Thursday, December 13, 2012

SmartMarket Report on BIM 2012

McGraw Hill Construction has released their latest SmartMarket report on the “Business Value of BIM.” This year’s report builds on the past 5 years of extensive industry research of building information modeling and how it affects various stakeholders in the construction industry.

Of personal interest, the cover image is from HOK’s Francis Crick Institute – a highly collaborative project in London that also included PLP Architecture, AKT II and Arup among others.


This SmartMarket report is unique in that the research illustrates the cumulative data of a multi-year trend analysis and user ratings. You can observe how perception of value and the implementation of various BIM uses have changed in recent years. The report also contains some project case studies and interviews with industry thought leaders including HOK CEO, Patrick MacLeamy.


I also contributed to an article in the report on the development of BIM standards including Levels of Development (LOD). You’ll find that starting on page 46! Download this FREE report now and share your thoughts and comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Autodesk FormIt

A new iPad app was announced by Autodesk at AU this week. This time, it’s a conceptual design application called FormIt. The app reminds me of SketchUp in that you can edit forms through direct manipulation and by sketching lines to divide surfaces, thus creating new extrusions. This interaction feels pretty fluid and intuitive. I was up and running with some conceptual forms within minutes.

There are numerous aspects of this app that set it apart from other mobile design tools. First, FormIt gives you pretty reasonable dimensional accuracy and feedback as you place, move, and edit forms. You can even use a direct measurement tool. Another really cool feature is the ability to define a target gross area for your proposed design. As you build up a form, the app gives you feedback in the upper left of the screen, as to how the form is achieving the area. You set some options such as typical floor height and the app automatically adds levels as the form gets taller, thus calculating the gross area.

You can also locate the proposed form on a site using a connection to Apple Maps (I think). From there, you can simulate shadows directly in the app. The model can then be transferred to Vasari or Revit for further development or analysis.

I’m pretty excited about this new app, but the real test will be putting it in the hands of some real designers. Let’s see what happens…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

dRofus Beta 1.5 with Model Server

Could this be a game changer for web-based access to program AND model geometry for large projects?

dRofus has released a new beta version of their popular integrated program management platform that includes an embedded model server from Jotne EPM.

Read more about this exciting development over at HOK BIM Solutions.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Mastering Mondays

Along with my Mastering Revit Architecture co-authors, I have started a new little (unofficial) adventure on YouTube we’re calling “Mastering Mondays!” What is it and how does it relate to the books? Allow me to explain…

Here is last week’s installment about creating custom wall constraints:

Monday, July 02, 2012

RTC North America 2012

Here I sit on the train, commuting back to work on a warm Monday morning, attempting to summarize what concluded a mere 27 hours ago. I'm attempting to find the right way to express my feelings about the RTC North America 2012 conference in Stone Mountain, GA and I seem to keep returning to Bradley Cooper's character in The Hangover II when he makes that fateful phone call..."it happened again."
Now, I'm not saying we lost all track of reality in a drunken stupor - rather that I feel a nostalgia of great events in the past. Meeting new friends, learning truly valuable skills, and having a whole bag of fun in the process.
Let's start from the beginning...even before departing New York for Atlanta. At AU in November 2011, my good old friend Wes Benn says that I absolutely must submit a class proposal for RTC in June. I was supposed to give a presentation at the first RTC North America event earlier in 2011, but an important family event forced me to defer my presentation to an excellent colleague who did a bang-up job of Effective Coordination, avoiding an imminent #screwtastrophe.

So, I submitted a topic called "Building Smarter Models" that was accepted and I was on my way to Georgia. Fast forward to June 27 and I arrive with two others at Hartsfield Airport late that evening. We share a car out to the Evergreen Marriott Resort at Stone Mountain - a 40 minute drive. Along the way, Scott Davis receives a call from Jim Balding with the news that there are no rooms left for the three of us. Surely this is one of Jim's practical jokes, but it turned out to be true. After shuttling back and forth between two hotels in the area until 1 am, we had a plan - Bruce got a room, Scott shacked up with Jim for the night, and I stayed with Wes.

The next morning I may have been caught saying that I was due for a crappy conference because I've been to so many good ones in recent years. I was about to let fate take its course. Then it was underway...

We were first treated to a fascinating "fireside (albeit a virtual fire) chat" with the one and only Dick Morley - the father of such modern day innovations as the programmable logic controller, anti-lock brakes, and the picture keys on McDonalds restaurant registers. Dick was followed by Steve Stafford and a few folks from Autodesk talking about what's new in Revit 2013 and what's to come. Of course, Autodesk can't reveal details about what's coming without everyone being under NDA, so I felt that was an unnecessary addition to Steve's summary.

After lunch, we were off to the first round of classes. This is where the magic begins. Without a fully detailed summary of every session I attended, let me just say that you probably won't find a better assembly of speakers and topics covering Revit and related technologies than at an RTC event. I'd have to say that my favorite presenter was Marcello Sgambelluri. His passion, eloquence, enthusiasm, and overall knowledge of each topic was remarkable and inspiring.

 << EDIT: Sorry, had to remove the video snippet of Marcello's presentation by request >>

RTC is a multi-track event in which there are several simultaneous classes in regular time slots over three days. It is difficult to decide which class to attend in any given schedule slot and they don't yet record the proceedings. I hope they do in the future because I didn't hear anything but positive reviews from my colleagues attending other sessions.

One thing that seems to be receding from the itinerary of other industry conferences are the social events. This is where RTC certainly doesn't skimp. As event founder, Wes and his committee understand the immeasurable value of networking at these types of venues. It might make their event a little more costly, but I wouldn't even hesitate to keep coming if they keep up their high standard of excellence. On Friday night, we were treated to a paddle boat ride across the lake to the Stone Mountain Golf Clubhouse for a fine BBQ dinner and on Saturday, the gala dinner concluded the conference with the announcement of the contest winners and a bluegrass band.

Future conferences are scheduled for RTC North America - Vancouver in July 2013, RTC Europe - Delft, Netherlands in September 2013, and RTC Australasia - New Zealand in May 2013. I encourage you to visit to learn more about these upcoming events.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Are you an “intrapreneur?”

Thanks to Mike Plotnick (@SomeChum) for tweeting this link. Different than entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg; intrapreneurs are people who have an entrepreneurial streak in their DNA, but choose to align their talents with a large organization in place of creating their own. I like to think I fall into this category, albeit on a much smaller scale than people mentioned in the article from Ford, Intel, Dell and others.

Move Over Entrepreneurs, Here Come The Intrapreneurs
By David Armano, executive VP, Global Innovation & Integration at Edelman.

Posted on

HOK Product Design

On a similar note, in my time with HOK, I have always been impressed with the somewhat low-profile business within the firm that designs their own products. HOK Product Design was founded in 2009 and is an “independent business that engages designers who use design thinking to create innovative products for the built environment.” It has the “unique ability to draw on the knowledge, research and evidence-based data available within HOK as well as the firm’s leadership in strategic planning, workplace consulting and sustainable design.”

Some of the innovative products that have come out of this group include Full Circle®, a continuously curved luminaire concept manufactured by Winona Lighting, Balance Beam, a grab bar with touch activated LED lights manufactured by Cooper Lighting IO division, and Gather, a collaborative furniture line manufactured by Allsteel.

There are many other products ranging from recycling systems, to coping, to wall/curb rain gardens – all designed by talented team members working on HOK projects! Please hop on over to their website and peruse the product offerings. You can even submit your own idea.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

SimpleBIM, IFC and COBie Commentary

I haven’t seen Martyn Day in quite some time, but I still miss his wit and warm UK hospitality! Over on, he has recently penned a article that addresses a neat tool called SimpleBIM from Finnish developer Datacubist.

Read “SimpleBIM” by Martyn Day

In the article, Martyn shares his thoughts and discussions about some of the realities of implementing open standards such as IFC and COBie in the industry today. I’ll be talking about these very subjects at my “Building Smarter Models” presentation at the Revit Technology Conference later this month in Stone Mountain, GA.

Simplebim-bangI have recently downloaded the free 30-day evaluation of SimpleBIM and so far, I am impressed with it’s flexibility. It even has a bit of a stress reliever in the software…look for the BIM Bang panel in the 3D ribbon and get ready to laugh…

Friday, June 01, 2012

Model-Based Code Review

I’m excited to share two recent articles with you that signal the beginning of a real shift in the utilization of BIM in the facility industry. First is an article summarizing the joint effort of Fiatech, the International Code Council, Target, Solibri and Avolve Software.

Making the Case for Automated BIM Review article by Tom Sawyer

The proof of concept phase of this project, known as AutoCodes, was completed with code authorities from 13 jurisdictions in the United States reviewing identical sets of 2D building plans. The first manual review pass took several hours on average and yielded an astonishing discrepancy in results. The second pass utilized an open standard (IFC) BIM file passed through model checking software. In addition to only taking a few minutes to run, the results were perfectly consistent in all jurisdictions. Even if there are discrepancies in the model – such as spaces being classified incorrectly – such discrepancies are immediately brought to the attention of the code reviewer and become part of the audit trail during the review. You can download the proof of concept report here.

The second article is essentially just an announcement that the first BIM-based site safety plans have been approved by the New York City Department of Buildings:

NYC Department of Buildings Approves First Three Dimensional BIM Site Safety Plans

NYC DOB has created a program to review 3D models representing site safety plans. From their website:

“The program enables the Department to virtually tour sites and see step-by-step how a building will be built and visualize its complexities and challenges. Under the program, site safety plans are digitally submitted, amended and reviewed, improving the compliance review process and accelerating the approval process like never before.”

What’s the difference between NYC’s approach and the AutoCodes project? NYC DOB is primarily using BIM data as a different means of visualizing the required information. As of now, they are not using any automated means to validate the plans and they are not using any open model standards (IFC). On the other hand, AutoCodes will utilize open standards and has the added benefit of turning the International Building Code into a series of computable rule sets that can be implemented in other model checking platforms.

Fiatech Video Presentation–AutoCodes proof of concept

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

AGC BIMForum and More

I recently attended my seventh BIMForum event held at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio, Texas. The theme for this event was “VDC (virtual design & construction) Deliverables.” I’ll comment more on the theme later. First, allow me to describe this conference. The BIMForum is a group that is organized by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and whose mission is to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption of building information modeling in the AEC industry”…to “lead by example and synchronize with counterparts in all sectors of the industry to jointly develop best practice for virtual design and construction.” Recently, the AIA (American Institute of Architects) signed on to be an integral contributor to the BIMForum as well (talk about reaching across the aisle!!). You can learn all about the group and sign-up at As a paid member, you can access recordings of past events.

Over the past few years, the AGC originally hosted 4 BIMForum events per year, but they reduced that to 3 in 2011 and now are hosting 2 annual conferences. Each event consists of a day and a half of presentations around a common theme. Presenters must be experienced in using and/or delivering BIM-based services and the longest presentations are 1 hour. Attendance has been quite solid at around 400 which makes for a lively audience, but not overwhelming for good networking. There are no concurrent sessions, which makes every BIMForum conference one of the more easy-to-attend events in my experience.

Each conference is established around a specific theme that seems to always be timely and relevant. The Fall 2011 event theme was “Return on Innovation Investment (ROI2)” which prompted the presenters to focus on the costs and benefits of using BIM-based processes. There were quite a few extremely valuable sessions describing compelling cost to benefit ratios, including a presentation from Dan Russell of Sundt Construction who illustrated that the cost to ‘do BIM’ was equivalent to the cost required to keep a building site broom-swept during construction!

Who should attend a BIMForum event? These events are more inspirational and informational in nature than events such as Autodesk University or Revit Technology Conference. If you are already knee deep in BIM implementation and consider yourself an expert user, these events may not be for you. If you are a decision-maker for your firm and you want to keep up with the competition or get started with realistic BIM implementation, the BIMForum offers the perfect event to showcase real people and real projects getting real results.


The Spring 2012 BIMForum theme was “VDC Deliverables” in which the presentations were to focus on “VDC deliverables that are specific results of digital processes that improved results…ways that the deliverables were used to solve specific problems.” I admit that I may have slightly misinterpreted the theme as one that would focus on using VDC processes to improve deliverables; instead of the deliverables of the VDC process. As such, I was somewhat disappointed that more presentations didn’t specifically address the transition of design modeling to construction modeling. That said, it was still an inspiring event and I look forward to attending more BIMForums in the future.


Look for me at two upcoming industry events. At the AIA National Convention in Washington, DC, I will be presenting as part of an expert panel on the topic of “Information and Energy Modeling for Code Compliance: A Guide to Methods and Means.” That presentation starts at 4:00 pm on Friday. I am also presenting a topic I called “Building Smarter Models” at the Revit Technology Conference in Stone Mountain, Georgia. That class is also a Friday-at-4 fire-the-crowd-up-before-cocktails time slot.

Hope to see you at these and future events! I will vow to protect as many fluffy kittens as possible. Thanks to Amy for the cute stationery pictured above. Speaking of which…those in attendance might have noticed my fluffy kitten meme shirt (“Revenge of the Fluffy Kitten: The Sequel”). If you’re interested in buying fluffy kitten merchandise, let me know and I’ll consider setting up an online shop! Thanks Liz for the gift shop find (below)!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Features of Navisworks 2013

Whilst David Light has cornered the market on ‘what’s new in Revit,’ I figured I’d take a moment to summarize some of the new features in Navisworks – one of my other favorite applications. There are quite a few enhancements for handling Revit models this year and I’m pretty excited about the changes.

Open RVT Files Directly

Yes, you heard that correctly. You can now merge RVT files directly from Navisworks without pre-exporting an NWC file from within Revit. This will probably be a true delight for builders who may no longer need an installation of Revit just to get the model data into Navisworks. Model components from a Revit model are now organized in the Selection Tree according to category, family, type, and instance.

CAVEAT: This functionality will open the RVT file and will look for a 3D view for which the name contains “Navis.” If one is found, it will load the data that is visible in that view.

Grid and Level Support

In the 3D coordination process, it’s usually quite difficult to determine your location when you are automatically zoomed to a clash condition. David Kingham first posted a workaround to create 3D grid objects, but now it has made its way into the core software. (As an aside, please visit David’s new professional photography website…very impressive work!)

Lee Mullin wrote a great summary of this new feature over on the Beyond Design blog, including a video.

Clash Detection Enhancements

One of the first things you’ll notice in Navisworks 2013 is that a new interface for Clash Detective has been created. This new UI makes it easier to discover and organize clashes. Because the grids and levels are now included from Revit, you can group and filter clashes according to grid and/or level location. You’ll need to right-click on the row headers and select Choose Columns as shown below. Note that these options won’t be available for older projects without the supporting information.


Timeliner Enhancements

Money…that’s what I want… You can now add cost data to your Timeliner simulation to better understand accumulated costs anywhere in the construction process. Objects and selection sets can be dragged and dropped into Timeliner to easily create associations between the model and schedule tasks. Timeliner simulations can be exported to ProjectXML to support interoperability with Primavera and Microsoft Project.

Improved File Interoperability

Navisworks 2013 now supports CATIA and Solidworks files from Dassault Sytemes, ArchiCAD 14 and 15 files, Siemens NX PLM software, and point clouds from Faro 4.8. Timeliner can also now connect to Oracle Primavera P6 v8, Asta Powerproject 12 and Microsoft Project 2010.

As a little bonus footage, check out this demo video from SMART Technologies about how you can now use a SMART board monitor overlay with Navisworks for team model review:

Monday, April 09, 2012

IFC Export from Revit: Reply

I’ve been monitoring the discussions in the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) group on LinkedIn for some time now and recently saw a post criticizing IFC export from Revit 2012. I saw a few discrepancies in the methods described in the blog post, so I decided to run through the same tests myself.

To ensure I had the same setup as the original post author, I created a new project in Revit Architecture 2012 using the default template. I created three phases: Past, Present, and Future. Three desks and three walls were modeled and I added a floor slab under each wall/desk just for context. The first (left) wall/desk/floor is assigned to the Past phase and the wall + desk were demolished in the Present phase. The middle wall/desk/floor are on the Present phase and the right wall/desk/floor are on the Future phase. In the image below, the Phase Filter is set to None to show all three sets of objects.

(Click on any of the images in this post to see the enlarged version)


I was using Tekla BIMSight version 1.5 for all IFC viewing; loading all IFC exports into one project and using the visibility setting for each model to display the results (shown highlighted in each image). For consistency, all IFC exports from Revit were set to IFC 2x3 and Current View Only:


One of the first things I noticed in the original blog post was that the author was utilizing Temporary Hide-Isolate to change the visibility of some elements. In training and use of Revit through the years, I’ve always understood that this tool only made temporary changes to visibility (thus the name); therefore, it should not affect printing or exporting. I proceeded to test this by hiding two of the desks in a view:


When you attempt to export with Temporary Hide-Isolate activated, you get this warning:


I chose to “Leave the Temporary Hide/Isolate mode on and export” and got the same result as the original blog author. Note the warning, “Affected elements may be exported with unexpected visual characteristics.” The desks that were temporarily hidden did not export. My suggestion for users…don’t attempt to use Temporary Hide/Isolate for exporting or printing.


The next test was to test the Phase Filters. I set a 3D view to Phase: Future and Phase Filter: Show New:


In the resulting IFC export, you can see that the phase filter is not recognized even though we are supposedly exporting “Current View Only.” As you can see in the image below, even though the phase filter of the view is being ignored, the desk and wall that were demolished are not shown:


The next test was to examine the effect of hiding a category of objects. In this test, I created a 3D view with the Phase Filter set to None and the Walls category was turned off in Visibility/Graphic Overrides for the view:


This process seemed to work, but it still ignored the Phase Filter of the view:


I attempted one more experiment using the Present phase. Revit should not export anything that is in a ‘future’ phase, so we shouldn’t have a problem here:


Unfortunately, you can see below that even though the Revit view displayed only the Present phase – ALL phases were exported to IFC – even the Future phase:



To summarize my testing of IFC export from Revit Architecture 2012, here are my findings:

  • BAD: Don’t use Temporary Hide/Isolate to export or print
  • BAD: IFC export ignores the Phase Filter parameter of a view
  • GOOD/BAD: IFC honors the Phase Demolished parameter of model objects*
    • Except the fact that if you’re exporting the Past phase, the demolished elements appear in the Revit view, but are still omitted from the IFC
  • GOOD: IFC honors Visibility/Graphic Overrides of object categories

At HOK, we have experienced additional IFC export problems with curtain walls that have edited profiles and stacked walls. I’ll conduct some additional tests as well as conduct these same tests with Revit 2013 in a future post.

If you’d like to experiment with the files I used for this test, you can download them here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Effective User Groups, Part 3

To all my readers, I can’t believe I drafted the final post in this series back in January and completely forgot to upload it to the blog! If you were anxiously awaiting this conclusion, I’m sorry for the delay. As the kids say…”My bad!”

This is the third and final post in my series about implementing effective user groups. In Part 1, I discussed getting a group started, organizing topics and speakers, and meeting locations. Part 2 included tips about meeting locations and group websites. To conclude the series, I’ll share some tidbits about hardware and sponsors.


toolboxFirst, let’s talk about a simple topic that rounds out our previous chat on websites and general technology. While it’s safe to say that a halfway decent laptop is a minimum requirement for a successful meeting, there are a few other items to note. To broadcast our meetings via the web, I use a USB Desktop Microphone from Logitech. It does a superb job at picking up sound in the general vicinity of the presenter(s). These days, I’ve also found that a webcam of reasonable quality (such as the Logitech HD Pro C910) will usually deliver good audio. In the near future, I expect GotoWebinar will include the ability to broadcast video as they do in GotoMeeting.

Here’s a checklist you might use that is loosely related to hardware, but includes some other important issues:

  • Whose laptop will be used?
  • Make sure presentations are copied to a USB drive.
  • Always bring spare cables (audio/visual/network).
  • Laptop power supply?
  • Get written approval (at least via email) from your presenter for recording.
  • Merge the intro and formal presentation slides to avoid awkward transitions.
  • In software demonstrations, make sure all necessary files and applications are opened BEFORE starting the presentation.
  • If you’re broadcasting via the web, be sure to repeat any questions asked by your live audience. Hearing only the answers can get a bit confusing to your web audience.


In Part 1, my #1 lesson was “By the people, for the people” which means that the most effective user groups are organized by the user community. That said, these groups are not easy to conduct at zero cost. While I’m a fan of extreme couponing, eventually you are likely to incur some expenses with your user group.

Image from

One option is to collect dues or meeting fees from your members. This could be pricey if you are using a formal meeting place and providing food and drinks. Tools like allow for integrated dues payment via credit card or PayPal.

If you want to keep the group free (recommended), you will likely need the help of some sponsoring organizations. In New York City, there are three major Autodesk value-added resellers (VAR). While they were initially reluctant to participate jointly in one user group, we established a rotating sponsorship. Each VAR provides the food and drinks for a monthly meeting on a rotating basis. In other words, if you have three VAR’s, each one gets to sponsor 4 meetings per year.

Lesson #5: Embrace your sponsors, but establish boundaries.

Of course, your sponsors deserve to be recognized for their contributions, but you don’t want the sponsored meeting to become a drawn out commercial for their services or products. First tip: establish expectations when you initially acquire a sponsor. Let them know what the boundaries are for promotion. At NYC RUG, we encourage our sponsors to include information during the general announcements at the beginning of our monthly meetings. Second tip: perhaps a subset of the first tip about expectations, set ground rules for who gets priority as presenters. Our rule is that user-based presentations get top priority, then VAR presentations. Again, not that VAR presenters are less worthy, you just want to allow the greatest flexibility for potential contributors from within your user community.

user-manual-cartoonGroup Procedures

If you’re lucky enough to have a good group of volunteers help you organize and operate your events, it can get pretty difficult to maintain control over all the moving parts of a modern, high-tech group. We have found great success in writing a sort of ‘user manual’ for our group’s operations. This allows any one of our group leaders to schedule, configure, and run an event without missing any of the steps related to the guest speakers, the facility, and the broadcasting technology. I’ve created a generic version of our document as a template for you to use in your groups. Feel free to download the document via the link below.

User Group Procedures Template:

Thursday, April 05, 2012

RTC US Mystery Topic

As you can see from the new badge on my blog page, I’ll be speaking at the Revit Technology Conference in Atlanta, GA this June. This will be my first time attending and speaking at an RTC event which is managed by some of my good buddies Wes, Phil, Steve, and Jim (among others). I was supposed to give a presentation on effective coordination when the conference debuted in the US in California, but a last-minute client scheduling conflict prevented me from attending. If you were there, hopefully you enjoyed Amy Patel’s delivery of my topic.

If you haven’t registered yet, do so soon because word has it, they are seeing record high numbers of registrants and space might run out. I recently completed my registration and the classes all look quite interesting.

The class title I submitted was intended to be somewhat nebulous because I wanted to step outside the ‘Revit tutorial’ box and talk about important topics related to overall success with BIM implementation. “Building Smarter Models” will cover a few of the areas of research and development in which I’ve been involved over the past few years since I last presented at an event like Autodesk University (remember “You Can’t Do That With Revit?”).

I hope to leave a decent amount of time open for Q&A, but the session specifics will touch on use of IFC (understanding IDM and MVD), development of NBIMS, analysis of and addressing client BIM requirements, and a review of HOK’s “BIM Certified” program. Please comment on this post if you have any suggestions to enhance my topics before I complete the presentation (early June).

Topic: Building Smarter Models

As the building industry starts shifting away from document-based deliverables towards models, it is important for the authors (architects, engineers, and builders) to understand the requirements for quality content development. In this session, you will learn about the latest developments in open standards, how to address client BIM requirements, and methods for avoiding “BIM wash.”

Key Learning Objectives:

  • Develop an understanding of industry open BIM standards.
  • Learn how to develop high-quality models suitable for sharing with other project stakeholders.
  • Establish a measurable approach to implementing BIM workflows for your company or project.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Features of Revit 2013

The news is now starting to flood the blogosphere…Revit 2013 will soon arrive! As usual, Mastering Revit contributing author, David Light, has provided an in-depth review of the new features. Please hop on over to his blog and read all about it…


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Moving Forward with LOD

I first wrote about LOD (I’ll break down the acronym later) and the AIA E202 BIM Protocol Exhibit in a post from December 2008, but the topic is such an important part of doing BIM right that I wanted to bring it back for further definition. Here we are three years later and I am reflecting on the last statement of that post…

“[The BIM Protocol Exhibit]…has not yet become a formal addendum to any of our project contracts.  That will likely change very soon.”

Since early in 2011, I have been participating in a work group that was spawned from the AIA and the AGC BIMForum to further expand upon the LOD definitions. That is to say, if you are a designer, engineer, or builder and you are asked to provide model elements at LOD### – do you know what you are required to provide? The group will be presenting a progress update at the upcoming BIMForum event in San Antonio, Texas, but for now, allow me to share some insight I have gained while involved with the group.

What is “LOD?”

First, let’s get our terminology straight. According to the AIA E202 document, LOD is defined as “level of development.” It does NOT mean “level of detail;” however, this is an important concept. Unfortunately, the choice of words makes for increased confusion over the acronym, but there definitely is a difference.

Level of detail is the amount of information and geometry provided by the content author or other project participant. There can always be a higher level of detail in a project model than what is realistic to be used by others in a downstream workflow. Level of development is the maximum amount of information and geometry that is authorized for use by others.

Expressed in different terms: DETAIL = INPUT and DEVELOPMENT = RELIABILITY

No Such Thing as an “LOD### Model”

I mentioned this in a recent post about the ‘fluffy kittens,’ but allow me to reiterate the point that LOD is based on assemblies – NOT entire models. In my opinion, the easiest way to understand this is to separate the milestone deliverables from your thinking about LOD’s. In other words, don’t think that schematic design = LOD100; design development = LOD200; and so on.

At any given project milestone, you will likely have a combination of LOD’s. For example, at the end of construction documents, the interior walls and doors might be at LOD300, furniture is at LOD200, and information about electrical fixtures is only supplied as an allowance per square foot; thus LOD100.

Let me explain this a little further with an example many firms are using (including some folks at HOK). Below is a screenshot from an LOD modeling guide offered by one of the participants in the LOD work group. I won’t use the person’s name or the firm name, but I certainly do not mean any disrespect by using this example (many others make the same assumption).


In this image, a progression in LOD is assumed to be aligned with the development of the project design – probably from SD to DD to CD. However, if you look closely at the difference between the 200 and 300 plans, elements like the plumbing fixtures seem to be the same model object. How can that be if the deliverables are at two different LOD’s? What if instead we label the plans as “SD Floor Plan,” “DD Floor Plan,” and “CD Floor Plan?” In the example above, you might know exactly what manufacturer and model number the plumbing fixtures will be (‘buy it’), so that assembly will be listed at LOD300 in the DD and CD deliverables.

In contemplating the LOD concept as it relates to any assembly or component in a project model, I developed the following (although I’m still working on a better explanation for 100):

  • LOD100 = Interpolated calculations (estimates)
  • LOD200 = Specify it
  • LOD300 = Buy it
  • LOD400 = Build or install it
  • LOD500 = Operate or maintain it

The above list simplifies the concept of authorized uses. Essentially, what you should be able to do with an object given a certain amount of input information.

Does LOD Imply Time?

Another misconception about LOD is that it implies an ‘in progress’ state of content. For example, you might think that LOD200 means that you are placing manufacturer-specific content in your model, but you are still in an early phase of design such that quantities and locations are not finalized. In this case, the correct LOD assignment would be LOD300 with the understanding that at design milestones quantities and locations will be in flux.

Here’s another twist, if you are working on a project that will be competitively bid – essentially, design-bid-build – what LOD would you use for final construction documents? If you think about it, specifications for bid projects usually allow for (or require) a list of alternate products (Wicks Law, New York state). As such, even if you are using a model component provided by a specific manufacturer, the level of development (reliability) can only be at a generic level – LOD200. This may seem counter-intuitive, but a full understanding of these levels is going to form the foundation of ‘good input’ for the industry to start realizing improved interoperability.

I invite you to read more about LOD at the Vico Software website, BIModal Evolution blog, Revit Sticky Notes, Revit OpEd, The BIM Manager, and Q5 (Tocci). There are also some good discussions happening in the BIM Experts group on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Version of Tekla BIMsight

If you haven’t already heard of Tekla BIMsight, you should take a look. I first saw it at one of the AGC BIMForum conferences last year. It is a free – yes, free – tool for 3D coordination using aggregated design or fabrication models (notice, no kittens harmed here). BIMsight now offers support for tablets including multi-touch hand gestures as well as stylus use. And yet again, another tool that uses – guess what? – IFC format for input.

I’ll be running some informal tests of this tool in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.



Friday, January 27, 2012

Effective User Groups, Part 2

Following up on Part 1 of my tips for organizing and maintaining effective user groups, this post will cover the physical and virtual spaces that support great interaction.

Meeting Locations

Where you host your meetings is probably the biggest variable in the equation for an effective user group. There’s no perfect answer because you must find the best balance of function, space, and cost that meets your needs. I’ll offer my own experiences for your evaluation.



Probably the most common place to start a user group is at the leader’s office. If you have a large enough conference room or even a lobby space with plenty of stacking/folding chairs, this might be all you need. Sometimes it’s fun to rotate locations of a user group meeting to various participating companies. The main drawback is the number of people you can pack into a space. Meetings can get disrupted when attendees are standing or sitting on the floor (yes, I’ve had that experience!)

Issues: Building security, space set up & clean up, limited number of attendees


The DC Revit Users Group meets at a beautiful space atop the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington. I’ve done some research in the past into meeting spaces in New York City and the cost may be $1,000 – $2,000 per event.

Issues: Cost


These kinds of spaces are likely only available in major metropolitan centers, but they are an interesting option. Product manufacturers like Steelcase may have showrooms in your region that can be utilized for group functions. In NYC, I’ve attended events at Steelcase, The Gunlocke Company, Haefele, and the McGraw Hill Auditorium. I’ve never organized a meeting at a showroom, so I can’t speak to the costs involved.

Issues: Cost?


Why not mix learning and networking with some food? I’ve attended a few user group meetings held at restaurants over the years. One of the early NYC Revit User Group meetings was held at a bar which was actually an old bank. Our ‘private meeting room’ was actually the old vault and I recall giving a presentation where the ‘screen’ was actually a backdrop of safe deposit boxes! The Ontario RUG used to meet at a restaurant called Alice Fazooli’s. This was fun because they had a large dedicated space and the food was great.

Issues: Cost, A/V equipment

Academic Institutions


Our group was really fortunate to connect with Pratt Institute and use their lecture space on a monthly basis. For two years, we were able to utilize this space without cost because they enjoy the exposure for Pratt’s continuing & professional studies programs in the building. Recently we were asked to provide insurance coverage for our meetings and yet again, an interested company came to the rescue to provide this contribution as a group sponsor. More on this to come in Part 3…

Personally, I think an academic location is the best option because it seems that it is the most mutually beneficial solution. You can bring potential students in and they can provide a space well-suited to learning events. So reach out to your local university or technical college and see if they are willing to share some space.

Group Websites

Now that we’ve covered the physical space, let’s talk about virtual space. As I mentioned in Part 1, there are so many free social tools available on the web today that can support groups. When we got the NYC RUG started in 2006, Google Groups was a pretty good option. This free service is still around, but its functionality is somewhat limited. You can create custom pages, upload files and manage members – but that’s about it. I’d keep an eye on Google+ and see how it evolves.

In addition to an Internet home for your group, you should also think about how you want to handle events. In the past I used to manage events while we were on Google Groups. It’s a free service and does a nice job handling RSVP’s and automated reminders; however, it wasn’t integrated with the group website, so I had to manage two member databases.

Facebook seems to have highly functional group tools where you can create and manage events, have discussions, post links, photos and videos. It’s all free, but you have to be a Facebook user to join a group. Some people like to keep their personal interactions on Facebook, so they may not want to mix business-related stuff there. Also, some offices may even block access to social sites like Facebook. LinkedIn has groups as well, but I haven’t found them as easy to use as FB.

The NYC Revit Users Group uses a site called It’s a paid service ($45 every three months), but our members seem to really appreciate the functionality. It has discussion boards, file/photo uploads, topic suggestions, and it’s event management is great. Automated email reminders, dues collection (if applicable), name tags, sign-in sheet, and more.

I’ve only discussed a few web-based group platforms here, but there are so many more out there. Do some homework, look at other group sites and pick one that suits your taste such as Ning.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Effective User Groups, Part 1

I’ve been thinking about sharing my user group experiences for some time now and an email came in asking me about just such information. (How do you approach businesses or individuals to attend and then speak at the meetings? How do secure sponsors for venues and food? How do you deal with topics specifically geared towards a particular discipline without losing the rest of your members?…) Needless to say, I am taking the initiative to write about the evolution of the New York City Revit Users Group.

In a series of posts, I’ll discuss the following topics:

  • Getting a group started
  • Organizing topics and speakers
  • Meeting locations
  • Group websites
  • Sponsors
  • A/V technology

I hope you will find my opinions interesting and I welcome comments about your experiences.


Getting a Group Started

There’s quite a bit of a story leading up to April 2006 that I now realize will have to be yet another series of posts on my journey with BIM. That said, I was 2 years into implementing Revit on World Trade Center Tower One at SOM and each of the New York area Autodesk resellers were starting to ramp up their own Revit user groups. As I recall, there were at least two – maybe three – separate groups and they all wanted me to speak at their events at one time or another. I thought, "there has to be a better way.”


Lesson #1: By the people, for the people

Users don’t need to sell anything. There…I said it. I have the utmost respect for the VAR’s (value-added resellers) and trainers with whom I’ve collaborated in my career, but (in my opinion) they don’t have that grassroots, real world, in the trenches, battle-scarred approach to the tools. Whether a VAR has an agenda or not, I frequently get that feeling when I attend a VAR-organized user group. We’ll talk more about sponsorship later…

The first step in creating a successful user group is finding some local people in your industry who share the same passion. Look at your current or most recent project team, consultants, contractors…did you make some new friends as you worked through the last all-night deadline? Get together for lunch a few times and you might have the seedlings for a user group!

Back in 2006, we didn’t have Twitter or Facebook, so getting the word out about new user groups was either by word of mouth or mass e-mailings (but you had to know your recipients first!). And websites were pretty expensive back then…if was around, you sure couldn’t buy a site for $9.99 and be up and running in a matter of minutes.


Today, you can create a group presence for free on Facebook with just about everything you’d need to get a group going. More on technology in a forthcoming post…

Lesson #2: Maintain regular meetings

Research has shown that the leading cause of user group death is apathy. OK, that’s my own observation, but I’ve seen it happen. Even if you just get together and have a roundtable discussion about BIM standards, it’s still a meeting and your attendees will come to expect the next regularly scheduled meeting.

Organizing Speakers and Topics

So, what’s the magic formula for finding interesting speakers and topics? Sorry, there isn’t one. In the early days, we did two things: spoke about our own experiences; and had VAR trainers give how-to lectures. The best advice I can give to new organizers is to network, network, and then network some more. I’ve met so many people at events like Autodesk University and those connections inevitably lead to memorable guest appearances for our group.


Lesson #3: Get help

We have been conducting regular monthly meetings for almost 5 years and with over 770 registered members, we only recently have achieved 10 volunteers on our advisory board. The overwhelming majority of user group attendees just want to receive content – not participate in creating the content. The best thing our group did was to assign vice presidents (those who were the most active and available to co-organize the meetings), and create an advisory board of members who just wanted to help contribute topic ideas and perhaps suggest some contact connections for guest speakers. The burden shouldn’t rest squarely on one person.


Lesson #4: Lock in dates for guests early

When you are speaking to potential guest speakers, try to get them to commit to a date far in advance. They may not know what their schedules look like two months or more ahead, but they will know when they have agreed to present at your group.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, coming soon…

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Event: BIM in Modular and Prefab Construction

As the president of the New York City Revit Users Group (, I organize monthly meetings around various BIM-related topics. The January 2012 meeting featured guest speaker Ian Atkins who shared some of his real-world experience in applying BIM to modular and prefabricated construction.
Unfortunately, Kullman has requested we remove the recording of Ian's presentation and we have complied. Please stay connected with the NYC RUG for upcoming meetings and feel free to browse previously recorded meetings at