Thursday, April 30, 2015

Upgrade to Revit 2016 - Grumble grumble response to..."Should we install Revit 2016 and upgrade our projects?

Given the performance improvements in 2015 and again with 2016...any team or firm that doesn't upgrade their projects is willingly poking themselves in the eye all day, every day. The very idea of working in 2014 (or worse 2013) after using 2015/16 makes me sad.

"But Steve, EyeTee doesn't like having to install the software every year, and gosh there has been so many updates this year."

Okay, what other software does your firm use every minute of every working hour of every week to generate income? EyeTee shouldn't be getting agitated about keeping software up to date for the people who generate the income of a company. Besides installing software and keeping it up to date is in the job description isn't it? "Um, I don't like answering phones. What? You're the receptionist!!!" It's a bit like objecting to servicing your car and you drive a limousine. You depend on it to make a living but don't want to take care of the means to an end?

If a project team won't upgrade the project...they don't get to whine about poor performance... If IT won't install it then they need to revisit their priorities. Are they too busy to increase the chances of everyone else being more productive?

Grumble grumble...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Revit 2016 - Edit Multiple Wall Joins

We can select more than one wall join intersection and Allow or Disallow Join. Start the Wall Join tool, press the CTRL key and select each intersection that you want to alter. Then choose the join condition you want.

We can use a window selection and we can also use the TAB key to select several wall intersections at once, according to varying circumstances. If there are no intersections that have already had Disallow Join applied then you can potentially select all the intersections in the same manner as we can select a chain of walls with the TAB key.

It is a bit fussy when using the Allow Join option after using Disallow Join. The walls don’t heal automatically. Initially it seems that using Allow Join only changes one of the two walls at each intersection back to allow a join to occur. The icon for Join appears for one half of the intersection each time. We might infer from this that it is necessary to select a grip and drag or at least wiggle the connection a bit to get them to join back together well.

It is important to realize that there are two walls at each intersection and it is necessary to select them both! If we are careful to select them both then the walls will heal up nicely.

Here's a short video (1 min) to demonstrate it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Revit 2016 - Multiline Text Parameter and Shared Parameters

As soon as we add a new parameter using this new Multiline Text parameter type to our existing Shared Parameter file it invalidates that file for use in prior versions of Revit. If we try to access our Shared Parameter file we'll be greeted with this message.

Mulling it over for a moment, it makes sense to me since the older versions of Revit are not able to interpret this new kind of parameter because it didn't exist. Rather than allow us to continue, to create a parameter that isn't supported, it takes the hard road and prevents us from using it at all. It might be possible, via another Update Release to 2015 and for the other older supported versions, to provide code to ignore any Multiline Text values it finds when it parses a Shared Parameter file.

This means we'll need to create a separate shared parameter file for managing any Multiline Text parameters we use. We can keep on using the original Shared Parameter file(s) we already have. Just don't add any new Multiline Text parameters to it. We need to manage this new parameter type on its own, as long we expect to need to use the older versions of Revit.

Oh, if you manage to do this before finding out it won't can open the Shared Parameter file in Notepad and delete the line that is dedicated to the Multiline Text parameter(s) you've created. It should work again in 2015 or older versions.

A comment (to a previous post) regarding this new feature alerted me to this issue, thanks Abe!

Revit Technology Conference 2015 Summary

I hope by now that, if you frequently return to this blog, you've also noticed my references to the Revit Technology Conferences (RTC) that take place each year. It started out in Australia in 2005, expanded to North America in 2011, Europe in 2013 and now Asia with an event in Singapore this year.

If you've got an unlimited or at least a comfortable budget then let me encourage you to attend all of them this year. If you can't attend then consider sending your best, your most enthusiastic, your most accomplished staff in your place.

If it's more realistic to encourage you to attend just one RTC this year, then choose from any of these unique locations and events. Each region will offer its own unique flavor of location, people and sessions (based on the submissions of users like you or those you support/employ).

I wish it were easier to decide (click the links below for each event's info):

RTC Australasia 2015 - Gold Coast, Australia - May 14-16, 2015
RTC North America 2015 - Washington DC - July 23-25, 2015
RTC Asia 2015 - Sentosa, Singapore - September 10-12, 2015
RTC Europe 2015 - Budapest, Hungary - October 29-31, 2015

There are two adjunct events that will occur just before RTC in Washington DC this year. The Design Technology Summit is an ongoing invitation only event while the Building Design Content Summit is a new event that is focused on the ever important subject of content for BIM. Please visit their sites for more information

RTC NA 2015 - Design Technology Summit - July 21-22, 2015
RTC NA 2015 - Building Content Summit - July 22,2015

As always, I hope to see old friends and make new ones at RTC events this year!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Revit 2016 - Space Naming Utility Still a Separate Application

The Dept. of Echoooo...

Yes, sadly the Space Naming Utility for Revit MEP 2016 is STILL a utility, as in a separate download AND installation from the Autodesk Exchange|Apps site.

It's still just wrong, wrong, should have been incorporated into the Revit MEP toolset long ago. How hard could it be?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Revit 2016 - New Door Content

The What's New documentation for Revit 2016 doesn't mention this but if you look closely you'll find that it provides new door families separated into Residential (19 each) and Commercial (16 each) folders. The residential doors all use Type Catalogs except for the two garage doors (you can see them in the second image below). Revit 2015's Doors folder has 31 doors and Revit 2016 provides 35 (and another 12 you'll see below, for total of 47).

The Single-Flush family you can see in the image above is the same one we've had in past door content. Interestingly I don't see it in the library so I imagine it's a left-over from the stock template. This is what the residential doors look like in 3D with Detail Level: Medium.

The new doors feature nested hardware (visible with Detail Level: Fine) and new options, such as Swing Angle (doors that swing), Panel Open (pocket doors), Show Grill, Masonry Frame, Threshold and Masonry Inset. Those are just the ones I've noticed so far. They aren't available in every door, just those that the options make sense for. For example, in this image you can see a pocket door is selected and it has a Panel Open parameter, the image shows it is open.

This image shows a couple options for the single full glass door; Swing Angle and Show Grill.

When you switch Detail Level to Fine you can see the hardware and some families have additional trim. This image shows the hardware and a pair of separate sidelight families. I didn't take the time to see if I could make them fit the adjacent doors better.

These are the new Commercial door families, there are Type Catalogs for all but one of them (Door-Passage-Uneven-Flush).

This is what they look like in plan and 3D views. I've loaded and placed one type from each family.

There are door families (12 each) on their own within the Doors folder and several use Type Catalogs (6 each). You'll also find the three Curtain Panel Doors we are used to seeing in the library though they've been renamed a little. In fact all doors now include Door- as a prefix to declare their category. The curtain panel doors are always a source of confusion because they are doors in a door folder that can only be placed in the model by swapping them for a curtain panel.

They've also provided Hardware families in a separate folder, which are the families used on the doors that feature hardware.

I think they overlooked the Bi-fold (closet style) door families that are in the previous library, I don't see an equivalent version among the new doors.

I should also mention that these new doors don't resolve the Copy/Monitor issue with Walls and Openings. You can see in the upper wall at the right end that the pocket door has generated a much larger opening in the wall than it really should.

The only door families that create proper openings with C/M are those that use nested families for all the geometry and only the opening is defined in the host family. These new doors aren't built that way.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Restore All Excluded Intermittent Ribbon Button

This is an odd one, seeing it in 2014, 2015 and 2016...

Three of these four instances of a quad workstation Group have had Elements Excluded. The group has both possible seating positions included for each workstation and I can just exclude the one I don't need. When I select one group I get the Restore All Excluded button on the ribbon.

When I select two groups I don't get the Restore All Excluded button on the ribbon...sometimes. It's not there in this image but several times it did show up.

When I select three groups I get the Restore All Excluded button on the ribbon...again sometimes.

If it's any consolation, the right-click Restore All Excluded works everytime.

Here's a video...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wish - Copy, Rotate and Mirror Sub Elements

I really wish I could copy Split Line or Point while using Modify Sub Elements. It's really quite silly that I have to sketch or pick to place these things over and over (and this is a 2016 no joy there either).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Revit 2016 - Multiline Text Follow Up

Tom kindly shared some more images and thoughts on this subtle new feature that Autodesk even forgot to mention. Tom's images do all the talking, thanks Tom!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Revit 2016 - Multiline Text Parameter Type

Tom Dorner wrote to me to share what he observed while he has been getting acquainted with Revit 2016. It's a new Type of Parameter called Multiline Text.

When you see it in the Properties Palette it offers up a small Browse button. Tom commented that he thought it would be better if it was an Edit button like the one that Model Text use, I'm inclined to agree.

Clicking the browse button opens the Edit Text dialog.

I'm still waiting for my download to finish so I can get it installed myself and check it out more closely. I'm curious how it will behave if the parameter is used in a schedule or tag. I haven't seen any evidence that Autodesk is taking credit for this addition in the What's New information they've made available so far.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Revit MEP - Circuit Length Calculation

I received an email asking if I thought it would be possible to use a Line Based family to calculate wire length for circuiting purposes. It was prompted by reading an earlier post about using them for Egress Path calculation and documentation. I think it's a reasonable approach for Egress Paths because there is no such tool or concept already in Revit.

Electrical circuits on the other hand do calculate their length already, granted it does so simplistically. It combines the X/Y/Z distances of the devices from the panel (and each other) to arrive at a total circuit length.

A friend some years ago sent me a PDF that showed a bunch (a couple shown above) of different equipment and device layout schemes he did to better understand how Revit arrives at a value for Circuit Length. What it shows is that Revit does nothing to factor in obstacles which force the wiring to go up or down or around the things that are more than likely going to increase the total circuit length.

To be could it really? How detailed is the model? How long do we want the software to interrogate the model, the linked models to do a better job? It's a bit like requiring all conduit to be modelled, even 3/4" conduit feeding single gang boxes in a wall when there isn't a single stud in the model. Like with so many things in life, it's about context.

It's one thing to put a single gang box on a wall to indicate one is required here and another thing entirely to run conduit to all the way to it when you can't be sure it can really go there. Or like showing a pair of outlets back to back on a demising wall in a residential project where fire rating and sound attenuation would require them to be separated by a minimum distance.

Some things are still conceptual (schematic) in nature even in fairly detailed models. If we start modeling every stud then perhaps it becomes more reasonable to expect more system detail too. Then again if I have to create a run of (15) 3/4" conduits across a wall or ceiling I probably ought to model that situation because it's going to take up a lot of space and everyone else ought to be aware of it.

It's also been my observation that no matter how good software gets at a task there are always outliers that dismiss its results as still wrong. That written, it does matter and Revit should improve how it does calculations and how much say we have in the outcome because the length it calculates is also used internally to contribute to other calculations like wire sizing and voltage drop.

Setting aside how circuit length should be calculated (it might surprise you to know that engineers don't always agree on this), I'd consider this approach if my task was to determine how much wire was needed, a little closer to actual requirements than might show up in the circuit properties. I'd create a schedule focused on Electrical Circuits.

What you see above: I created a couple panels and added a bunch of duplex outlets. I assigned them to circuits. The schedule's second column is Revit's calculated length, no more effort on my part than placing devices, creating circuits and choosing a panel.

I sorted the schedule by Panel and then Circuit, provided a header for Panel and footer for totals. I added a parameter for Length Factor (a number) and then a Calculated Parameter for Total Estimate (a length) which uses a formula of Length Factor * Calculated (column 2).

Then I consider each circuit's circumstance and enter in a factor that increases or decreases Revit's own calculation according to how easy or hard the actual wire run or routing will be...or at least what I think it will be. A factor of 2 doubles the length etc. This calculation doesn't factor into load calculations like for Voltage Drop...but then neither would using a line based family.

This doesn't account for situations that might share a neutral (or ground) or runs that are comprised of individual conductors in conduit (like THHN or THWN) or a wiring combined into a common jacket like Cerro's NMB (a typical household wiring product).

That's the risk/difficulty of automatic calculations, the closer you examine situations the more outliers there are. It can be a bit like arguing about something being 99.6 percent correct. If it costs another $1000 to get to 99.9 or that difference worth it?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Revit 2016 - Open Sheet

If you read this blog much you know I like subtle stuff and this is right-click subtle. We can already sort the Views portion of the Project Browser so that only views that are Not on Sheets are listed. To see those that are on sheets we just scroll down to the Sheets portion of the Project Browser instead.

Revit 2016 brings us a new feature which allows us to right-click on any view and choose Open Sheet for any view that IS on a sheet.

Naturally if the view you right-click over isn't on a sheet then the choice is disabled.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Revit 2016 - Place Rooms Automatically

If you've seen a demo of Revit MEP and Spaces or if you have used Spaces yourself then you may already be familiar with the new Rooms version of Place Spaces Automatically...called( shocking I know) Place Rooms Automatically.

This will create new rooms in all room-bounding elements on the same level with one click. It's like a shotgun blast of rooms, fill all the rooms. You'll find it on the Architecture tab > Room and Area panel > click Rooms then a button for Place Rooms Automatically will appear on the Modify|Place Room tab.

All the room-bounding elements that can define a room will end up with a room created. All the Rooms will share whatever Room Name is entered in the Properties panel when you start the tool. Their number will be increased incrementally from whatever the next available number is.

Practically speaking the Spaces version works better than this one because engineers need to create spaces where nearly all of the rooms are in the model (usually a linked model) already and the Space Naming Utility can speed up matching Space name and number to Room name and number.

If you are careful to create a list of rooms for your project in a schedule prior to having walls or at least at roughly the same time as walls are getting sketched this tool won't really help. If you import rooms from a list in Excel it won't speed up their placement because it will just blast new rooms into any valid room bounding area. It won't create rooms where rooms you've already placed are though.

If you're looking for a quick way to make rooms and don't care about naming (or other data) yet then this tool may be perfect for YOU!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Revit 2016 Trial Versions - Do Not Install the Wrong Version

A post of caution - If you are tempted to download a trial version of Revit 2016 please keep in mind that it comes in three trial flavors:
  • Revit
  • Building Design Suite (BDS) Ultimate
  • Revit LT
Let's imagine you're anxious to check out the new release and just download and install a version that you don't already have a license for with the expectation that you will just activate it for your particular license later.
If you do install a version you don't own then you'll get to REMOVE that version and INSTALL the version you really need instead.

The installation is perhaps the least of it since the download time (the installation files are large) can be significant so I'd be really sad if I downloaded BDS Ultimate thinking I could just install it and then authorize it against Premium.

NOPE... uninstall, download correct version and install. I'd be wailing and gnashing my teeth...

Don't go there, wait for your correct version to become available to you via the subscription center. Forewarned is four-armed (as I read recently)...

Monday, April 13, 2015

That Time of Year Again - Revit 2016

The media embargo has been lifted for Revit 2016 so we're beginning to see some information surface on blogs and other sites. Fwiw, people involved with activities that carry an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) aren't permitted to discuss things they are aware of until their particular agreements are lifted. Naturally Autodesk would like to manage what is being said about their products when they release new versions, or at least be the first to start the conversation. The internet increasingly makes this impossible.

Dan Stine wrote a nice article describing the rendering changes we'll find in 2016. It will seem a little like deja vu all over again if you remember the transition from Accurender to Mental Ray. Read Dan's article, he explains it all quite well.

Luke has been sharing links to download different versions of Revit 2016 (and other Autodesk products). I'm refraining from doing so until I'm free to do so. In general Revit, on its own, gets released a bit earlier than the versions that are considered part of the Building Design Suite. I'm waiting for the latter personally.

Jeffrey (aka The Revit Kid) wrote a post earlier today about this subject too.

If you visit Autodesk's Revit pages you'll find new information is trickling in. For example there are some new Feature descriptions HERE now. Here's the Revit 2016 versus Revit 2016 LT COMPARISON. No such thing as LT for MEP users still,'re not considered light-beer drinkers.

This is also the time of year when the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins with renewed vigor. I think Autodesk manages to stub their toe each year by not adequately preparing their customers for their longer term plans and goals. Seth Godin weighed in on Hope and Expectation with his timely thoughts. Maybe it isn't possible to do that with as many customers as they have, or their frequently stated restrictions on forward-looking disclosures made by publicly traded companies? Seems to me they could do better.

As such this means each year we manage to build up hope that this year will be more awesome than the last (or the skeptic thinks less awesome). For example if we think that Revit 2016 is going to be transcendent then consider (it's my understanding) that, if you've got an active subscription and installed 2015 R2 already, you've already seen a percentage of 2016 features. The 2015 R2 is/was an early release of features slated for 2016, released early for subscription customers only.

Less surprise for you...because you're already on the inside track...

Based on what is published on their site so far, the big push with 2016 is:

A360 Collaboration for Revit (aka C4R)
Performance (more fasterer Reviting)
IFC Interoperability
Dynamo Integration
Fabrication and MEP
Structural Analysis and Modeling
Site Designer (part of R2 release only, now formally released to all 2016)
Online Analysis Feature Enhancment/Improvements
View and Tools enhancments (Reveal Constraints, Perspective View editing, PDF Exporting)

I have been quite pleased with the significantly improved performance experience with the 2015 release all year. I found myself resenting any work that required 2014 (or worse...earlier releases) very quickly. If 2016 stands on 2015's shoulders the way I've been hearing it does, then I'll be really happy to use 2016 too, right away.

Also keep in mind that, if Autodesk keeps to their timeline, next year, around this time, it will cease offering what they call Perpetual Licenses. They'll honor existing contracts/subscriptions but all new purchases will either be what they are calling Desktop Subscriptions or Cloud Service Subscriptions. Check out their BUY page for details.

I'm looking forward to getting to work with 2016.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Shared Coordinates and Collaboration for Revit

I've not written anything about Collaboration for Revit (aka C4R) yet. It's a recent development that puts a project in the cloud to give a project team access to the project data regardless where they are.

When it comes to Shared Coordinates, the Publish Coordinates tool is disabled. Acquire Coordinates does work.

As I understand the issue, Publish Coordinates is the only time that Revit has to be able to write changes to a linked file. The current A360 and C4R infrastructure doesn't support allowing that to happen...yet. They do understand it is something we want and need to do.

Regardless I'd still use Acquire Coordinates on a source survey file within a Master Site file, as usual. Then I'd link any building files and position them on the site, just like I'd normally do. To cope with the loss of Publish Coordinates I'd put location markers (a unique family for example) that allow me to figure out how to link and align Master Site in each building correctly afterward.

As I just mentioned, in each Building file I'd link the Master Site model and move, rotate and elevate it as required. Then I can use Acquire Coordinates and pick Master Site. This will pull the correct Shared Coordinates into the building model. I'd repeat that for each building.

I'd do the little building position dance in Master Site even though I could probably figure out how to do the reverse (position Master Site in each Building) somehow. I'd find it a little easier to work out each building's relationship to the Master Site model this way, seeing them all together at the same time in Master Site. I think it provides for better context.

When other trades get going they just need to link the Architecture model using Auto - Origin to Origin and then use Acquire Coordinates, picking the Architecture model. It's a cascading nested understanding of the survey coordinates, using Acquire Coordinates all the way down.

SMEP-Models - AC from - A-Model - AC from - Master Site - AC from - Site Survey

When they return their files to the architect they just need to be linked using Auto - Origin to Origin too. Technically if they do use Acquire Coordinates using By Shared Coordinates would work but if they didn't Auto - Origin to Origin is long as they understand it is important that they start out using Auto - Origin to Origin themselves, when they link the architecture model.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spaces instead of Areas

Area plans have their quirks. They can only exist in their own special area plan views. They've got rules and quite often people want to break those rules. If we need to do that then we end up sketching boundaries a lot. Areas don't know anything about Rooms either. That means we're probably going to have to enter some data twice if we must use Areas pretending to be Rooms, all to document fussy Room area requirements

If that's the situation we find ourselves we have access to MEP's Spaces? If so we could consider...this...

The plan in this image is an architectural model (yeah really simple mock-up). Is it obvious what I've done? I've got Room tags reporting area only as well as Space tags reporting a little different area value along with Room name and number. It also has a Color Scheme applied to Room departments.

It's also a separate model I called Area Calcs. I linked the Architecture model into Area Calcs. The Room tags I mentioned a moment ago are actually Room tags, tagging each room's area in the link. For Spaces however I opted to just sketch Space Separators over the linked model since I need to identify different parts of the room's boundaries to calculate area anyway. A Space isn't different from a Room when we rely on walls for their boundary, in how they calculate area at least. Sketching our lines gives us complete control over the results without dealing with Area Rules.

A Space Separator is a linestyle (like Area Boundary and Room Separator) and I changed the appearance to a much thicker burgundy line so it stands out against the linked file's plan. I ended up applying transparency to Walls too. Once I defined the boundaries I needed I used the Space tool and opted for Place Spaces Automatically. This creates a Space wherever one is possible within the boundaries I've created. This is done floor by floor, assuming there is more than one floor.

Just in case you weren't aware of this already, a linked file has a Room Bounding option.

If this option is selected then Place Spaces Automatically creates Spaces wherever Revit finds Rooms and valid boundaries even where there aren't any rooms (note my interior design comment later). Since I need to define room area differently that's not going to help me now. It's intended to speed up the process for engineers while they are preparing their project to start work.

Now that I've got Spaces I can take advantage of a separate tool called Space Naming Utility (SNU). It is crazy that this tool is still a separate installation but it is. At least it isn't locked away in subscription only access anymore. I keep hoping it will show up inside Revit in the next release.

Sorry I digress, it (SNU) will read (from the linked file) each room's name and number and pass it to the equivalent Space's name and number.

One risk here is Revit might not figure out which Room is supposed to be related to a Space. However, if we examine the properties of a Space we'll see right away whether Revit can see a room relationship or not. Plus any Spaces that don't update will be a clue or at least identify a Room that hasn't been filled out with information properly yet. I'm hoping to apply the 80/20 rule here and win.

If I want to use Fill Patterns too, like below, I can create a separate view that only shows a customized Color Scheme that applies Fill Patterns instead of a solid color fill. Then I just stack (overlay) this view on top of the other floor plan on a sheet. I just need to make sure the view is using Wireframe so it doesn't mask the floor plan.

I can even add a separate Color Scheme legend to the other view that's stacked over the floor plan.

Choosing this route might come down to how I answer these questions:
  • Do I have Spaces? (Are they part of the Revit version I use?)
  • Which is worse, sketching Space Separators or Area Boundaries?
  • Which is more fun, using Space Naming Utility or manually updating Area data to match relevant Room data?
  • If I know a Dynamo/API programmer then maybe I can improve the Room to Area process instead?
This popped into my head last evening while I was mulling over a client's email. I've suggested using Spaces in the past to help deal with linked interior design models so this time around it didn't seem quite as crazy to me as it did the first time.

Want to poke around the files (Revit 2015) I used for this post?

Area Plans
Area Calcs

Your mileage may vary...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Justifying a Revit Manager work for a firm that doesn't have a dedicated Revit Manager. There are nearly fifty of you toiling away with Revit now, things are busy, business is growing. That's great!

Still, management isn't interested in having a dedicated Revit Manager. The current solution is to divide up the things that person would do across three power users in the office. A year or so ago when there was about thirty people it didn't seem like a problem, as much.
Can you help your firm justify a Revit Manager?
Full disclosure, I don't usually get involved in this kind of discussion with clients since I tend to focus on user's work, a Revity task and strategy bias. It's not a normal part of my work but I am comfortable with wandering into conjecture, to offer my thoughts. How would I approach this if I am the one in this person's situation? I want my firm to recognize a need for a Revit Manager (or if you must...BIM Manager, I'd prefer Design Technology Manager personally).

I'd want to find out how my firm's management makes decisions about staff in general. When do they decide they need another office secretary, assistant, architect, intern or anyone? What factors, what numbers are they crunching, considering when they do that? How much analytic effort is put into it? Who are they entrusting with the decision to do something ultimately?

Let's say in this situation, we have a full time IT person. How did they decide that was necessary? I'd want to know why they consider that different from a Revit Manager (or Design Technology Manager). This is software that so many people rely on for 40+ hours a week to do billable work. I think that makes it (the software) important, which in turn makes the role as important to the firm as the IT person is to keep computers functioning well and securely. If they really don't recognize that, then I'd want to understand their logic, if possible. Then I could counter their thinking with more data, more examples.

It is also important that they (management) appreciate they ARE already paying for this person. They are currently paying other people to do that person's work (the three people mentioned earlier). Hopefully they aren't so distracted to think that's not the situation at hand. Each minute they are not directly billable is that person's time.

As such they need to quantify how much time and money that effort, spread across three people, really costs. It's quite easy to ignore money trickling out the door when they don't have a security camera focused on it to help them see it. How is it affecting them being billable, providing a greater income and return for their effort than the internal work that is distracting them.

Chances are good that, lacking a specific support person, there are even more indirect costs that are not getting tracked well (or at all) because those three are not really covering everything that arises. Nor do they have time to plan ahead or deal with office wide implementation effectively enough. People tend to struggle for quite awhile before they ask for help. The three are busy so they aren't free enough to just check in on people and catch them in a problem.

If I'm hitting a brick wall, can't get them to agree there is an issue then I'd suggest a study (oh NO...going academic now). Doing one demonstrates being willing to substantiate a claim and having enough patience to research it, to remove all doubt.

We make all sorts of decisions and many of them as much emotional as analytic. We call it hindsight when in two years we look back and agree that it was obvious we needed to do something...either we did and we are patting ourselves on the back or we didn't and are expressing regret. In the skeptical mind, we hear..."oh, it's a delay tactic...putting off making the right decision we think it is". It's quite likely that we need to measure things that are probably not now. A study could help this along, help everyone recognize the problem for what it is.

For at least one month we should carefully track activities, much deeper than we've done before. Ideally it should be for a few months. This allows us to gather more data which can help rule out any peculiar things that happen during the study's run which could skew the conclusions, like one project running off the rails due to external problems that end up distracting the firm excessively. To do this really well ALL of the staff needs to be involved (everyone this person would influence/support). It needs to be easier to identify how the lack of this person IS influencing everyone's productivity.

Anything that is not directly billable to a client's project is assigned to other cost categories. If accounting is pro-active then they've already got a variety of chargeable codes to use on time cards. If not then they need to start there so it is possible to see where the money is really going. We need everyone to be comfortable with keeping close track of their tasks carefully for this to work, no fear of recriminations if they get caught being not billable as much as we expected.
I would not be surprised if the study also flagged other issues that might be every bit as interesting, apart from the purpose of this post. The quote attributed to Peter Drucker is, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."
Once we've got data we can see how much time is spent away from billable tasks. Then we need to compare the cost of one person dedicated to doing those things for them, instead of them, everyone. This allows for a comparison with their effort (the three) being entirely billable instead (to the extent that any of us are entirely billable, never truly 100% if they are tracking things realistically).

We're looking to establish that the company can put at least two of the three back in the fully billable category, generating income instead. Maybe the third person (me, it's me, I want the job!) really wants to do this job and can become entirely assigned to overhead, which in turns should help to ensure everyone else stays closer to fully billable status.

The numbers should prove that it won't cost the company more money to do so...if we are are correct. If we are correct we'll probably discover that we'll be in a better position, and not just financially. It is also possible that we discover that things are better than we think, for the moment, and the current situation is doing right by the firm. To be fair we need to be open to that result long as the numbers are examined well.

There are also less tangible (not just $$) things like happiness and confidence, firm status (reputation) with regard to other consultants (and clients) and using Revit/BIM, reduction of redundant activities (like everyone making doors), setting priorities, standards, training, quality control and others. These all contribute to firm's culture, being productive and happy to show up at work in general.

If the study's results don't support creating this role then its possible that the issue is more emotional, maybe a staffing issue or just how the firm's attitude or message is received by everyone. I've seen situations where a project manager is very concerned about problems only to learn that he keeps overhearing his power user complaining about things he wishes could be improved. Those thoughts get interpreted into my project has a real problem and that can escalate quickly.

Then again, maybe someone is not in a role they'd really enjoy more. If that person is the one that believes the firm needs a Revit for example...then I've got some soul searching to do. The firm doesn't seem to need that role yet but it's what I want. I can wait it out, maybe the firm is still growing? I could also find a larger firm instead that offers an opportunity to pursue the role I want.

Working through this sort of business problem and doing it well might just be the proof your firm needs to recognize you have greater potential than they might have initially considered.

Wish me Luck! I'll wish you luck!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Linked File Revit MEP has Colors

Revit MEP can assign system colors to their pipe and duct systems. It is easier for them than using a lot of Filters like was required in the past. If you are one of the other trades (architect for example) and link an MEP model and you see color it's probably because they are using this feature. This is what it looks like in the MEP model. I focused on the Domestic Cold Water as an example.

Now the file has been linked to an architectural model. The colors assigned to the pipe system are still applied to the elements. You might be tempted to try to alter the settings of pipe and duct systems in the Project Browser, IF you've noticed that your architectural template has them. I'll save you the trouble, it won't do anything to them.

If you don't want to see those colors you CAN override them with Filters.

I've opened Visibility/Graphics and then created a Filter. In the Filters dialog, if you select only the Duct categories, Flex Ducts, Flex Pipes, Mechanical Equipment and all the Pipe categories, then the "Filter by:" will allow you to choose "System Classification", set it to "is greater than" and "" (empty field).

This should catch all the mechanical elements in linked file and look like this afterward.

Remember to take advantage of a View Template to control this more easily and consistently.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Survey Point - Post 4 - Acquiring Coordinates and View Orientation

The bias of the last three posts has been on creating a Master Site file and linking building models to site. That's moving buildings on a fixed site versus moving the site under fixed buildings. The earth doesn't go anywhere, we put buildings on it, so to speak. That bias feels right to me, the ways things really work.

These are links to the three preceding posts.

If you choose to take the reverse approach, link the site to a building, you have to adjust the survey information to align with the building; since its harder to move the model elements around than the survey file. In this example, I've started in a Floor Plan view assigned to Project North.

At this point is doesn't look much different than images early on in the other posts. The building is oriented conveniently for putting in on sheets. I need to move and rotate the survey DWG into a better orientation. I'm using the same preferences I had in the previous posts.

Now I just need to shift the survey down since the contours are at their actual elevations and the building model is at an arbitrary ground floor elevation of zero.

I used the same 22 feet for the ideal ground floor elevation I chose in the other post.

Now I'm ready to use Acquire Coordinates. I opened up both the floor plan and site plan views so I can see the change occur. I used Acquire Coordinates in the floor plan: Level 1 (that's a moment).

Since there are few possible combinations of actions, let's imagine that I used Acquire Coordinates a little differently. In this case I Acquired Coordinates in the floor plan view: Site and I wasn't observant enough to notice that the view is assigned to Project North which ordinarily wouldn't make sense to do, to me at least. It's easy enough to overlook because at this point the building orientation is technically the same as it is in other views assigned to Project North.

After I Acquired Coordinates I noticed the view didn't change so I realize it needs to be assigned to True North. I do that and the model rotates to show the orientation based on the survey's coordinate system, as I expected initially.

Now a little time passes (we're pretending). I find it necessary to use Reload to update the linked survey file, maybe I cleaned up some of the layers to make it a little lighter in our model. When I click Reload this happens. The survey spins out of alignment.

The cause is subtle and simple: it is IMPORTANT to respect the Orientation parameter setting used, in the view that's used, when Acquire Coordinates is used. If you change to the opposite setting and then Reload the link the orientation of the link will change undesirably; regardless of the view you happen to be using during the reload process.

To restate the cause and effect, I used Acquire Coordinates in the Site view while it was assigned to an unnatural orientation setting of Project North. I then changed it to use the more logical True North but AFTER I already used Acquire Coordinates. This means I have to remember to change it back (to Project North) EVERY time before using Reload on the Linked survey file... Or I fix it, which would require resetting the coordinates so I could Acquire Coordinate again with the better settings in place.

I believe this is another good reason to use a separate Master Site project file. The survey is linked and moved into position but it isn't rotated to reflect True North because UP is North already. The quirk I've described only affects the links rotation and there is no need to rotate it in the Master Site strategy.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Survey Point - Post 3 - Five Minutes with Shared Coordinates

I created a video that goes through the process I described in the previous two posts. It is set to a four and half minute song by Michael Lee Firkins called "The Window". If you've never heard his music I believe you owe it to yourself to check him out, very talented and unique sounding guitarist and song writer.

Survey Point
Survey Point - Post 2

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Survey Point - Post 2

Yesterday I ended the post with a list of steps that I'd take to create a relationship between my building project file(s) and the Master Site file. I started another pair of projects that I'm calling Tiny House A and B (inspired by Sean's Tiny House project). I can start a project with or without site context. Revit's bias is making the project easy to document, forget about True North initially. It is trivial to resolve that in the Master Site file once it is ready, regardless if it is created before or after the tiny house models are started.

Here's how far I took the design of Tiny House A before I decided to work out its location on site.

I closed Tiny House A's project file. I opened up my Master Site file and linked Tiny House A using positioning: Auto - Origin to Origin. The choice for positioning at this stage really doesn't matter since I'm going to move the file to another part of the site anyway; have to pick something so I just let the default option reign. In the following image you can see Tiny House A is sitting at/near the Master Site's origin, marked by the Project Base Point icon.

Now it's time to move Tiny House A into position. I moved it and then aligned it with the East boundary. Then I was careful to put it at 8'-0" from that boundary. I then made sure the closest corner (wall) of the house to the North boundary was also at 8'-0". Being fussy about this isn't particularly important, I'm just being fussy.

Now I want to make sure the house is at an appropriate ground floor elevation. I created a section view so I could see the site's contours and the floor of the house. I can see here that the house is buried under a fair bit of the site.

I decided that raising the house to 22'-0" feels good. I used the Move tool, and typed 22 into the temporary listening dimension that appeared.

I think I'm ready to deal with Tiny House B now. It's really just another project file saved with a new name. I was too lazy to make another design. If this was a real project I wouldn't be able to get away with that. I decided that this house has to be no closer than 8'-0" to the North boundary but I've also made the North end of the house parallel to the boundary.

I learned while reading the development's covenant and zoning requirements that these houses can't be closer than 15'-0 to one another. I decided to put Tiny House B 18'-0" from A. I heard that A's owner is a drummer so those extra three feet might help keep B's sanity. I also decided that the ground floor elevation for B should be 20'-0", a little bit lower than A.

Now that I'm satisfied with the positions of Tiny House A and B I'm ready to use Publish Coordinates. This tool will PUSH the site orientation information to each house's project file. Revit will use this information to shift the house's Shared Coordinate system to align with the Shared Coordinate system of Master Site. In yesterday's post, the Master Site was manipulated to be in alignment with a linked DWG file's WCS (the World Coordinate System in AutoCAD to be precise) through the use of the Acquire Coordinates tool.

When you successfully select a linked file to Publish Coordinates the Location Weather and Site dialog appears. This give us an opportunity to provide a meaningful name for the location we're creating for that model. I clicked Rename... and typed Tiny House A Location 1.

It's significant to appreciate that I could now create a copy of Tiny House A in Master Site and place this copy in another location. I could then use Publish Coordinates on this copy which would allow me to use Duplicate... and use another name like Tiny House A Location 2. In the Tiny House A project file I can now choose between these two named locations and make one of them current. Revit will reorient everything to show the building correctly for this location, all without really changing anything  in the model. It's pretty clever and powerful; actually doing it is something I'll save for another post.
I used Publish Coordinates again but on Tiny House B and used the name Tiny House B Location 1 when the dialog appeared. I'm ready to return to work on my Tiny House A design. I clicked Save so I can close the Master Site project. The following dialog appears twice, once for Tiny House A and the second time for B. This is confirming that I want to commit the location and shared coordinate changes I made while using Publish Coordinates. I clicked Save each time (2x), the top option in the list.

It is necessary to make sure others are not working on the Tiny House A or B now. The Save will fail if someone is working on them. Just ask them to close the project for a minute. When worksharing is involved the same is true but it is a bit more forgiving. Either way, if an error message appears you need to ask others to stop working on these files briefly; they need to Save and close them. Once my Save is completed they can get back to work.
When I open Tiny House A I find that the Site plan is oriented to True North. I changed the Orientation parameter to True North earlier (noted in the image at the beginning). All plan views in the stock templates are assigned to Project North, including the Site view. Changing it meant that I'd see the results of using Publish Coordinates immediately, or at least as soon as I bother to open the Site view. The reality of this is that the project is NOT altered materially, no physical change to any geometry, it is just oriented correctly based on my actions in Master Site. This trivializes the task of re-positioning a building on site, if that becomes necessary.

Taking things a little further, each Level type has a Type Parameter called Elevation Base. It can be assigned to either Project Base Point or Survey Point. When I change this to Survey Point I find that the levels are reporting elevation values based on how much I raised Tiny House A in the Master Site file.

Now I've decided I want to be able to see Tiny House B here too, for context, but while working on Tiny House A. I linked Tiny House B into Tiny House A using positioning: Auto - By Shared Coordinates. This is possible because I used Publish Coordinates, from within Master Site, on both Tiny House A and B. Their shared understanding of their position in Master Site makes it possible to link either file into the other using Auto - By Shared Coordinates and they land in the correct spot relative to each other.

I can also link Master Site into either Tiny House A or B and use Auto - By Shared Coordinates too. They all understand their relationship to each other because of Publish Coordinates and the work I did in Master Site to put them into the proper context with each other. Here is Tiny House A, with Tiny House B linked in. I also created a Toposurface and Building Pads for each house in the Master Site file, then I returned to Tiny House A so I could link Master Site in using Auto - By Shared Coordinates as well.

A Few Notes
  • Master Site is in CHARGE of positioning
  • Only move models in Master Site
  • Do not move linked models when viewed in other related project files
  • Acquire Coordinates created the relationship between Survey and Master Site
  • Publish Coordinates created the relationship between Master Site and Tiny House A and B
  • Respect this order and it is easy to maintain
  • It is technically possible to manipulate the relationship in either direction, DON'T.
  • You must Resist the temptation!

Multi-Discipline Comments:
  • Trades link the Tiny House A and B models into their projects using Auto - Origin to Origin, nothing else.
  • Do NOT start work without a preliminary model of the Tiny House. If you do, be prepared to move your work into alignment manually.
  • It is only necessary to use Acquire Coordinates on Tiny House A or B (whichever house you are designing for in your project file)
  • It is only necessary to use Acquire Coordinates IF there IS an expectation that your data must align in 3rd party software like Navisworks
  • The Tiny House projects will link your models using Auto - Origin to Origin too