Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Analyze This! New and updated Apps...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you at AU 2013!

David B.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Moving Ahead...and Counting Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later - David B.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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

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

Join us for the fun!

Thanks - David B.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

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

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

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

So join us next week, and tweet away!

later - David B.

Monday, November 4, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in a month! David B.