Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Eagle has Landed

It has been an eventful month of December for me. I have left SOM and have joined HOK in New York as a Senior Associate. Who is HOK?...

HOK is a global provider of planning, design and delivery solutions for the built environment. Since the firm's founding in 1955, HOK has developed into one of the world's largest, most diverse and respected design practices. We employ more than 2,000 professionals linked across a global network of 23 offices on three continents. Industry surveys consistently rank HOK among the leading firms in numerous building types, specialties and regions, and we have earned many awards and honors for our projects, people and practice.
Our New York office has also been ranked #13 "Best Places to Work" in Crain's New York Business! Read the profile - watch the video.

I will be working on buildingSMART initiatives throughout the firm and will be sharing some of my stories with you here on my blog. One of the many aspects which drew me to the firm is their appreciation of social media. Take a look at the HOKLife blog as well as the HOKNetwork YouTube channel for an informal peek into the company culture.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a healthy, prosperous New Year!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Disturbance in the Force


For over 10 years I have enjoyed many fruitful and fun experiences at SOM, but the time has come for me to depart the firm and take on a new opportunity.  I can’t explain in one blog post the full breadth of my appreciation for the talented people I have befriended and excellent designs with which I have been privileged to be associated.

My transition will take place quite soon, primarily because of a coincidental project deadline.  I cannot reveal my destination at this time, but stay tuned for an announcement early next week.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Indiana University Requires BIM

Yet another organization in the United States has hopped on the BIM wagon…this time it’s Indiana University (IU). I recently had the opportunity to speak with Theresa Thompson LEED AP, the Director of In-House Projects & Spatial/Project Information at the University Architect’s Office about their new BIM requirements and associated documentation.

Over the last two years, Indiana University has been embracing the use of building information modeling to expand and enhance their commitment to sustainable design and efficient use of funding through lifecycle data management.  This journey began with various GIS and facility management implementations and has come full circle to encompass the building design and construction domain.

Earlier in 2009, IU had a positive experience with BIM - going literally from light table coordination to virtual building model – on the completed Innovation Center at their Bloomington campus.  Messer Construction Company led the effort by generating models of the design data from BSA LifeStructures, ensuring a successful project delivery and a happy client in IU.  In October 2009, the university announced that it would require the use of BIM tools and processes for all capital projects over 5 million dollars and on all projects within the next year or two.

Standards and Guidelines

IU has made the following documents available on their website:

  • BIM Requirements Presentation
  • BIM Guidelines and Standards
  • BIM Proficiency Matrix
  • BIM Execution Plan Template
  • IPD Template
  • Revit CAD Layer export template
  • Revit CAD import lineweights file

Goals and objectives

The following are the key objectives behind the IU BIM/IPD program:

  • Capture information early and throughout the design/construction process
  • Improved change management
  • Better construction documents and as-builts
  • Database links to FM / Campus Management
  • Decrease cost of managing information and facilities
  • Improved energy conservation
  • Establish standards for the future

Top-Level Takeaways

Beyond the usual standards and protocols, here are a few interesting highlights I found while reading the IU documents.

  • IU requires Revit as the BIM format deliverable
  • “The model managers from all parties will establish modeling standards and guidelines.”
  • “The architect’s model manager should coordinate with the consulting engineers’ model managers to eliminate duplicate or redundant objects.”
  • “The Architectural and Consulting Engineers’ models will be revised throughout construction, based on owner directives and As Built comments. The models will always reflect the revised contract documents.”
  • Definition of “Level One, Level Two and Level Three Collisions” (see BIM Guidelines and Standards)
  • COBIE Design Data required
  • Energy Modeling - “After building completion and occupancy of a minimum of one year, actual building performance shall be evaluated against this model.”

By focusing on data reuse for facility management, Indiana University presents a clear understanding of their objectives in requiring a BIM/IPD process.  At the same time, IU is still learning about the process by placing much of the design and construction BIM standards in the hands of the architects, engineers and contractors.  These documents and others listed below can help the AEC industry continue to improve its efficiency and can also assist those just learning about the implementation of building information modeling and integrated project delivery.

Blog-IU-01 BIM Proficiency Matrix (BPM)

Other recently published BIM standards:

Wisconsin BIM Standards:

US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District BIM Standards:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ridiculous Revit Messages

Over the past several years of implementing Revit, I have come across a number of silly, superfluous and simply uninformative error messages.  Here are a few of them (perhaps the factory is reading)…

Disclaimer: These kinds of errors are rare (honestly!)

Ol’ faithful – something to do with modifying shared coordinates and linked models…Autodesk Support says just ignore it


OK, which file?…


“This link”…WHICH LINK?!!




Weird one when opening a local copy of a central model:


And my favorite, the “super error”…


Click on the image to really get the full experience!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Material Takeoffs Follow-up

Back in April, I posted a tip on using the Paint tool in Revit and how it affects material takeoffs. Ryan Duell has also just posted a useful tip for using calculated values in a material takeoff to avoid calculating all surfaces of an object.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BIM Content Survey

Access to a wealth of well-made, data-rich content is a critical part of implementing BIM in any context.  Product manufacturers want to get such data into the hands of Architects and Engineers, but where do they start?

McGraw_Hill Construction has an ongoing survey to gather some of these requirements from the design community.  If you haven’t done so already, please participate in the online survey – it only takes a few minutes.

Also visit McGraw_Hill’s Special Section on BIM at

NYC Revit User Group

In case you’re not already a member, the New York City Revit User Group meets monthly and is hosted on at  Our group’s next meeting is on Thursday November 5 at 6 PM and will feature a discussion on “BIM in Education.” Events are usually held at the Pratt Manhattan Campus, but check the group website for updates.

If you can’t attend in person, you can register for the live webcast here.

camera 157

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Infinity Tower

<< Also featured on Arch | Tech >>

One of my favorite recent SOM projects is currently featured in The Architect’s Newspaper. The Infinity Tower is a spiraling luxury residential building reaching 1,038 feet over the Dubai waterfront.  Designed by structural wizard Bill Baker and former New Yorker, Ross Wimer, the elegant structure was designed with the help of the brilliant Victor Gane (Stanford CIFE, etc.) in Digital Project.

“We try to take something that’s complex and make it simple. Simple for the exterior guys, simple for the concrete guys, simple for the sales agent. It’s the same floor plate because every floor rotates around the central column.”


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Revit Subscription Advantage Pack

I seem to be the last of the bloggers to provide a summation of Autodesk’s “Blogger Day” and the preview of a soon-to-be-released “Subscription Advantage Pack” for all Revit platform products.  Such tardiness has its benefits…fellow bloggers have eloquently summarized the new features…and Steve Stafford has graciously listed said posts into one.  Thanks Steve!

By the way, this update will only be available to Autodesk Subscription customers, but there are many compelling reasons to get there…

  • Free software updates, patches, point releases, etc.
  • Cool new tools and add-ons
  • Free access to AU Virtual Premier Pass
  • Training videos, e-Learning, webcasts
  • Direct support from Autodesk (awesome for Revit!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The alter ego

In case you haven’t heard, I have joined Phil Read and Eddy Krygiel over on the Arch | Tech blog…yet I still don’t know how to pronounce “archi-tech-ure.” We’ll be sharing fun and thoughtful posts – some of which will appear on this blog, too!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Did you mean…huh?

Before posting a support request to Autodesk earlier today, I decided to do a quick search in their KnowledgeBase for a potential solution to my issue.  They have a ‘suggestion’ feature similar to Google just in case you misspelled your search terms or nothing was found.  This happened to me once, and I thought something caught my eye.  Searching again confirmed it…I must be searching the wrong language!


Penn State BIM Execution Guides

Over the past couple of years, I seem to have bumped into students from Penn State at a variety of conferences and events.  While appearing resourceful and eager to conduct an interview or have me participate in a BIM survey, nothing ever materialized…until now.

This past week, the folks at Penn State University’s “Computer Integrated Construction Research Program” have posted some valuable resources focused on real BIM implementation – specifically, a BIM Project Execution Planning Guide and associated document templates.

Blog-PennSt-BIM-1   Blog-PennSt-BIM-2









Download this information for free at their website below (registration is required):

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Stereotyped Architects in Virtual Reality

Even in the digital realm, Architects still have those silly poses:


DigitalCoordination-GuyImage extracted from a slide show posted on BIMable from the AIA Houston BIM Association’s Fall seminar.  The presenters were Jeff Chittenden, AIA (WHR Architects) and Jim Jacobi (Walter P. Moore).

Friday, October 02, 2009

BIM Manager to Architect?

As a licensed Architect-turned CAD Manager-turned BIM Manager, I found myself at yet another career crossroad when the economy dipped into recession earlier this year.  To maintain employment, those of us in a so-called “Digital Design Group” needed to become embedded in billable work; thus, I was lucky enough to become part of a project team designing a large project in India.  This was the first project work I’ve been personally involved in since the design phases of One World Trade Center several years ago (we started implementing Revit on that project in February 2004!).  Since January (my, how time flies!), I have been building, coordinating and documenting with a fantastic team of design and technical professionals.  The bond of hard work and close collaboration is something I had missed in the years dedicated to research, development, support, implementation and training.

I’m sure this story resonates with many of those who have crossed the chasm from architecture or engineering into digital design specialization.  I recall a conversation with a friend at Gensler who appreciated remaining as an Architect (or ‘Architectural Professional’ as the case may be) and forgoing a possibly accelerated promotion track in a BIM leadership position.  Now I can say I truly appreciate his point of view!  There are very few A/E firms that can appreciate or support an individual or team dedicated to the development, support and/or implementation of digital design tools.  My firm has a long history of developing and implementing cutting edge technology, but ultimately we are a design firm – not a software company.  In my opinion, it was a blessing to have programs such as Revit, Digital Project, Navisworks and Ecotect become robust enough to enable us to stay close to the cutting edge without the need to build these tools ourselves like we did in the 1980’s (read more, from “The Engineering Design Revolution” an online book written by David E. Weisberg at

Now it is up to me to decide if I fully return to Architecture, stick with Digital Design, or pioneer a new hybrid of the two…think “VDC-certified Architect.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Archicad 13 Webinar

Today I had the opportunity to watch one of the first webinars from Graphisoft introducing some of the new features in Archicad 13.  As mentioned in a recent post, this latest version “will introduce the Graphisoft BIM Server” which will “run an all-new, highly optimized and highly granular relational-database.”  The one-hour webinar was not nearly enough time to review all the new features, but I was able to get a glimpse into some of the new Teamwork 2.0 functionality(A more in-depth article covering the so-called “Delta Server” can be found on Architosh.)

Archicad13-tw1 A new development for Archicad is the ability to grab elements and ‘reserve’ them for editing on the fly.  This is a function which Revit has had for the past few releases in the form of transparent element borrowing in their “Worksharing” technology.  The main difference in Archicad seems to be that one must reserve elements before editing them, whereas Revit allows a team user to edit any project element so long as no other team member has not already borrowed the element during an editing process. 

Another nice feature is Archicad’s ability to color code model elements according to the team members who have the elements reserved – supposedly to help guide you in which elements you can reserve: Archicad13-tw2

Archicad13-IM1They have also incorporated an integrated messaging system which sports a quaint spiral notebook/Post-It look to messages sent for borrowing requests.  This is almost identical to Revit’s Editing Request tool – if you are using the Worksharing Monitor with automated notifications, it is identical.  An added bonus for Archicad is the ability to simply send instant messages to your teammates; however, I found it interesting that the presenter stated that with these new tools, a team could benefit from spending less time talking to each other…hmmm.  We find that the increased interaction when working on a BIM project together enhances the overall quality and efficiency of the decisions being made throughout each phase of a project.  That said, if you watch this video snippet, you will see yet another feature in which model elements can be selected and a message transmitted to specific team members related to such elements.

One intriguing development which was not discussed in great technical detail appears to be the new BIM Model Server.  During the webinar, the presenter and his colleague claimed they were working over a wireless network connection with the main model existing on a remote server.  One presenter proceeded to create a copy of the entire model while the other updated his ‘local’ copy which took all of about 6 seconds and he claimed the file size hadn’t changed, although no evidence was presented to support the claim. I’d like to see this demonstrated in person – and with a larger project – before I can get fully excited about it.

By the way, it was nice to see the return of Revit’s ‘Design Bars’ in the Archicad Mac interface ;-)…


Some other productivity enhancements were briefly demonstrated related to:

  • Automated dimensioning (in Revit, one can dimension automatically along one object like a wall, but Archicad can place complete interior or exterior dimension strings)
  • Oriented views (nice! In Revit, one can rotate the crop region of a view, but not temporarily…)
  • Notated schedules
  • Stairs (seems like some nicer stair tools, but where do I begin with those 15,000 buttons and settings?)
  • Intelligent Soft Insulation (much nicer way of handling aligned material patterns within layers of walls. Check out the demo video snippet, although they illustrated this in a curved wall in the webinar)

I would need some more experience with Archicad to judge how such tools have evolved.  Hopefully I can get my hands on a copy of this latest version in an effort to continue my earlier evaluation efforts with Archicad 11.

If you’d like to catch this webinar yourself, there are two more upcoming sessions featuring Archicad 13 on September 30 and October 7.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

BIM in the Field

From Jay Zallan’s “Fear and Loathing in a CAD vs. BIM World”…

An Autodesk press release announces collaboration with Vela Systems Field BIM Software Suite with Navisworks. “This technology integration extends the building information modeling (BIM) process to the field by making it possible for Autodesk Navisworks 3D project models to reflect the state of objects within the design based on field-gathered data.”

Read more in the full press release.

Laiserin on Latest Archicad

A recent posting on Architosh refers to a feature article by AEC software industry analyst Jerry Laiserin on the upcoming release of Archicad 13:

Next-Gen BIM: Graphisoft Teamwork 2.0 will revolutionize BIM/IPD workflow and collaboration

According to Architosh, Graphisoft - “as part of its new Teamwork 2.0, will introduce the Graphisoft BIM Server. This server will run an all-new, highly optimized and highly granular relational-database.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Google search for “Architect”

This came into my inbox today from a colleague and just had to share it.  Think about how these images portray Architects in today’s society compared to the BIM tools we actually use!  Thanks Amy and Alan…

An Architect decided to type in "Architect" into Google images today to see what popped up. It's kind of a running joke in the profession of how the general public views Architects versus what a real Architect ACTUALLY is.

Let's start with the standard "blueprints with rulers, triangles, and hand drawing" images.

Image #1:


1. Try drawing a straight line on a triangle without holding the other side. It doesn't work.
2. This is a printed drawing from a computer. He is drawing on it. He is obviously an idiot.

3. There is an eraser on the table. Again, this is a PRINTED drawing.

4. They couldn't find a better hand model for this picture? Was bigfoot unavailable??

Image #2:


1. Yet again this is a printed drawing. Is EVERYONE an idiot??

2. Apparently this guy needs TWO scales to measure stuff. He likes to stack them on each other for maximum measuring power.

3. What Architect DOESN'T stack library books from the 1960's on their drawings?

4. Exactly what is this guy using to draw? Is it a pencil for dwarfs?

Image #3:


1. All Architects draw circles, lots and lots of circles. Of course on blueprints.

2. Notice the standard pencil, triangle, compass, and protractor.

Let's move on to Architects on job sites (mostly pointing):

Image #4:


1. "Yeah this isn't right at all...KNOCK IT DOWN!...oh wait, this is just my grocery list..."

2. Architects tend to stare really hard at drawings while on job sites because they have no idea what they've been working on for the past 4 months!

Image #5:


1. Apparently these guys weren't allowed on an actual construction site for this photo.

2. All Architects point and smile at their work.

3. Hard hats are definitely required while standing by a finished building.

4. You must always wear a pin-striped suit to a construction site. I mean what are the odds you'll ruin it?

Image #6:


1. The building is behind you, moron.

2. "Look at that bird!"

Image #7:


1. Either this is a very large woman, or they couldn't find a large format printer for this stock photo.

Now for some Architect's offices:

Image #8:


1. First of all, WTF?!

2. Architects always stand while drawing, holding random drafting utensils in an awkward way.

Image #9:


1. Apparently Architect pimps DO exist.

2. I think they misunderstood when the photographer wanted the Architect looking at models.

Finally…this is what an ACTUAL Architect usually looks like at their desk:


1. Stressed out of their mind.

2. No pencils, triangles, protractors, scales, or compasses.

3. Slouched over a desk on a computer.

4. On the phone with their mom who's asking if Frank Lloyd Wright is their favorite Architect.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Revit 2010 Service Pack 1 Released

In case anyone hasn’t received notice yet, Autodesk has officially released Service Pack 1 (aka “Update 1”).  Use the links below to download the update from any of the product’s Download pages:

A list of the issues addressed in this service pack can be found in the following links for Architecture, Structure and MEP

Special Note:  I have installed SP1 this morning and can confirm that the previously reported network license timeout issue has not been resolved.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Revit Tag Leader Customization

I’ve been asked a number of times in the past about how to customize the leader for tags – particularly wall tags – to get a thickened leader and how to get that end to cross over the tagged wall. Most recently from the AUGI Forums.  I felt it was time to create a short video tutorial to cover these tips.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Revit 2010 Network Licensing Problem

I’ve discovered a nasty problem with Revit 2010 when licensed with a network license.  Autodesk’s FLEXLM solution allows for a TIMEOUT variable which we had to establish for previous versions.  This option would return a license if a product crashes without successfully relinquishing the user’s license.  This avoided falsely exceeding the actual number of licenses reported in use.  In Revit 2010, the TIMEOUT seems to be enacted when your program session becomes idle beyond the duration of the TIMEOUT.  On several occasions, I have left my desk to discuss a project with a colleague only to return and find I cannot save because I lost the network license connection.

This issue has been reported to Autodesk Support and I am awaiting a solution.  Until then, if this is happening to you…be sure to save (locally and/or centrally…sorry, synchronize with central) frequently and especially if you are leaving your desk, checking email or anything other than actively working in Revit.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Revit 2010 Text Tool Comparison

We have decided to upgrade one of our projects (mine) to Revit 2010 in an effort to fully understand the ramifications of the new user interface and help identify quirky things we would need to address in future training sessions.

One item I found early on relates to modifications to the text tool.  While no feature enhancements were implemented in this release, the cursor and shape editing functions have changed for the worse.  Take a look…

Friday, April 24, 2009

Revit 2010 Keyboard Shortcuts

Perhaps you’ve already attempted to copy your old keyboard shortcuts file from an older version of Revit into the 2010 release…if not, be careful!  If you have tried this, you’ll find that your keyboard shortcuts no longer work.  Because of the new UI ribbon, the context of the keyboard shortcuts has changed from this:


…to this:


A comparison sample might be:

  • “WA”  menu:”Modelling-Wall” (2009)
  • “WA”  ribbon:”Home-Build-Wall-Wall” (2010)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Material Takeoffs of Painted Areas

Revit has a handy little tool called “Paint” which is used to apply materials to surfaces of objects within the project model.  While Paint is easy to use, one must apply it with care as certain ‘paintings’ may not make much sense to the integrity of your building information model.  For example, try ‘painting’ the Glass material on a face of a masonry wall…the ‘painted’ face adopts the transparency of the material while the wall in section retains its original properties.  Now try orbiting around the wall…

RVT-Paint-1   RVT-Paint-2

The next quirk of painting in Revit should probably be addressed by Autodesk as a bug.  Let’s say we have a floor or roof object onto which we’d like to paint a thin finish material – let’s say blue tile.  In the below example, I have created a 10’ x 10’ square floor which is displayed in the floor schedule as being exactly 100 SF in area. (Click the images to enlarge)


Note the Material Takeoff in the lower left does not display any materials yet because I have set the filter to exclude material names containing “Default” – which excludes Default Floor in this case.

Next, I begin to paint the top surface of the floor with the blue tile material and the Material Takeoff correctly reflects a tile area of 100 SF.


Continuing the painting on the bottom face of the floor correctly adjusts the Material Takeoff to 200 SF:


However, when I attempt to paint the edges of the floor, the Material Takeoff does not recognize these faces.  Each edge of this 12” thick floor should register another 10 SF of tile area, but it remains at 200 SF.


Please be careful when using the “Paint” tool…in the meantime, this one will be sent to Autodesk Support.

Friday, April 17, 2009

ZDLaw BIM Roundtable

zdlaw_2009-03 Just a quick note to check out Zetlin & De Chiara’s latest newsletter in which I am featured in a BIM Roundtable discussion with John Rappaport of Component Assembly Systems and William Sharples and Jonathan Mallie of SHoP Construction.  There are also several other articles on BIM and IPD.

Feel free to subscribe to ZDLaw for future newsletters and publications by contacting

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BIM and IPD Success Stories

BDC-Cover_BIM-IPD Building Design+Construction Magazine features a great article this month on three BIM (Building Information Modeling) + IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) success stories.  The projects highlighted are:

The Autodesk project features quotes and contributions from the BIM blogosphere’s own Laura Handler (BIMx)

NOTE: The link to Autodesk HQ above includes the AU 2008 AEC Keynote Presentation featuring Jay Bhatt and Phil Bernstein of Autodesk, John Tocci of Tocci Construction and Scott Simpson of Kling Stubbins. Enjoy!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Magic Tool Shed with a Drunken Leprechaun

tool_shed If you haven’t been following Phil Read’s blog at, be sure to read his recent post on the new Revit 2010 user interface titled “A Well-Intentioned Road Paving.”  It’s one of the funniest I’ve read in quite some time.

AIA New York Event

Yes, it has been a hectic few months and I’ll have some more posts soon; however, if you are in the New York City area and would like to get a full-blown primer on BIM as it relates to Architecture, I will be speaking at the Center For Architecture on Wednesday April 15 at Noon.  This presentation is part of AIA New York’s “Not Business As Usual” series designed to help architects who may be between jobs get re-tooled and prepared for the future.

Click here for more details and to RSVP for the event.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Parametric Design with Type Catalogs in Revit

I created a draft of this topic some time ago and figured it was time to complete it.  The focus stems from a quick study we performed for the spire design of a tower on which our office was working.  This tutorial will show you how to use type catalogs for Revit families to quickly study numerous iterations of a parametric family.  Today there are new tools to help drive Revit via Excel, but I thought this was a neat trick requiring no special programming or scripting knowledge.

Even though this example illustrates a tower spire, the same techniques can be applied to anything using a custom parametric object.

The Family

Blog-Spire-1 Blog-Spire-2

The first step in this process was to create a base parametric family.  In this case, the fundamental unit was a vertical section in which a blend is created between two octagons twisted by 22.5 degrees (above left).  The key to establishing a parametric relationship to a polygonal shape is to first create a 2D Detail Component - in this case, the octagon (above right) - and place it before creating the 3D blend.  After placing 2 octagons, one for the bottom sketch and one for the top sketch of the blend, I created the blend and locked the sides of the blend to the 2D octagons.  The last part is to determine which parameters will be driving the shape.  In this case, the top and bottom profile will each be receiving a unique value (when stacked, the bottom diameter will be the same as the top, but we'll cover that in the Type Catalog).  I added values for the bottom and top diameter and connected each one to each of the two instances of the 2D octagon placed in plan.  As shown below, the parameter is called "r3d" because we were using some existing geometrical data being generated from a mathematical script.


The Type Catalog


The complete spire design consisted of many of the base section stacked vertically with the radii slightly adjusted to form the overall shape.  As a one time setup, I needed to place a unique TYPE of the family at each elevation as shown below:


To accomplish this based on just a single parametric family, I used the data provided by a colleague in Excel to create a Type Catalog. We collaborated to make sure the data was organized according to the stacked elements and I simply added the header row as required for Revit to read it properly (see Revit's Help for specifics).  From Excel, the data needs to be saved as a TXT file with the same name as the Revit RFA file.  Once all the types were loaded into the project, I performed a one-time placement of each individual type.

Design Iteration

Once the setup work described above was completed, exploring various iterations is as simple as creating related mathematical expressions in Excel.  We can either use a control value with a multiplier or drag new series of numbers over the originals.  Once we re-save the TXT file from Excel, we reload the family and all the types - however, you MUST be sure to check the option to reload the values for existing types.