing an existing one...lots of fun here with no documentation. We're working on it, but getting some input somewhere from Autodesk would be really helpful. And having a riser/schematic diagram tool would be nice, but for now we're using the tools in ACAD MEP and importing the DWG into the project.
7. Excel links - bidirectional and in the program, not having to go through a DXF or DWG...'nuff said. Not every engineer is gung ho about using SQL, VBA, OBDC (or is that ODBC)....know thine audience...and keep it simple.
8. Panel schedule editing tools....that work easily...graphical interface perhaps? My ears get burned on this one by the EE's every day for both MEP applications - nobody does them the same way, every state has its own requirements for how these should look and feel, and what information goes in them - so we've got to be able to easily edit them. (side note for schedules - allow for a predetermined width and height in the formatting, instead of asking the user to drag the columns on every project).
9. I compliment the pace in which Autodesk is getting content together for the product - much faster than ACAD make sure you have the parts such as toilet carriers, etc. that the plumbing designer never used to show - but beats us up about every day. If they're going to have to model it, then by God, let's model it right...
10. Copy/Monitor - wow, this one's getting hammered, but it's got to work right or be replaced. Either make constraints work through a linked file (such as using a placement constraint to get a light to stay aligned horizontally with a ceiling grid) or get the rest of the components to be copy monitored through a linked file (without flipping it around, changing alignments, breaking cleanups) - including ceiling grids.
11. Get the piping guys from ACAD MEP to come on over and's vastly better in 2010 but still needs some work - these guys have got it nailed in ACAD MEP 2010 - build off of what they know needs to happen...and make it happen. It needs the right connectors (separate from the pipe and fittings), insulation, etc. but it doesn't need to be at the gasket/bolt/weld level - you're getting warmer... Single line and double line concurrently in plan display at the same time is a must.

I'm not all complaint - analysis and HVAC in the program are working great and just need a few tweaks here and there (did I mention oval duct?). Scheduling and coordination have always been hallmarks, I'd add soft interference and clearance detection if at all possible. Lighting fixtures rock in this release, and the realtime data analysis is always sweet...and now that I'm used to it, the ribbon is very cool, the interface looks much more professional than previous releases. Electrical is definitely getting better, but I'd love to see a right-reading setting for embedded annotations (as well as a separate grip for location options - again, AKA ACAD MEP devices).

If you have some things you'd like to see, comment on the post - I'd love to hear from others as well...

The workarounds? for now you'll need to attend this year's class at AU I'm doing to get them all in one document (Revit MEP: Powerful Tips and Tricks...this is my shameless plug) - see you there!

David B.

How Revit MEP calculates Wire Lengths

I'm not sure who wrote this (if someone knows. let me know and I'll update this post), but Emy in our Columbus office found this - it's a great explanation of how the wire length is determined and used in calcluating voltage drop.

Check it out!!!

thanks - David B.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Revit MEP 2010 - Copying Hosted Elements, and continuing on from TYP...

After reading my own post (yes I do this once in a while), I got to thinking about the whole hosted element thing...and had a few more thoughts...scary, ain't it?

Now that we've had a chance to start teaching the 2010 release, a few things are coming out of the engineers. A common thread is related to the AutoCAD way of doing things. When a client wants the RVT file as a deliverable, it usually will mean the engineer will have to place more obejcts in a project. Since I was already thinking about typical layouts, I asked the firm I was teaching how they did it - and all of their "common layout" jobs meant they used typical to layout common rooms, and did not place receptacles, lights, etc. in every room...but you can't get away with that when the deliverable is the model file.

So, a couple of points came out of this -first, you CAN copy hosted elements - for example, select all of the receptacles in a room (the OOTB ones are hosted elements), and then use the copy command. Make sure you select a common snap point (such as endpoint or intersection) that appears in every room. If the rooms aren't 100% identical, that's not that big of a deal - you simply select an object, then use the modify tools to re-host it to a new face. What doesn't work is putting hosted elements into a group - once in a group, they can't properly place into other locations in a project. We've also toyed around with just placing a connector per the last post, but I think the main point we need to make sure that all Revit MEP users understand is that you don't do it or quote it the same way you did an AutoCAD job. Be prepared to allow for more time to get the common objects placed in every room - and once you get proficient, you'll be buying that time back with time savings made in other areas - like using the schedules, autolayouts for duct, pipe, wire, etc.,...

And there's still more to follow...

Monday, August 3, 2009

My plan is TYP...but these are just TIPS...for Revit MEP 2010

For those of you that have to use Revit MEP, but have been using AutoCAD forever, and like how it works...

- Revit likes hosted families, but putting them into a group and copying them around a building can produce some rather interesting results. One workaround (from Emy in our Columbus office) is to create your common layouts in a few rooms (say you have 4 typical dorm rooms, which all have the same layout). You can either use non-hosted families (but then lose the coordination value of having hosted items move when the architect changes the plan - which we all know never happens), or you can place a connector to represent the objects in the room. Revit MEP has all kinds of connectors for HVAC, electrical and plumbing. You'll lose the benefit of being coordinated, but if the architect and/or owner isn't looking for the RVT file, you can still create an object that can have load assigned to it, and assign these items to systems.

- Another tip for 2010 is to make sure everything in the project is assigned to some form of a system - whether you're routing connecting geometry through it or not. Not everything needs to be routed from an automatic layout, either. Jonathan from the Indy office noted that the piping layout behaves better when fewer devices are connected in a system - so rather than connecting everything at the beginning, go ahead and work out one side of a chase, rather than expecting Revit to properly connected when both sides are part of an original systems. With back-to-back fixtures, the program behaves much better when you route one side, then use the grips to convert a tee to a cross - adding the pipe to the fixtures on the other side after the fact. You can always come back and add fixtures to a system later, but don't leave them unassigned.

- And another one for piping - when working with sloped pipe, work in a section view - draw to a point in plan, then switch in section to show the sloped pipe. This works especially well in tight areas. Jonathan came up with a very simple exercise in this year's book for adding the P-trap to a plumbing fixture - do it all in a section, then copy it around as needed.

- Working sections also is the way to top or bottom justify duct - I've been through the new justification tool, and gotten some pretty wild layouts. Draw the duct by centerline, then add a section view. Pick the duct run using the tab key, and then re-justify it in the section view -it works really well this way.

More to come, stay tuned....

thanks - David B.

Revit MEP 2010 classes have started at ASI

We've finished the books for the newly titled Fundamentals class, including 4 to 4 1/2 days of training. The courses follow a learning path that should guide the user through what they need to know get up to speed as quickly as possible in 2010. For a table of contents, send me an email at Class registrations are now online at

The Advanced version for Revit MEP 2010 is still in the works, and we're shooting for a September time frame. The new book is looking like it's going to be 2 days, with a lot more content on family editing and template/project customization (and possibly a few things that nobody else has written manuals for). Keep your eyes open - if you want these books to be available for purchase or for site license, send me an email and let me know, we'll add you to the list.

Thanks to Emy McGann, Jonanthan Weinhold, Paul Sills, Doug Greenwell and Kristen Fierro for contributing to this year's book...and to Norb and the executive team for putting up with us while we wrote it!

Thanks - David B.

AU Classes for 2009

Here's the class list for me for AU 2009 -

Taking AutoCAD® Architecture to the Next Level - 90-Minute Class, Intermediate

AutoCAD® MEP 2010 Advanced Tips and Tricks - 90-Minute Lab, Power User

Revit MEP 2010 - Powerful Tips and Tricks - 90-Minute Class, All Levels

Working in a Dual CAD Program Environment (Revit MEP and AutoCAD MEP) - 90-Minute Class, Intermediate

Blue RIbbon Editing for AutoCAD MEP and Integrated Project Delivery - 90-Minute Lab,
Power User

All of the course descriptions are available online during registration - sign up early and sign up often, got a lot of new material this year!

thanks - David B.