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Read this BEFORE Transitioning to _________!

18 May , 2012  

I’ve gotten so many questions about how to learn Revit, what technology to buy, etc. lately and so I wanted to respond in what might initially sound like a surprising way…STOP!!!  Don’t stop asking, and don’t stop pursuing, but stop and think and ask yourself a question: Why?  Why am I learning Revit?  Why am I purchasing expensive technology?  Otherwise, you’re just throwing money at something that you’re hoping at some point you’ll understand.  Not to sound like Mr. Miyagi or anything, but, understand first, purchase after.  Revit Essentials or Advanced?  12 gigabytes of RAM or 24?  You certainly don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of your company’s transition to BIM, but strategize a bit.  What are you trying to accomplish?  Do you even know why you want to go from CAD to BIM (and your answer shouldn’t be because everyone else is).  And it also can’t just be because the project requires it.  Do you understand the difference between Revit and BIM?  You shouldn’t be transitioning from AutoCAD to Revit.  You should be transitioning from a CAD-based project process (which used AutoCAD) to a BIM-based project process (which uses Revit – among a lot of other applications).  You need to take two approaches: project process AND technology.  Your project process WILL change.  How and what pace is up to you.  Your technology will need to change also, but you should understand why before you purchase it.  And when buying more powerful technology for the new software and processes you’ll be going through, don’t buy cheap.  And I say that because “cheap” will WILL WILL cost you in the long run.  I promise you it will.  You can buy inexpensively, and you can find deals, and even negotiate, for what you need.  If you’re purchasing for commercial purposes, technology shouldn’t be free.  You will spend more time getting “free” things to work for you and your business and, again in the long run, it won’t be worth it.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why is Scott ranting like this?”  For too long now technology has been an after thought.  It has been thought about and budgeted for way past when it should be and you end up backing yourself into a corner.  Then you either buy too much, or even too little, of what you need.  But Scott, you say, why is anything you’re saying new?  Hasn’t it been important to plan for technology all along?  Of course it has, but these days the change in technology is not simply an upgrade in software or a better graphics card.  With the introduction of the Cloud and new found abilities to move design and construction data between different analysis applications to improve outcomes, we are once again finding ourselves both having to adjust our processes AS WELL AS investigate new process that can make our work more efficient and more effective.

You Want to Integrate BIM into your Business but You Don’t Know Where to Start

30 Mar , 2011  

“BIM!  BIM!  BIM!  I’ve heard about BIM, and I want to…  What is BIM?  I don’t want BIM, I want Revit.  I don’t want Revit, I want BIM.  OK, BIM, Revit, I get it now, how can I integrate into my…” I’ve heard this a lot and and what I have found, as someone who manages BIM at an architecture firm as well as someone who consultants on the use and integration of it within the Architecture/Engineering/Construction communities, is that the more information you can give me, the better I can tailor my presentation to you about how BIM can benefit you as well as how you can integrate it into your company.  The question is, why is that?  The reason is exactly the same as why people struggle to get over the initial hump/learning curve/paradigm shift of a transition to BIM in and of itself.  BIM involves a lotta stuff!!! Then, once you get into an actual software application (i.e. Revit, Navisworks, Ecotect, etc.), they do a lotta stuff too!! When I, and you, have a better understanding of what it is you and your organization do (and want to do), we can figure out which aspects of BIM, and its associated applications, will be most beneficial to you.  Otherwise you’ll hear phrases like:

 

  • You can make a change in one place and it makes that change everywhere!
  • Everything is in 3D!
  • You can create automatic schedules!
  • Need a section drawing?  Put in a section line!
  • Construction documents are done for you!
  • You never have to draw again!
  • There will be zero change orders!

 

It’s not to say that a lot of these points aren’t correct but (or almost correct), but odds are, you’ll respond to me in the same way, I swear, someone did recently, “Scott, I’m going to stop you right there because I don’t know what the f*#k you’re talking about.”  I actually was hysterically laughing after that was said, but it was a good point.  Since then, I’ve insisted to those I was advising that they tell me as much as possible about the way they work and what they’re looking to achieve.   So, the first question is, what kind of company are you?  Architecture firm?  Engineering firm?  Construction company?  The answer to this will determine the extent to which you actually need to use BIM.  It’s most important to get your current practices in a BIM environment and then, once they are comfortably integrated, explore what else you could be doing.  There are, however, some questions to consider that are independent of which of the three industries you’re in.  That being said, the answers could be quite different for each industry.  These questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  • What types of projects do you do?
    • This is especially important because, initially, we need to figure out which software applications you need. Additionally, it’ll allow us to begin to determine which aspects of those applications we need to focus on developing processes for. For example, Revit might not, by default, have a single button that will simultaneously create quantity takeoffs and apply costs to them.  That being said, if it’s a process that you consistently go through, an automated set of tasks can be set up to do just that.
  • How many people in your office will be working in Revit?
    • This will tell us how many licenses of Revit you need to purchase and, if there will be many people, whether you need to buy standalone copies or a network license.  Additionally, and this will come up in the next question, how many people do you need to purchase computer hardware for?
  • Do you have the computer hardware capable of handling Revit?
    • Revit is a fairly intensive program that requires somewhat powerful hardware.  Additionally, the latest version of Revit, 2011 (soon to be 2012) requires Windows 7 (preferably the 64-bit version).  Do your computers have it?  Do the have enough RAM and are their processors and graphics cards powerful enough.  You don’t want to spend a lot of money on copies of Revit and find that your hardware can’t handle it.
  • Do you have a person, internally or externally, who can act as technical support?
    • Depending on the skill level of project team members that you either have or are planning on hiring, it is usually a good idea to have a go-to-person who you can rely on for installation and upgrade issues, quick teaching tasks, technical support and any other advice that will help you make more informed decisions about how best to proceed with BIM.
  • Will people need to be trained?
    • If people will need to be trained, which is likely, you’ll need to decide how you would like this training to be done.  Do you want to bring someone into your office?  If so, you’ll need to have space and both the software and hardware set up and working.  Do you want to rent a space?  If so, you’ll pretty much need the same things.  Do you want to hire a service?  If so, you’ll need to locate one and arrange a time for everyone to attend.  Additionally, no mater which way you choose to go, you’ll have to be prepared for these people to be out of service, and therefore non-billable, for the entire time.  I’ve often seen people step out of training for phone calls or emails and they tend to miss valuable lessons.
  • Do you have an existing set of graphical (and/or more specifically CAD) standards?
    • Just as with CAD, a set of standards is important to be able to create a template in Revit which will ensure that all of your deliverables (ie. drawing sheets) look as you expect them to look both architecturally as well as graphically.  The creation of template can be an extensive process depending on the extent with which you will be using Revit.
  • What types of deliverables do you create at the various submittal milestones?
    • The types of products that you produce for various recipients will help to assess which best practices need to be determined.  For example, if you tend to issue drawing sheets, you’ll need to consider, for example, sheet size and title blocks.  If you issue schedules (or spreadsheets), you’ll need to have them set up to extract the type of data you want, quantify and calculate it based on your normal processes, and then display it as you normally would.
  • What are the typical objects that you use (or draw) in your drawings from project to project (i.e. curtain walls, furniture, structural beams, HVAC ducts, etc.)?
    • Computers in general increase the speed in which we doing things by giving us a library of predefined options to choose from.  For example, which type in a word processing program, the list of available fonts is a library of choices.  With Revit, it is very helpful to have a library, or kit of parts, that you can use over and over for the typical work you do.  If you use a specific manufacturers furniture, having a library of all of their furniture, modeled in three dimensions for Revit, make it very easy to drag and drop them into your space and then schedule their properties based on data that has been built into them.
  • What are the typical calculations you perform while producing drawing and/or estimations on projects?
    • As previously mentioned, to keep you from having to set up schedules which will perform your commonly used calculations and estimations, we can set them up to automatically extract the necessary information and quantify them as you normally would.  That being said, it is helpful to both know and understand how and why those calculations are done.
  • What three-dimensional work are you currently doing for both production as well as design purposes?
    • This question can have two possible outcomes depending on your answers.  If you’re doing 3D work currently, we can recreate and enhance the way that you’re doing it by using the model that you’re already building.  If you’re not doing any 3D work, it is important to learn how you can use the tool for both production as well as design purposes.  Most likely, you’re familiar with the fact that you can create 3D, wireframe models, renderings, etc. for printing and presenting to people.  It’s important to understand that by designing and modeling in both two dimensions and three dimensions simultaneously, you can ensure that your drawings, calculations, cost estimations and analyses are more accurate.

 

These questions, and their answers, should get you to a point where your firm is producing similar products that you were with your old, most likely CAD, system, and you are beginning to see increased productivity and reduced costs.  As time goes on, personnel will become more facile with the software, they’ll strategize better and work will get done even faster.  At that point, you can begin asking the next set of questions which will allow you to start doing what you didn’t, or couldn’t, do before.  The following questions are the second half of the sentence, “Can the work your firm does benefit from…”:

 

  • …advanced three-dimensional coordination of building information models from various consultants (i.e. structural, MEP, lighting, etc.)?
  • …three-dimensional detailing?
  • …automated cost estimating and quantity take-offs?
  • …energy modeling?
  • …sustainability analysis?
  • …life safety simulation?
  • …facilities management?

 

Needless to say, there are many other things that BIM can do, but these questions, and their answers, will allow you to make better decisions when a project starts.  This early strategizing informs the BIM process helping you to create what is know as a purpose-built model.  That is to say, a model built for the purpose of…(see the previous list).   Understand what integrating BIM into your office really means.  Understand that it’s more than installing Revit.  Furthermore, understand that the use of BIM, and or Revit, is not simply a technology issue.  If anything, it is important that everyone understand (each up to an appropriate point) what you’re getting yourself into and how it will change everything from the software you’re using, the submittals you’re generating, the way you staff projects, assemble fees and create project schedules.  Most importantly, get someone to help you.  Revit is not the 2025 version of AutoCAD, and having someone who has been through it before can help you prepare for it, avoid pitfalls and help you deal with the inevitable issues that will arise.

How to Talk about BIM/Revit without Knowing that Much about BIM/Revit

18 Mar , 2011  

I decided to write this post for a certain family member of mine in the construction industry who needs to be able to talk about BIM/Revit, but doesn’t really need to know all the little in’s and out’s of it. So here’s my list:

  • Understand the differences between BIM and Revit – What is BIM?  What is Revit?  I tried to explain this by saying BIM is to CAD as Revit is to AutoCAD.  I really thought that would have cleared it up but, alas, it didn’t.  So, first I’ll say that BIM, or Building Information Modeling, is the overall process of creating a three dimensional database, in the form of a model of information that pertains to the design of a building.  Notice a few things in that definition: first, I used the words that make up the BIM acronym.  Here’s the sentence again: BIM is the overall process of creating a three dimensional database, in the form of a model of information that pertains to the design of a building.  Second, notice that I never used the word Revit.  Under this BIM umbrella, there are many software applications that lead to an efficient design of space.  While Revit just so happens to be one of them, it is just that, one of them.  Revit can certainly be considered the main application under the BIM umbrella, but other applications are designed to perform certain functions which Revit either has minimal functionality to do, or, cannot do at all.  For example, other BIM applications include Ecotect and Green Building Studio which are designed to test the efficiency of a design with regards to the environments impact on it and it’s impact on the environment.  Navisworks, another BIM application, brings building information models from various disciplines together in a single environment to see how the physically interact allowing designers to make necessary adjustments before construction begins.  And there are more but, for the moment, see the image below to understand it a bit better.

  • Be aware that there’s more than one discipline version of Revit – If you have a keen eye, you’ll notice in the image above that I list Revit three times with different disciplines.  This isn’t wishful thinking, there are three different discipline versions of Revit.  Each one has tools geared to that particular discipline.  Fortunately, however, all three have been designed to speak the same language and therefore a model created in one can be inserted into the modeling space of the others.  The typical process of multiple disciplines working together in Revit is as follows:
    • The Architect will begin building the design model in Revit Architecture.
    • At an agreed upon time, the Architect will send his model to the Structural and MEP Engineers.
    • Each discipline will link the architecture model into their own work space within the discipline version of Revit of their choice (i.e. Revit MEP or Revit Structure).  When I say link, I mean that they are telling their own discipline versions of Revit to connect to the model that the architect sent and show it graphically within the same space.
    • Once linked in, each discipline will begin their own work inserting, for the Structural Engineers, beams, trusses and columns and, for MEP Engineers, ducts, pipes and electrical connections.
    • Next the engineers will send their individual models back to the Architect (without the model that the Architect originally sent to them).
    • The Architect will link each model into his architecture model, and they will show up in their correct locations.  Additionally, all objects that the engineers created will contain all original information inserted within them.

 

This process will continue on a regular schedule allowing each discipline to continually have up-to-date information.

 

  • Be aware that there’s more than one year and number version of Revit – Each year, Autodesk (the makers of Revit) come out with an updated version of Revit.  For example, the current version of Revit is 2011.  As the year goes on, Autodesk will release small updates that fix little problems that have come up over time (and were reported to them by users) as well as new features they have been developing.  Every time these updates are released, what is called a build number is added to the end of the version of Revit.  For example, the current build of Revit is 20100903_2115.  All interested parties (i.e. people who will need to either view or work in the model) will need to have the same year and build version of Revit.  These numbers are consistent from Revit Architecture to Structure to MEP.  The other reason this is important is because once saved in the current version, the model CANNOT be saved down to an earlier version.
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  • Understand that there are no such things a Revit drawings – When a project is AutoCAD-based, each individual file is a drawing file.  Therefore you can ask someone,can you send me the drawings in AutoCAD format?”  With Revit, if you require all information about the project, you’re more likely to ask for the Revit model.  If you need individual drawing sheets, you can still ask for AutoCAD drawings.  You could also simply ask for PDFs of the drawing sheets.  If you are working in Revit and someone asks you for drawing files, you can extract from the model individual, or a complete set, of drawing sheets in AutoCAD or PDF format.
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  • Understand that an AutoCAD-based project uses many files while a Revit-based project uses, in most cases, a single file – AutoCAD-based projects are typically set up by having individual files representing individual drawing-types (i.e. plans, sections and elevations) inserted into individual files representing individual drawing sheets.  If you extrapolate that out for a large project, you can imagine the possibility of having many, many files.  Revit-based projects, on the other hand, tend to be a single model file within which specific-drawing types are set up as views of that model.  Additionally, within that same file, sheets are set up with those views placed on them.  Since all of these views and sheets come from the single model, you can make changes to that model in an view (or sheet), and that change will show up everywhere else (thus the phrase, “a change anywhere is a change everywhere”).  With all information in a single Revit model, Revit project files tend to be fairly large which is why to work with Revit efficiently, more powerful computers are required.
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  • Understand that while working in Revit, you’re working in both two dimensions and three dimensions at the same time – When you click the wall tool, for example, in Revit, you indicate it’s length, width and height simultaneously.  Even if you’ve created the wall in a plan view, if you switch to a three dimensional, section or elevation view, you will see that the height is also represented.  This is the case for all types of objects in Revit.  I mention this because often times you might hear someone say (or even be the person to say it), “we don’t need to use Revit because we’re not doing any work in 3D.”  This is really a misnomer because, “working in 3D” doesn’t just mean creating renderings and animations.  If you are creating plans, sections and elevations, you’re working in three dimensions.  Period.
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  • Understand what BIM Standards are and that they’re contained within template filesWhen an office decides to use Revit as their standard platform, they choose various graphical settings, known as standards, which dictate how, in most cases, drawings look when they go out the door.  Some examples of these settings could be line thicknesses (or line weights), text fonts and font sizes, title blocks and scales (i.e. 1/8″ = 1′-0″ for plans and 3″ = 1′-0″ for details).  When a new project is started in Revit, the person in charge of BIM efforts for that project will use a file (typically set up by an offices’ BIM Manager) which contains all of these settings.  This file is known as a template file.  Often times, you will be asked for your offices’ BIM Standards.  If you do not have them documented, you can send your template file instead as 99% of your BIM Standards are contained within it.

 

Now that you have some knowledge of what is important to know about BIM/Revit, you need to be able to go and find out how the different aspects of BIM will affect you whether you’re the architect, a consultant, a contractor or a sub-contractor.  Therefore, what questions should you ask when a Revit-based project is either proposed or about to start?

 

  • What year and build version of Revit is this project using?
    • Remember, all parties need to be using the same year and build version of Revit so that everyone’s data can be exchanged easily.
  • Is there a specific template file, and therefore BIM Standards, being used that all parties should be conforming to?
    • If you are not coordinating the efforts of all interested parties, and therefore don’t have a template file containing BIM Standards you’d like everyone to use, it is likely that whomever is filling this role does have one.  It is helpful to get and use this template as a starting point for your Revit model to ensure an easy transfer of data from you to whomever you might be sending your data to.
  • Has a Revit model been started and can we use it as a basis for our work?
    • An existing model will give you a head start on your own work because you can bring it into Revit and use it as a host for what you need to put into it, be it additional design work (i.e. a curtain wall), an HVAC system or a structural system.
  • If there isn’t a Revit model built, do you have AutoCAD drawings you can send?
    • Even if a Revit model has not be built for the project, AutoCAD plan drawings can be inserted into your Revit model to be used as a background for you to model off of.
  • What is the schedule for uploading and downloading BIM data?
    • Establishing a schedule for the exchange of data will allow you to establish more realistic deadlines.
  • How often will BIM Coordination meetings be scheduled?
    • Regularly scheduled BIM Coordination meetings, possibly even weekly, will allow all interested parties to continually ensure that their part of the design works well physically with the rest of the design.
  • Will Navisworks be used for 3D Coordination?
    • As previously stated, Autodesk Navisworks is a software application that can bring together 3D models from multiple applications and analyze how they physically interact looking specifically for unintended clashes.

 

The above seven points of knowledge and seven questions should give you a basic understanding of the important points of BIM and Revit as well as an idea of what important questions you should ask to begin your work.  This is just the beginning of the process and Revit Essentials or Project Manager training can only increase your ability to make good decisions when it comes to staffing, budgeting and scheduling of a Revit-based project.

The Need for an Experienced BIM User on Every Revit-based Project

5 Jan , 2011  

Happy New Year all!  The transition to Revit from (fill in the blank) continues throughout the industry and I wanted to comment on the need for an experienced person on every Revit-based project.  I often mention to people that nowhere within the Revit help files does it mention the specifics of how to complete uniquely architectural processes (ie. space planning or the placement of notes on sheets).  These are things that BIM Leaders figure out and develop over time.  Therefore it’s extremely important to have someone on your project team who has been through Revit projects before.  This person is sometimes called a BIM Leader or Manager or Coordinator or any other word implying an advanced amount of knowledge and experience.  It’s important to remember that that person shouldn’t necessarily be the Revit Cop or the doer of the tasks no one else feels like doing.  This person acts as a mentor to the rest of the team on the best practices of moving through the lifecycle of a project.  He or she advises project architects on, for example, how to verify the correct assembly of sheet sets within Revit, and/or Project Managers on how to staff, schedule and interact with consultants.  The most important thing to remember is that there is no task that this person does on a project that everyone shouldn’t be able to do.  At the moment, however, not everyone can.  As time goes on, more and more people will have that experience and the role (which, by the way, is not an additional person assigned to the project, but a required inclusion just as a project manager or project architect would be) will no longer be necessary.

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AAAAAnd We’re Back….

16 Apr , 2010  

Hey All. Well, BIMuzer is finally up and running and I’m very happy it is because you might have noticed some new software releases (the Autodesk 2011 product line) and I’m just itching to comment on it. In the mean time, I wanted to mention that a colleague of mine, James Vandezande (http://allthingsbim.blogspot.com/) with Eddie Krygiel and Phil Read, worked on the upcoming release Mastering Revit 2011.  Here’s the link so you could pre-order it: http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Revit-Architecture-2011-Krygiel/dp/0470626968.  Also, don’t forget the book that I worked on, 3ds Max 2010 Architectural Visualization Advanced to Expert which you can order by clicking the cover off to the side.  Stay tuned for a new post soon!!

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Revit – Things to Consider When Starting a Project

23 Dec , 2009  

Hey All.  I want to go through a few key things you should think about when starting a Revit-based project.  I have to say, first of all, let’s start referring to these projects as a “Revit-based Project” as opposed to a “Revit Project”.  I think it takes the emphasis off of what type of software is being used and puts it, more appropriately, on the fact that it’s an architectural project.  Anyway, here are five things that you should consider, and document, when starting a project:

  1. Software Version and Build (internally and externally) – It’s important to make sure that not only are all of your internal Revit users using the same version (and build) of Revit, but also that all consultants are using the same version.  This will ensure that there is no loss of data when sending your model to a consultant.  It’s also import to note that even if your consultant is not working on the architectural aspects of the project (ie. they’re using Revit Structure or Revit MEP), they still must be using the same release of Revit (in this case, the build version can be ignored).
  2. Working with Consultants – Be aware of what software (and versions of those applications) that your consultants are using.  Once this data is compiled, document the process by which your Revit model is exported to each piece of software.  For example, if a consultant is using AutoCAD, make sure that the text file which describes how Revit objects are translated into layers has been updated to conform to your office standards and that all team members are aware of its location.
  3. Single or Multiple RVT Model Files – The process of sending data to a consultant differs when your project uses a single model file or multiple model files.  Therefore, document the names of the model files contained within the project as well as a description of what each model file contains.  Taking a step back from that, decide whether or not you actually want to use multiple model files.  If so, make sure all team members know how the project is organized, within which file they should be working (and modeling) and, more specifically, which model file should be printed from.
  4. Worksets – On the same topic of organization, document the worksets being used in your project and what types of objects should be put on them.  It’s important to keep this list shorter rather than longer because, as similar as worksets might seem to layers in AutoCAD, they are not interchangeable and users should be able to keep the idea of them in the background.  Also, the Revit leaders on the team should have a process by which they can check to see if objects are on the correct workset and, if they’re not, how to correct the error.
  5. Level of Detail Based on Project Phase – As I have mentioned in previous posts, the level of detail applied to a model should be based on the phase of the project.  For example, in earlier phases, such as Schematic Design, the detailed structure of walls should be left out and the types should be set to genericMaterial-wise, the walls should have the basic grey material or transparent blue material.  Be sure to document exactly how detailed object-types should be brought to.  For clarification purposes, document the levels of detail for objects for the upcoming phases.  This will allow users to keep in mind how the model will be developed over time.

While these are just five things to consider, there are many others as well.  At its heart, however, this is both a preparation-based as well as a future planning-based process.  Considering these things will eliminate confusion and will provide a road-map for working on a Revit-based project.

Starting Your Revit Model from a 2D AutoCAD Drawing

10 Jan , 2009  

I received an email recently from a woman named Monica asking if I would go through the process of importing an AutoCAD DWG file into Revit and modeling from it.  We very often jump to the very complicated features of software and sometimes ignore the basics, for example, how to get into the program and start working.  So, I’m going to go through how to place your drawing into Revit and start working with it.  One thing I’d like to suggest, however, is that you look at one of my earlier posts, Shared Coordinates in Revit (and AutoCAD), which is what I’ll be talking about first.  OK, here goes:

Let’s take a look at a simple AutoCAD drawing that I want to import (fig. 1):

You can see here that we’ve just got some walls, doors and windows and they’re all on their appropriate layer.  Now, let’s bring them into Revit.

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