Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Revit Point of Views – Part 2 – Clarity of Vision

I know I’m not the only one that’s ever faced a challenge. From my current perspective, I really don’t have much to complain about. Life has been more than fair…I’ve got a great job, an awesome wife, three sons that I could not be prouder of. A professional career that has blessed me with more opportunity and rewards that I could ever possibly deserve. And yet my challenge is not small, but it can’t define me. We have some awesome friends and neighbors, that are pushing me not to let this consume my life, as there were times lately when I thought it would.

Things have been gradually improving, and I’ve had some conversations with other friends in the industry that are facing the same types of challenges, including one of my closest friends in the technical world that also one of the best role models and dads that I could ever hope to live up to. But it’s never the same when it’s you. That mortality that you never think about slaps you in the face, and you finally start to gain what you need…perspective.

Perspective is all about how YOU view things. It’s personal. It’s alignment. It’s yours alone to deal with.

After 36 years of being in this industry, it’s now about wrapping this part of life up and seeking completeness. About finishing what you start and reaching those goals. But if you give up too much of life for work, and not for taking care of the rest of life that surrounds you, then you lose it. Your perspective.

At first, when I started thinking about this class, it was originally supposed to be something simple. It was about how Revit changed my perspective, and how about the “views” were simply reflections of the model we define. It didn’t matter about your point of view, you were really always looking at the same time. So it was supposed to be about different ways to use the view to change your perception of your design, and to introduce new ways of looking at views in a Revit model to create a more complete view that understandable to those who consume it.

Sounds rich, doesn’t it?

February 24th was interesting and challenging day. I spend about 30 minutes at Novant Health hospital in Bolivia, NC. They had just installed the latest GE CT scanning device and was only one of two on the east coast at the time. A CT scan that normally took about 45 minutes to conduct only took 5 and was over before you knew it. And my warped mind at the time was thinking about AR and VR…and how cool my “reality” had become “augmented”. But I was more impressed with how quickly the technology has evolved, within my own lifetime. The ability for us to see inside walls from a design standpoint has always seemed like a dream, but here I was seeing inside myself and gaining a perspective that I had not seen before. And it all seemed so…casual.

I had my first meeting with a pulmonary doctor that explained what a lung nodule was, and how it impacts your health. The shape was good news, but the size was concerning, so the next step was PET Scan, which I had already scheduled for the same day. Same technology but now we’re making me glow in the dark like a uranium popsicle.

February 26th, we’re on our way to dinner when we get the call. Not malignant are the key words to hear. There’s still some work to do, but at least that specter of treatments I was preparing myself to face was going to have to wait another day. There was some celebrating to do, and Mr. P’s in Southport was the best place to do it. Thanks to an awesome waitress and staff, it was great day and date.

It was April and I wasn’t getting better. I finally got back to my favorite nurse practitioner (the real hero in my story, and one that I am indebted to), and started some treatments for pneumonia which has finally cleared everything up. Yesterday, I met with a new pulmonary doctor that laid out a clear plan for addressing all of the items I needed. She helped to restore my sense of direction and goals and gave me back some faith that I had lost.

And is faith that helps you get through times like this. I was raised in a Presbyterian church, where a key tenent is the belief of predestination. That everything happens for a reason, and we are placed here to be in services to others more than self. I’ve had to hand things back to God, and relinquish that control that I wanted to maintain, but never should have in the first place. Everything that has happened in this story is what should have taken place and has reminded me to be more aware of what others might be going through as well.

I mentioned in the last article that I was working with our leadership team to understand why we were getting held up in our digital transformation in some areas from a 2D to 3D environment. One of the tasks I have been working on is interviewing all of our facilities group’s production staff and helping them establish learning paths and goals to improve, refresh and refine their skills. The key element has been the one-on-one interview with each person in the team. I had written an article here last year about OWNing your training – where you have the opportunity and addressing both the want and need of a professional career and taking the personal responsibility we all have for our successes in life. It was a perfect time to put this concept into action.

The cool part? I’m getting to meet and know people on an individual basis. We are talking about their excitement and passion for what we do. We’re catching up on how their kids are doing…listening while they talk about taking care of a parent that’s not doing as well…hearing how they have wanted to take a different career path but never knew what was available…and how they have overcome adversity in their lives. The courses that they are taking are their own choices that they are buying into.

I’m actually making more friends, and it’s making our connection more personal. Are you willing to do this with your coworkers and colleagues? How much do you really know about them? Do you know their dreams, their hopes, their challenges?

And I realize that I am the one being schooled, and learning. Serving. Helping. And doing what I am supposed to be doing in this chance you get only once.

By now, the burning part about getting this class out of my head and on paper was reaching a new urgency. I didn’t want the story to fade without being out there so others could learn what I had learned. That perspective in design is a critical thing. So how do you achieve it? How does it alter what you do? And how do you help others find it?

That part is next. And you were a big part of it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Revit Point of Views – Part 1 - Perspective


Have you ever had that idea rolling around in your head…something that you needed to get off your chest, out of your system, and cleared from the deck?

Man, I’ve had this one for a while.

December 2019 had rolled into January of 2020. I had wrapped up a series about how we at Gannett Fleming were developing Revit content, and the standards and procedures our users should follow when creating Revit families that were to be used in a project. There’s a lot that goes into this…getting your parameters aligned with your schedules, making sure subcategories for solids are correctly defined to allow more control over what you see, and general best practices for what not to do.

I had also received notice in December of 2019 that I’d won my fourth AU top speaker award for labs, for “Charging Ahead with Revit 2020 MEP Engineering”. Little did I know that it could be the last time I would do a live presentation for Autodesk University…the jury is still out on this, but I can’t tell you how much I love doing these live presentations. It’s easy to feed off the energy in the room, where you have a group of like-minded people that all have the same perspective, to get better at what they do, and increase their passion for the craft that we engage it.

Mid-March rolls in and it has already been a rough start to the year. Watching our government turn into a bunch of spoiled two-year-olds fighting over who gets to be on the top of the hill, with an impeachment that was a true travesty and embarrassment for all of us. Sneaking around in the back of the room was story about a virus that was coming out of China, where I had made some good friends on the Autodesk development team that were helping is improve the electrical features of the program, didn’t really sit high on the radar…but all of the sudden, we were sending nearly 2600 employees home.

Amazingly enough, our fearless CIO, Kevin Switala, had already started having our team begin planning on improving our resiliency, playing out what if and worse case scenarios, including business continuity if we lost key staff to a virus that we thought we knew, but didn’t understand. But yet within a short period of time, we had addressed licensing issues, VPN connections, protocols for sharing files, improving communications with Teams…we were working it out.

June 19. I got a call on a Saturday morning…we were under a cyberattack. Some asshole (yea, I said it) decided to ignite an electronic bomb with extortion in mind. We weren’t the only victim, but at the same time, we were not as prepared as we wanted to be. No company ever wants to admit this happens to them, but in reality, there’s a lot of bad actors out there that want nothing more that to tear down what you build, to take, to steal, to ruin. It sucks that there are people out there like this.

And yet, we came together as a team and grew more as company and family over the next several months. As a liaison to one of our business groups, I had the unenviable role of being the bearer of both good and bad news and wore the target on my chest to take the heat for lost files, lost time, lost work. And yet our resiliency to rebound, to get the job done, to fight through all of it, and change a century-old business model around into something new at the same time…I’ve never seen anything like it. If anything, I got much closer to the people I call my colleagues, who were now like family.

By December we had pretty much completed our migration to cloud based systems such as BIM 360 (Collaboration? Collaboration Pro? Autodesk Docs? I’m still confused…). We had started turning things around, and I was able to get back to focusing on what I love about my job – teaching others.

We had been debating about starting all of our vertical design projects in Revit for the past few years, but with the change of guard on our collaboration tools, the push was coming much harder. We finally got our leadership team together to try and understand what the root causes were and why so many designers were having issue transitioning from 2D drafting to 3D modeling.

January, I started feeling a bit crappy. A cough developed that wouldn’t go away, probably the same bronchitis I get every year with my asthma and allergies. Maybe the stress from the previous year’s chaos was finally catching up with me.

Two rounds of antibiotics and I still felt like crap. Since I had not moved to a new doctor here in Supply, where we had bought a house on the coast and remodeled to spend our next twenty years in, and enjoy retirement, I found myself in a local clinic again, meeting the awesome nurse practitioner who I had started working with a few weeks before.

February 19.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Eyes Forward…The Role of Learners in a Technology Driven Society

I recently wrote an article for AUGIWorld (, that I hadn’t really put a lot of planning to but instead tried to speak from the heart, and from what I’ve learned in the 59 years I’ve been here. The response has been overwhelming, and I’m humbled by all the attention and feedback. I didn’t realize what a nerve it would touch, and how many people from different aspects of the design industry would even be intrigued enough to read it. It’s interesting how different emotions drive what and how we do the things we do, and what spurs imagination and thought.

As I returned to work on this follow up, I’m struck by how quickly our perspectives can change. We are currently in the midst of a societal upheaval, with uneasiness and fear striking out from a virus that we know little about. Playing the “what if” game drives everyone crazy, and if you own a business or manage one, you’re having to make a lot of tough decisions.

And in the midst of all of this, narrow eyes can’t see the learning experience we are all waist deep in…how we work, where we work and the benefits to so many things that can be had, if we simply look beyond these fears. I can’t express enough how happy I am to be working for Gannett Fleming – the response we’ve had from our IT services group, and the support from everyone on the board of directors down to the core staff that makes our firm go, has been amazing.

We’ve pulled off something I never thought would happen – take thousands of workers, and shift them to a remote access, work from home business model, where we can continue to do what we need to and serve our clients. I’ll admit – I was nervous, and so were a lot of us that are responsible for making this happen. But I also have strong faith, that guides us and provides the direction and vision we need. It’s amazing what we were able to pull off – but it was the team approach and commitment that made it work, with minimal issues.

Back to the original article - there were a couple of responses that questioned the premise of the article, and a couple more that pointed out phrases that struck home. All were great points, but one response made me think about the one paragraph that no one said anything about – the personal responsibility of your own growth. As we now sit in our homes, and learn new ways to work, you’re gaining a little time – time not spent commuting, traveling or getting to wherever you think you need to be. You’ve been given this gift of time, so how do you best spend it?

The role of college education in a technical society

With our eyes forward, it’s time for a little prognostication. As I sit here and review what our users need to learn in order to help us adapt to this type of change, it’s time to start being honest with ourselves. Based on my own personal experience (and yea, this is my own opinion – I expect everyone’s experience to be different), I’ve gotten far more use of my technical degree than the 5 years I spent wandering through the colleges. This is not a criticism of the schools, but more of my own responsibility.

We need to be realistic that even with all of the critical items an engineer, architect or scientist needs to know, not everyone needs to be in that role. We’re all in a desperate search for that unicorn, as it’s so often referred when searching for that BIM designer, or design technologists that can effectively use today’s tools. We need that design-oriented individual that can create custom structural shapes, form new types of wall assemblies, define the target and source relationship between engineering systems and coordinate the myriad of infrastructure that lies below the dirt. That can do it with a minimal amount of supervision, but with the faith and trust needed to let them get the job done. They’re the ones that can pull the miracle out on a project and get it out the door on time, under budget and with a happy client. Face it – our issues with getting more people into STEM fields are not so much getting younger individuals into the four-year college programs but become the technology experts that can still assemble the building, the structure and the site.

So what does this have to do with the typical four year school? It’s easy – incorporate what we’ve been doing as part of the two-year associate type degree program as the core for the advanced career fields. We get far too many architects and engineers that don’t have the technical capabilities of today’s design platforms. While some colleges are adding BIM, PIM and horizontal design to their curriculum, it’s not nearly enough. This has led to a shortage of technically capable designers that can get 3D models, systems and more assembled in the most efficient way possible.

We’ve also tuned our path for architects and engineers to move almost exclusively towards higher management type positions, such as the project manager, project principal and general business manager. Where is the technical career path that leads this generation towards the deeper thought process needed for simulation, creativity and expression through the tools we continue to improve? Generative design ought to scare the he-double hockey sticks out of every old school professional. The fact that design automation, which can eliminate the redundant CAD and document tasks that continue to control our budgets and schedule, can create its own concepts of how a wheel, chair or building to be designed, should be enough for the design world to stop. We need to start evaluating and altering both technical and professional college programs to move us to lead concepts like generative design and AI – to shape it and make it so we can create the changes to our world that we need.

Make your OWN path

With all of this being said, there’s only one person who can make the choice about the direction for your life and career. In order to break free of the traditional roles and constraints we place on ourselves in the STEM fields as well as our professions, we need to be able to make an honest assessment about our own career paths. But it’s a choice that we as individuals must make. You must be able to challenge yourself…

One great pointy-eared science officer once asked…“Is this all I am? Is there nothing more?”

This past year, as part of my new role, I’m taking the responsibility of redefining our technical training curriculum and programs. The logic I’m using is simple…where do you want to go? We are obligated to maintain our skills in the roles we take. For example, the architect still has to be the great aggregator, pulling all of the different pieces of the built environment into a cohesive structure. We have the job requirements clearly defined…the classes created…the expectations and goals needed to fulfill the job’s obligations clearly enumerated.

The hard part is getting outside of the role and looking at the right kind of “what if” scenario. Not a negative consequence, but a personal growth, desire or ambition. Let’s say I give you the opportunity to define the role in your own image. What would you do different? What do you need in order to be able to make this kind of a change?

OWN can become a simple acronym…opportunity, wants, needs.

How do you take advantage of the opportunity to define your own path?

How do you clarify what you want to accomplish?

What will be needed to make it to this goal?

By taking some of the gift of time we’re being given to do a little self-assessment, you’d be surprised what you may come up with. With the help of our online training providers at Eagle Point, I’m setting up OWN Learning paths, that each employee in the company can fill out. We’re going to provide them access to all of the training materials we have in our system. No limits. No restrictions. But a chance for them to challenge themselves; document it; and pursue it. The system can hold them accountable for reaching this goal – but it’s still up to them to take the steps. The employee has to be willing to make the commitment to themselves and make an investment of their own time.

The Rule and Conclusion of a Happy Business Life

Knowing the difference between the company’s obligation and your own personal responsibility…that’s a tough one for us to take. If you listen to today’s politicians, which in most cases can’t even be honest with themselves and much less us, one side would have you believe that a “corporation” is nothing but pure evil. But the other side knows that corporations are people. And in some cases, allows them to take advantage of their staff, driving them towards unrealistic conditions that make it impossible to have a satisfying career.

So where does training and career development fit in? Where’s that fine line, the tune that strikes the right note, the right pitch, and makes everyone go…ahhh?

It’s a trade off. It always has been.

So here’s some comments that as an employee, you should never make.
“I’m entitled to free training.”
“If I’m not getting paid for it, I’m not going to training.”
“It’s not my responsibility to learn how to do that.”
“I don’t have time.”
“My clients don’t want it, so I’m not going to do it.”
And my personal favorite…”I’ve always done it this way, and don’t see a need to change it.”

At the same time, the employer can’t carry these rationalizations forward:
“There’s no money in the budget for training.”
“Learn on your own time.”
“I expect you to do this, and I don’t care how you figure it out – just get it done.”
“You should already know how to do this.”
“My way or the highway.”
And of course, my personal favorite…”We’ve always done it this way, and don’t see a need to change it.”

Here’s the big takeaway – in order for a business to have a successful relationship with their employees, it has to be sold and delivered as a partnership. Training, learning, education…should all be part of the employment experience. Great managers know that their role has always been one of service – so from the business standpoint, we have an obligation – and the employee does NOT have a right – to train. I always loved the quote that it’s better to train someone and have them leave, than not train them and have them stay. The greatest way to cripple a business is to become a static point in time, where they no longer see the need or benefit for improving and changing what they do. Ask anyone who still has a boom box or eight track player if they’ve reached the pinnacle of life…if you can still find them.

But at the same time, the employee needs to approach the business as an owner. You have to take the responsibility of owning your skill set.

Of not settling for the static point in time.

Of challenging yourself.

Of taking your own time to learn.

It’s tough to do. Life is busy. It takes. It also gives back what you invest in it.

We blind ourselves to what others need because it’s easy. We cripple ourselves, because we allow others to dictate to us what we’re capable of. But this biggest shame is when we don’t try. When you get to a point in your career when you think you learned all you can, you let yourself down.

But with your eyes forward, the objective is to get past previous mistakes, missed opportunities and failures, where you can stop looking at what’s holding you back, and get to where we all want to be.

I’ve been in it myself now for approaching four decades. And with all that life is throwing at us, the last thing we need to be doing is giving up on ourselves and our potential for what you – and we – can be. I’m not quitting on being a learner…are you?

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, 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"

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 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:

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!