Thursday, July 31, 2008

Project Freewheel

For those of you who haven't seen this yet, you should check out Autodesk Freewheel.
Freewheel is a web-based service that allows you to share 2D and 3D designs quickly and easily.
You can zoom in and out, pan, orbit (in 3D.) You can even email links to specific views within the viewer. The project below is a sample set of documents from Autodesk. I invite you to play with the tools. There are 29 pages browse, better get to it.

I think that applications that provide sharing like this are going to be essential in the adoption of BIM.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2ND Class no More! (well soon anyway)

Autodesk support recognizes that there is an issue with the system family "basic ceiling-generic." It seems that this family was created early in the development of REVIT and that the "normal" face of this family is the upper surface. The "normal" face is the surface that a "face hosted" object hosts too. This issue has been logged for change. Recommended workarounds were;

1. Mirror the fixtures using the ceiling as the mirror line. (Which is exactly the fix we used. With over 600 fixtures in the project we are grateful for the "select all instances" command.)
2. Create a family, type, or even instance parameter to deal with the situation.

I worked with the family a little yesterday afternoon and after fooling around with the constraints I was able to create a fixture that behaves properly when loaded into a project. It hosts and renders correctly, however it remains to be seen how it connects to an electrical system.

I have attached screen captures to show the issue more clearly. The recessed can and pendant light most clearly illustrate the condition. The rectangular fixtures are recessed and surface mount fixtures.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Are generic REVIT components 2nd Class Citizens?

Often we use generic components as place holders in the early stages of design development. In most cases they have at least some of the same parameters as more defined objects. However, this seems to not be the case with generic ceilings in REVIT.

A client using REVIT MEP to do electrical design ran into an issue where the light fixtures that he was placing in a project were hosting upside down.
Some background into light fixtures and REVIT might be appropriate. There is an issue with REVIT MEP in that light fixtures and other object hosted components will disappear if the host was deleted. Imagine the frustration if you were involved in Electrical design and the Architectural department deleted the ceiling and modeled new without telling you. So, often, families are used that host by face instead. Now the fixture will just hang out in 3D space where the face was located if the ceiling or wall is deleted. Hosting components to ceilings in REVIT can be tricky as it is, due to the way that REVIT handles RCP (reflected ceiling plans.) In short, REVIT treats RCP the way we were taught to draft them; The view you are seeing is as if you are looking at a mirror below the ceiling and what you see is the reflection of the ceiling. That is subtly different than a view that you would see laying on you back looking directly at a ceiling. In this instance it doesn't matter which we are looking at, only that we are looking at the bottom face of the ceiling (for a more in depth and very clear explanation of REVIT RCP click here.) REVIT knows that you are looking at the bottom face of the ceiling so that is where the object is hosted. That solves the disappearing light fixture problem, but creates a new one.

After some investigation it came to light (pun totally intended) that our client was placing their fixtures "by workplane." Which means that instead of selecting the face of a ceiling he selected a named plane (either a refrence plane created just for this or a level within the project) and hosted the fixtures that way. The problem comes from the fact that you don't "see" the reference plane and host the fixture, you select it before hand and place the fixture in space on that plane. REVIT assumes that the "face" of the plane is the upper face. That's why his lights were upside down.

To complicated matters, when I explained this behavior to him and told him he should host to the face of the ceiling in the linked in Architectural model, he had the same problem. The lights were STILL upside down. I'm sure he was thinking; "Way to go, REVIT support!"

So what was causing this problem? Come to find out, the ceilings in the project are "basic-generic." The only parameters they have are what level they are associated with, what the offset from the level is and whether they are room bounding or not. Since their appears to be no geometry other than a plane associated to this type ceiling, it makes sense that they behave the same as a reference plane. And that is exactly what they do.

So after all of this my client has two choices that I can think of (short of placing lights upside down and then flipping them.)

1.) He can get the architectural designer to use ceilings that have "substance."
2.) He can place his own ceiling in the model, host his lights to it and hide it. The only problem with that is; He will have to hide it in each view or create a view template where it is hidden and apply it to each view.

It seems like a problem that Autodesk should look into. It would seem to me that any ceiling in REVIT should host lights in the correct orientation. Generic ceilings have rights too!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BIM; What it is.

So this Blog begs the question; "What the Heck is BIM (Building Information Modeling) and why is it important to me?" In this post I will try to answer the first part of the question and leave the latter for a later post.

So, BIM is... well... BIM is... hmmmmmmm...well, like a certain Supreme Court Justice in 1964...."I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." In reality, I could define BIM but others have already done a great job there.

The National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee succinctly defines BIM as:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to

A great, in depth article about what BIM is and why to use it can be found here.

A conversation that I have more often is about what BIM is NOT.


3D Modeling
While 3D modeling is a far cry from lines on paper when it comes to investigating and presenting designs, it doesn't contain enough information (the I in BIM) to be considered BIM. It can help a designer or client visualize a project. It can even help to visually detect "clashes" (when some components interfere with others.) However, once the project is past construction stage (or the conceptual stage if the software doesn't easily support creating construction document) the model becomes obsolete. It goes from being a virtual representation of something doesn't yet exist (useful to explain design intent) to a virtual representation of something does exist (more useful, IMO, as a conversation piece or memento than anything else.)

No software on the market is BIM. A lot of people that I talk with are confused about this. There is software on the market that allows you to produce very powerful, information packed BIMs (Building Information Model in this case.) Software such as these are awesome tools and through their parametric design features (which will be a good subject for an upcoming post) allow the models to be quickly modified to accommodate changes and queried to extract information stored in the model. However, it is the information (coming from many sources) that transforms the model to a BIM.

So it would seem that the INFORMATION component BIM is the defining factor. In that case, what kind of information can be attached to a BIM? Join us next time...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paperspace, Layouts, and Viewports... Oh my!

Since paperspace was added to AutoCAD (in R12) users have been trying to wrap their minds around the concept. Long time users were of the opinion that they didn't need it and wouldn't use it (there seems to be a direct correlation between how long you've been using a product and how willing you are to accept new features.) Well paperspace is obviously here to stay. However, it still confuses its fair share of users. While brushing up on my AutoCAD skills through the AUGI Training Program I came across this explanation of the concept in the courseware for a class titled; AutoCAD 103-From Surviving to Excelling at AutoCAD (by Kenneth Leary):

"Paperspace can be explained like this. Imagine you have a blank wall, not a spectacular view is it? You would love to see your new Hybrid car outside so you cut a window in the wall. Now you can see the car, but you can’t see all of it. Cutting a bigger window would work but it’s a lot of effort so you go outside and back the car further away from the window. Now you can see the all of the car and all is good and right with the universe."

I want to take this opportunity to thank the folks who volunteer there time with AUGI. Whether it's moderating their forums or putting together courseware they are an invaluable resource for those of us using Autodesk Software on a daily basis. Thank you AUGI, Thank You.

Is this BIM? Ah, who cares.

(BTW, I have even resorted to cutting a hole in a piece of paper and placing it over a drawing to demonstrate paperspace. It explained panning in the viewport, but even this "visual aid" couldn't explain zooming.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Post

Welcome to my blog. This blog will be a place for me to share my ideas and vision about the Building Industry and the changes that are happening as the ideas of BIM (Building Information Modeling) and VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) are being explored and implemented.

A little about myself: From the time I left High School (that was quite a while ago) till now, I have done a lot of things. I was a restoration carpenter, a tree climber, a tallship rigger, I even worked on a lobsterboat in Maine for a while. But the majority of that time I spent working in Residential Construction. Recently I had the opportunity to stop using my back and start using my head more. I enrolled in a technical college to learn Architectural Drafting and Estimating and that is where I was introduced to BIM.

Currently I am working as an Application Specialist for an AutoDesk Retailer. So you can expect a bias towards AutoDesk products when I am discussing software, but I am certainly open to others opinions.

In response to the title of this Blog, Who's afraid of the Big Bad BIM? Not me! And I hope you won't be either. Stay tuned for a post about what BIM is and why we should use it.