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 support.autodesk.com, 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 CADLearning.com. 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.