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 judgment...an 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

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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.

Link: http://www.wbdg.org

WBDG-Home

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...

dj_setup

autocad_rendering

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.