Thursday, May 31, 2007

Revit in Academia: Take 2

Another local architect and myself (both adament Reviteers) have been trying to persuade a School of Architecture to introduce Revit to the student body, as part of the curriculum. I remember the (not too long ago) CAD class i took at UB, with AutoCAD Polyline extrusions, exporting to Max, and rendering... A lot of work for just an image, nevermind intelligent data. At first whisper of it, the Schools we approached were (sadly) not extremely enthused about the idea, to say the least. Understandbaly so, as it may appear that we were two people wishing to promote our software of choice in a University setting. The letter below is a correspondence i sent back to the university, hoping to pursuade them. As ive said in the past, for me its not just about more intelligent Construction documents, i believe we can change the way work gets done in the field, and i think the first thing necessary for us to do is spread the word. Here is the primarily unedited (my email didnt like copy to clipboard, so the spacing of words had to be fixed) communique:

I know this corresponence is lengthy (and believe me, this is the edited version!) but i would greatly appreciate it if you could spare me a few minutes of your day.

In recent years, I have had the pleasure of working with many graduates from the Syracuse University's School of Architecture. Since relocating back to the CNY area almost 2 years ago, I've been immersed with many of your graduates, as they educate me through the early years of my career in architecture.

Having graduated in 2005 from the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture, my time in the field thus far has opened many doors, affording me the capabilities to work with a myriad of new technologies that have asserted themselves as placements in theArchitectural industry. I have been working with Dal Pos Architects,working on advancing our use of the Building Information Model throughout the architectural process. Through my exciting travels at DPA, I met (remaining nameless here), an Architect who shares my passion for the changes that Revit can bring to the field of architecture.

These changes are best described in Stephen Kieran's and James Timberlake's Refabricating Architecture. (Find it here)

They delve in to a process where:

Architects are no longer limited to the fragmentary representation of physical ideas; we can now fully pre-form them. This composite understanding of architecture before it actually becomes substance offers a deep understanding of the elements of architecture that affect our daily lives. Refabricating architecture leads towards a new humanism. (Kieran and Timberlake xii)

While their book speaks of the specifics as related to the manufacturing industry, their point is driven home in the comparison they make of modern architects and architecture, to that of Brunelleschi and St Maria del Fiore: "The master builder was a person who combined the roles of architects, builder, engineer, and scientist... Brunelleschi was such a man." In a chapter-long diatribe about the current state of affairs, they go on to discuss how our current industry trend to try catching up to more advanced industries have removed the architects from many of the decision making roles, proclaiming that there is an "art vs.commodity" battle taking place, where commodity is the ease of interoperabilitybetween all of those involved in the AEC industry, and where we (as DESIGNERS, as architects) have the disconnect with the rest of the industry, because of our antiquated methodologies.

It is my contention, that (while only a tool to communicate design intent and design iteration) THIS is where the capabilities of a software like Revit can put architects and designers as a whole back into their roles as Master Builders. With the capability to accurately convey the roughest design iteration to everyone involved in the process, Revit puts the Master Builder in the middle of the entire driving force that creates architecture, making US the translators(not only of OUR designs), but of everyone else who's designs will come to interact with ours. When the simplest of forms and designs can start generating intelligent data, which can then drive our consultants and collegues to make educated decisions WITH us rather than AGAINST us, our collaborated final product can achieve a higher degree of closeness to our original intent. Software as a whole is generally seen as a tool of efficiency, of production, and of profit. While Revit may be these things, I have seen its potential to communicate, and to inherently break down a wall that I personally believe exists between designers and clients: That wall being an education we have received to visualize and conceptualize a space, while trying to communicate it to an individual without those capabilities.

It is for the above listed reasons, why I have a great passion for seeing Revit make it in to a Higher Education's program in a School of Architecture. I have (enthusiastically) discussed this with (name of other enthusiastic Reviteer), and I have told her that I would be willing to teach such a class, if such an opportunity were to be made available and if the students were to display interest. I am aware that Syracuse University has the seats of Revit licenses available, and that some of your gifted students are already using it for some of their projects. (I have also had the joy to work with a few of them already, and see some of the magic they have made with it!)

I would love to see this come to fruition at the University. If nothing else, I implore you to put it to the student body. I would be more than willing to bring a presentation and a short lecture (an hour or so) on its effects in the DESIGN profession, (and not just the production profession) to the university, so that the students could get a feel for what kind of class we could theoretically give to them. Iwould love to hear back from you, if such a presentation and/or such a class would be of any interest to you. Please feel free to contact me at anytime regarding this matter.

Im happy to say that shortly after distributing varying copies of this letter to a few universities (honest variations, i havent worked with students from all the schools, so i had to edit it, lol...) we actually had a bit of positive feedback! The professor at the School of Architecture is interested in sitting down to discuss a potential class, and a professor from the school of Engineering has said he would attend as well, if it would be beneficial. I think it would be GREAT to get the students to do one assignment with collaborating somehow... The School of E here uses RISA-3D... All in all, it may end up never coming to fruition, but im happy about it. At least tonight i know we tried, and at least a couple of people will listen. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Revit Plan vs RCP Visibility... Do you want both?

Another short note i sent in using the Product Feedback page at:

I may be the only one wishing for this, but its something that seems (in my very limited knowledge) easy to accomplish.

The Visibility conditions for geometry in families-

Plan/RCP when cut

These all work very well, but Plan and RCP would be much better if they were separated. Often times i build items that i would like to see in the RCP, but not in the Floor plan (Light sconces, some generic models, Louvered awnings over doors, etc.) and i am not able to, unless by chance the item is cut by the cut-plane of the RCP.
Then i have to spend a few hours explaining these shortcomings to the Project managers, haha.
Also, i have a door with transom windows, and because of the transom it is cut by both plan and RCP. This makes the symbolic lines for the door swing show up on the RCP as well. Now, i can go in to VG and disable them, but with 6-8 RCP's in the project (plus enlarged) this sometimes takes a large amount of time. Also, i may not want the frames and such to show. If there Plan and RCP boxes were separate, i could affront this much easier in the family editor during content creation.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Revit, Random, and different platforms...

One thing i always "ASSumed" about 3D modeling and Consultant Coordination, was that in some way shape or form, everyone would "see" your model, and could derive object locations based on it. So when i heard that (for some reason), we had to provide actual coordinates for a floor opening that is (somewhat) random in design, i was curious. "Aren't they working with our model overlayed?" "Well yes, but..."

I digress. Its not the point anyway. A couple of people in the office began wondering how an object in Revit would report coordinates relative to a structural grid. Granted, the Spot Dim. tool reports coordinates, but our structural grid was not aligned with the coordinate system (and we couldn't adjust, there was another coord. system, etc...) So anyway...

My solution was a simple one, its been done many times. We use Parameters to Drive geometry, so i thought id just reverse engineer a family, so the geometry could drive the Parameters, giving a dimension. Its NOT a 100% intelligent tool, and its certainly not "user-proof," but i don't believe we'll ever be "User proof" :-)

All the family entailed, was two Crosshairs, which i just made from Specialty Equipment Families to be consistent. (The whole assembly is a Spec. Equip. family so it can be scheduled...) In any event, the Distance Parameters have to be shared, obviously... That way they can be reported in a schedule.
Where its UNintelligent, is in the smaller crosshair. Ideally, we could intelligently have it report where it lies, but i dont know of a way to accomplish this. So the accuracy of this tool rests in someone aligning the smaller crosshair to a common "origin" from which to report. With Revit's Multiple Alignment tool, this takes about two seconds. :) The DIMS go to the reference planes, which the Crosshair is locked to. In the project, this gives us pull tabs, which are great for this application.
For ease of use, i prefer to insert them and copy them around so they're already on the "random" points i need coordinates for. You can put them on the "origin" first, and stretch/align them, but then you have a number of points in different locations to deal with. Since they're all connected to the same Critical Origin, i like to get the random points out of the way when i drop them in. Then i can multiple align to the "origin". (I'm using the term in quotes because its not an origin, its just a base point... Just wanted to clarify). the little "legs" hanging out in space are what need to be aligned to a common point. Because of the pull tabs, you can literally just "align" with the Crosshair.

There are the pull tabs, if you choose to go that route... I prefer the align tool for this application, but i can see why it may not be ideal. The align tool is tough if your object isn't parallel with the Crosshair, so i was using a Component that was just an empty crosshair, that i placed on all the Floor Edges ahead of time. Again, not a perfect solution, as it requires of you to accurately pick the points to be located and scheduled.

I think a better solution could be had of those Spot Coordinates... I don't believe we can schedule them, but if we could... Wow, that could go places. Calculated values accounting for the grid orientation shift and/or the "origin" in use... And it would all stay live... BUT, you'd still have to clock the points. So I'm not sure its possible to eliminate us from the game. I guess we all get to keep our jobs today. :) So anyway, i put a bunch of them in, and did the multiple align to the two grids I'm using as my Benchmark.

I have to admit... After a few years at UB doing Ink on Mylar of obscure objects, part of me wanted to print this... for no practical use. But alas, save a tree, hit Print Screen, lol.

Those are all the markers after having the crosshair aligned to the "origin." About ten minutes of work, then i tagged them. That took a while, because we cant specify in the family, WHERE the tag goes in, so it defaults to the center of the family... Which makes me cry in this instance. I had to move the tags, which also is a liability in the fidelity of the model... But, since the coordinates and the schedule will always be right, its a visual mis-cue, if anything.

In the family, i put in a Visibility Parameter for the Connecting Line, so i could shut them off in the end. Here are the markers, with the lines disabled. Pretty simple, really.

Here's the schedule with the values reported. Some of them are horrible numbers (Rays rule for precision...), but that's what it actually is, right? Id like to play around with something similar in principle, but much bigger in design. Maybe take something like one of the Morphosis Buildings, and try breaking it down.
Gehry Tech.'s Digital Project is great at documenting complex relationships, where structure is based on form, which is based on some mathematical algorithm... But one has to wonder: What happens in a case like this, where someone ELSE'S software, that DOESN'T read the formulas, needs values for location off something like that? I liked this exercise for that reason alone... Its easy to say CAD standards are heading by the way side, and Schedules are live, and information now has to be displayed and conveyed in a fashion that doesn't compromise the integrity of our models... But with ArchiCAD, Revit, DP, RISA3D, Solidworks, and on and on and on... There is obviously a communication breakdown, save for things like IFC (which i know little about at this point). So what do we have to look forward to, in terms of breaking down information in to values everyone can appreciate? Because at the end of the day, I'm betting that a gorgeous 3D model isn't turning in to a building unless the Structural guy knows where to put the Steel. :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bentley Architecture?

I haven't gotten a chance to even DL the trial yet, but I'm going to. Its based on Microstation, i suppose, since you must have the latter to try out the former. Ive never used either, but in the spirit of staying Objective about Revit I'm going to Download it this weekend.

Granted, i haven't spent a great deal of time with the various platforms I've used... But I've used a few, and i prefer it that way. So far I've been the happiest and most successful with Revit, for a number of reasons. Yet, having been down other roads always offers perspective, and from it, appreciation for the things we have. :)

Anyone try Bentley Architecture yet?

Additive Information... And the Human Implication.

I'm working on an Egress Plan on Revit, and awhile back i took my best shot at automating it. For this particular job, we are taking the SF, calling 90 percent sales, 10 percent stock, and calculating the number of exits based on number of occupants, based on the SF.

Now, it was fairly simple to do, until i decided i wanted a check in place in case i didn't have the correct number of exits. This wasn't difficult, more than irritating to set up. And in the end, while it works, every person must now know how it works: Exit tags by doors are really Area Tags, that way the value of Door Capacity can be a property of the Area. This lets a string of formulas and calculated values all stem from the area of the "Area", which works nicely.

There is a schedule on our drawing sheet, that only shows up if some of the values are not correct, warning you to go to your automated schedule to check the exits and such. This was a great idea i got from Steve Stafford. (Works great Steve!).

This method hasn't let me down yet, unless.... I simply never define an "Area." Maybe there is a space that was "Area 2c03", but somewhere along the way it got bisected by a demise wall, and the origin for said Area is on one half. Well, if i never place an "Area" entity in the other half, all of the calculations are moot, yes? Depending on what platform you work in (I'm in Revit obviously, but that isn't the point of this post) there may be options, depending on how different platforms work. Ours treats Areas and Rooms as objects, and they have to be placed.

This instance aside, it got me thinking about the subject of Object Omission: BIM, 3D modeling, Live scheduling, yadda yadda... They do wonderful things for us. But along the same lines of garbage in garbage out, what happens when its NOTHING in = ________ out?

I'm not sure its far off, but i DO wonder: With everything that used to be done longhand, and everything that isn't now, when is the time coming when smarter programs like Revit can tell us when we completely forget something? Already, if you try to fill out an application online, and you miss a text field, they will not let you proceed. I could see us building enough intelligence in to a program like Revit that it knows you've...

*placed the components to establish a space.... But you didn't include a way in. (How DO you get in those rooms we model and forget doors? LOL)

*Defined a space with geometry, but never with a "space" object (Room, area, etc...)

I know there are already Programming Programs (haha) out there... Trilligence Affinity comes to mind... That can establish the "Space objects" and criteria ahead of time, before the geometry takes form... Is this the start of a program that can warn us when we simply forget to complete something? I'm very interested to see... So far we've been able to schedule everything, and calculate anything.... But we cant do much with nothing, can we? Share your thoughts...