Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Revit and Office workflow... And office hardships.

This post isn't a glamorous one to write about. There aren't many pretty pictures, and there isn't much philosophy about the Revit content and methodology that we've come to enjoy, on the many many many Revit blogs that are now in circulation.

If you've been here before, you've noticed that i haven't written here in many months. It isn't lack of wanting, or lack of content, so much as it is a different form of hardship with the subject at hand: frustration and confusion.

I got on board with revit exactly 2.5 years ago. I was an ArchiCAD user in a 2 man firm, a Vectoworks user in a 4 man firm, a Digital project user on a 15 person team, and an AutoCAD user in an office of 30. Only in the firm on DP did a similar issue come up, as the one I've been faced with, in a Revit office: Suddenly, strategy matters. (To be fair, it didnt matter in the other firms because we were always isolated in projects...)

Let us take the following example for a minute: A section of "glass block wall". How would you model it? (I anticipated pictures for this point, bit i digress... this entry will be for the hardcore geeks only, no pictures.) I can think of a number of ways to model a portion of glass block wall, i guess it goes back to what do you consider a glass block wall to be?

1. Wall with surface pattern. (it is, after all... a wall)
2. Curtain Wall/System with panels of glass block
3. Window family that has pieces in it for Glass block (perhaps in a parametric array)
3a. NESTED Blocks (families) in a window family
4. Line Based family with a nested array or family (James and i love L.B. Families...)
5. And my absolute favorite (kidding...) an IN PLACE FAMILY, lol.

My point is, very different methods. This got me to thinking: How much does Revit help us, and when does it hold us back? I found the moment i started using this software, that i personally, could do a better job, while i was using it. As long as it wasn't tripping me up (i was lucky, it wasn't) i was free to produce more, produce better, and get more wow results in the process.

Then the "in-fighting" started. In my quest for Revit streamlining and wanting to make a large group of people efficient, there was a sudden and unexpected struggle for power over controlling methodologies. Where i wanted to reign with what we call "Container files" (nothing more than a file loaded as group with a Model group of standard partitions and an embedded detail group of the "partition schedule") some of the "old school" crew wanted to reign with a simple drafting view with lines and text (manually coordinated with the type mark values and construction assemblies of the wall types), as the partition schedule.

Where i wanted to reign with a minimalist and *additive* project template (an argument i will continue to fight to the death), they wanted to reign with every wall type and door type known to man embedded in our project template.

And then there is the Glass Block. And the family content. And the tags. When is it text? When is it a smart Material Tag? Or Tag By Catagory?

My question is not about methods, which are right and wrong. Its not even about who makes those decisions: Yes Dan, i concede... we need a Revit manager. No, my question is about: What do you do, when something as small as Revit (a tool only, after all) can actually divide a group of users in an office? Those of us that believe we are correct in our theories and methodologies, are always willing to have constructive conversations about pros and cons of each method (willing to explain to the head chiefs why minimalist and additive is better, and willing to listen to Dan telling me 3D curved furniture is bad, mmmkay?) but there does come a point, when its just no longer worth the argument.


I do architecture. You do architecture. While we wax poetic about the importance of the tool, and how much it CAN change our work, and make us more efficient.... At the end of the day, it is not the end product. It is the means to a Building, and the success of that building will be judged on its own merits. But as a passionate Reviteer, are we to throw up our hands and resign to the fact that it wont be done correctly?

Fatalistic as the question sounds, i put to you this: (And id LOVE to hear your answers, please!) Where do you draw the line ,on how much of this you will fight for? Successful architecture notwithstanding, how hard would you fight to see it done the right way?


Anonymous said...

So what did your office finally settle on?

Malleristic-Revitation said...

On which issue? It's irrelevant, I suppose. Hiring a BIM manager or revit manager would eliminate any ambiguity on any and all issues. But my underlying question is still not one of methods and tips... It's how hard, and for how long would you plead your case before you gave up?

Dave Baldacchino said...

Outstanding post Aaron. Here's my take...

I'm a VERY passionate guy. I blow the top off sometimes, I raise my voice, I use my hands to talk and try to get a point across (no, I don't throw sample bricks across the table or smack people on the head) and I have to try hard to not take it personally. I DO take it personally because I'm passionate. Anyone that has low blood pressure and an "I don't really care" attitude cannot relate ;)

However I'm also getting to the point where, for health and relationship reasons, I have to "sharpen" my approach. First, it's never going to be perfect. If teams have a logical reason why they want to do something a certain way, then it's fine with me. I tell them exactly WHY it should be done how I'm suggesting and if they choose another route, I'll "let go". If things go wrong, I then reserve the right to do the I-Told-You-So routine.

For example our structural group in our office wants to use worksets to control visibility of what's a roof beam and what's not (basically, a layering technique from the good old days). Why? Because they don't understand (nor want to make the effort) to understand how view range works in conjunction with plan regions. I can and will explain how it SHOULD be done, however it's up to them to implement and follow through with a certain technique. If they don't want to get on with the program, I really can't lose sleep over it. There was a time where I would get worked up, but I'm learning a different technique. It's simply how my father used to teach me things..."Dave, don't touch the oven 'cause it's hot and you'll get burned". As a little kid I'd get close to it and say "ahhh" (expression of pain) almost as if to challenge him. So one day he just pushed my hand and man, it burned (thank God I was raised outsude the US or he could have been jailed for child abuse haha). But man, did I learn my lesson! So I'm trying similar techniques by letting teams discover on their own...I lay out the facts and recommendations and they either take it or not. Think of yourself as a're getting paid for the advice, but it's up to them to do something with it.

It's not easy to do this, but I found you feel more peacful approaching it this way. Perhaps 90% of the time, in your heart you'll be saying "I told you so", but there will be a small percentage where your premise actually turns out to not be so important as you initially thought, so you just learn from that experience and move on to bigger and better things. Sorry for the long comment :)

Malleristic-Revitation said...

Please dont apologize for the long comment! Thats exactly what i wanted to know... When to let go.

I do the same thing (or try to), by telling them the how and why, and then saying "you dont have to listen, but if it gets ugly i wont be able to do much on the back end to help..." to which they relpy *yuore not being a team player...*

Trouble is, when things DO go wrong, they look to me to fix it, which is tough on me.

Much like you, for health and sanity reasons, im considering getting out of my *unofficial advisory role* and just sticking with architecture, and doing my part to get drawings out, because the stress of office in fighting is killing me. But im GLAD to know im not the only one who faces this...

BTW, on a technical note, if i see ONE more project use Worksets for Visibility control, for anything besides superfluous modeling links, etc, im going to FREAK OUT!

Groadrunner said...

So I'm sitting here trying to pound my way in to AU registartation and I thought I'd check up on the blogs while I have some time blocked out. Since you hadn't posted in a while I figured you got frustrated and up and left for some longhorn Texas firm.
Your frustrations are global, but you have every right to stick to your guns. If there is an official BIM Management role, that person has to democratically find a process that works best for the company and help make it happen. The problem is that you have to unofficially provide assistance to those making poor decisions.
This seems to be the same dilemma that caused most CAD Managers to take on their positions instead of pursuing engineering or architecture further in their typical roles. You'll likely have to decide whether or not to be an official manager. If you try to do both, you're sure to go insane like the rest of us.

I agree with you to keep standards simplistic and add more specifics on a project or group basis. Simplicity is always the key to success.

Joe Soliz said...

Fantastic post and comments! Thanks.

Joe Soliz said...

Fantastic post and comments!

Malleristic-Revitation said...


I agree with most of what you said, except i look at the BIM manager theory a little differently. Sadly, in an UNofficial position, i have to look at issues democratically, and try to CONVINCE people of correct methodology, since i have no official authority to make those methods standard.

Hiring a BIM manager creates a hierarchy, where a standard IS set and implemented, without being disregarded or contested by the uneducated or otherwise uninformed but falsely confident.

But i think were getting at the same thing, lol...

Anonymous said...

Hey Aaron - great post! You are not alone in your fight. Take some of the advice of the more experienced and let some things go, it is better for your overall health. I have been at this for almost 12 years and have made great strides in my office towards the "right way" of doing things but I often look back and see it has cost me more than it was worth in some cases. The "other" people are still doing things the "wrong way" and only adapt when forced to do so. Not everyone can get it even if it is explained and illustrated and even done for them right before their eyes. 20 minutes later they are back to their old ways.

The "right way" mentality can cause some serious problems in an office and in one's own personal life. You only get so much time in life. I have been down the road of being asked to finish up some work that someone else started only to find things drawn so poorly that I found it hard to complete the task. Unfortunately I found myself down the road of recreating the files in a more efficient way and completing the task. I did all of this on my own time of course and the only person who knows the difference is me. Well that is until you get to the next project and you realize you can grab everything that I recreated and use it efficiently and effectively. I have digressed a bit.

Just keep fighting for the "right way". Not everyone will agree and sometimes you need to try and look at it from another perspective - most people see the "right way" (speaking of technology and architecture) as more complex and just can't grasp the concepts. I don't want to sound like an elitist but some people just don't grasp technology and architecture very well. I can give you so many examples of people that have been and are in the my current office that just draw so simplified and use the same basic tools and methodologies that they learned in CAD101. They never dig in or push and see what else lies beneath - it drives me crazy so I just do it for them and then try and teach them a better way. And then it is up to them to implement.

Thanks for your time - good luck with your new job

Syracuse, NY

Malleristic-Revitation said...

Hey Jared-

Good to hear from you too! Im very happy to hear (again) that im not the only one fighting that battle.

It seems the same characters exist at every new office you venture too, and i suppose thats how it will always be.

*AMAZING* will be the day 5 or 6 of us who agree on the right way get together, and open up shop together.

Slightly off topic- I met with a principal of a firm out of Syracuse this week, and i swear, he had a line just like mine: "We want to hire the rock stars of the profession!"

Imagine if we were all under one roof... Surely wed set the place on fire :)

Anonymous said...

If we were all at the same office we would probably start setting each other on fire :-)) I think we are intentionally kept apart for the sake of the universe or something along those lines. I have only once had someone in our office that did things the right way and always went through the trouble to do so. He left a number of years ago but I made sure to soak up everything before he did. He was a great influence on my pursuit of architecture. So how is the new job? I heard you went to smaller firm, must be different from DP. Have a good one.

Thanks for listening, Jared

fishandchips said...

Nice to stumble across such a great blog. As an MEP cad manager of ten years or so, I got a lot out of this thread. To keep my sanity in my quest to wean dinosaurs off of one wg file with multiple layouts and into Architectural desktops project navigator, I used to find myself reciting the Carpenter and the Walrus under my breath.....
I feel your pain.