Saturday, October 25, 2008

Revit Freelancers, beware!

I debated putting this on the blog, as i like my blog to not be polluted with personal issues. BUT, i pride myself on "doing the right thing," and i would feel bad if any of you who work from home ended up in this situation too. Luckily, for me Reviteering at home is a side thing of passion, and its not what pays the mortgage.

Its not uncommon for us on AUGI to ask one another for help, and sometimes, people are actually seeking contractual work. In one such instance, there was a Rendering task that needed to be done in SHORT order... (2 days from first contact.) Naturally, not much time to hammer out an actual written contract. That DOES make this predicament my own fault, and rest assured i take full blame for it. But naively, wanting to help a fellow AUGI poster, and wanting to satisfy another end-client that Revit IS the way to do architecture, i put my nose on the grindstone, and hammered out the work. Thankfully, i only invested about twenty hours, during which times 78 emails passed back and forth between myself and the client (which i have saved, email me if you feel this post is inappropriate, and ill be happy to share them as a statement of fact so this post cannot be construed as only one side of the story), and about 25 phone calls. There were several progress updates, and several updates in terms of how much compensation was owed. (Again) naively, i was willing to transmit final images in good faith, as i know how some time sensitive jobs can be, with regard to winning over investors, etc.

Suddenly though, the end client has gone missing, or unresponsive to communication. I have made several attempts to establish communication with him, and in one successful attempt he even mentioned having me do MORE work, but was not forthcoming when i mentioned i liked to settle old business before new.

In any event, i would feel terrible for NOT writing this, if i ignored it and the same thing happened to one of you. So Freelancers beware, here is the contact information, in case he solicits work from you:

Name: Lee McKinney
City: St Louis, MO.
Email address: (the account states the name of Chandis McKinney)
MSN Contact:
Project: 514 W. Diversey Ave
Cell Phone number: 773-497-9789

Freelancers beware!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Copy Monitor- How i love thee, but how i loathe thee.

* thanks to David B. for bringing this one up. Because while i could be relaxing, everyone knows the right way to spend an evening is arguing over the pro's/cons of Copy Monitor, LOL!

One of the great things about exploring tools in Revit, is coming up with new ways to change your processes. Amongst everyone i talk to, Copy Monitor is a pretty hated tool. I think it has immense capabilities (not that anyone argues that), but it certain has its shortcomings. This one, however, i hadn't thought about until i gave it a whirl last night while David and i were chatting about it.

Let us suppose: Project 1, with a few "openings" in a wall. One, an actual Opening. A pair of Single Doors: They are the same family. The family has a Nested Light fixture constrained to the wall, with a visibility parameter that is type driven. Also, a pair of double doors, in the same configuration.

Now, i preface this issue with the following: I don't believe in the *super door family* theory of having every possible combination built in to one door family, with super adjustable frames, panels, sidelights, etc. BUT, that said: Lights above doors are a PERFECT procedural reason for nesting a family. Why? If they're lights for exiting safely, they WILL go above the doors. Why manually chase moving doors through design iterations, with the align tool in elevations snapping light fixtures, when a simple nested light fixture can save you the hassle in one click? Precisely. Now suppose, this file was sent to your Structural Engineer, as this was a Bearing Concrete wall. they will Copy Monitor, to maintain consistency and coordination in both location, length, openings, etc. And CM even has that radio button in the options for walls, to "copy doors/windows/openings," right?

As they proceed, the end result is pictured at left. What appears to be happening, is for the CM feature, it is seeking out the
EXTENTS of the family, instead of the Opening of the family. MORE concerning, is that it is also doing it for Family Types that have the light OFF. As Revit is
WYSIWYG, this is MOST surprising. Until
noticing that, my suggested workaround WAS going to be edit the Family Type, uncheck the box, send to Structural, recheck the box. Not clean, but sufficient. Now, if you built your doors as SEPARATE families, instead of the type parameter for the light, you can do a Family Reload, and select a door with no extraneous items.... But that makes QC difficult, what with Dimension references being eliminated with inconsistancies in families. Not to mention if a door you switch it with has a slightly different origin configuration... Certainly that wont work!

I wanted to verify that it was checking total extents, and that it wasn't an anomaly with the nested family, so i added a few model lines to the Door family, and reloaded, then performed the coordination review in the other project...

Getting back to my first paragraph, I'm finding there isn't much this program cant do. CM is a tool that can help a great deal of trades, and lately I've been appreciating it for Architectural/Interiors collaboration. As an architect, i may want a 4-7/8" wall with gyp on both sides, and end of story. As i build my walls that way, my Interior Designer may want to explore paint patterns or additional materials on top of that wall. For add's, that's fine... They build their own wall and we call it a day. But for painting/wallpapering/finishing? This is a great situation where their CM rules can be set to turn a 4-7/8" wall in to a 3-5/8" stud (wall) and they can then layer they're own version of gyp (replete with different paint or finishes) and be done with it. Could i build just a 3-5/8 in my model, and let them cover the walls in theirs? Sure, but what about tagging/Partition scheduling, and again... How to assert that both parties are content with the QC of their product? Its an issue CM could EASILY rectify... But what if that door has Accessibility signage on the side of it, or room signage? Certainly, this is one thing that needs to get fixed!

While were on the subject, we NEED "Rule Based Copy Monitor." CM works great, if i lay out grids, and send them to Struct, and then move them or delete them. What if i add a grid? its another instance of "you don't know what you don't know" to quote JAB. They have to TELL it to CM, which means if i drop the ball and don't tell them, they aren't CM'ing that grid. Or toilet. Or column.

If I'm MEP, you know what i want? To open my file, after getting a new Arch. Model, and to get a coordination review alert, because Architect ADDED 4 lavs to the men's room. Now i know to get in that area. It could be very similar to what we have now, with a few more radio buttons. Under additional Copy Parameters, it could say "Copy ALL Grids" "Copy ALL Toilets" etc.
Furthermore, you know what would be sweet? I way to Monitor the ENTIRE model. I mean, yeah... we have "Compare Models," but think of it this way: My structural Engineers model is already IN my model. Quick issue in the field, and we start revising drawings. Maybe it was structural first, so they revise and resend a model. CM will tell us what moved... If it was something to CM. But imagine CM's potential in terms of document tracking! I go to open my file after the new struct arrives, and because I've "issued" my permit set, and they have too, i get a "Coordination Revit Alert- Items in instance of link have changed after issuance." I go to a 3D view where "Project completion" is showing everything halftoned, besides the three beams, 6 columns and footings, and 4 pieces of bracing that just changed.
Man, i can dream i guess. :) LMK what you think on the CM issues though. Maybe I'm NOT the only one who secretly loves this tool!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

AU 2008- Vegas! (Unconference Topics?)

Having covered everything in my LAST post, i did not think AU08 was going to happen for me. I really enjoyed 07 and 06 (though 07 happened at a terrible time, so my mind wasn't completely in the game), and i was a bit disenchanted that all of the circumstances would basically mean not participating in AU this year. (After all, who would you ask? The boss you just stopped working for? Or the one who just hired you? LOL)

But MUCH to my surprise, an opportunity to attend made itself known to me, in the form of some generosity from another believer of what i like to call "Revit hippyness." Sooooo, that being said, i will see you all in Vegas this year!

Which brings up AU Unconference. Last year, i found these to be some of the most enlightening and entertaining parts of the entire week. I am hoping then end up as such this year too! I'm contemplating putting a few topics in, but as I'm a latecomer this year, i haven't even looked to see if they're all picked already or not.
But this year (as i read so many others have done) ill be sure to stick my "avatar" in my badge, so I'm easier to identify.
Lets talk shop!

Revit Semantics, AND a job change!

I discovered something in Revit tonight, when a colleague asked me a question about a specific command, and then i realized i hadn't been here in some time. More so, i realized that my last couple of posts here have all said that i would come back to expand on them, and that i never had. It hasn't been lack of wanting, but in both Revit and Architecture: it has been a long few months.

It started with the tool of Revit, but it didn't end there. Still, in my first post here i indicated this would be more on the journey as i perceived it using Revit, and less of a "how to" in using the tool. There are far smarter people than me to teach you all. :) What transpired isn't all tool related, but since Revit began the journey: Here is my story.

A funny thing happens when you start to use Revit. Well, i digress. If you're using it the way *I* think it should be used, something interesting happens: You either fail, or you learn how things get built. You cant model correctly if you don't know what you're modeling. So, being fairly green in the profession, i asked a TON of questions, and learned rather fast. As the knowledge started to grow (due MAINLY to the two men i worked directly under, who were fantastic for my career growth. Thanks NCG and DEC!) i started to be able to move on my own. I learned the ARCHITECTURE.

As YOU all know, aside from THAT venture, once you start to progress your architecture, you start to see shortcomings in the organizational structure of your REVIT... Maybe in your revit strategy. You modify, you refine, you progress the PROCESS, WHILE you progress the architecture.

You realize you need conventions where your office has none, you need instructions where your office has none. You start to use tools, and that means teaching. You start to brainstorm with collegues, and that means testing. You guys are figuring things out, and talking to the people in charge. There are more meetings, there is more implementation, and on it goes.

But after a while, something interesting happened. I had learned enough from my superiors to move ahead, and help them do more... And on the Revit side, i had started pushing the office pretty hard. I was teaching them more tools, wanting more from the model. The client wanted more from the model, and i knew we could do it... But, as you ALL know, not everyone shares that dream.

Suddenly, something else started creeping in to the workplace: Resentment. Bullying. Sabotage. Infantile, maybe, but after a while we tire of the fight. For a long while i tried holding on to my somewhat advanced position in both architecture AND Revit, but there was a time when i knew it was detrimental to my mental well being to remain.

For a short while, as i considered a job change, it looked very much like i may have been throwing in the Revit Towel, as jobs in the area aren't aplenty using Revit, and with my house purchase and general state of content in the area, I'm not keen on moving. I'm not done here.... YET.

But i lucked out, and have transitioned to another Revit house. I am learning as i go that "Everywhere you go, there you are..." and that every day is a different fight. What i do know is this: I love this tool, and more than that i love doing Architecture. the new gig aside, there are some other things in the works that will hopefully assure that i ALWAYS stay involved in Revit and Architecture... So we will see.

For now, ill let go of my more frustrated tone, and hope to get back in to the geekishly interesting!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Post to come... But i want your thoughts FIRST: "Non Value Adding..."

Building on the subject of the last post i made, here is a great one to discuss:

Who/What is determining what "elements and/or drawing techniques" are "Value adding" versus "non value adding."

How much are we conceding efficiency for the sake of what traditional standards say something should be represented as, and how much are we changing our standards as new methodologies (model centric environment) come in to play?

A few brief examples to discuss (and ill come back with pics later....)

Phasing: 45 degree doors
Lineweights in elevations
Structure Visibilty
Symbology & note blocks...

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?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Revit, Linking, Scalability, and Nuclear Families (not the Revit kind...)

Not in the sense of a family, anyway. :)
So by now, everyone has read the press release on features coming in Revit 2009. I'm happy to say i've had the opportunity to play with it a bit, but rather than cover features already covered, id rather wax philosophical on what ONE of the features might mean. I say MIGHT, because this post was coming before i found the feature, because for me... It is a necessity. There are a lot of plusses, RE: revit and scalability. There are some Negs too. Ill try to point them out as i go.

(I may break this up in to several posts over the week, as there is a lot i personally want to cover on the subject of Revit, large projects, and linking.)
Background: Revit, being a large database of objects, is capable of fantastic feats of documentation. In one model, of a 230,000 SF facility, we have 2 sets of full Construction Docs (with two demolition packages), about 60 sets of leasing package documents (6 sheets each), and as many working views and worksets as we felt was necessary to break it apart.
Problem being, a 280 MB file is still 280MB's, and its still slower than all hell on some of our lesser workstations. Even opening with specify worksets, and only turning on pertinent Bldg locations, its slooooooow. File linking presented an opportunity to skirt the issue.

On my current project, we were heading for links, regardless of the 2009 features. At roughly 540k Square Ft, with the amount of documentation we do, it just wasn't appropriate for one file and worksetting. Especially considering the campus style set up seen at left.
My original plan was to meticulously outline the project necessities, and have the pertinent documentation for each building in that buildings files, with the Generic Documentation in a "main" file. This was necessary, circa RAC08, as there was no clean way to document Wall Sections for a linked Building.


1. Edit Cut Profile doesn't work with linked elements.

2. Tags do not work with linked elements (Category or Material)

Regardless of the above two, even if they did, since we had to go in the links to edit the geometry, it only made sense to Document there. BUT, then i read the Press release, and discovered that LINKED VIEWS were now available for wall sections and elevations. (Positive Item 1) At right, a Plan with Linked View, which we've had in previous releases. Document your plan in the link, and in the VG dialogue of the "parent" file, set the "child" file to "By linked view" and select the view you annotated in the link.

Now that i heard i could do this with my sections and my elevations, i put on my Pinky and the Brain even sinister smile, and got in to it. So i hashed it out, and it DOES work every bit as great as it should, in my humble opinion. Now, there ARE some shortcomings, but they are completely subjective, as many people may not WANT revit to behave in the way I'm about to complain about.
So there it is, and it works great. The first shortcoming I've found is pretty obvious in a model centric environment: (Negative 1) You need to place a Live Section in BOTH projects. This doesn't seem like a huge deal, but consider: If you use intelligent Material/Category tags (hell, even if you use text notes), if a section shifts an inch or two, and a sloping roof or a pitched object is cut, now your live geometry is in the wrong place, and your tags turn to question


On the surface, not a huge issue. But it makes me wonder: Why cant we USE the view from the link, instead of using a linked view IN a view. I know the arguments: View annotations cant show through links, because the potential exists for view "2/a3.1" or sheet "a3.1" to exist in both projects. Herein lies my nuclear family theme: i want to be able to link files, but also get the option to call one a "Parent" of SEVERAL "children" files. Parents can include sheets of children, views of children, etc. ANNNND..... Children have to follow Parents rules.

What in hell do i mean by that? Well, I'm REALLY loving the file linking, but here was my second negatory in this ordeal, and it was one i expected, it just keeps tripping me up.

I'm sure we all have different strategies for modeling, and i wont presume mine is the best. Actually, i will. But it goes like this: I model with generic walls, and then as the project progresses, i create actual walls with the correct materials, thicknesses, coping, etc, as the project documents develop. We also use Model Groups extensively. With things like Wall Types, this gets cumbersome.

Both towers at right are identical Model Groups, but they've been placed in two links. The building on the right has been progressed farther, so the roof is now the actual materials, as are the walls in the model group. Both the roof and tower at left are still generic. So, whats a man to do? I can technically save the group out, and reload it in to the other link, but the roof and wall types too? perhaps, if i make a model group with my entire bunch of *typical parts*, but this doesn't hold very well. I had trouble with reloading a wall type with the same name (exactly) and different compositions. No lie, i could set the walls next to each other, but only one was in the drop down menu.

My point being, what if i want the PARENT file to have control over the CHILDREN files Groups, Wall Types, Elements, Families, etc? One of Revit's selling points over ArchiCAD (to me, when i started) was that once an object is LOADED, its IN the model. It doesn't HAVE to reference the library. This is great, as libraries move, and old models were getting KILLED back when i used archiCAD. But.... But what if i WANT it to reference a library, a la the parent file?

At the risk of being taboo, i always want to imagine my Wall Type Dialogue is an AutoCAD Layer Manager. My list of walls native to this project on top, then underneath it, the list of Wall Types from the PARENT project. So if i draw with a wall type from the parent project, and it gets edited in the parent project, it edits in the Child project. Now, obviously there are hardships there: Warnings generated sporadically when elements join/overlap/whatever, but cest la vie, yes? Organize the project team! And what happens if someone purges it from the Parent? Maybe it the Parent has Children, purge gets more complex, i don't know. But i can DEFINITELY see a desire for this in all things type cataloged. We already know such types can be read, as an element in a linked file can be selected and have its properties listed in a project.

Also, don't we already KIND OF get this with Shared Families? Nest a shared family in to a family, then load it in to a project; edit and repeat... And it WARNS you: The families are different. Which should i use? If it would do that with wall types, materials, and elements, Revit would be unstoppable, scale wise. I mention materials and elements, because the Material tags have been killing my inner child.

I respect their right to not be tied to one another, but they don't respect my right to WANT them to be, haha. Granted, I'll only have to type "STANDING SEAM MTL ROOF" once in every model... But then if i want to change that note, i need to change it SEVEN times. Hmm... Parent/Child would handle this.

And on that subject... I have to believe its getting close. Sheets and RVT link locations already show up in the drawing list... But view annotations and views themselves wont come across for reasons of possible mis-coordination. BUT, this gives me hope that one or two iterations away, its going to be there.
There are more improvements, and more things i want to see pushed further... Ala tagging, Rooms/Areas, and all that those things imply. This was the first layer of the cake though.
What are your thoughts? Currently, all 7 of these models are still flying, because they're much smaller than their predecessors, which ran all in one file, with a bunch of worksets. BUT, its got a price. Training for linking views, training for meticulousness in assuring that whatever you load in ONE model is loaded in SEVEN, etc... And.....
Then there is Model Sharing and coordinating with consultants. I'm touching that one tomorrow... :)
Share your thoughts on this, i'm curious what other end users and developers alike are seeing this as...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Edit Cut Profile" failure with Wall By Mass- RAC 2008, and Doors in Tapering Walls

So, until we get the capability to give a Wall a vertical angle in Revit without using a Mass/GM family and a Wall By Face tool, that remains my preferred method for putting walls up in non-vertical orientation.

That said, everyone who's worked with me knows im a notorious hater of Filled Regions, in Wall Sections. Even with the capability to lock/constrain them to the modeled objects, i always take the side of using Edit Cut Profile on the cut patterns of the modeled objects, wherever possible.

Most of the time this is simply for detailing and cleanup in small areas, but it also comes in to play in areas such as beam wraps, where a Wall may be used (built as a chase) instead of walls and a ceiling below, for simplicities sake. In any event, while working on detailing the above pictured tower, it become evident that Edit Cut Profile cannot be used on Walls that are created with the Wall By Face command.

When you attempt it, you are able to get in to sketch mode, and you can work until you try to finish the sketch. That is when you get the ominous "Fatal Error has occurred" window.

This file and a test file were submitted to Autodesk, who have passed it on to development, as it appears to be a code issue. Hopefully they will have it resolved in the 2009 release.

As the self proclaimed "Model Nazi" you can imagine the amount of anxiety i had, at having to concede to a project team that they could detail this portion of the building using Filled Regions, haha.

These walls presented another interesting issue as well:

When i went to place a door in the wall, the door was only able to be hosted at the very base of the wall (Right at the Level T/O Slab). As i was trying to place an Access Door from the roof, this was not useable. It would not allow us to place the door on the ground and raise it up, eiher. We received an error that the door failed to cut the wall, and that it was deleted.

The fix for this was interesting: We were able to place WINDOWS inthe walls without incident, so we used Edit Family to make a copyof the door family. We then changed the families catagory to a Window Family, and then we placed it in the tower. AFTER having placed the "window", we were then able to go back to the fmaily, and change its catagory back to a Door Family. This let it stay placed in the desired location in the tapering wall, while still scheduling it as a door.

Fun times with Tapering Walls!