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Saturday, December 22, 2012

To all (European) Reviteers: Clear your schedule: RTC Europe is coming to town!!!

As of this week registration opened for the very first RTC Europe which will be held in the beautiful city of Delft, the Netherlands. To get the obvious questions out of the way first:

- Language will be all english.
- Yes, Delft has coffeeshops too (and some of them actually serve coffee)
- Yes, as a foreigner you can still access those (laws forbidding that were recently overturned)
- No, I do not think it's very polite (or appreciated) to get stoned out of your mind and have the munchies during classes...

Now that we have this dealt with, let's focuss on the more important stuff.
Us Europeans aren't really used to having high-end conferences like these. When I went to AU this year I had to defend myself quite a lot for making those expenses. I usually responded by asking which education the other party followed this year, and how well they would rate it.

The RTC Committee invited fifty of the worlds most recognised Revit experts to enter submissions for classes and sessions. Approx 1/4 of those (the best of the best) will teach at RTC. Starting at experienced level, upping to real Guru-sh#t.

If there even is a "regular" course anywhere in Europe that you can take all year around, offering this kind of expertise: let me know. I'll put it in my budget for next year. And gladly travel halfway across europe for.
But over here in Holland, you can get a starters course (AOTC, which suuuuuucks) and a follow-up. The follow up suuucks (slightly less) too if you have any real-life experience and is 800,- for 2-3 days. 

So basically this is the deal to layout for the powers-that-be:
- This is the first time EVER there is an opportunity in the entire European continent to actually learn from the best and brightest in the world for your primary tool.

- It's only slightly more expensive then a regular no-good-to-anyone Revit course. It's only 1400,- for 2 days conference and including 3 nights of hotel accomodation. Seeing as you almost always pay around 100,- for a night hotel accomodation it's really only just 1100,- for a two day conference.

- Best part: it's only one workday lost. The conference is on friday and saturday. Fly from anywhere in Europe thursday evening and you'll be in Delft around 10pm. That means that the extra expenses in registration fee are partly covvered by you studying in your free time...

- There will be some awesome classes with even better tutors! Here is a brief extremely personal summary of the line-up:

  1. David Conant will be teaching on the API,
  2. Kelly Cone will have two classes (FYI: this is the guy at Beck keeping Aaron "Twiceroadsfool" Maller in line which HAS to mean something...),
  3. RFO's own Julien Benoit is teaching a class about the use of BIM beyond design,
  4. Matt Jezyk will be unveiling super top secret stuff about self aware families
  5. And the list goes on here.
I will be teaching a class there about Revit and IFC Interoperability and have been invited to join a panel discussion on building National Standards. Unfortunately for Matt my class is scheduled against his, so I want to apologise in advance to him for the embarassingly low amount of people attending his class...
(just kidding, totally sick of that one. To whom ever is making the schedule: pretty pretty pretty pleeeeaaaase change this. I even registered to his class, just to be on the safe side in case the schedule does get tossed)

Anyway, the point being: this is going to be the best learning experience you have ever been to, completely overheating your puny brains! Space is limited to 200 registrations, so I would very much encourage you to act fast! Sign up NOW!!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

AU2012 & Inspiration

Upon returning from Autodesk University I was in a Loooong planeflight. Got time to think about my first AU and which class I liked best. Due to my surprisingly mellow hangover my thoughts even were coherent too! (note to self: jelloshots actually do contain alcohol and mixing them with Corona, Heineken, vodka and red-sparkly-drinks-which-I-have-no-idea-of-what-it-actually-was might not be a good idea)

I'd have to go with the class I attended dealing with masses, taught by Marcello Sgambelluri and Kelly Cone. Frankly, I've seen classes that better connect to my day-to-day reality. I've seen classes that were better conveying technical Revit stuff. I've seen classes that gave me more insight in what is to come for the next upcoming years...

So why the hell is this one the best one might ask?


Watching Marcello hop up and down when he got to the cool parts and then watching Kelly translate this into a real-life example (even though I will probably never do that type of projects) was mind-blowing. It got me into that state where you just feel the lightning bolts inside your head firing up the most powerful machinery mankind has, and kick my imagination into overdrive. 
That night I was discussing the class with Jay Zallan over a beer (or two) and I was still in that zone. Random thoughts and ideas bursting out of every fibre in my brain, connecting to each other, making plans and forming ideas that will keep me occupied for months and months trying to recreate them...

That got me thinking on the plane. What is inspiration? I see it like this:
Think of your mind as a wasteland. A vast, endless stretch of desert. Nothing growing there. Over time, with lots of work on fertilising the ground, watering your crop and hard labor on your lands you can cultivate a part of it. That's the process of education.
Now every once and a while it will rain. Not much, and certainly not often. But when it does, magic happens. Out of nowhere, the most beautiful flowers and plants will grow on parts of the desert that you always thought were dry and dead. And suddenly you find yourself in an oasis of green, newly explored land with endless new possibilities.
That, to my humble opinion, is inspiration. It will be there, and if you act fast you will be able to hold on to most of it. However, the smell of fresh rain in the morning will fade away and always make you long for the next time it happens...

So thanks to Kelly and Marcello for making it rain in my head. That, and that alone, made the whole thing money well spent.

Until next time! For now, I can still smell the rain. And with that, I'm off to an early night already looking forward to the hours I will spend, lying awake and mentally exploring the new found possibilities in my mind.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


So, it's been a while. After ever so smoothly seducing my wife into letting me go to AU I've been freakishly busy (more on that later). Which in turn made me neglect this blog... Sorry people!

I am still busy though. And should definately not be writing this. In fact, what I should be doing is finishing off a few project reports before I leave to AU on saturday. What I am trying to say is:

Autodesk, if you make me miss my deadline with this bullsh#t, I'm holding you accountable!

Every now and then the Twitterverse is likely to catch your eye. Sometimes you go like "ahh, how sweet" (remember that voluntary bus lady that got bullied, which got filmed and went viral and now she's like a gazillionaire from all the donations she received?)
Anyway, point being: most of the time it's just people talking to their smartphone assuming there is somebody out there who gives a flying crap about what they do all day. Some use it work-related, like myself, others just tweet about their difficulties finding matching socks, or why their cereals get all soggy and mushy before they have the chance to eat them.
Drifting away again...

Today was yet another one of those days that Twitter actually meant something. So much, that it is keeping my head from actually focussing on the work at hand. And, being me, that usually means, I'm kind of irritated. Soooo, rant on:

There is this great endeavour over at It's aim is to develop an (as the name so clearly states) open standard for working with Revit. It's run on a voluntary basis (so no, it's not moving forward at the speed of light). But it's a great effort by Revit enthusiasts to bring clarity and standardization to the Revit platform. Which we all know this great tool is severely lacking...

Autodesk killed it. Yup, they did.
Picture a nice, pure, young deer. Big brown round watery eyes... (thinking about Bambi already?) And: BANG! Brain matter splashing all over the place...

Last week the owner of the website got an email from Autodesk telling him to surrender the domain. Because they "had to".... Because otherwise "third parties could claim rights to Autodesk trademarks".

It has been prohibited to use the Revit name in any commercial url or advertisement for as long as I know. And this is enforced too, which is great. Commercially speaking, the name/trademark belongs to Autodesk. Once again, that's fine by me.
But this is not, I repeat NOT, a commercial site. No services or content are being offered. Not one penny is made out of this effort. Heck, they don't even charge members a contribution. The costs for keeping the site in the air are carried by the owner. It's a community website, aimed at helping the Revit user. I find it repulsive they are targetted.

So really Autodesk, you had to? There was no other way? Not a simple note / email stating that you were willing to grant user rights to your precious trademark as long as the site stayed a non-commercial resource for your users?
So what about this website: (different forum)?

What about User Groups with the Revit name in the website (like the dutch Revit User Group Or can't we call ourselves REVIT User Groups any more? Are we to be known as "Dutch User Groups For That Particular Autodesk Software-No, Not That One, The 3D One-No, Not That Either, The Other 3D One"
Also conveniently known as DUGFTPAS-NTOT3DO-NTETO3DO.

How about the Revit blogger community? Wanna wrinkle their necks too? From what I hear from WhatRevitWants (woops, sorry Lukey. Guess you're the next target), you already started to harrass them too...

And one more thing: just about any possible website name in The Netherlands with the word Revit in it is claimed by Autodesk resellers. Probably the same for other countries. When will they be getting their notices? Or don't you bite the hand that grabs the money?

FYI Autodesk: you just bit the hand that gives you the money. Put your 250 dollars-an-hour lawyers to work and find another way. And while you at it, claim a discount price. If it wasn't for the internet community spreading the name of your software, they would not have you as a client anyway...

<rant off>

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to tell your husband you're going to AU

After my previous post I got a question on twitter by LanaGMEP:

"@mdradvies: funny post but men know those tricks. What about the women needing to go to #AU2012?"

Well, as a husband, I know that it's not that complicated: a large pizza and two sixpacks of beer for each day you're gone plus a premium sports channel package on tv should keep him rather oblivious to the fact that you're not around...

How to tell your wife that you're going to Autodesk University?

It's that time of the year again... Al of us BIMnerds praying to the BIMgods to please please please let us be able to go to Autodesk University. This year, my prayers got answered. I'm going...My very first visit to the US and to a conference of this magnitude. I'm so psyched I can hardly sleep. Which reminds me I need to ask my wife if she can make me a countdown calender just like the ones she makes for our kids before big events (birthdays, holidays, santa claus, that sort of thing). You know, the ones that let you cross of a square every morning when you get up.
But enough about that. My wife and I have been together 7 years now and not once did we not start the night in the same bed (I get kicked to the couch sometimes if one of our kids has a bad dream and needs to sleep with mom... Like that's not traumatising for me!). So how do you tell her that you'll be hanging out in the gambling capital of the world, unsupervised, for almost a week, leaving her alone with our four kids?
Maybe you're one of those lucky guys who can just lay down the law: Woman, I'm going to Autodesk University. Now get me a beer!
But, as we all know, these are just fairytales. Try that and she'll probably just clean you out during the divorce. So you need a different approach. I can tell you this: it boils down to a long-term plan of attack, miticulous planning, and spending some serious money. Here's how I did it:

1. Recon
AU always is in the end of november. So what's the first big day before that? You know, her birthday, the day you two met or, in my case, your wedding day? And what's the big day before that? (her birthday). For me, her birthday was the time to place the first strike. Our wedding day, today, is the endgame. Now here's the deal: the few big days before the day you place your first strike, you need to LOWER the standards. You know, "forget" mothers day. Buy your valentines day flowers 5 days early and don't water them so they kinda fall apart if she takes the cellophane off. That sort of thing.  Maybe get her a new toaster for Christmas or something, be creative! (not too much though, or you don't have to ask her anything anymore)

2. First strike
At first strike, you get her a beautiful dress. Not something you pick up at Walmart! If you're serious about going to AU then PAY UP. Sweep her off her feet. Shouldn't be too hard considering the presents you usually give her... If you have no idea what she likes you
a. Are a moron.
b. Can ask her friends to help you out.
After this, she will realise you still love her. And you're not a complete idiot. And that she ows you, because after the last few (delibirate) disasters she just bought you a pair of socks for your birthday.

3. Plan the endgame
I chose our 5th wedding anniversary as the endgame. So my plan is to make my wife feel like cinderella all over again.
- Same wedding car and driver as 5 years ago: check
- Same wedding bouquet as 5 years ago: check
- Same restaurant and menu as last time: check
- Her mother-in-law safely on holiday in France: check (granted, you don't have much influence on this one, but for Gods sake: don't tell them about your plans!)
- Babysitter: check
- Stashed your wedding suit at your parents' house: check
- Crushed her hopes of going out together by faking a big client meeting which will keep you away from home untill say 9pm: check (I know, it's harsh. But you can't have them running around making their own plans)
- Find out how you can use Teamviewer to access your home pc from your tablet so you can start playing your wedding song by the time you drive up to the house: check
- Get champagne, 2 glasses and make sure you can drink some champaign at the place you took your wedding pictures: check

4. Endgame
This is it... Don't get nervous, just breathe... and breathe...
It's all about planning really, so start early. I am writing this sitting at my parents house waiting for my ride to pick me up. I have to wait 90 more minutes or so (which is why I thought I'd share this with you). If everything goes as planned, this is how it's going to play out:
I roll up to the house at 16:30. If all goes well my wife is standing before the front window trying to figure out why our tv just switched from Tom & Jerry to playing our wedding song. My guess is she'll call me. But if not, there's no way she's going to miss me. Off course I take her by surprise so she has exactly 30min to get dressed (O dear, what to wear? Well, how about the the dress I gave you for your birthday... Pieces falling together now?) before we're off. About the same time, our babysitter arrives to take over dinner for the kids. We go to drink some champaign by the castle we took our wedding pictures, we drive to the restaurant which is dead center of our town. We got married in a Citroen DS Traction Avant, the Wedding Car amongst wedding cars (no, not some cheap-ass white limo!). I even have the same driver as 5 years ago.
So we're pulling up to our restaurant in this classic car where she will be welcomed with all the egards possible, just like five years ago. Can it get more princessy? That's what I thought. We wine and dine with the same menu we did back then, and then we go home. After all this, just as she starts to fall asleep in my arms, happier and more in love then she's been in years, and willing to forgive me for every stupid thing I do the next few years, I will whisper gently in her ear:

"honey, I'm going to AU this year..."

See you all there!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Revit LT: The best that ever happened to AEC

To all people that have been bashing LT since it was announced but in particular Revit Fact Check:
Dude(s), I have nothing but respect for you. Seriously. The following might make it seem otherwise, but I really do. I know your vocabulary, and I'm not offended by it. Just as I know that you can handle my honest thoughts on the subject. It's nothing personal and it doesn't affect my high regards for your outstanding work. You just need a reality check, this LT-thing is not for you

EDIT 9-9-2012
The following might give the false impression that Revit LT is suitable for ALL firms just exploring BIM. It's not. There IS functionality missing that might be vital for your company. For the ability to create your designs in Revit LT. Before plunging in, take a very careful look at your work and the modelling capabilities of Revit LT. Then, and only then, you can make an informed descision as to whether this tool suites you. 
This also means that the objections RFC (and many others) raise are true. In my very humble opinion they are not vital. Not by a longshot. All can be worked around, and most are objections that don't concern those just taking their first steps on the path towards BIM. But your mileage may vary...
EDIT 9-9-2012

A few days ago Revit LT hit the market. Which, off course, caused an immense uproar among the current "powerusers". From what I read on Twitter and in various blogs, most people find it a bad idea from Autodesk.
I must admit: I my first response was initially the same. Then I started reading other people's responses. One that stood out was the Revit Fact Check blog...

I usually love the Revit Fact Check blog. The eloquent way the author uses a distinguished vocabulary to state an argument is... nah, who am I kidding: he just makes me laugh! Up until now, I agreed with him on almost every point. However, I do have some major issues with the last post. It's about the new Autodesk product Revit LT. And from what I can make of it, the author has some doubts. But imvho he is way of base here.

So, Revit Fact Check, let's look at the facts. Which missing features do we really need:

1. Assemblies and Parts.
WTF??? We hardcore Revit users have been pondering Autodesk for 18 months about some crappy half-baked solution which has become remotely viable in 2013. Both Assemblies and Parts have major issues to be dealt with. Just weeks ago I got my ass kicked by both Revit AND some well-known Revit Masters trying to find a good use for Assemblies. (Aaron, the "you were right and I was wrong" blog is coming...). And now you're telling me it's an absolute necessity for the LT version? What kind of crap is that?

2. Stair by sketch
Afaik you can do just about any more or less regular stair with the tools that ARE available. Why not use those? And if you do come along a weird kind of stairs, there's ways around it. Use a Generic Model, set the correct Assembly Code and you're off. A workaround you say? Yessir, it is... So freakin' what? Let me tell you one thing: the most common stairs in Dutch "doghouses" are the dutch stairs. 2 quarters, with a CURVED stringer, that cannot be done with ANY Revit version. If Autodesk were to rip out a perfectly working stair tool, we could see eye to eye on this one. But just like with Parts & Assemblies, advanced users have been raising hell about the stairs tool for as long as it's been there, so what's the big deal?

3. Truss and reinforcement.
Dude, reinforcement isn't available in the full-blown RAC version either. So what's the big problem here? Is that a bad piece of BIM software too?
Trusses are... Boo freakin' woo... I have used Revit for dozens of residential projects and have very rarely used trusses. Which I, when they occurred, modelled as beams by the way.

4. Conceptual Massing and Adaptive Components
Ahhh, Conceptual Massing & Adaptive Components. With a rich history going back... ehhm 3 versions? How did we manage to live without them? Or did you just started doing "real" architecture after these came to life? Before that, I suppose the world was filled with little grey boxes. Zaha Hadid just adores Revit cause it can make any form she wants? Good thing the egyptians didn't have Revit LT or those pyramids could have never been built.
Granted, I would have been more excited if the Conceptual Massing would still be there. But I have managed to do without it for years. I can only assume others can too.

5. In-Place Modelling
The biggest cheer of them all for this one. This and this alone is worth mandating the LT version for people starting with Revit! Could someone get me a regular version WITHOUT In-Place Modelling? Hell, I would pay EXTRA for that. That would my life as a teacher so much easier. If I got a dollar for every time someone told me "why should I use the Family Editor? I can just create an in-place family and then there's no need for all those stupid difficult parameters...". Well, I could own several copies of LT.
So newbies: get out of your comfort zone and learn the freakin' Family Editor. How in the world are you planning on becoming a skilled Reviteer (or skilled anything for that matter) without having some serious frustrations and headaches? Please do tell! Cause I STILL get frustrated from time to time! And you know what? Everytime I get frustrated, I learn sh*t. I get better in my job. No pain, no gain...
In-Place Modelling is not necessary. Not ever. Sure, it can be handy, quicker, less annoying. But by definition it is not parametric, not reusable. It's a one-time only offer of weakness. It is to be used ONLY by skilled Reviteers who have a handle on the software, and they would have to have a damned good reason if it were up to me.

6. Photo-realistic rendering, decals.
I'll sweep this one up in one single short simple answer: the way they've always done it! Photoshop, Sketchup, who cares? It's a nice feature but are you REALLY telling me this is BIM? It's not, those are pretty pictures. All fun and games if you have the budgets, the expertise for it.
I for one never ever used full-blown rendering in Revit until my third year of Revit. Why not? Because I was too busy learning the stuff that mattered. You know, getting proper construction documents, building permits and all those nasty little time-guzzlers that stood between me and my pretty pictures. But I see where I went wrong now. After all, any contractor would rather have a nice rendering then a good set of drawings... Right?

7. Interference Check
Oh I see... Just having your "doghouse" in 3D with coordination views set up (by the use of view templates) isn't enough. You need to have some fancy tool to work it for you. Lucky for us "real" Revit users Interference Check has plenty ways of controlling the outcome, setting properties for which results are viable and which aren't, making selections on which items to check BEYOND the category, checking for things that SHOULD interfere but don't (you know Structural columns attached to Beams, that sort of thing). And thank god it knows that walls attached to roofs are just touching, not interfering.
Oh wait, it doesn't. Interference check is USELESS. It completely and utterly sucks if you want to go beyond anything then the most rawest form of model integrity checking. And if you do use it: it's just a false pretence that your model is ok. The model could still very well be a monumental bag of crap.
"Geez John, don't know what happened there. Sorry that beam doesn't interfere with that structural wall. Yup, it's 3ft short, I can see it now. Revit must have missed that. But I did find out we needed to move that plumbing pipe 1/4" so it wouldn't interfere with the beam. Lucky for us we can lengthen a steel beam just as easily as a plastic pipe".

8. Copy/Monitor, Worksharing, Copy/Paste from Linked Files, Customize the Visibility of Linked Models, Point Cloud.
Now we're getting somewhere. This should speed things up... Hang in there, I'm almost done!

You know, the first time I read the blog, it kind of made me laugh. As always. Then I read a completely non-related tweet from some starchitect which made my blood boil. And I read your blog again. Then it hit me: you're saying just the same!
The tweet was this:
"You shouldn’t be allowed to use the acronym BIM if you can’t collaborate!"
Can I sum your comments about this features up to just that? In that case I have one thing to say:


Are you freakin' insane? I suggest you get out of your chair, get into your big-ass corporate lease car and start driving. Just get out of that high-end business district you're in and start looking around. See the suburbs? Those simple houses? Small commercial buildings? All those "doghouses" and "strip-mall-chitecture" you're looking down upon?
They are ALL somebody's pride and glory. And most likely the architect who designed those is working as a single professional or in a firm with max 5 persons. And you know what? Most likely that architect has to work harder and longer then you can even imagine. They get paid fees that you wouldn't get out of bed for, they have been hit by the bad economy way harder then your company has been. They often have to struggle to survive even if the economy is thriving! So no, they cannot spend 5000,- on a tool. And no, they do not need nor want those fancy multi-disciplinary design teams. They do not have projects that require multiple people to work in a single file or have worksets to be able to manage the file size properly.

So who's bad for the AEC industry here? It's my not so humble opinion that comments like this stand in the way of BIM becoming the standard in the AEC industry. It's opinions like yours that make all those "wannabe AEC professionals" think that BIM is something for starchitects and multi-gazillion dollar projects only, and therefor not suited for them. That they have no interest nor profit to gain from BIM.

BIM is NOT about collaboration. It just supports better collaboration. But that's a side-effect. BIM is about making a better building. BIM is about adding the proper information to your design so that it can be built without errors. And if you happen to be the only one working on that building during the design than Revit LT is the tool for you. Especially when you're currently still working on Autocad.

Let me tell you a few stories on what goes on down in the trenches these days. First one is a client of mine. Does mostly residential work. With a strong focus on sustainability. PHPP certified and all. Looking to transition to BIM to make them more competitive.
An architect in a firm with 4 people working for him. Three years ago, he had 14 people working for him. His building is too big. His own salary cut in half. His overhead way too high. He has three months of salary for his staff left. He's busy right now, but has no idea what will happen in two months. If there's going to be a new project. If this will be in a week, a month or more then three months. More then three months means bankrupcy. Now tell me: should he invest 2 months of those backup salaries in buying Revit? Sit on his chair and then look at the piece you have written.
Do you think he gives a sh*t about Worksharing? Do you REALLY think that Revit LT wouldn't be a step in the right direction for a price that's worth the risk?

I started my business straight out of college. Doing "doghouses". I did so for 3-4 years. My total turnover the first year was 6.500,- ex VAT, before taxes. Second year: 18.000,-. Third year was the first year I came close to minimum wage: 45.000,-. Since then an average that I can live off. The ONLY reason I could start out while using Revit was because my reseller renewed my trial license over and over again until I scraped together the funds to buy it. It took me two years. And the help of my wife, who payed all of ours bills those first two years.
If they hadn't, I would have been stuck with Autocad LT. And maybe never even gotten the nerves to plunge into the deep and start with Revit.
Not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone has the guts or the vision to empower them to spend 1/3 of their annual turnover on a freakin' tool and hope for the best.
Do you believe in the butterfly effect? I do. Look at the forum. Look at what I gave back to the Revit community. I have multiple articles in my name. I have taught Revit to dozens of people and hundreds to follow. I am co-author of the current Dutch Revit Best Practises and head author of the soon to be published Dutch national master template. I WILL be teaching at RTC's and AU in the future (not right now but I'll keep on bugging them until they let me). In short: I live and breath BIM, advocating the use with every word that comes out of my mouth.
And I am a strong believer in the fact that Revit LT will give more people like me a chance. More people like me, but without the luck I had. People that would otherwise have been lost. People who can now come straight out of education with their heads and minds full of bright visions of how the AEC business can finally be transformed into a healthy one. How the f**k can that ever be a bad thing?

So it's my argument that Revit LT is by far the best thing Autodesk has ever done for the AEC business. And I applaud them for having the courage to take this crap and do what needs to be done. They have provided the masses with a true BIM authoring tool that is within reach of the not-so-fortunate. They have given people like me a fighting chance to grow and get ready for the future.


Martijn de Riet (aka Mark Twain)
AEC Nobody, proud owner and sole employee of MdR Advies

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to deal with Legends in Revit

Edited due to remarks made by Forum users. Some pitfalls for the use of Assemblies added in light of honest comparison between the different options.

First of all:


And breathe...
But seriously: It's an insult to all of us working on real projects needing to do real documentation. I have been on Revit since version 5.1 and it has been useless as long as I can remember (don't even know if there were Legends on that version, but if there were: they sucked back then too).

Why are legends bad?
1. You can only have a few different views: plan view, front and back elevation. How about sections? How about 3D views?
2. No tagging, no way to extract data from the elements (THAT is the freaking purpose!!!)
3. NO connection to the elements actually used in the model. If an element is deleted, it will remain in the Legend. No way of counting elements.
See image 1.

Image1: Useless crap

So: useless crap it is... The question is: what should it be like then? There are a few options, listed in order of usability:

1. Phases

The easiest to set up, but also the hardest to manage and check for model compliance.

Image2: Adding Legend Phases

Image3: Creating Legend Views and setting component Phases

Image4: Creating a coordination schedule
- Create two extra Phases: Legend and Demo Legend. Place them before the regular Phases, see image 2.
- Duplicate a Plan View, set Phase to Legend and place your Legend components. Select all Legend components and set the options to Demolish in phase Demo Legend, see image 3.
- Create all Legend views you want and Tag away happily.
- Create a Door schedule with 3 columns: Family and Type and Count. In the Properties screen, Sorting tab, sort by Family and Type. Check off "Itemize every instance". You now have a overview of all types in the model. Now duplicate that schedule and set the Phase to "Legend". You can now compare both schedules side by side to see if all elements are accounted for see image 4.


- Total control over Legend views, tagging, and so on.
- No influence over the model, no need to hide things in regular model views
- It's possible to create schedules to check whether all types are accounted for in the schedule.

- Lot of work to set up views.
- No way of distinguishing different instances, there's only a limited amount of parameters that can be used to sort the schedule.
- Needs working knowledge of Phasing
- Needs two schedules and the ability to check them side by side. This could get difficult in large models with lots of types.
- Needs extra "space" in the model to place the Legend components.
- Not very suited for Legend views of multiple components (for instance a room layout, windows with ornaments, window sills and such).

2. Design options

Image5: Adding Design Options

Image6: Adding elements to a Design Option

Image7: Setting up coordination schedule

Image8: Coordination schedule
A bit harder to set up, but has better ways of checking for Legend-Model consistency:

- Set a Design Option Set called "Legend". Add 2 Options: "Model" and "Legend". See image 5.
- Duplicate a Plan View and place all elements you want to create Legends view from, somewhere outside the model's extents. Due to the setup of the Design Options, they will not be visible in the "normal" model views. See image 6.
- Create all Legend views you want and Tag away happily.
- Create a Door schedule with 3 columns: Family and Type, Mark (or any other text instance parameter) and Count. In the Properties screen, Sorting tab, sort by Family and Type and then by Mark. Check off "Itemize every instance". You now have a overview of all types in the model, see image 7.
- Go to the Legend door, select it, fill out the Mark value as shown in image 8. All the "normal" doors have a blank value.

Image 7 shows us that there is one type in the model that does NOT have a Legend component... This is a fast and reliable way to check whether all TYPES have Legend components. It does not help with instance based deviations...

- Total control over Legend views, tagging, and so on.
- No influence over the model, no need to hide things in regular model views
- It's possible to create schedules to check whether all types are accounted for in the schedule.

- Lot of work to set up views.
- No way of distinguishing different instances, there's only a limited amount of parameters that can be used to sort the schedule.
- Needs working knowledge of Design Options
- Needs extra "space" in the model to place the Legend components.
- Not very suited for Legend views of multiple components (for instance a room layout, windows with ornaments, window sills and such).


3. Assemblies

My new favourite, and very close to what the Legend feature should be:

Image9: Creating an Assembly
- Place your components in the Model. Select a component and choose "Create Assembly" from the contextual tab. Choose an appropriate naming strategy (I use the family + typename which can expand dramatically when you're creating Assemblies from multiple elements), see image 9.
Image10: Selecting Assembly Views
- Select the Assembly and choose "Create Views" from the contextual tab. Select which views you want, and if they should be placed on a sheet, see image 10. Tag away happily. 
- Select next item, repeat the steps above. IF your element matches an existing assembly, it will turn into the same one, see image 11. Best part: this is on instance level! So if you have different instance parameters, it will be a new Assembly. Only problem: when using a unique Mark value to differentiate between different elements of the same kind.
Image11: Duplicate Assemblies are recognised
- You can tag the Assembly in the model to refer to these Assembly views. Which solves the Mark problem...
- Create a Door schedule as shown in option 1 and 2. Add an extra field "Assembly Name" to check whether all components have been added to an Assembly.

- Legend Views with the click of a mouse button.
- Total control over Legend views, tagging, and so on. Crop Regions can be rotated to meet specific needs
- No influence over the model, no need to hide things in regular model views
- Simply add a column to your object schedules to check whether all types are accounted for in the schedule.
- Recognizes differences on an Instance Level.
- No extra "space" needed in the model to place Legend components
- Suited for Legend Views of multiple components.
- Easy to use workflow.
- (Shared) parameters can be added to assemblies to allow tagging and scheduling.

- Instance parameter awareness can be a problem, however this is manageable by adding those parameters to the Assembly itself.
- There's no way to port parameter values from the objects inside an Assembly to the Assembly itself without using the API
- It would be nice to be able to create Embedded Schedules for Assemblies to have both the Assembly AND the underlying objects in one schedule.
- Most annoying one: you need to manually place all elements in an Assembly one by one. No way to batch-create an Assembly. No way to properly place an Assembly when it's (wall) hosted (try placing an Assembly door...)
- MAJOR BIGGIE: Assemblies do NOT update when changes are applied to instance parameters. WTF??? It recognises differences in instance parameters upon creation, but not when changing them? I thought Revit ALWAYS updated modelled stuff? What the hell kind of cad solution is this?
- Adding objects to an Assembly (for instance, adding a windowsill to a window) creates a new Assembly type. Which is in some ways logical, but also a shame. Verdict on this one is still out...
- Groups cannot be Assembled (is that the correct term?). I get this, I think, because Groups are in many ways similar to Assemblies. I can imagine that these two might collide, but it's not perfect.


Legends suck. They suck for text notes, they suck for diagrams, and they suck big time for building components. The first two options described here are at best mediocre workarounds with lots of pitfalls and tons of extra work.

Then there were Assemblies... And all was better.
Provided Autodesk fixes a few minor bugs, it is the documenting feature we have been waiting for, for a LONG LONG time.
As far as I'm concerned, Autodesk can delete the Legend tool all together. I will be sticking with Assemblies for Building components from now on (and Generic Annotations for anything else).

HOWEVER: when you're on big projects with lots and lots of types, this solution might not work for you. Because whenever an INSTANCE parameter changes, you'll need to update all Assembly instances in the project. Which sucks big time. It's doable on smaller projects, and it works well when you're changing type parameters. But not when changing INSTANCE parameters. And that is a shortcoming well worth noting. (off course, you could do a "select all instances" > change, but it's the principal of things)

O, I added my sample files to this thread on

Happy Reviting,
Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

IPD: Curse or Blessing?

Social media debates...

Read an interesting discussion on Twitter yesterday, followed by two blogposts. The first one was from Antony McPhee, the response came from Liz O'Sullivan. Both put severe questionmarks at the use of IPD.

I must say I wholeheartidly disagree with their statements. And, for the sake of a nice debate, I will try to counter their statements in this blog. Keep in mind though: even when disagreeing with everything a person says or writes, I do so while fully respecting their opinion. This is just my opinion, and it's different. Not better or worse. I very much liked to read their blogs, I found them both well written with properly formulated arguments. I just see things differently, without adding ANY judgement to that...

To start in alphabetical order, with Antony McPhee...
I'm not debating the intents and purposes of the AIA document Andy discusses. I see them somewhat more on the positive side, but that's probably why we have a different opinion. The main question in Andy's blog is: why should architects work with IPD?
Is it money? IPD isn't profitable for architects. Why shouldn't it be? BIM requires an investment from architects in the early stages of design, that much is true. And they are only compensated when the architect is also responsible for construction documents. That's where they're supposed to pay off... But traditional contracts do not by definition ensure the architects involvement in this stage. IPD does, everyone is in it from beginning to end.
Is it influence? The architects influence of the design process decreases. The architects influence may be smaller yes. Is that a problem? Where I come from we have a saying: if you're liable, you get to make the descisions. Period. So I don't see why the architect would give up on influence over architectural matters. As for all other matters: how many architects are walking this earth that NEVER had to alter their design and make it suboptimal, basically cause they found out it was too expensive? It happens all the time. Upside with IPD: it happens while you're sitting at the table, doing your thing. Not AFTER you finished a worldclass design. In my opinion, budgetcuts during design, opposed to fumbling after it's finished, lead to a better endresult 99% of the time.
Is it control? Architects will lose the control of the model. I don't get this argument. Either you're controlling the model (WITH all encompassing liabilities and responsibilities) or you're not. That's something you define in your contract and never look back at. No change there except the fact that a more integrated workflow will ask more capabilities from the people managing it. Architects SHOULD ask themselves whether they want that or not. It's not something you do on the side, not even with smaller, less demanding projects.
Is it market share? The need for architects will diminish when using IPD. Also not getting this... A contractor by definition wants to fill the world with grey boxes? An owner by definition doesn't give a crap about estheatics? Not in my book. Sure, some don't. But those are the same as the ones delivering grey, non-architectural boxes now. Let's not kid ourselves: even in the time of pencils on paper butt-ugly architecture was around. It will always be...
Is it industry leadership? Why should architects push this if others aren't interested? Well, I guess they shouldn't. In Holland, much like Australia (and probably the US too), the vast majority of owners and contractors don't even give a crap about BIM, let alone IPD. But they will NOT be the ones asking for it. IPD requires some serious investments from both contractors and owners too. So let's just assume that if an owner specifically asks for IPD, and commits himself to the investments in time and perhaps even increased design costs, they mean business.
Is it benevolence? Should architect push something that will eventually only benefit owners?
Yes, they should.
Did I miss the memo stating architects no longer provide a service and therefor BY DEFINITION do what's in the best interest of the owner, their client?
Is it fear? Fear of being left behind, fear of being irrelevant.
You bet! And it is the owners proper right to find someone who will bring his project to the best end possible. If architects refuse to embrace IPD, chances are that in a not to distant future, they will lose  a significant portion of the market. Is that a bad thing? No, it's called innovation. It happens all around you, why should architects be different?

Now Liz agrees with him in a lot of ways. Which off course in return means I disagree with her too in a lot of ways... Not wanting to repeat myself I'll just restrict this to her "unique" comments:

Architects can get the same input and quality when it comes to actual construction elsewhere. No they can't. It's been proven time and time again. A cost estimator looks at a design as is and calculates what it should approximately cost. I rarely see cost estimators putting alternative methods of construction on the table. That's not their job. Besides that, he/she has no knowledge about the contractor, their strong points, weak points, and preferred methods (which will be cheaper). A vast majority of construction changes are based on this fact: not that the design is wrong, it just doesn't "fit" the contractor or the preferred methods of construction.

Example & my take on things:

I'm working with a few of the largest dutch firms in various disciplines to come to an IPD Protocol. Architect and GC have done previous projects. When I asked why they wanted to go to IPD, one of their answers was:
"We recently did a traditional project. Once the design was finished and the GC's bid was accepted we had to do all kinds of changes. Nothing architecturally important, but one eye-catcher was that we lowered the level-to-level height with 8cm. Why? Cause then the entire facade could be prefabricated. Initial design didn't fit in the subcontractors workshop, nor did it meat traffic regulations. With this change we saved a LOT of money".

This for me is the essence of IPD. The architect never made any mistakes. The contractor is not out to destroy the design. This could not have been prevented in any way UNLESS you already know who the GC will be and use their specific knowledge about construction. In fact, with the money saved some previously architectural budget cuts could be restored. But at a cost. It wiped out most of the architects profits (which they were compensated for by the GC) and a substantial part of the GC's profits (which they still did cause it made the building better and helped them stay within construction budget). And those expenses could have been saved when the GC had been participating from the start.

In my humble opinion, every IPD contract should have a few parts (besides the legal and technical mumbo-jumbo):
1. Define the design question, both in quantity (Square Footage, cost of ownership, and so on) as is quality (LEED certification, Facility Management demands)
2. Define budget from earliest of design until the building is delivered to it's owner. Construction funds AND design fees. Define what happens with profits and losses.
3. Define who does what, where, when and how. And which part of the total fee is involved. If you're granted a task, you are primary liable and therefor have a right to veto. But you're also bound by budgets and design specifications.
4. Give and take. ALL participants are responsible for the endresult as a whole. That means you cannot have your way
And that's that. In my, probably overly naive, point of view this should be enough. Yes, maybe as an architect you will be marginalised. But it will be done in the contract, before you even start working. To put it in simple terms: if you get screwed, at least it's all in writing and you were there when it happened. But in most cases GC's are very aware of the fact they need an architect to make the building rise above mediocracy. And owners are happy to spend their full budget to get the best possible design. Most of the times I participated in IPD projects any and all design changes in favor of the GC were done in harmony and the profits re-invested in making the design better.
If that's not a win-win-win I don't know what is...

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to work with large (linked) files

Very interesting discussion in RFO taking place. The thread started with a question about best practises for sharing models with consultants. For me, it became very interesting when the discussion wondered around post #16 to purging models before linking them in. A post from a Curtain Wall detailer (important detail, no pun intended), let's call him Dave, set the debate on fire: his current project had a few links in them, six to be exact. Largest: 517mb, and a few 300+ mb files.
Quick calculation adds up to a staggering 1.5GB of linked Revit models (no pointclouds to my knowledge).

Naturally his performance was lagging so he had been looking into purging the models. I, amongst others, don't think that's a very good idea. Why not?

1. Revit works with a database. That means that all families you load are stored inside that database once and then referenced from the model. Different types get separate additional info or something. Don't quite know how it works, what I DO know is that you can put window A one time or 100 times in your project, it's not going to make a difference in size. It does make a difference in regeneration time off course. Same goes for views: the settings (what kind of view, where is it at, what are we showing) are stored somewhere inside the database but only utilized when called upon.

BUT: logically this means that families inside your project that are not being used do NOT affect the responsetime when working on the project. They're in the database but they are not referenced. So they are dead weight. Same goes for views, sheets and all other stuff floating around in the link: as long as it's not referenced, it's of no importance to the model's performance.

2. Dave tried purging all his links. Which cost him more then a day from the looks of it. I mean, if it costs you 3 hours to LOAD the purge screen, how long will it have taken to actually delete all that stuff. And that times 6! What did it get him?
- The architects model went down in size from 517 to 397mb
- A structural file went down from 381mb to 325mb.
With that he reported a significant increase of responsiveness (if that's even a word) of the model. In plain english: it worked better, more smoothly, with lots less regeneration time and so on.
Which, according to my statement above, shouldn't be possible... So who is right here?

I think that this is a big numbers thing. With every action you tike while modelling, Revit needs to search it's database for the corresponding elements. That takes time. If you cut down a 1.5GB model to 1GB, this is going to affect search time. Simple as that.
HOWEVER: this effect is limited. You can purge only so much and let's face it: if modelled and delivered to you right, you shouldn't be able to purge out 25% of the filesize anyway.

3. Dave decided to skip weekly updates of the links because that would mean going through this entire process again. Which in my very humble opinion is a logical but very dangerous complication.

So what IS a working solution?
Let's assume the model has worksets in it. If there weren't any, my advice wouldn't be much different. Just skip step one:

1. Open the link. If needed, purge all worksets. To do so, see image 1 to 4.
2. Re-enable worksets, move all items to the default "Workset1" when prompted.
3. Add 1 workset. Call it "Load" or something, see image 5.
4. Move all items you wish to work on/with to this workset. To do this, select them in your model and go to the Properties window. Change the Workset from Workset1 to Load, see image6.
5. Open the Workset Dialogue Box and set Workset1 to be not-loaded, just to check whether you got all the elements you need, see image7.
6. Link the file into your own project and presto...

Image1: Select file you want to Link and click Detach from central
Image2: Disregard the warning (if prompted)

Image3: Select all worksets to load

Image4: The money shot, delete all worksets present
Image5: add your own worksets

Image6: Add desired elements to your workset

Image7: check if all is well

WAIT A SEC...!!! (got ya)

Still seeing the entire model? That might be correct. When linking a model you need to specify the worksets you want to load. When selecting the link you need to set the options for "Open" to "Specify", see image 8. Then in the next window select Workset1 and hit Close, see image9.

Image8: Selecting the option to specify Worksets

Image9:  Specifying worksets to load

I did this with an 80mb file.
The full link took about 55sec to load  in the first place and after that 10-15sec on actions like
- selecting the link
- creating a section view
- switching views.

When testing the workflow I took one elevation and placed the Curtain Walls in a workset. Needless to say that the reload, selecting, sectioning and all that stuff was pretty much instantly.

Now as you might have noticed I used a project which already had worksets in them. So why not use those? Well, because they didn't meet my needs. By discarding the original worksets and creating my own I could handpick all items I needed to work on for this elevation. In this case, worksets were made for ALL elevations, structure, interior, and that sort of thing. I figured that if I was Dave, I would be working on one elevation at a time. So by handselecting the elements needed for a specific (set of) tasks I could minimize the dead weight in my project file even more.

Another great thing about this workflow:
I could also use a naming strategy and create predefined worksets for all elevations separately. Now, when reloading the link in my project I can very quickly switch between building parts I need to see and/or work with by Closing and Opening Worksets through the Manage Links window.

In conclusion:
You will need to do this with every new set of consultant files you get. But in my opinion it will go way faster then purging. AND it gives you more flexibility and better results.

Happy Reviting!
Mark Twain

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to create a timber framed wall with base extended cladding

First of all I want to apologise for staying away so long. Frequent users of might have missed me there too... Let's just say that I've been insanely busy with some major projects and had to severly cut back on all other activities.
Also, my doctor made me step down a notch due to some developing signs of a serious Revit addiction. Having established that there's more in life then my laptop I can now safely return to action and make up for lost time!

Wait, that doesn't sound quite right...

Anyway: since my return on RFO I've been starting to stick my nose into some threads and found this one which sounded nice.
Especially liked question number 3 since that's one I deal with o a regular base too.

It boils down to this: how can I create a wall with two differents base heights. Usually one for structural part (sitting on the floor) and one for the finish part, extending downwards.
Now there is a tool in the Wall function that let's you "unlock" wall layers and extend them seperately. I don't like it, too much manual labor involved.
Off course, we could also use Parts (NOT!!!)

My favourite solution is seen in image 1 and 2:

image 1

image 2

1. Select the Wall, and change the Base offset to the desired extent.
2. Click on Attach Top/Bottom in the Modify Tab
3. Select Base and then select the Floor.

Why use this one and not just Join?
Well, basically because this option will keep the floor attached even if it's shifts beyond the extents of the Wall. Set the Floor offset from Level to -500 and see what happens. With the Join tool, you get a lot of pesky error messages and the connection breaks. With the Attach-tool, it doesn't.

Now to make matters somewhat more interesting, the follow-up question was this:
I didn't realise that worked with walls. With cursory examination it seems to also resolve an Issue I was having with the 'timber framed walls' extension which would frame to the lower extension lavel, not the bottom of the framing. The one thing it breaks though is that in NZ, timber framing must overhang your floor by 10mm, and your cladding extend 50mm down. Your method has a 10mm strip of framing down the edge of the floor....

If I get this guy right, his problem is as shown in image 3.But this too is easily fixed by adding a reveal to your wall.

image 3

First, create a profile family as shown in image 4. 

image 4

Use the Profile - Reveal template for this. Make it parametric so you can use it on multiple occasions. Make the parameters Type Paramaters so you can edit them through the Project Browser (find the family in the PB > expand > select type > rightclick > type properties)

Second, select the Wall > Edit Type > Edit (structure) > Open the Section Preview. Now add a reveal to the Wall, shown in image 5. I don't use the setback values inside the Wall. Don't know why, I just like to control the size and placement of the reveal inside the reveal family. But YMMV.
Whatever preference you have: image 6 shows a perfect solution...

image 5

image 6

Happy Reviting
Mark Twain

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Can you provide us with a sample file"

Here on RFO we often get questions that tend to be kind of hard to troubleshoot without the actual file to look at. So one of the most frequent responses (besides the ones providing you with a solution to your problem off course) you might get to a question is: "Could you provide us with a sample file to look at?".

When it comes to troubleshooting families, this is very rarely a problem, unless you don't want to hand it over to a public forum. In that case, think about getting a private consultant to look at it. Or just lighten up a bit... But that's a completely different story all together.

In the case of a project acting up, it might be somewhat more complicated. Off course you could do a save as, delete all unwanted geometry, views, sheets and then purge the entire thing. But unfortunately, that usually doesn't give you a small enough file either. Revit has the habit of retaining a lot of data in the projects database so it stays bloated.

Another option, which does kill all redundant data from the database (and is way faster too), is this:
- Windowselect the offending geometry and it's immediate surroundings.
- Go to the filter dialogue box and check off all categories you don't want to include
- Group the items that remain (including the item giving you a headache)
- Find the group in your project browser, right click and choose Save Group. This will save just the Group as a separate Revit project. If all is ok this file should be a whole lot lighter then the original.
- Open the Group in Revit to see if the problem is still there. If so, you can now upload it.

If not: then there are a few reasons which could have caused the problem in the first place:
1. for geometry not displaying correctly: it's a Graphics Override. You released this override when Grouping and using Save As. So check your View Template, Visibility Graphic Overrides, Phase settings and so on.
2. For geometry doing all sorts of wacky stuff but doing this in plain sight, the problem 9 out of 10 times lies in constraints you put on one or more elements you grouped. With Grouping and Save as you removed those constraints which made the problem go away...

See below for some screenshots:

Cross select the offending Geometry

Filter out unwanted categories and create a Group

Find in the Project Browser and Save out the Group

Why should we all pay for this forum???

A few days ago Revitforum transitioned to yet another "class" up in the hosting plans. Due to ever increasing traffic from both members and visitors the hosting service made a compelling argument to trade up another step.
During this transition the site got hacked for a short period of time. Although it is sad that happened I believe that this hack-attempt and other trolling, spamming and hackefforts we encountered recently are also a symptom showing this site's growth and struggle in becoming a real and mature Revit community which is here to stay. Just like in the real world, watching your kids grow up sometimes causes some major anxienty attacks when all seems to take a turn for the worse.
Usually it turns out ok though, and I am confident the same will happen with RFO.

In an effort to counter all this internetscum in a better way, the Admin team decided it would be best to transition to a dedicated server which brings more possibilities in taking defensive measures. Unfortunately this also means costs for the domain hosting also more then double to something around 3.000,- dollars.

Long story short: it's donation time! For all you people out there frequently visiting Revitforum (or not, that's ok too...): we started a new donation rally to help pay for another year of hosting this great site.
So why would you want to do this?

I cannot and will no speak for anyone else. I can just provide you with MY reasons to shell out some cash to keep this great place around.
If you are around the forum from time to time you might know me... I'm the guy with the opinion on everything, frequently trashing a thread with some so-called funny remarks. I'm also top poster, and one of the most valued member around (if you consider rep points a good marker for that...;-), which for the sake of argument, I shall for now).
Looking at my post count, which excludes most of the BS, I was online typing up messages for around 10.000 minutes in the last 16 months (2-3 minutes per post on average). So one could make the statement that I already invest a lot in this place, why make it even more by actually donating?

Well, because I to learned a lot of new stuff here too. I found great new tricks, learned about addins I would otherwise have never known about, got the chance to debate with Autodesk staff on important topics, measure my skills with some of the best in the Revit universe, and so on. Basically, I learned more then enough to compensate for the 170 hours I spent here.
Even though this forum costs me a lot of time in answering other peoples questions, it also saves me a lot of time with invaluable input for my own problems. And if I can say this, surely this goes for everybody else around here too?

So yeah, this is for free. It's the internet, you will always find your recources for free. Until you don't... And where does that leave you? Where do you stand when RFO, or other places you visit to get the answers to your questions, no longer exist? Right, then you'll need to contact me, and guys just like me, in that other merit we have: as a professional consultant.
And although I sincerely believe not all answers relating Revit in your firm can or should be provided through an internet forum, I also sincerely believe that a lot of questions aren't worth the bill I would send you if you ask me as a consultant.

Basically it boils down to this: you could make me and my fellow consultants very rich by letting this site go down the drain and then having to pay us by the hour for your answers, or you can send a check for just one hour of a standard consultants fee and be done with it for an entire year.

Will this answer ALL your questions about Revit? Probably not, some things are not suited for public forums. Will it be worth the investment? Hell yeah, cause you will have questions that we do solve, whether it's asked by you or someone else.  And with solving those questions we will save you money. We are a support team of 1700 active men and women at your disposal. We will help you get your work done within the deadlines. We will make your projects better. We will lead you to solutions you would have never thought about on your own. We will bring your Revit skills to another level, one you could have never dreamed of reaching on your own.
And all we ask in return is your help to preserve this place for the future. We ask of you that the next time we save your butt, you think about the time we just saved you and your boss and donate that amount so we can keep on doing this for another year.

Read more about donating here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What is it that we do?

Aaron Maller, that guy with the unpronouncable blog, wrote 2 posts lately about the merits of his and our profession. Basically the question was: what is it that we do?

I for one am a Building Engineer by education who kind off stumbled into the consultancy business by accident. But I do still think and work as a Building Engineer. So what is it what I do?
After contemplating a bit, which I must admit was accompanied by a fine, barely adult, whiskey, I would answer it like this:

We make believe.

That's it. We are storytellers. We take other peoples hopes and dreams and tell a story about them. We make our clients believe that they can actually come true. Off course it's up to the Contractor to actually make it happen, but hey, what's a book without the letters in it?

When you think of it: providing people with hope and making their dreams come true has always been a compelling reason for building engineers and architects. From the pharaos where the pyramids told a tale of divinity and protection by the gods, to the people rebuilding cities after they are wiped out in a war who speak of hope and resurrection. Buildings are used to tell stories of power, worship and grief.
As for me personally: my stories are far less grand than that. But stories nonetheless. I used to tell people about their new homes. How it will be build to make them happy, to last for their children and their children's children. We all have those conversations with our clients. The conversations in which we take our clients beyond their immediate needs and ask them about the distant future. Talking about how the design needs to be enhanced to suit their needs then. Those conversations have always been my favourites...

So how does BIM fit into all of this?
Back to the second post by Aaron. It's about a new highrise his company is designing and for which he is asked to convert the preliminary designs to a Revit model. While doing this the question arises what the best way would be to divide the glass curtain panels so that deformed panels are minimized, in turn providing a cheaper building without compromising design intent.
He's doing so using some high-tech panels made by Zach Krohn which have the ability to change color based on variations in geometry parameters.

Basically: whatever the topic is of your story, if you can't write properly, it's not going to happen. BIM is our pen and paper, it's our typewriter, it's our means to communicate the story we want to tell to the world.
It gives us the opportunity to review our own story from all angles, to reread what we have written, to polish and shave off the sharp edges. To rewrite our story and change it until it becomes something worth publishing.

And that's what Aaron is doing here if you ask me: working on his story. Making it better, making it more exciting to read. Using all possible recourses at hand. And that's exactly what he's supposed to do I guess: tell the best story possible.

So, as far as I'm concerned: I don't care which pen you are writing with. Just as long as you make it a story worth reading. Make your clients believe...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sharing your model: GET OVER IT PEOPLE

Interesting discussion here at RFO today...
A member asked a question about what he/she should do with subcontractors wanting their model for QTO's... And off course the discussion quickly had two sides:

1. Because of legal mubo jumbo we can't do this AND/OR
2. The General Contractor is not using our stuff for free, and get paid for it. If he wants our model to do Clash Detection or QTO, it should pay extra.
3. Well, I am not giving up my content in which we put a lot of hours so that someone else benefits from it.


Just give them the model already...

I work as an independent consultant. Besides telling people what to do, I also get hired by firms that need an extra hand with modelling or just setting up a project. And last but not least: I implement Revit for all kinds of firms (architects, contractors, subcontractors, and so on).
And I have my own building projects, some leftovers from back in the days when I started out as a freelance building engineer. So basically, I'm all over the place.

But the one question I always get is: should we share our model. And the first response always is: HELL NO! For either one of the above reasons.

Let's start with the first one, cause that's easy:
Anyone wanting my model, be my guest. But it comes with an "as-is" waver: I did my part, you can have it to do yours. But don't hold me responsible for errors in your work when you use my model. Period, case closed. Now you can go all legal on me, but basically it's that simple.

Clash detection: cool, be my guest. Be sure to send me a copy of the NW-file and output. 2 options:
1. I didn't make any errors, so I look good.
2. I did make errors, and this saves me a lawsuit.
Either way, I win too...

Cost estimation/project scheduling: Let me know how you want to set it up and I'll build it for you. Again, wouldn't be the first time I end up teaching them how to easily convert non-ready models they receive. And in the worst case: next project, I get another phonecall since I already meet their standards.
Now the hard one, number 3:
For the last eight years, I have spent an average minimum of 10 hours a week on creating my content. That's 8x50x10 = 4000 hours. And that included A LOT of falling flat on my face, and recreating it. And again... And again. I have spent countless hours in making my library and template what it is today: far from finished...
Can you have my model? Sure, be my guest. Why don't I care about what you take from it? Well, that has a few reasons:

I mainly just assume that a structural engineer I work with doesn't need my fancy windows. And a GC's core business isn't modelling stuff, it's building it. And if either of them does rip off my model, he has one (1) or two (2!) types of windows/doors/take-your-picks of them since I do always purge out redundant types. So what?
Basically there are two options:
1. He understands how they are build, since he is on the same level (to be frank: in Holland not so likely to happen). In which case, he only knows how they work cause he built them in a similar way for his own library. And therefor has no need for them.
2. He is going to have a hell of a time reverse-engineering them and then needs to redo his own entire library to put them together in one project. That's also not likely.

Frankly: I see my entire model as one big advertisement campaign when I send it out. It's all about "looky here, I can build this kind of library and smart/extremely efficient template for you too!!! Bet you didn't know you could do that, did ya!". Wouldn't be the first time I end up consulting a firm I did my modelling tricks for, teaching them how my model was built in the first place... 

And there's another thing to be considered:
It's one thing to mimic a trick. That doesn't mean you know the software. I've seen people use my stuff (and they asked nicely). But they couldn't "use" my stuff as in create whole new things from it.
Without blowing my own horn too loud, my added value to a company would be that I understand the software better, know why it does what it does, and what will work vs what solution won't work. Call it gut feeling if you like. You cannot copy that. Period.
So yeah, in a few weeks you'll know how to use my content. But you'll not have the knowledge that supports the choices I've made. You'll not have the knowledge WHY I did what I did. Just that I did it... Works for now, until you reach a point where it doesn't work. And then you get bitten in the a$ for working with stuff you do not fully comprehend... Cause now you are going to have to go down the same road I went down the last 8 years to try and understand WHY I did what I did. You'll need to make the same stupid mistakes, assumptions gone wrong, brainwaves turning out to be nothing more then another night's sleep lost, and so on...

It is the main reason why I advocate that people should make their own content. Sure, it will suck big time. And you'll lose a lot of time . That's why it's called a learning PROCESS. But it's also invaluable to get to truly understanding your software.
If you ask me, everyone talking the talk about helping competitors, not wanting to share knowledge, and so on is still standing in the Autocad days with one leg. It's a dwg-reasoning. Cause yeah, when you gave up a dwg, you gave it all up. But that's because it was a stupid bunch of lines and hatches.

Revit content (if well built) has much more then that. It's only valuable if it co-exists with the right template, material naming, object style naming, consistent use of dozens of shared parameters, system parameters, schedules, filters, view templates, and so on. In short: it needs vision for it to work. I cannot transfer that so be my guest: take all you want... Even if it gives you a jumpstart. Try to abuse it and it will also set you back just as hard...

Let me ask you this:
How many people reading this are actually using components they got from other firms?
Why do you use them?
Do you schedule those elements? Do you do cost-estimating, clash detection, project planning or any other high-end stuff with them, or did you just get them cause it looked nice?
In general: do you feel you are using their full potential? The original owner probably has tons of view filters to make them do all kinds of whacky stuff. How about you?
Are those components now part of your library and how has it affected your library?
How many people downloaded stuff or ripped of a model, stared at the components for some time and haven't touched them since?

I'm curious... And I believe that the answers to this is going to be an eye-opener for everyone afraid of sharing their content. It is not as easy as dwg-blocks to rip off someones library.