Monday, December 29, 2008

AIA BIM Protocol (E202)

Despite my recent ranting (aka constructive crticism) about the AIA's communication practices, I would like to discuss one of their newest contract documents - AIA E202-2008: Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit.  As recently discussed by Jim Bedrick (Webcor Builders) in a featured article on titled "Organizing the Development of a Building Information Model," the BIM Protocol has evolved from work initiated by Vico Software and Mr. Bedrick which was subsequently presented to the AIA's Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) Task Force.  This document takes an important step towards the effective downstream use of BIM data by a project team.  A free sample can be obtained from the AIA at

In a previous post, I had discussed the use of disclaimers for added protection from liability when sharing native design data with team members outside of the Design Team.  To make the next logical step - from "little BIM" to "BIG BIM" - I have been conducting discussions with my colleagues, peers and our firm's legal counsel about ways to start "chipping away" at the shield (disclaimer) in an effort to establish usable and controllable channels of BIM data.  To that end, the AIA has released E202 to address the issue of integrating BIM data into the contractual environment.  It begins with the general "protocol" in which project teams can define procedural details such as Model Management, Model Ownership and Coordination & Conflicts.  While these areas are important to define, the key part of E202 is the definition of two fundamental concepts:  Level of Development (LOD) and the Model Element Author (MEA).  These two categories are then combined in a matrix for each phase of the project, corresponding to model element assemblies in the Model Element Table described in greater detail below.

Level of Development

There are 5 basic levels of development which do not reflect specific modeling guidelines for any particular software, rather a generic definition of model content and, more importantly, authorized uses of the model for the respective LOD:

SOM_LOD100 LOD 100 - Essentially the equivalent of conceptual design, the model would consist of overall building massing and the downstream users are authorized to perform whole building types of analysis (volume, building orientation, cost per square foot, etc.)

LOD 200 - Similar to schematic design or design development, the model would consist of "generalized systems or assemblies with approximate quantities, size, shape, location and orientation."  Authorized uses would include "analysis of selected systems by application of generalized performance criteria."
SOM_LOD300 LOD 300 - Model elements are suitable for the generation of traditional construction documents and shop drawings.  As such, analysis and simulation is authorized for detailed elements and systems.
Mortenson-Beam Image courtesy of Mortenson Construction LOD 400 - This level of development is considered to be suitable for fabrication and assembly.  The MEA for this LOD is most likely to be the trade contractor or fabricator as it is usually outside the scope of the architect's or engineer's services or would constitute severe risk exposure if such parties are not adequately insured.
FM-lighting LOD 500 - The final level of development represents the project as it has been constructed - the as-built conditions.  The model is suitable for maintenance and operations of the facility.

Note that the above descriptions are merely excerpts from the original AIA E202 document.  Refer to the free sample available from AIA's Contract Documents website for complete details.

MEA's and the Model Element Table

Quite simply, the Model Element Authors (MEA's) are the parties responsible for developing the model content as specified in the Model Element Table.  The Levels of Development are paired with an assigned MEA for each major building assembly as shown in a filled-out sample below:



The AIA E202 Building Information Modeling Protocol Exhibit is a compelling tool for use in the evolving world of virtual design and construction teams.  I have had many conversations with my BIM Specialists as well as project team leaders using it as a basis for development of BIM Management Plans; however, it has not yet become a formal addendum to any of our project contracts.  That will likely change very soon.

The AIA Document E202 is a copyright of The American Institute of Architects and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law and International Treaties.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

AIA Green?

According to some of their "Rebuild and Renew" initiatives, the AIA is encouraging architects to focus on "green communities" and "green economy," yet I am somewhat perplexed by the recent methods by which they choose to communicate with their members.  I am referring to some recent mailings which just seem to fly in the face of the message of sustainability. 

First, let me explain that I happen to be involved in a working group of the AGC BIMForum focused on electronic submittals.  That said, I was frustrated to receive a letter (paper) from the AIA informing me that they are "dedicated to serving (me) as we work together to create more valuable, healthy and sustainable buildings and communities...with a vast pool of resources to help (my) business compete in today's market, including outstanding FedEx Kinko's discounts."  In a day and age where the president-elect is sending out text messages and I can review shop drawings from projects in the Middle East without shipping a single tube of printed drawings, how exactly does a FedEx discount help me to create a more valuable and healthy community?  Why doesn't the AIA offer me a special discount for Autodesk Buzzsaw or point me to free services such as CADALYST's Online PlanRoom?


Next I received a booklet highlighting the winners of the AIA New York State Design Awards.  Come on!  Wouldn't this information better serve the community in a website?  In that format, it might even allow the winning architects to post more compelling materials (animations, 3D walkthru, etc.) and allow community commentary on the submissions.  Oh...they already have a site.

DDG 002   DDG 004

If you are a member of the AIA, I encourage you to contact your local chapter or AIA headquarters to fight for more environmentally friendly communication practices.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

AGC BIMForum Review

Last week I attended the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) BIMForum - a focus group for contractors implementing Building Information Modeling.  The group meets quarterly and features John Tocci, Sr. of Tocci Construction of Massachusetts as host/emcee presiding over the intense 2-day agenda of presentations, case studies, breakout workgroups and "rapid-fire technology demonstrations."  A conference of this nature differs from the likes of Autodesk University or the Bentley Empowered Conference in that one won't find 'how to' classes, rather industry professionals - including architects, engineers, subcontractors and fabricators - sharing their experiences and crafting solutions to today's and tomorrow's BIM challenges.  This meeting was held at the Fairview Park Marriott in Falls Church, VA outside Washington, DC and carried the subtitle "BIM With Others."  Because most of the sessions were focused on integrated practice and model exchange best practices, I found almost every session relevant and interesting, amassing 12 pages of digitized notes with my Adapx pen (more on that in a future post).


Some obvious contributors of note included Laura Handler (Tocci), Jan Reinhardt (Adept Project Delivery), John Tocci, Jr (Gilbane) and Davis Chauviere (HKS) who chairs the Designers Subforum.   There were many others who provided valuable content and sponsorship (Autodesk, Bentley, Vico, Solibri, Tekla, Vela Systems, Trimble, etc.) but I cannot list them all.

What Kind of BIM?

Very early in the conference, John Tocci introduced a new nomenclature of "lonely BIM" versus "social BIM."  These concepts would gradually weave throughout almost all the subsequent panels and presentations and seemed to be a clarification of the terminology set forth in the book "BIG BIM, little bim" by Finith Jernigan.  The 'lonely' variety depicts BIM when utilized primarily for production gains within a single company.  In contrast, being 'social' implies the sharing of building information models with others either downstream or upstream in the building lifecycle.

Use Cases

The first presentation was given by Marwan Bakri from the federal division of HNTB.  He illustrated uses of Revit both in the 'lonely' and 'social' sense.  Revit was used in the proposal and early design phase to determine the most economical exterior wall configurations, simply by generating wall schedules with some simple massing models.  On another case study, they illustrated a modification of their modeling techniques to better coordinate with the contractors.  Such techniques include modeling walls for each level - not multi-story, using colored solid fills to indicate wall types for estimating, and modeling individual concrete slab pours.

Next was a group of presenters discussing model exchanges for various disciplines and trades.  Chris Fischer (Schuff Steel), Dan Gonzalez (Swinerton) and Stacy Scopano (Tekla) spoke about exchanges in the steel industry, most telling was Fischer's highlights of what works (wireframes and grids, relative geometry such as top of steel datum, some sizing if the designers modeled correctly, and quantities) and what doesn't work (material grades and sizes when approximation is used by a designer or engineer, column rotation in data translation, lack of curved geometry in SDNF format, editing dimensions/text in lieu of real modeling and anecdotes of Revit to CIS/2 translation taking 24-30 hours).  Dan Gonzalez spoke of the work he supervised on the USC School of Cinema which was a followup project for George Lucas after the much heralded Letterman Digital Arts Center.

For the MEP sector, Randy Richter (Zach Sargent) and Eric Winslow (Superior Air) discussed their use of intelligent duct design software as well as their relationships with engineers.  They frequently work directly in the same files as the engineers in what can be construed as a 'design-assist' effort.  A "Design-Assist Responsibility Matrix" illustrated the planning of coordination in such an arrangement. Furthering the discussion, an interesting quote:  "A trust-based approach rests on the assignment of benefits based on the recognition of risk."

Will Ikerd of RL Goodson, Inc Consulting Engineers spoke of the curtain wall industry.  He had some clear examples of three basic forms of models:

  • A dimensional control model - which was merely a Revit massing model which helped determine and manage the overall project geometry
  • A structural model - for curtain wall, consisted of generic 'glass' walls with the thickness approximating the overall depth of the curtail wall system.  This is used for clash detection against the structural model.
  • A fabrication model - parts of the Revit design model are transferred to Inventor for component fabrication.

Finally, Laura Handler (Tocci) and Sarah Vekasy (KlingStubbins) spoke of their experiences while co-located under an IPD agreement for Autodesk's new AEC HQ in Waltham, MA.  Before starting out in the design process Tocci and KlingStubbins sought to establish protocols for model organization in Revit.  Worksets would be based on Kling standards, phasing based on Tocci's.  In the end, much of the protocols were hashed out on the fly because the teams were working in the same office.  Of interest is the change in modeling techniques including 'wall splitting.'  The structure and finishes were modeled as separate walls, allowing for more accurate phasing simulation and enabling the coordination of the model with a Trimble Total Station for precise partition layout.  Dimensions on plans were only added where required for building department approval, as there was no method for submitting a 3D BIM within the local municipality.

Breakout Workgroups

In the afternoon of Day 1, the conference participants were invited to participate in one of many focus-based workgroups.  There have been several times in my life I wish I could replicate myself - this being one of them.  I decided to join the Architect's Workgroup, chaired by Davis Chauviere and featuring a lead-off presentation by John Tobin of EYP. (By the way, John has a brand new Building the Future article on entitled "atomicBIM: Splitting Data to Unleash BIM's Power").  The discussion within our workgroup quickly focused on the concern of BIM hand-offs changing the risk equation.  Do Architect's inherit more risk when they are producing a virtual building rather than heiroglyphics intended to be translated by the construction team?  As I mentioned in a previous post, our firm has crafted a BIM disclaimer to insulate us from this perceived additional risk; however, this stands in the face of collaboration and trust.  What if the Architects started to chip away at the 'disclaimer shield' and identified certain elements within the model that could be trusted.  This would lead to a prerequisite quality assurance process for shared models, but might just start to alleviate the concerns of project constituents not engaged in integrated project delivery.  Of course, designers and engineers would have to be compensated for the elevated integration!

Day 2: More Case Studies and Risk Management

Viktor Bullain of Vico spoke on behalf of an ill Matt Ryan (Webcor) and brought to light the issue of "level of detail" as one of the primary practical concerns with BIM hand-offs.  Vico and Webcor have been collaborating on a "Model Progression Specification" or MPS - which is available as a free download at under "Tools/Publications."  The MPS outlines the following macro levels of detail and their respective "authorized uses:"

  • LOD 100 - Not necessarily 3D, used for cost per area or 'zones' and total project construction duration.
  • LOD 200 - 3D, but generic models; locations known, cost can be estimated in ranges; exterior systems selected.
  • LOD 300 - Construction means and methods known; dimensions, capacities and connections are specified; clash coordination.
  • LOD 400 - Shop drawings and fabrication details; committed purchase prices of assemblies.
  • LOD 500 - As-built or record model for facility operations and maintenance.

Next, Doug Green of Marsh delivered a sobering, but profound presentation on "Risk Management Principles applied to BIM."  On IPD agreements, he simply states that the insurance industry does not yet have a policy to cover such a tri-party team.  Insurance is fault-based, but IPD requires a no-fault arrangement.  Who is to blame if someone gets hurt on the job?  One key concept which resonates with my duties at SOM is the risk management concepts of "avoid and transfer" versus "accept and manage."  I think our workgroup discussions on "chipping away" at the BIM disclaimer were bolstered by this comparison.  Green also emphasized a warning to designers that the main risk with BIM is the potential to start defining means and methods, which would lead to responsibility for site safety.  If a project arrangement has the design team participating and coordinating such data, the safety record of the construction manager/contractor and the quality of the subs becomes the paramount concern.

Finally, Damian Hamlin (Beck Group) demonstrated another use of Revit for a GSA courthouse expansion/renovation while Tracy Lee and Amy Kim of Orcutt Winslow and Dan Russell of Sundt Construction discussed their collaboration on a data center project for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona.  What made the Orcutt Winslow/Sundt presentation different was the fact that the project was based on design-bid-build, unlike most of the preceding presentations; however, the CM, electrical and mechanical sub-contractors were pre-selected due to the complex nature of a data center project.  Orcutt Winslow has been using Archicad for some time and continued its use on this project.  Of note was their finding that much of the intelligence within their Archicad models was not translated into Navisworks for use by the extended project team.  I wonder which method they were using to translate the data?

The main focus of the Orcutt Winslow/Sundt presentation seemed to be the benefits of the collaborative BIM process - owners, subs, engineers and designers all involved in design coordination meetings enabled quicker resolution of issues, subs gaining a better understanding of the design intent, and the design team better understanding construction techniques.


In closing, my evolved role as Senior Manager of Virtual Design + Construction at SOM has allowed me to focus more on our 'social' BIM aspirations.  We have completed a number of BIM-based projects, but we are currently reaching out to our construction management partners in an effort to enhance the overall design delivery process.  In contrast to other efforts within our industry the AGC BIMForum seems to be chugging along at full-steam to address difficult and complex issues.  Anyone can join the BIMForum and discuss the issues online or sign up to attend the next meeting at

Thursday, October 02, 2008

THE Revit Workstation

So, the 64-bit versions of Revit Architecture, Structure and MEP 2009 have been released - finally shattering the 4 GB RAM ceiling.  We're currently using workstations with 8GB of RAM, but I have a 'testing' machine with 16 GB of RAM (sweet!).  After installing the new Revit version, I opened the Freedom Tower model with all worksets on...yeah, I was feeling naughty.  Virtual Memory usage crept up to around 7 GB when I opened up a full 3D view, then...I rendered.  The VM didn't seem to change, but I didn't realize the rendering engine in 2009 runs in a separate process...ringing up another 5 GB of VM.  So, if 16 GB is barely going to cut it, I decided to price out a Dell T5400 with a 3.0GHz quad core Xeon with 32 GB of RAM and a 1.5 GB video card.

$11,516 ... nice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wish - Drag and Drop Browser Organization

As many of you know, the display of views in Revit's Project Browser can be customized using your own parameters.  For example, we use two additional parameters - View Type and View Sub-Type - to help our teams efficiently organize hundreds of views while working on large projects.  With these parameters assigned to views, we can sort the views in logical groups such as FLOOR PLANS, Sheet and Working as shown below.

Revit09-View Type-01

The drawback to this scenario is that the user is required to assign the values for the custom parameters by either accessing the View Properties shortcut or right-clicking on the view in the Browser and selecting "Properties" (another one of Steve's Reviteristics).  Wouldn't it make sense to allow the user to drag a view from the ??? area into a defined 'folder' and have it adopt the properties of the other views in that area?


Friday, July 11, 2008

Bentley-Autodesk Interoperability

In a recent joint press event (Google it), Bentley and Autodesk announced the exchange of their file format libraries in an effort to spur greater interoperability between their competing products.  Such a move is undoubtedly related to the NIST report on the lack of interoperability in the AEC industry, however there will be many discussions (AECBytes, AECNews) for and against this cooperation - watch for the latter coming from the BuildingSmart Alliance over the future of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC).

While I (and many of my colleagues) applaud this news, one can only wonder how this will translate into future product enhancements.  In the short term, I hope we will see support for the latest DGN formats within Revit (currently it only supports V7 format).  In AutoCAD 2008 and 2009, DGN files can be XREF'd into a DWG file.  We have even used this technique to convert DGN files to DWG for continued use...which brings me back to the subtle, yet concerning part of this new found romance.

In my last post, I had promised a follow up rant on Autodesk-Bentley interoperability - at the time, I was unaware of the planned announcement.  Nonetheless, I am still concerned about the impact this exchange will have on the real world AEC practitioners.  On just about every project I've worked or supported that involved a consultant or client using Microstation, the burden was on us to convert the incoming DGN files to DWG and vice-versa for outgoing files.  It was quite sickening to attend Bentley events and hear them bashing Autodesk products and touting universal interoperability when I can't even get a DWG file from a Bentley-using firm, nor would they accept a DWG file from us!  At one BE Conference, I noticed how long it would be from the time I arrived until the first time I heard, "But Autodesk can't do..." - 10 minutes!

So, how does this rant relate to the 'good news'?  I'm not too concerned about Autodesk receiving the DGN code; however, there are reasons to be worried about Bentley's use of RealDWG.  I know that the managers, developers, and product designers at Bentley are top notch, but they have a system of licensing - known as Bentley Select - which allows companies to use any version of their software without any sort of upgrade charge for newer versions.  Check out this Powerpoint presentation which compares the Select experience to trading in your 10 year old Porche Carrera for a brand new Cayenne - for FREE.  Sounds great until you throw in the human psychological factor - fear of change.  Perhaps that's why we can't work well with any of our constituents on Microstation...they haven't upgraded in 10 years because there's no compelling financial reason and Bentley's providing the safety net.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

DC BuildingSMART Breakfast

I whisked myself to Washington, DC last night in order to attend a BuildingSMART BIM Breakfast dubbed the "Renaissance Club" - in deference to the hosting location, the Renaissance Marriott.  This group meets for <early> breakfast at the Eighteen Squares restaurant within the hotel, which is a departure from most evening events such as <plugs> the NYC Revit User Group and the Metro NYC BIM Group </plugs>.   The 7:00 AM start time was more appreciated over the great breakfast buffet and down-to-earth networking.

This month's meeting featured a presentation from Kal Houhou and Kamran Charmsaz of Lessard Group on their BIM implementation experience.  I met Kal after one of my Autodesk University presentations in 2006 (I think...and if you're reading this Kal, I'm sorry for not getting a chance to say hi) and since then, he and his colleagues at Lessard have made serious progress.  They have a few divisions within their approximately 120 employee firm, of which military housing seems to be the greatest beneficiary of implementing Revit.  Let me 'splain - no, there is too much...I'll sum up - plan, plan, plan some more, and communicate with your constituents.  Spend more time in Design Development, less in Construction Documents - this is being implemented with Lessard's client contracts, according to Kamran.

I must note that again, several employees of Bentley attended this industry meeting and forced the P.C. description of "a BIM program" instead of "we used Revit." (See Phil Read's post from the BIMI Roundtable) I'm waiting for the commercials to start anyday now...white backdrop...Phil Bernstein in jeans and a sportscoat, Greg Bentley in a shirt and tie..."Hi, I'm Revit -and I'm Bentley!"  Nothing personal guys, we have had decent success integrating Bentley Structural models into our Revit Architecture models; however, I'll save my rant about Bentley and AutoCAD interoperability for my next post.  Stay tuned.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday and Seattle Commentary

Totally off-topic, but I usually listen to some music on my way home from work and found myself firing up my good ol' Zen Touch for the Friday night commute.  I'm fairly certain I've stumbled upon the BEST song to end your work week - "Amber" by 311.  Give it a try one Friday night and let me know what you think!

Last week I participated in the AIA BIM Implementers Roundtable which is a subset of the Large Firm Round Table (LFRT).  There were some great presentations about best practices, measuring the ROI on BIM and more.  My vote for most candid commentary goes to Phil Read (now with HNTB Architecture) on his new blog  Don't ask me - or Phil for that matter - how one pronounces "architechure," but the point is ARCH + TECH...

From That Thing You Do:

Mr. White: Next, this "Oneders", with the O-N-E, it doesn't work. It's confusing. From now on, you boys'll just be... simply The Wonders.
Lenny: As in, I *wonder* what happened to the O'Needers?

After the day-and-a-half meeting I had the opportunity to wander around Seattle.  First, I visited the Seattle Public Library designed by OMA and Rem Koolhaas.  I've always been a fan of Rem's work and the SPL doesn't disappoint.  Check out my slideshow for some glimpses of the interesting structure versus curtain wall conditions.  Vibrant colors are used for a variety of special spaces such as the all red meeting level and bright yellow vertical circulation - which is a huge help in finding your way around.  There is also a fantastic art display called "Making Visible the Invisible" by George Legrady in which several LCD monitors continuously stream graphic displays of metadata being culled from the library's checkout system.

Next up was the obligatory trip up to the Space Needle.  Having Starbucks in the cafe at 520' was worth the 16 bucks for the ticket.  The observation deck also features several interactive displays including one where you can cycle around a 360 degree panoramic view while adjusting the sun light by the hour or the minute.  Wonder if I can put that on my timecard for environmental analysis research?  Right next to the Needle is Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project or EMP - a museum of music history founded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.  Funds were running low at this point, so I decided to just check out the building, not the full museum tour; however, it was  highly recommended by our hotel concierge.  Making our way back to the Hotel Monaco via the waterfront, we had oysters and seafood at Elliott's (yummmm) and shopping at Pike Place Market.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Review: Green BIM

I recently received a copy of a new book titled "Green BIM: Successful Sustainable Design with Building Information Modeling" by Eddy Krygiel, AIA and Brad Nies, AIA with foreword by Steve McDowell, FAIA - all LEED Accredited Professionals with BNIM Architects.  Mr. Nies is Director of Elements, the sustainable design consulting division of BNIM.

"Green BIM" provides an excellent - albeit somewhat basic - overview of building information modeling, sustainable design practices and integrated design teams.  If you have senior team members or management who are still trying to grasp the concept of BIM, this book is a worthy primer.

Krygiel and Nies share their real world experience at BNIM on 'green' projects such as the Lewis and Clark State Office Building. For the BIM cognoscenti, the Green BIM approach is more about process than tools which is why you will find the chapter on Integrated Design Teams both surprising and enlightening.

While the term "BIM" is used in the generic sense, the authors have been long-time users of Revit and the methods described in the book are illustrated with screenshots and tips for Revit Architecture. Sustainable design encompasses a body of information probably too vast to be addressed in one publication, but "Green BIM" highlights some entry level techniques one can harness today with readily available software.

The only downside to this publication is the lack of color in the many charts and graphs provided throughout "Green BIM." Using 7 or 8 different shades of gray does not make such illustrations very readable.  If cost was a factor in the production of the book, the authors might have been better off using varying line types instead.  By the way, the book is printed on recycled paper with soy inks - not quite the vision of "Cradle to Cradle" author William McDonough, but a step in the right direction.

Rating: 3 of 4 stars

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Design Blogs

I'm happy to include links in my sidebar to two new design-influenced blog sites, although I hesitate to use the term 'blog' as these sites provide so much more content.  First is a site produced by Ajmal Aqtash, a close colleague of mine at SOM.  His site is dubbed "CORE.FORM-ULA" and is focused on developing and monitoring the curricula of leading design schools utilizing the latest digital tools.  Currently, CORE is collecting data and collaborating with Pratt School of Architecture, the Product Architecture Lab at Stevens Institute and U Penn School of Design/School of Architecture.


Second is a newer addition produced by David Fano of SHoP Architects, a site dubbed "Design".  "Design ReForm is meant to be a source of information for the integration of design and technology. The ambition of Design Reform is to publish tutorials and explorations in parametric modeling with softwares such 3ds Max, Revit, Maya, and Rhino."

David has been regularly uploading brief, but descriptive and laid-back tutorials on Revit, Max and Rhino (including Explicit History!).  He is also teaching a class at Columbia University and sharing his students' work (primarily in Revit) within his site's Forum area.  Be sure to check out the class "ReThinking BIM."


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Upcoming BIMStorms

Funny search story...looking for "bim storms" turned up a weather report for Bim, West Virginia - I'm not kidding!  Check it out.

While I may have been initially skeptical about the value of the so-called "BIMStorms" - the brain child of Kimon Onuma - I have been hearing fantastic feedback about the recent 'Storms' in Los Angeles and Boston.  These which bring together teams of AECO industry professionals to virtually plan, design and analyze massive civic-scale developments.  While the organizers have also taken to calling these events the "Woodstock of BIM," the next one is crossing the pond to London.  June 24-26, 2008

Information on other BIMStorms can be found at the Onuma website (

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Archicad Parts 3-4

Floors and roofs

The BIM Experience continues with chapters 3 and 4 which include creating floors, roofs, doors and windows. Considering the simplicity of these tutorials, I completed them both in about one hour and will summarize them in one post.  Floors and roofs are created with the Slab tool and continue to make use of the Favorites palette for pre-made roof and floor types. I am still curious to explore the creation of such favorites from scratch. Similar to polygonal walls, creating slabs is accomplished through either sketching or using Space-Click to enact the "magic wand" and selecting an existing polyline. An interesting and easy feature is quick void creation in slabs.  Use Shift-Click to select an existing slab, then use SPACE-Click to create voids in the slab. In Revit, this would be accomplished by re-editing the sketch of the floor or roof or using the Opening tool. Because the sketch is not exposed as a separate element in Archicad, the slab must be edited directly. As previously mentioned, creating voids is fairly straight-forward, but there are several additional geometry tools exposed in a pop-up when a slab is selected. I will explore those later...


Doors and Windows

Placing doors is a 2-click method - insertion point, then placement of leaf.  Archicad does not offer a preview of the door leaf until you're done nor are options for re-positioning the leaf and swing after insertion (unless I'm missing something obvious). As a comparison in Revit, the SPACE bar is used to rotate any component prior to placement and the door or window has flip arrows to change its position at any time. In the Archicad animation below, notice the ability to use a point grip to simply adjust the plan swing angle of the door.

Placing doors in Archicad:


Placing and modifying doors in Revit:


Towards completion of these chapters I was directed to use the Multiply command (a powerful type of array) in an elevation view and I stumbled upon yet another highly useful function. By right-clicking on any other view in the Navigator, such view can be used as a Trace Reference in the current view. In the tutorial example, I used a floor plan as a trace reference in an elevation:

Here's the work to date:


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Archicad Part 2

Continuing the BIM Experience trial with Archicad 11, we learn how to model the walls of the Massaro House. Using a CAD file as a trace underlay, we gradually build up linear walls, polygonal walls, and parapet walls. Customized views have been created within the Navigator to guide you through each step of the lesson - a BIM-by-numbers, if you will...


ARCHICAD-000We don't learn much about why the wall ends seem to conform to the tapered edges of the indicated points, but I'm assuming they are joining to previously created walls which have been turned off with various customized filters for the purpose of the tutorial. If you are adventurous and dig down into the properties of any view, you'll see a plethora of "Layer Settings" as indicated in the screenshot to the left.

The wall creation method is straight-forward - choose the Wall tool and double-click on a wall style in the Favorites palette - then click on the points indicated in the tutorial views. What bothers me is the cursor. It changes based on snapping points, but I'm not sure what it is snapping to exactly. The cursor changes to a check mark, but it is unlike other programs which give you feedback as to the type of snapping being provided by the geometry at the cursor. Also, on some occasions I have a checkmark, other times a pencil - filled or not filled.

Another quirk I have yet to understand is the ability to select walls in plan and use Draw Order on them. What are their 3D properties that allow one wall to be show 'over' another?

A few really cool tools are exposed in Part 2 of the tutorials. First, while creating polygonal walls, simply holding the SHIFT key over a polyline in the CAD underlay allows you to create a wall in the same shape. Second, at any time you can 'peel away' the model to reveal the trace underlay below. See the animations below...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Standards and Procedures

standards - n. something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model... a rule or principle that is used as a basis for average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc...

With the recent growth of our BIM implementations throughout the firm, a call has been made to produce our Revit "Standards." Giving this some thought, it doesn't make too much sense to dive in and create a new "Standards Manual" without reviewing what 'standards' we currently have and what their purpose is. With our first Revit projects back in 2003-2004, we started with something familiar - the company CAD Standards. After a convenient Save As... we quickly realized that just about everything was going to be deleted as it had little or no relevance to using Revit on a project. It was realized that the 'standards' must be divided up - or compartmentalized - into logical areas as follows:

  • Graphic Standards - How the documents should look
  • Drawing Standards - Methods of organizing the data
  • Procedural Guidelines - Using a specific tool to implement the Graphic and Drawing Standards
  • Data Exchange Guidelines - Sharing the above data with others

Graphic & Drawing Standards

Most architects and engineers are concerned primarily with the quality of their product - construction documents. In many cases, a blanket "CAD Standards Manual," such as the National CAD Standard, will cover everything from layer colors to standard symbols to titleblocks.

A further refinement of graphic standards embeds a methodology of any particular discipline into the application of such standards and becomes "drawing standards." These methods include, but are not limited to:

  • Common drawing information
  • Dimensioning methods
  • Cross-referencing views

Procedural Guidelines

Procedural information will vary for each software platform utilized to implement the graphic standards. Some examples include:

  • AutoCAD - layer standards, xrefs, file names, plotting standards, line types
  • Revit - worksets, line styles, object subcategories, shared parameters, view templates
  • Microstation - level standards, file names, cell libraries...

Data Exchange Guidelines

Efforts being undertaken by agencies such as FIATECH, NIBS and the IAI are labeled as "standards" but they differ in their use of the definition. They are mainly concerned about translating data between software platforms based on the requirements of downstream users. At SOM, they are referred to as "Data Exchange Guidelines." Currently they consist of a light version of our CAD Standards to facilitate understanding of our data shared with our consultants, contractors and clients. They also outline how, when and what will be shared throughout the course of a design project. In the near future, these guidelines will start to blend with the aforementioned standards including the National BIM Standard and IFC.

Reference Material Tags: ,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Whole Building Design Guide

There's a relatively new site available from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) which aims to provide information related to all phases of a building's design. From their "About" page:

The WBDG is the only web-based portal providing government and industry practitioners with one-stop access to up-to-date information on a wide range of building-related guidance, criteria and technology from a 'whole buildings' perspective. Currently organized into three major categories—Design Guidance, Project Management and Operations & Maintenance—at the heart of the WBDG are Resource Pages, reductive summaries on particular topics.

Development of the WBDG is a collaborative effort among federal agencies, private sector companies, non-profit organizations and educational institutions. Its success depends on industry and government experts contributing their knowledge and experience to better serve the building community.



Test Post 2 with Live Writer

Here are some images with links to the originals.  The previous post did not have links to the originals.

IMG_0746    IMG_0751

Test Post with Live Writer

Here are some embedded images for testing of Live Writer direct uploads...



Thursday, March 20, 2008

Archicad 11 - Part 1

As a preface to this post, let me explain why it has been quite a while since my original post about my Archicad exploration. A few months ago, I had received my evaluation copy of Archicad from the generous team at Graphisoft. I had installed it on my Tablet PC and completed the first part of the tutorials. At the same time, I had started to experiment with Qumana - an off-line blog authoring program. While I had completed a thorough post on my first tutorial experiences, my Tablet PC had a catastrophic breakdown. While most of my data was backed up, the data from the Qumana sessions was somewhat hidden and not backed up. Our crack IT staff have since re-built my Tablet and I'm back in business using Windows Live Writer (and loving it!). Following are my notes on the Archicad BIM Tutorials...TAKE TWO!

The BIM Experience Kit

As I mentioned in the original post, Graphisoft offers a free "BIM Experience Kit" as an addendum to Archicad 11. This kit consists of training files documentation and integrated videos. A factor contributing to the success and simplicity of this solution is the mature file management Archicad offers. The kit's training files are archived projects which contain all the library parts, linked references and texture maps referenced in the original file. The training videos are also stored with the project and will play automatically within the integrated Archicad Movie Player if named similar to the project file. Note: if you plan to run through the Experience Kit, be sure to save the project files with the same name as the project archives - otherwise the movies won't play.

Interface and Basic Navigation

The Archicad interface has undergone significant modernization in recent years. I recall attempting a demo of version 7 only to be disappointed by the multitude of buttons and flyouts. There are still quite a few buttons and tools exposed when first running Archicad 11, but we'll see how I fare during the course of the 'Experience.' In the immortal words of an Archicad discussion forum member, "It's intuitive once you learn how to use it."

A Navigator houses a tree structure similar to Revit's Project Browser. It is broken down into 4 different "maps" (from Archicad Help):
The "Project Map" provides a tree structure of the components (viewpoints) of your Virtual Building Model.

  • The "View Map" includes all the predefined and custom-created Views of the Project File.

  • The "Layout Book" contains the layouts defined for the entire architectural project.

  • The "Publisher Sets" map is a tree structure in which you define sets of views for various output purposes (printing, plotting, saving to a local disk or uploading to the Internet or an intranet).

While Revit's Browser is customizable using parameters and filters, I think this approach would bode well for any project team seeking to separate and organize working data, predefined views and published drawing sets.

Zooming, panning and orbiting in Archicad is somewhat limited if you don't have a mouse (as I'm usually running through the "Experience" on my Tablet PC during my commute). According to the help documentation, zooming can be implemented using the "+" or "-" keys, but I couldn't get that to work all the time. There are shortcut buttons for navigation in the lower left of the view, however, I was somewhat confused by each tool's button persistence. For example, using Zoom In/Out requires a second click to stop zooming instead of releasing when I release the mouse button.

Overall, navigation seems equivalent to Revit although I would like to experiment with some larger projects to compare performance. Archicad also offers a walking mode which employs the use of the arrow keys for a gaming-engine experience of the project. Below is a brief video comparison of 3D navigation between Revit and Archicad using similar size models. I also enjoy the refined method of object highlighting. Archicad allows you to move your cursor around without pre-highlighting every object over which you hover. If you hover over an object for about one second, the object gently highlights and a message box fades into view with a brief description of the element.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Revit to AutoCAD for Construction

It's been awhile since my last post as I had some problems with my Tablet PC and an offline blogging tool. Long story...I'll explain in a future post. In the meantime, I have been working very hard on a conversion process for one of our Revit-based projects. As I discovered through conversations with others at Autodesk University, it is not uncommon (from the Architect's perspective) to convert a Revit project to AutoCAD (DWG) for the construction phase of a project. The following will highlight some of the reasons why one would convert a project, aspects of DWG export from Revit and things to beware of in Revit if you might be exporting it later.

Why Convert?

The reasons are few, but simple and compelling. First, if a thorogh design development has been completed using Revit, very few design changes should be required during the course of construction. Second and probably most compelling is the staff during construction phase services. In many design firms a different - most often, more senior - team will handle a project in construction. These team members may not be familiar with Revit at all.

Aspects of Revit's DWG Export

Revit has the ability to export DWG, DGN, DXF and some other formats with a decent level of consistency; however, there are a few aspects to note before embarking on converting an entire project.
  • Revit does not export DWGs in STB plot style format. If you require this format, be prepared to use some scripts or custom programming to assign your standard named plot styles.
  • Revit assigns lineweight and linetype overrides at the entity level. Although there are other options to assign overrides to new layers or exclude overrides completely, they are not very useful. If you don't use overrides, you lose all lineweights and linetypes anyway and using new layers for overrides only complicates a clean conversion by creating layers such as A-WALL-1, A-WALL-2, A-WALL-3, etc. If your standard use of CAD dictates using a plot style table for defining plotted lineweights, again be prepared to do some work.
  • Using the "Shared" option for coordinates on exported files has no effect on plans when you're exporting sheets. Data in model space of exported sheets is positioned only in relation to the paper space viewports.

  • Lines within blocks are not on layer 0; they are on the layer of the category or sub-category of the entire component. This is particularly troublesome if families are made with confusing categorization. For example, an elevator door was made as a Specialty Equipment family, but with a sub-category called "Doors". When exported, the lines within the block were on A-DOOR, but the block itself was inserted on layer A-EQPM.

  • Text and Dimensions all export into the "Standard" style. There is no setting in Revit to modify this.

  • Hatches for columns are exported onto the same layer as the column.

Pre-Conversion Tips for Revit

If you happen to be working on a Revit project and know (or even think) you will be exporting to CAD format, be aware of these potential pitfalls.

  • Don't use solid white Fill Regions to mask model elements in any views. The latest versions of Revit have the new Masking Region tool which will behave as expected (like a wipeout) when exported.
  • Don't coverup unwanted text or dimensions with opaque background text. AutoCAD does not have an analogous object, so you end up with two, overlapping text elements in the exported CAD file.
  • Use appropriate sub-categories for custom families. If you have many custom families all under Generic Models, they will most likely be exported onto one layer.

  • Try not to 'fudge' a design by drawing it with Model Lines or Detail Lines. These will export as line layers, not as building layers such as walls, doors or windows.

  • Because unreferenced view tags cannot be hidden or removed during the exporting process, make it a habit to hide all temporary sections, callouts or elevations during your project. Hopefully, Autodesk will soon develop a way to mitigate this problem - perhaps by allowing visibility (on/off) access to the various view types within a project.

  • Protect your export layers template file. Every time you use it to export CAD formats from Revit, it is appended with any additional data which may be in the Revit file at the time - including all linked and imported CAD files. This is an additive process ONLY. The export template will not 'clean' itself when it is needed for the next project. I usually create a clean master template then ZIP the file so no one can accidentally use it in a live Revit project.