Thursday, March 28, 2024

Why I Am... "Autodesk University"

 Autodesk has hosted the Autodesk University event since 1993, started with the original user conference in San Francisco to the international gathering that will continue into it's 31st year October 15-17th in San Diego, CA this year. And yes, I'm working on my proposals this year, with a new slate of topics to elevate the discussion and provide advanced sessions on Revit MEP, Autodesk Docs, digital evolution and more. You can submit your own proposals beginning April 2 at this link.

I posted about this on my Linkedin site and had an a reply from a friend of mine that I have tremendous respect for his contributions to the Autodesk community. I didn't necessarily agree with the response, and was concerned about the tone on one of my posts. 

But I'm a free speech advocate, and don't believe in censoring other's views. I understand where he's coming from, as he's great at expressing his frustration with things that shouldn't be complicated. 

Instead, I wanted to answer here - in my own forum - to explain why I disagree, and provide the reasons why.

I starting teaching at the event in 2005, after attending for a couple of years. As the event grew, I got the chance to meeting such a wide variety of people, from different backgrounds, cultures and countries. AU, as it's well known inside of the design software community, has grown into an event where thousands of people - both in person and online - come together with a common objective. 

To engage.

To learn.

To participate.

To educate.

I know others don't always agree with my personal beliefs or political leanings. But this, for me personally, has been the place where we, as a community, put all of this aside for a common objective. We are engaging and meeting others to learn about their experiences, getting to know them as individuals (and not groups) because we all have the same thing in common. We use Autodesk software to design our world, communities, workplaces and homes. 

Autodesk uses this event to help project their products and vision to the community. And like all visions, they don't always work out as we expect them too. Even the event itself has had it challenges, especially in the last few years. But the fact that they have consistently engaged the community, and worked better than most vendors to leverage that relationship to improve their products, is what separates this from other events I've attended.

There is always going to be someone that has a negative experience with Autodesk (and a lot of other software vendors). My difference is that I choose to use the opportunity to engage with the developers, product managers and other resources to help resolve these issues and improve the product. I gain nothing by trashing a product, group or company personally, as it doesn't bring anyone real satisfaction. 

But I gain everything when I make the effort to help others. I learn when I listen to others at the event when they share their experiences. I grow when I choose to train myself, even if the company isn't paying for it, or if I have to make the investment to attend myself. The impact of seeing that light go off when educating a user, and hearing that excitement when an issue they've been struggling with is given light to help resolve it, is irreplaceable.

One way I witnessed this last year was in my class where the majority of users raised their hands when I asked if they are using these tools everyday. That's big change from just a few years ago, even before Covid forced us to re-think and re-imagine our very work environment. Even AU was changed, and greater emphasis on reaching out to community beyond the event, to make the resources and content more accessible to those who could not participate in person.

Like everything in life, I'm looking forward to winding down after forty-plus years in the industry and enjoying my remaining career as much as possible. I'm almost ready to stay in the background, supporting other instructors through the mentoring program and helping with the event itself as much as I can. This is an occasion that continues to provide that chance - to meet with old friends, engage in all the craziness, learn from my colleagues, to go toe to toe with exhibitors that want to sell me the "next great thing", and then to discover that hey - that really is a great new thing. 

And take advantage of this to continue to challenge Autodesk - meet with the product managers, but also meet with others to gather support for anything you're passionate about to help improve the product and event. I'm listening...and so are others.

It's what you choose to make of it - so if you're ready to step up on that stage, and be the voice for the community, then do it. You'll never regret it.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Revit Point of Views – AU 2023!

I really wish I could have more time to write and post here, I really miss it. We all get these moments where you realize perspective and get those good ol’ ideas in place we really can’t say. Mine came to me tonight in the grocery store…who knew.

This year’s Autodesk University was one of the best I’ve ever attended. There were some really great classes that focused on more than just product features. Digital Delivery, AI, generative design and more were in the full spotlight. Reuniting with old friends and having that in-person experience without having to worry (not much anyway) about what was going on outside of the building made it more like a family reunion.

Getting back with my Expert Elite crew is awesome - this great group of people are who really contribute to the community, through forums and other engagements to help improve the product and the user experience. I'm honored to still be a part of this group, and hope to continue for many more years...but man, we have to get together more often.

I had way too much on my plate, and the pre-class jitters kept me out of some of the social events this year. I also had 8 new/returning speakers I was mentoring this year, that all had great topics and delivery. I wish I had been able to attend every class but had some of my own I had to attend. One of my colleagues, Daniel Breul, gave an outstanding session on Fractal Design for his first ever presentation, and blew it out of the park. Congrats to help for stepping up with a unique presentation!

And my partner in crime and Engineering Technology management, Nauman Mysorewala, was back again for two more great sessions on Dynamo, Grasshopper. He was also presenting with marvelous Rina Sahay for the Superb Guides to Easy Revit that keeps killing it over and over again. BOTH of them are making winning a top speaker slot a lot harder nowadays...but I couldn't be happier for him and Rina to be on the stage again.

This year I did two courses - Charging Ahead with Revit MEP Systems Engineering on Tuesday morning, that was a full house, and Becoming Digital Twin Enabled: An Operational Strategy that competed with the happy hour events late in the afternoon but still had a great turnout and group. There were several great takeaways I got from both sessions that bear sharing.

The Revit MEP Thing!

The Revit MEP course was the first I’ve had since I started teaching these in the 2007 event where the overwhelming majority of attendees were regular Revit users. We’re talking 75-80% of the class raised their hands…and I got a little worried about the content and whether it was advanced enough. But in the middle I realized we had 176 like minds, and it became more of a discussion about sharing ideas and tips to help make the regular tasks easier and more productive. I did have a couple of people disappointed that I could not share some specifics about some very cool development we had been working on, but let’s face it – spilling my candy in the lobby and giving away everything that gives us a competitive advantage…yea, I love you guys, but not like that…

And that’s OK. We gave away project templates, loaded with custom settings, families, a handout that goes for days and more. We stayed in the room waaayy too long but had a great meetup later in one of the meetup rooms that was a blast. Hopefully all of those takeaways from all we’ve learned will help out a bit.

The Council Reunites

After lunch, I had the opportunity to rejoin some colleagues on the Autodesk Water Executive Council I joined back in 2014 to help shape how Autodesk approaches that segment of the industry. Beyond humbling to have the chance to interact with some of the people I respect the most in the industry, it was great chance to discuss digital transformation and how we viewed. My response focused on how the evolution of our tools to help shape and create the 3D model/data centric designs resonated with a few of the members, and we shared the same idea that digital transformation is really more of digital evolution. Identifying it this way helps soften the edge of what we are trying to accomplish as an industry.

I had to look these up, and boy, Webster never disappoints:



trans·​for·​ma·​tion ˌtran(t)s-fər-ˈmā-shən  -fȯr-

  1. an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed
  2. false hair worn especially by a woman to replace or supplement natural hair
  3. the operation of changing (as by rotation or mapping) one configuration or expression into another in accordance with a mathematical rule
  4.    especially : a change of variables or coordinates in which a function of new variables or coordinates is substituted for each original variable or coordinate
  5.  the formula that effects a transformation
  6.  an operation that converts (as by insertion, deletion, or permutation) one grammatical string (such as a sentence) into another
  7. formal statement of such an operation
  8. genetic modification of a bacterium by incorporation of free DNA from another bacterial cell



evo·​lu·​tion ˌe-və-ˈlü-shən  ˌē-və-

A. descent with modification from preexisting species : cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms : the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations

    • Evolution is a process of continuous branching and diversification from common trunks. This pattern of irreversible separation gives life's history its basic directionality. —Stephen Jay Gould
    • also : the scientific theory explaining the appearance of new species and varieties through the action of various biological mechanisms (such as natural selection, genetic mutation or drift, and hybridization) 
    • Since 1950, developments in molecular biology have had a growing influence on the theory of evolution —Nature
    • In Darwinian evolution, the basic mechanism is genetic mutation, followed by selection of the organisms most likely to survive —Pamela Weintraub

  1. the historical development of a biological group (such as a species) : PHYLOGENY
  2. a process of change in a certain direction : UNFOLDING
  3. the action or an instance of forming and giving something off : EMISSION
  4. a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state : GROWTH
  5. a process of gradual and relatively peaceful social, political, and economic advance
  6. something evolved
  7. the process of working out or developing
  8. the extraction of a mathematical root
  9. a process in which the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena
  10. one of a set of prescribed movements

Getting back home and putting these thoughts out, and reading what these terms really mean, helped me clarify how I would explain the growth of a firm, industry and individual to meet these goals. Digital evolution is definitely a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state : GROWTH.

But to be successful it can’t be an ideology that is forced down people’s throats. Governments are notorious for taking this approach as we’ve let ourselves get separated by politics and the cultural differences between us. As an industry, we can support this evolution by taking a softer approach…which most of the definition describes. By helping our design teams, contractors and owners evolve into true model centric design in this manner will yield much greater acceptance and results.

You get this sense and feeling when you’re at AU – as you’re more with peers that competitors. More with friends that foes. More with the same positive energy that wipes out doubt and fear.

Becoming Enabled…and Overcoming the Challenges…

It was that same fear and objections that happen in the industry that led to my second session on Becoming Digital Twin Enabled. I had a feeling this one would strike some nerves, and boy, it did. I received two responses that were negative but fair, with the first comment reading partly like this:

“He had just presented from a design construction POV. I'm from turnover/operations/end of life. The owner/operator which he acted like they're stupid.”

Yep. That was definitely taken the wrong way but it was a valid point. It's hard for anyone to take criticism but it's definitely not an attempt to say whether someone or something is stupid. We all get stuck into the silo we live in so it's hard to see beyond those boundaries, whether it's the lack of support in a government agency to adopt new technology, or in a private sector firm where utilization and the bottom line blocks innovation. We did go to great lengths to point out the pitfalls and issues from the entire process. We gave all a hard time for staying with standards that were created in a vacuum to address one company, one municipality, one agency that in reality created far more issues than they resolved.

The session started by talking about how the sheet and CAD standards were actually inhibitors, and relegated users to dealing with tasks that had little real impact on the creation of a design. We talked about developing project information modeling standards, working on new platforms, and how to update and change our workflows to implement model centric designs.

This class was about addressing that Fear. The Pain. The Objections. Change. It terrifies people, especially ones that are closer to my age, as we’ve gotten comfortable with who we are and how we work, and become less likely to take constructive criticism. It pains us to have to generate the wherewithal and energy to learn, to improve our skills and get better at what we do. And one of the things that drives me crazy about our industry is we fail to engage and learn from the same older users that have been down the road many times, that we sometimes think it easier to “ignore” the elephant in the room that face it, engage it and embrace it.

And we talked about how to overcome it. We shared these pains, and had common ground. We took that look in the mirror and learned ways to fix both ourselves and our industry, that will help us reach this ultimate goal.

Digital evolution (not transformation) has always been present in my career, but what we are doing today is really more for the next generation than us. It’s about positioning the growth to help us create a better environment that we live, work and play in. It’s about working out the kinks in current tools and developing newer, faster and more efficient methods and tools. It’s about unfolding in a new direction and away from the things that are holding us back.

Digital evolution does require that we follow prescribed (and deliberate) movements towards a new goal, where the design is a true digital twin of the built environment. It’s a process of the whole universe we live in, that is a progression of interrelated phenomena (think about how much your mobile phone has changed society and lives).

I was told that I talked too much about myself in this class –  another response that was fair enough. But to me, and what motivated me so much to keep pushing for this session for the last few years, helped me get it out of my system and in the open. This topic was as much about my individual journey, and the events that have occurred both professionally and personally since early 2020 that shaped what has happened, up to and continuing through today. Without context, the conversation lacks meaning. As we move forward, this response made me remember that I really want to hear your story…your experience…your fears and pain. Without knowing this, it become impossible for us to find that common ground we can relate to and build from.

And yet we all know this. We’ve been living it for 40 years along with Autodesk and others. As I sort through the cards, the notes, the photos, messages and media posts, I feel renewed…because I learned and was reminded again that we really all are in the same boat.

So how do we move forward from here? We play fifty two pick up (if you don’t know this card game, you really are young). We throw the deck up in the air, pick up a card and find that task or feature, and learn how it works. We share it with others. We challenge ourselves to adapt.

Digital evolution is really about…us. Are you in it?

Thanks again for playing along the last 19 years. And hopefully I’ll get to see you at least one more time…next year.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Understanding Where to Host Your Autodesk Files For EDITING...

 I really wanted to title this, DON'T DO THIS...since I wind up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to explain this to the general design and construction public. Be aware that I'm presenting this from a layman's point of view, to help make it easier to understand why these issues occur.

The internet continues to change the way we work, but alas, we do not. We continue to try to do the same thing we did twenty years ago, thinking that everything happens in a static place where nothing changes. It's almost like trying to argue with the 30 year AutoCAD user, who bought a "perpetual license" and really thinks it's going to work just peachy for the next thirty years. Do yourself a favor - take the time to understand how the technology has changed, and avoid issues with file corruption, lost data and more.

Here's the real part of the story. While there are a large number of resources online that allow you to share files - from Facebook, Instagram and other sites where we share our pictures of our dogs, kids and videos of us trying to look cool while dancing in a street and not get run over by another car - to legitimate file sharing services such as OneDrive, Dropbox, WeTransfer, Google Drive, Autodesk Drive, iCloud, Box, get the idea. It's important to understand the differences of each of these services and the intent for how they are supposed to be used.

All of these offer a service of providing a backup space as well as the ability to securely share and transfer data and content between locations. But here's the rub - NONE of them are supported as a platform for EDITING Autodesk files. 

Let's get down in the weeds. In order for Revit, AutCAD, Civil 3D and other file formats to be managed correctly - when it comes to file locking, access, permissions and more - the files must live somewhere within a supporting operating system environment. AutoCAD hasn't locked its own files since 2007, and with Revit central models allowing multiple users in a single file, the permissions and access for the temporary files that constantly communicate with the central model are critical in order to prevent file corruption and lost data.

To do this, Autodesk has been publicly addressing this through their system requirements - for example, here is AutoCAD:

Each item listed shows the support operating system, from Windows, to Mac and Linux environments. Revit also has similar system requirements:

Here's the key - communications between the location and file must be in an environment that is supported by SMB protocol - in short, this stands for Server Message Block. The versions of SMB, also known as dialects, align with the versions of Windows. With SMB 1.0 came support for the original DOS-based systems. This originated in 1984, and with each new release of the Windows OS ecosystem, a newer version of SMB was released. For example, Windows Vista and Server 2008 included SMB 2.0, while version 3.0 was associated with Windows 8 in 2012. SMB 3.1.1 was released with Windows 10 in 2015, and has been the baseline for both versions 10 and 11. 

If a program such as AutoCAD or Revit is supported on one of these operating systems, then it's supported by the corresponding SMB dialect.

Wait...Explain what SMB does!

So what does SMB do? TechTarget ( includes a great description about the definition of SMB here. The key description for how it works is:

"The SMB protocol enables applications and their users to access files on remote servers, as well as connect to other resources, including printers, mailslots and named pipes. SMB provides client applications with a secure and controlled method for opening, reading, moving, creating and updating files on remote servers. The protocol can also communicate with server programs configured to receive SMB client requests.

Known as a response-request protocol, the SMB protocol is one of the most common methods used for network communications. In this model, the client sends an SMB request to the server to initiate the connection. When the server receives the request, it replies by sending an SMB response back to the client, establishing the communication channel necessary for a two-way conversation."

Autodesk specifically references it's requirement to operate in this link:

So Where Can I Work?

So here's the summary - NONE of these examples of file sharing services are properly defined/managed to serve as locations where files can be EDITED (that's the key phrase)

  • Sharepoint/OneDrive
  • Google Drive
  • Autodesk Drive (Yea, it's an Autodesk product, but not the right one for editing...keep reading)
  • DropBox
  • Box

Let's provide a little context. A user named Bob places an AutoCAD Drawing (.DWG) in a Sharepoint file location, such as \\\sites\myproject\files. He proceeds to use the Open command to browse to the Onedrive link to the file at this site through File Explorer, and opens the drawing in AutoCAD.

Any user that is a member or guest of the site, if they have access permissions, can see and open this file. But what they are opening is not this file, but a local, cached copy of the file where Sharepoint is the host location. Since OneDrive is basically the "desktop" version of Sharepoint, it will also be working on a cached copy of the file. The confusion comes from users that were using a traditional networked server that users accessed via a mapped drive or UNC path before moving to the cloud. In those cases you were opening the actual file.

The file on the site does not know that it needs to be locked - so on another computer a user named Pat also opens the file - but again, not the original but a cached copy. Pat's fast, and makes a few changes, and saves the file while Bob still is working on his file, because...well, he's slow. Bob's done and saves his changes - which don't include Pat's changes since they were not in the cached copy he downloaded. Now the files are out of sync, and Bob just wiped out Pat's work, and now everyone's mad.

What about using a DFS configured network?

Similar issues will occur when working in a DFS (Distributed File Service) Environment. In this case, the first "available" copy of a file is what is opened, as the files are "replicated" on other related systems within the network. Again, TechTarget has a great explanation of this type of system and how it works here.

Autodesk addresses DFS issues here:

How about using NAS/SAN appliances?

Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are very similar to the external hard drives and USB drives we use now as a primary backup for many user's home or small office systems - and in some cases, can be used in larger enterprise solutions. They contain a built in hard drive that can allow users to have a shared location to store data, but can experience performance issues if too many users try to access the data simultaneously. Since their primary purpose is to provide basic data storage and backup, they typically cannot handle the constant traffic between Revit local and central files - and the more users accessing the files, the slower the system. TechTarget's full description can be found here.

Storage Area Networks (SAN) appliances are typically associated with high speed networks, and have improved performance over the traditional NAS device. TechTarget's description of a SAN explains how SAN is differentiated from a NAS appliance/system:

"The SAN interconnects all the disks into a dedicated storage area network. That dedicated network exists separate and apart from the common LAN. This approach enables any of the servers connected to the SAN to access any of the disks attached to the SAN, effectively treating storage as a single collective resource. None of the SAN storage data needs to pass across the LAN -- mitigating LAN bandwidth needs and preserving LAN performance."

So while skipping a LAN connection and behaving similar to a traditional WAN, it can provide users access from multiple locations without the pass-through throttling that occurs on a traditional WAN. There also some SAN configurations that do support SMB protocols, but it would be up to the vendor to validate this as well as support any issues that arise. Techtalk's full description of SAN systems can be found here.

The Autodesk article on the use of NAS and SAN appliances can be found here:

What does this leave us:

- Windows 10/11 OS on your local hard drive - with the current supported versions of 2021-2024, all of these products are supported on Windows 10 and 11. Be aware that none of them will work on Windows 8.1 - and you shouldn't be using this version either, as it's no longer being updated by Microsoft, including security fixes. And yes, a MAC OS is supported, primarily in a Windows emulation environment.

- Window Server 2012/2016/2019 - check the specific version system requirements for Revit Server from the previous links above. Depending on the Autodesk software version, the server OS must be one of these versions. 

- Autodesk Docs/BIM 360 - Purpose-built to provide a cloud storage AND editing solution, this is best location to edit Autodesk documents. Newer releases such as AutoCAD and Civil 3D 2024 utilize updated Sheet Set Manager tools that either can bypass or work correctly with the Autodesk Desktop Connector application that normally manages the caching and file permissions between a local hard drive and the AWS-based "server" location. The rest of the time, it's the Desktop Connector tool that "manages" file access.

Be aware that programs like Revit are in constant contact with central files, regardless of where they are stored. Simple things, such as being aware that Bob has started editing an element (that's not in a checked out workset - better known as "borrowing"). If Pat tries to edit the same object - or edit anything in an MEP system or hosted object that is associated with and impacted by changes to the object - then they know right away, since "ownership" of objects is communicated via the temporary files associated with the project.

There's a couple of caveats here as well - if you are a single user, you can get away with using Autodesk Docs to edit drawings and work on non-central Revit models. If you are collaborating in Civil 3D, Plant 3D and Revit, and working with Revit central models, you need to have the BIM Collaborate Pro entitlement. This is over and above your software license subscription, but can provide an ROI very quickly when you have more than one user on a project.

I know we're going to have some folks disagree with this. You might hear about issues with Desktop Connector - yes, there have been some that Autodesk has struggled to fix, but at the same time, the application has improved dramatically over the last few years. For example, it works great with Revit, but you also need to make sure all users on the projects have the same build of Desktop Connector as well as the same build (not just version) of Revit as well. We're using it on hundreds of projects and rarely encounter a problem - but these only occur when users try to add links to content that's not in the project hub, or connected to one of these other sites. 

What about everything else?

That's easy - you can take the risk to use any of these platforms  (i.e. Panzura, Egnyte, etc. and the other file sharing locations listed above as examples). But when you lose changes...don't have access to the files...get file're going to have to reach out to these providers to figure out the solution. The cost, time and effort invested in a platform or service that isn't supported by Autodesk is wasted when you don't start by taking a full look at how the design platforms developed today work, and how they improve the design and operational environment.

You also have Bentley's Projectwise platform but be aware that vertical applications like Revit, AutoCAD Plant 3D and Civil 3D also experience issues here as well. Autodesk Vault is also still available as a "behind the firewall" solution, but again, Revit does not play well in this environment. Both of these platforms utilize effective single file check-in/check-out features that prevent files from being edited by multiple users, but lose effectiveness when external files are required to be accessible at the same time.

In summary, do your homework BEFORE implementing your primary work platform, and understand the limitations/benefits for each first. And a great thanks to Techtarget for the easy to read and understand descriptions of each - hopefully they will help you as much as they helped an "old dog" like me.

4-12-2023 UPDATE - with the release of 2024 products, the Autodesk support versions are now back to 2021 - but you can still use older versions back to 2018.3 to work on existing Autodesk cloud projects as long as you have a continually maintained subscription. Get these older projects upgraded to a supported version as fast as possible!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Understanding Revit Category Uses for Component Families

 There are definitely some things that I love about Revit, that I consider a vast improvement on AutoCAD and 2D drafting. One of my favorites are the use of hard-coded categories instead of user defined layers. This makes standardization on a project much easier, but there’s also a ton of flexibility that can create issues for users. It helps to have a clear understanding of how the categories are to be used and see some changes Autodesk has made to expand the categories.

Every object in a project is divided in object style categories. Model, annotation, analytical model and imported objects represent the four primary object styles that can be edited and defined in a project.

Model objects are for physical representations of real-world objects. These include additional filters by these disciplines:

  •           Architectural
  •           Structural
  •           Electrical
  •           Mechanical
  •           Piping
  •           Infrastructure

 Autodesk has been expanded the default categories that are included, starting with the infrastructure discipline in 2021, then adding temporary structures, medical equipment and vertical circulation in 2022. The current release 2023 added Mechanical Control and Plumbing Equipment to help clarify and isolate these types from their previous categories.

By default, when a component family is defined, you select one of these categories for the overall model. Any solid model or imported object is automatically associated with the primary category, but you can also create sub-categories for the primary object style.

Be aware that not all of these categories are for model components – for example, system components include pipe and duct items as well as their associated insulation and placeholders. Ceilings and walls are also system families that are defined in the template and not as a family-based model component.

Another key item to note – users in the past switched between general model and specialty equipment based on whether the category was able to be “cut” for a section view. Revit 2023 now includes an “Enable cutting in view” option for Specialty Equipment families that eliminate the need to differentiate content based on this requirement.

Here’s a list of all of the primary model object styles (based on Revit 2023):

Each one of the model categories can include a subcategory. One way we use these is to help us refine the visibility of objects within a category. For example, electrical and mechanical equipment cover a wide range of family content:

A common use of a subcategory includes a clearance object, which is used in model coordination to help maintain areas that cannot be encroached per code requirements. Another use is to set the default 3D geometry so they can have different lineweight, color, patterns and materials assigned. By editing the solids in a family and assigning them to this subcategory, you can provide more specific settings for the visibility characteristics of a part and help isolate items in the same category.

Proper Uses and Assignment

Object styles provide multiple features that go beyond just visibility. While you can add sub-categories to expand visibility options, assigning the category also tells Revit about specific behavior a part may include. For example, electrical equipment covers any power distribution device, including power panels, switchboards, transformers and equipment switches. When a part type like this is assigned, Revit will automatically assume that a circuit or power connection is needed. If a connection is not made to the device, it will appear as an open circuit, letting the user know that it is available as needed.

The categories are assigned in the Family Editor under the Family Category and Parameters tool. When selecting different types of content, pay attention to the part type:

In this example, the electrical equipment category specifically references the part types that should be used. Equipment Switch, Panelboard, Switchboard and Transformer settings all include built in electrical data – so if a family is incorrectly defined in this part type, it could lead to Revit indicating an open electrical connection in error, when in reality the category is incorrectly applied.

So how do we select the correct category? To help with this, review this Revit Category Use document  to see recommendations for how we assign these, based on who the model element author (or owner) is, and what types of families would be typically assigned to these categories. In the long run, consistently using these assignments can help you create a cleaner and better organized project.

thanks - DB

Monday, March 14, 2022

It's Time for BIM After Dark with the Revit Kid!

Got an email a few months ago from Jeff Pinheiro, better known as the Revit Kid. I've been following his blog posts for years, and is one of the premier bloggers and experts on Revit that I've ever seen. He's had a veritable "who's who" of Revit hacks, instructors, developers and general gurus on the topics in our world that we hold so dear featured on his blog,

I'm incredibly honored that Jeff invited me to join him on his BIM After Dark program on March 17, 2022 to talk about Revit, specifically in regards to Revit MEP systems lab I've taught for years at AU, Perfecting the System. We're going to take a look and how systems can alter a designer's perspective towards the design tools in Revit, and how the four step process of system design can help them understand the tools and the workflow at the same time. We're also going to discuss the failure of current CAD tools in our world and how to overcome it with newer technologies and vision. We're going to wrap the session up talking about how the deliverables to our clients are changing (yes, we need to kill sheets and CAD standards).

I'm sure we're going to have a great conversation and some fun at the same time - so join us Thursday, March 17 at 9:00pm EDT! You can subscribe here:

Thursday, December 23, 2021

And the Year Ends...What's Your Gift?

I wanted to close out the year, which has been challenging and interesting at the same, by closing out my series on perspective. I had a chance to write from the heart this last article, and wanted to share it with my friends here. It's got nothing to do with technology, or BIM, or even CAD. It's about understanding and accepting the gifts we are given every day. Thanks for following, and hope you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays!

The Gift Given...Not Earned or Deserved

Epiphanies are weird – they hit you at the oddest times, but help you express yourself in ways that don’t always come as needed. As a writer, it’s always tough to come up with the right combination of words. But in a quiet moment…like 4:00am when you wake up with clarity of thought…or taking a walk…or even in the shower, it’s always important to get these words and thoughts down. As we get older it gets tougher to accumulate it all and express it in ways that others find helpful, motivating, or insightful. My epiphanies came to me in a time when the season reminds us of the true gifts we receive that can’t be found in a store, online or wrapped in paper. 

They are gifts given, not earned or deserved.


I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. As we approach the end of the year, you and I are celebrating our 26-year anniversary. You were a gift to me at a time when I was broken and hurt but took a chance on me and help me find the most important personal relationship in my life.

You gave me love, comfort and acceptance. You provided encouragement and support, along with the means to pursue a better life than the choices I had been making. Everything happens for a reason, and at that point in my life, you saved me. And you still love me as much as I love you.

You are a gift I was given that I neither earned nor deserved, and a blessing every day.

The Boys.

We have been blessed with three awesome young men. While they all had trials in life, they have all chosen careers where they serve others. Their love for each other is true – the times we get together with them, whether one at a time or the more special times when we’re all together, are times of great laughter and happiness.

Each are their own distinct personalities that share the same passions for life that you hope you were able to instill in them. They carry themselves in ways we wish we all could, but few ever succeed. 

They are a gift to us, that I did not earn or deserve but am grateful to have.

My Family.

I was blessed to grow up in a close boisterous family that come from a wide variety of beliefs but rarely ever stray from the love we were taught. My parents, married 64 years themselves, gave us all a life that brought happiness and success. While we all have our issues where we can’t see eye to eye, or get caught up in our views to the point that we fail to listen and be patient, the blood that runs between us is what binds in the end. My sisters have always given me vision and push to better myself, and I try to learn from their experiences. In the end, I’ll always love my family dearly. 

They are all gifts that were given, but never earned or deserved, that I cherish always.

My Friends.

The last few years have challenged us all to maintain friendships that are mostly based on face to face and in person interactions. Football, oyster roasts, gatherings of all shapes were all things we lost, but are starting to regain. The time lost is now a push for a time to resume – even if we aren’t in the same place, true friends are always still there. They are blessing that support us in times of need, of sorrow and of loss. But they also are there simply because…we’re friends. 

True friends are indeed gifts given, neither earned or deserved, but bring great joy to our lives.

My Colleagues.

Work is a place that we spend so much time in and build relationships around but making the move from a coworker to a colleague is a different beast. You have to spend the time to understand where they come from, what they need and where they want to be. We are together because we have similar interests based on the career choices we made. But within our community, we’ve grown close through the shared experiences we’ve had, and same passions for what we do. You are what drives me to do learn more, work smarter, and make a better workplace for all of us. 

You are all gifts that are given, never earned or deserved, that push me to be a better person.

Our Choices.

Life is all about choices. We chose between the right and wrong thing every day. As we grow and become adults, the choices have consequences and should be well thought out, but they are always our own. One choice that we are failing with now is the choice of accepting and understanding people as individuals, or condemning, hating, and avoiding by group. We are given to believe by social media, news and more from the black boxes we let rule our lives, that people are bad if they don’t believe the same way we do. By the color of their skin, their faith, or their lifestyle. We fail when we make the choice to see people only by the group we and others define them to be, and by forgetting that compassion, empathy and most importantly forgiveness are traits that require you to know someone before judging them. 

But as with the people we surround ourselves with, the family that we have and the circumstances we exist in, the opportunity to have the ability to make these choices are always a gift – never earned or deserved.

Life is a short time we are blessed to be given. In my world, it’s a gift that is given to us by the grace of God and a blessing that we exist at all. And it’s now at this time of the year, when my family and friends are celebrating the gift of God’s son, one we did not earn or deserve, is the one that saves us all. Enjoy the season but take a moment to appreciate the gift. To pray for those that are not in the same place, facing challenges we are rarely are aware of. To love without question and to live life to the fullest. To enjoy the gatherings and share happiness in family, friends and colleagues. It is the ultimate gift to share all of this with you and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Happy anniversary Terri – and Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Revit Point of Views – Part 3 – The Demise and Rebirth of Digital Delivery

 I’m sorry to announce (but am going to take credit for) the demise of the sheet. It was killed in a train wreck headed to a digital project delivery meeting on the outskirts of town. Also lost in the conflagration was the CAD standard, widely known for enabling the sheet to be a pain in the butt for owners and designers in the AEC community alike, but greatly respected for keeping layers in line. While their careers were developed in good intentions, they became a financial burden on their parents, costing companies time and money figuring out how to make sure the right font is used so it can be read on a rain-soaked sheet of tree debris in the field. It did enable their offspring (the CAD managers) to create and form a career path we didn’t really know we needed but like today’s social media, fall into the trap of believing we couldn’t live without them. Some of us followed that career path like lemmings, but the Church of Holy BIM Stuff came to the rescue a few decades ago.

I had that poster hanging in my room during my formative high school years, and it still makes me laugh…but it’s still a sheet. Long lost in moves, it’s a relic of the past but still a great memory. I'm sure there are a few business owners and government agencies saying this now as they read this article.

After 36 years of dancing with architects, engineers, owners and municipal managers, I propose a life change. The drawing sheet, a long vestige of AEC design documents for more than a century, has become a drag on projects everywhere, causing project teams to spend untold amounts of time focusing on document appearance more than the quality and content of the design itself.

Why have I taken this drastic step and opinion? Because it’s time. My generation is moving on, and it’s time for the next generation to step up and own the foundation we have built to take design and construction to the next level. 

A few years ago, we had a “life-changing” moment that occurred when we replaced our IT leadership that was bound and committed to the technology and tools of the past, with new leadership that would challenge us to do more, better and take risks where we had been unwilling to do so before. Fear of change is real – while change just for the sake of change can be bad, change made to improve workflows, deliverables and overall quality of life and project are always welcome.

Christian Birch, our Senior Engineering Technology Manager, has been a great example of leadership in managing change in an AEC firm. He’s been able to maintain a good sense of IT integrity while salvaging a relationship with our business lines that had been damaged by years of silos and poor communication. In an early meeting our new IT leadership team, when discussing a content and standards management application (“DDesign” for the Gannett Fleming folks) we had been using for decades that lived in our network that was damaged in a cyberattack last year, we were challenged to use the “Five Why’s” to understand why we needed the tool. It was critical for us to look objectively at what we use and understand its role as well as when it’s time to let it go.

The exercise goes like this – in order to pass the smell test, you should be able to get through 5 “why” questions to understand the need for the tool. All of these started with question, “Why do we need DDesign?”...

My responses went like this:

Because it gives us a local storage solution for our standard content

Because it helps us work when the network is offline

Because Norb and I could push the content to a location where the guy who wrote and managed it…damn, he’s gone and left. Anybody else know how to make that tool work?

Because we can keep it…on our network…and push it across the WAN to the regional LAN servers…damn again. Malware shut the whole network down, and we don't even know where the app is...need to recover projects first...wheels continue to turn...

I never made it to 5, since one of the foundations of the argument was one of the greatest weaknesses we had – our dependency on local and wide area networks that were completely disabled in a cyberattack. While this meant the current state of the content was still available, it couldn’t be updated – and all of our project CAD standards, such as CTB, plot styles and more were also stored there.

At this point we realized that we needed to stop and take an objective look at what we were doing, and research whether there were other solutions available that could solve the problem. But the more I looked at, the more I realized that maintaining standards for every single client we have – into the hundreds – is an incredible labor drag for us and the clients as well. No one client has the exact same standards, even in the age where the AIA National CAD standard that’s been around for decades is uniformly followed and applied…sorry, choked a little on that one.

Let me clarify something for everyone – there’s a huge difference between CAD standards and Drafting standards. CAD standards address software features such as layers, levels, linetypes, fonts, sheet appearance and more. They don’t address what is be presented – like using two lines to represent the inside and outside of the wall, when the complexity of that object is light years beyond that standard. 

But the Drafting standard has been around for nearly a century, where I learned how to create the plan, section and elevation views in such a way that all users, regardless of their standard, could interpret what was placed on the sheet. Born out of the AIA’s Architectural Graphics Standards that were originally published in 1932 (see this link), the series of books explain how to create the views needed to build the structure. Over time, the newer standards for Level of Development have helped the transition from a drafting standard to a modeling standard – which is the key element that makes all of this work. Model LOD is the new lynchpin and key to true digital twin creation.

In the AEC industry, BIM tools and workflows changed all of this by forcing a true 3D representation of the entire object.  Even if it still doesn’t consider all of the studs and components used in the framing, it could be included based on the client Level of Development requirements. But the vertical aspects of the wall previously were a result of the designer’s ability to translate manually from the two lines to an elevation everything that’s going on (and keep it current as the plan changed). In BIM and the 3D modeling world, that’s gone – what you place in the model is used for all types of presentation to explain how to build that wall.

My premise boils down to a couple of simple things. The focus of our tasks has been and always will be the ability to communicate clearly to those that build and manage the structures we live in, work in, and use to provide a better quality of life to all. It’s what should be done to create them in a safe, affordable way, with resiliency and quality. With that being said, the evolution of design authoring tools, such as Revit, Civil 3D, Inventor, OpenRoads, Infraworks, ArchiCAD, and so many more software products we use are taking us further away from the need for a sheet or CAD standard to provide clear and organized documentation…beyond an archaic contract obligation that rests its dependency on paper deliverables…or for pretty linework and text that everyone can read…

The next time you work on a project, put a number on the amount of time you spend adding and organizing sheets, and applying common standards to meet the annotation and appearance requirements of a project. Substitute that number with time spent developing and improving the content used in the model to more clearly indicate design intent and reduce errors, rework and changes on project. Use it to develop more design options and alternatives that could result in a more efficient structure.

So, it’s time to put into place our "5 why’s" on the sheets and the standards. Do this exercise back at your office or with your colleagues and see what you come up with – I’m really curious to hear how it goes on your end. Here are the questions you need to start with, and we’ll review the answers in the next article.

What role does the sheet play in the design process when the outcome is a digital twin?

Why do you need to use sheets on a design project?

What role does the CAD standard play in the design process in the production of 3D modeling-based documentation?

Why is the CAD standard an essential part of the design process?

I challenge every single design firm, contractor and owner to ask themselves these questions. At one point do you walk away from “we’ve always done it this way” and look at new workflows, methods and tools to accomplish the same goal. The cost of not doing it is high – lost time, wasted money and lost opportunity are bits of it. Stagnation and regret are what lets your competition win and you lose every time. But the lost opportunity is the greatest cost of all…so how do you take all of the great progress we have made in technology over my generation, and take it to the next level?

Start here.