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.