Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Phantom Keynotes 2.0

I posted about this topic in the past (see Phantom Keynotes) and it seems that we keep finding issues with Keynote Legends reporting keynotes that don’t seem to exist in the view. I have also written a follow-up post (see More on Keynotes) to discuss other visibility issues and other problems related to this functionality and the current User Interaction shortfalls. Recently some Electrical users pointed me to additional instances of misreporting by Keynote Legends, so this post will summarize those findings. These can be reproduced in Revit 2015.

  1. If the Annotation Crop Region is not enabled, keynotes attached to objects that lie outside the model crop region are still reported, which is completely unexpected. The result is the same whether you use Element Keynotes or User Keynotes. The expected behavior should be that if keynoted objects lie outside of the model crop region, those keynotes should not appear in the legend, regardless of whether the annotation crop region is enabled or disabled.
  2. Another instance of Phantom Keynotes occurs with keynoted elements in close proximity to the view’s model crop region. This issue is exacerbated even more when the tags are far from the objects they are attached to. With the Annotation Crop Region enabled, the keynote still appears in the legend unless the boundary of the Annotation Crop region touches the edge of the keynote annotation. This is completely unexpected and the following series of images illustrate the problem:

 image1

If the Model and Annotation Crop Regions are adjusted such that both the model element and the keynote tag lie outside these boundaries, the legend will rightly not report that keynote:

image2

However the Keynote Legend will still incorrectly report the keynote if only the model element is outside of the Model Crop Region, but the Keynote Tag is within the Annotation Crop Region (the legend is actually only concerned about the tag, not the model element):

image3

 image4

Please be very careful when using this functionality and double check your work (don’t assume that the Keynote Legend will hide unrelated keynotes for you!). The only workaround at the moment is to pick the keynote tags that shouldn’t be listed in the legend and manually hide them in the view, which is a very ugly workaround. The following process needs to be followed for each view:

  1. Select all instances of the keynote tag in the project;
  2. Remove all keynote tags visible in the view from the selection;
  3. Right-Click and Hide all instances in the view.

The desired and expected Keynote Legend filtering is as follows:

  • If the keynoted model element is not visible in the view and as a consequence the tag is also not visible, do not report it;
  • If the Keynote Tag is not visible because it is manually hidden in the view or because it touches or is outside the Annotation Crop Region, do not report it

Monday, 14 April 2014

To/From Room Door Parameters

Prior to Revit 2014, these parameters were very unreliable and prone to error. With Revit 2014, we saw the introduction of a new family parameter called Room Calculation Point, which can help with reporting consistency. However be mindful of the fact that this setting has to be manually activated, otherwise the information will remain as unreliable as before. You can read more about the topic in this RFO thread.

Here are some facts about how these parameters work without the Room Calculation Point enabled:

  1. If rooms already exist on either side of a wall when a door is inserted, the room on the swing-side of the door will be set as the To Room;
  2. If the door is then flipped, the To/From Room parameters do not update. The user has to make manual adjustments if desired;
  3. If no rooms existed when a door was inserted, the first room added to either side of the door will be set as the To Room;
  4. Both doors and rooms have to be in the same model for these parameters to report. The schedule can reside elsewhere, however manual changes between the two reported rooms have to be made in the host model.

As you can see, the reported information is prone to error and highly unreliable. Another big issue is the fact that door swing direction does not imply “ownership”: a door could be swinging out of a room and technically belong to that space. It is also usually not possible to infer hardware functionality from swing direction and door “ownership” alone.

By enabling the Room Calculation Point, we can at least address data errors. The To/From Room parameters will then update consistently regardless of whether the door is placed before/after the rooms, or whether the swing direction is altered after placement.

As with a lot of things in our industry, there is no standard way of documenting doors: some include information for the room that the door “belongs” to, some include both To/From Room information, while others completely exclude these columns of data. I happen to be of the opinion that the latter is the most prudent choice, although the Room Calculation Point parameter makes me less concerned about data inaccuracy. However be very careful: changing the To/From Room parameter when the Room Calculation Point is enabled, will actually flip the swing direction! This is a behavior change that you really need to be aware of.

If you happen to use the To/From Room parameter to report “ownership” only, you can do so with even greater reliability by employing the following trick. The little leaders are hardwired in the family template to prevent them from crossing the Internal X-Axis:

RcP1

By shifting family geometry, you can then consistently report “ownership”. In the example below, both the To Room and From Room parameters will always report the room on the swing side of the door. Note that you can flip the To/From direction if you need to, although that would not change how these values are reported in the example below:

RcP2

The other very positive side-effect of doing this is that now you cannot accidentally flip the door direction from the schedule, since both To/From Room parameters will report the same data. If you want to report ownership based on the outswing-side, simply shift the geometry in the opposite direction. Please note that “ownership” rules cannot be changed at the instance level (ex: you have to commit ownership of a door to always be on the swing side at the family level), so if you need to change this and still use the Room Calculation Point, you will have to double up on your family definitions in a project, or employ some of the workarounds described in this RFO thread.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Sync with Central Best Practices

Here’s a list of best practices David Ivey shared for synchronizing with central (SWC) in Revit:

Never leave for extended periods of time (i.e. Lunch, Meeting, Home) after hitting the Sync button. 
Revit will often ask for something before the process is complete, and if this happens while you’re out, your team can be stuck with a central file that is ‘in use’, and be kept from saving/working.

Always use the Worksharing Monitor (WSM), and consult it before hitting the Sync button. 
This will save you and your team time by not making Revit slowly wade through two or more concurrent SWC attempts. Wait for an opening in the WSM, and then sync. And yes, WSM will work in a Citrix Revit session.

Always use the Sync and Modify Settings command, so that you are presented with the dialogue to release borrowed and owned elements. 

image

Check all available boxes when syncing (with the exception of the Compact box), so that all objects and elements are returned to the central file.

SNAGHTML598843

Add comments in the field provided. These comments are helpful in tracking down problems that may occur from time-to-time in the model. Short, concise descriptions of work are all that is required. This is a problem solving tool, and not a means for assigning blame (as some believe).

Always save locally when prompted.  SWC when prompted when working alone, or after consulting the WSM on small team projects (2-5).  For larger projects, consult with your project’s BIM Coordinator.  On larger projects, there may be a SWC schedule to follow, usually set in 30-120 minute increments depending on project, team, and model size, or during deadlines.

Over-communication with your team is far better than poor communication. Utilize Jabber (or other instant messaging application), email, your phone, or your voice, and make sure you and your team are all on the same page.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Filled Regions and DWG Exports

This sounds like an odd paring for a blog post subject, but they are unpleasantly related.

When a view contains the following items and you export to a CAD format, you will likely experience loss of data:

  • Families with nested Generic Annotation such as Security Devices, Fire Alarm Devices, Electrical Fixtures, etc.
  • A large filled region covering a big portion of the view, usually to identify areas of work and areas outside of work.

This issue was filed with Autodesk Support and it has been known for at least 3 to 4 years. It seems that regeneration of the nested families fails, which results in the absence of these devices in the export. They are actually still in the view, but since in most cases there is no geometry visible in plan except the nested annotation itself, you end up with no object representation. The following are some workarounds, some more acceptable than others, depending on your situation:

  1. Delete/hide the filled regions before exporting;
  2. Change the filled regions to Solid Fill and everything will export as expected. You will then need to open each exported file and change the hatch to something other than solid within the CAD editing software;
  3. Do not use component families with nested annotation. This is obviously not an acceptable solution for MEP (#2 or #1 seem to be the only viable solutions), but might be acceptable for Interiors, where they can simply show these devices through the use of Generic Annotation families placed directly in the view. These can be scheduled within Note Blocks if required, however this workaround means you cannot make these objects visible in other views to properly coordinate your work, or see them in elevations, sections and 3D views.

There is no good workaround for this issue and the best is probably #2. Let’s hope the Factory can get this fixed sooner rather than later.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Manufacturer Content - Lighting

I will reluctantly kick off this post first with a little rant: is it too much to ask from a Lighting Manufacturer, that their BIM content render appropriately? I think not!

I am sure (hopeful, really) that there is good lighting content out there, but I’d like to take you through a specific journey that in my opinion, was unnecessarily painful and is probably quite representative of today’s common reality. So here we go…a user needed to do some “quick” renderings of an interior, utilizing a fixture by Focal Point called “Equation”. Based on the marketing brochure, this is what these should look like:Brochure

Here’s the resulting render using the Architectural family downloaded from the manufacturer’s website (for the purpose of this post, I kept the exposure settings constant so you can easily see the relative differences):

OOTB

It is clear that the family is built incorrectly. The overall geometry might be close enough (it wasn’t to my liking either, so what you’re seeing in this post is a rebuilt version, where I broke it down further so materials could be assigned to different parts of the family, including the internal reflector), but lighting is not emitting through the fixture. Editing the family revealed that the lighting definition was not set to Photometric Web. The MEP version of the family did have the lighting set to an IES definition, but who do we really expect to do an interior rendering? In my opinion, if you have photometric definitions for your fixtures, you should use those definitions exclusively, no exceptions.

After downloading and adding the IES definition to the Architectural family (which was ceiling-hosted…more on that later on), we end up with this:

With IES

This is clearly darker than the original version, so the luminance of the original family far exceeded reality. Now, I understand that we’re not designing a lighting strategy/layout based on a rendered image, but we do expect the result to be perceived as close to the built reality as possible. The IES definition gets us closer, however we still need to do something about the fixture itself. The quickest, most efficient technique is to use a self-illuminating material for the lens, which results in a decent render if the fixtures are far from the camera, but would not be suitable for close-ups due to their “flat” appearance. In the example below, the material’s Luminance setting was set to 300:

Self-Illuminating Material   IES

Self-illuminating materials add to the general brightness of the image beyond what you get out of the IES definition, but there’s really nothing we can do about that, except tweaking the resulting render exposure to get it close to how we perceive the scene should look like.

For a more realistic look, the fixture needs to be built differently. You need to rough-in the internal reflector, place a tubular light source to mimic the lamp as closely as possible, and then nest the family into another one so you can set the additional Photometric Web light source. Since the family I was editing was already hosted, I nested in an empty family into it instead:

Lamp in fixture  IES

The most noticeable and perplexing issue are the inconsistent artifacts around some of the fixtures. I was able to reduce them a bit by shortening the light source, but they would not go away completely (I think this is a bug, but have not yet confirmed…comments welcome!). The other issue are the harsh Lamp in fixture with no IESshadows, which are a result of the lens material being incorrect (used frosted glass) and can be easily tweaked as we’ll see shortly. With this method you add a significant amount of light to the scene, above and beyond the Photometric Web definition. The image on the left uses the tubular light source only with no Photometric Web. I noticed that I was using the original family’s metallic paint for the reflector and once replaced with a non-metallic white, the scene improved slightly:

Lamp in fixture  IES   non-metallic materials

Tweaking the lens material was necessary to get this scene closer to the lighting atmosphere resulting from these fixtures, although those pesky artifacts mean that post-processing cleanup is still required to get a presentation-worthy product.

Lamp in fixture  IES   proper lens material

Lens Material SettingsJust in case you’re curious about the lens material, here are the settings I used after some trial and error (click to enlarge).

What an adventure! I really don’t think it should be this painful to make a “quick” rendering using manufacturer-provided content, especially when dealing with lighting. We really need to be able to drop in such families, complete with appropriate material settings, and move on with our design work, rather than requiring a total rebuild, tweaking of their materials and several test renders.

Lighting Content Building Tips for Manufacturers

  1. Start with a non-hosted lighting family so you can use the light source that is built-into the family template to emit light from the fixture. This also gives you the flexibility to simply nest into any other hosted family template, rather than rebuilding each one from scratch and making change management difficult for you and your users!
  2. By doing #1, the end user can then decide whether using a self-illuminating material for the lens is a better solution and they can simply edit the family to remove the light source (emitting from the fixture) if that is the chosen path;
  3. Nesting into a hosted template means you can now also use the Photometric Web definition in addition to the other light source used to make the fixture appear to emit light. If an IES file is available, the fixture should not use anything other than these definitions. Also, make them downloadable together with the families, not separately! It is torture to figure out which IES file belongs to which fixture and which configuration. See #5 to manage these better;
  4. Include proper materials!
  5. Use Type Catalogs instead of making a plethora of individual families. It is more difficult for you, and for us, to manage them otherwise;
  6. Don’t miss building the reflector and the cavity within the fixture where the “emitting” light source will reside. If you only consider the exterior of the fixture, your end users will have to spend a lot of time re-building them in order to produce acceptable renderings. And once they find another manufacturer that does a good job with their content, guess what is bound to happen?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

COBie Resources

The folks in the UK at Bond Bryan Architects have created a list of numerous resources available on COBie – Construction-Operations Building Information Exchange. What is COBie? Check here first, and then pay a visit to the Bond Bryan BIM site for more: bimblog.bondbryan.com/cobie/

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

RIBA and Malaysian Institute of Architects delegation visit HOK

On Friday 7th March, we were honoured to host a delegation from the Malaysian Institute of Architects and the RIBA. Our presentation on HOK's buildingSMART design approach was co-delivered by David King, Technical Principal, London and David Shepherd, buildingSMART Manager, London.

2014-03-07 11.51.44
Stefan Jacobek, Senior Architect and Quinton Pop, Project Architect for International School of Kuala Lumpur explained how BIM has facilitated HOK's design approach to projects in Malaysia, particularly ISKL. Rafael Marks, the Project Leader for ISKL also participated in the ensuing conversation.

Although the meeting was scheduled to last for an hour, the thought-provoking Q & A session continued for at least half an hour more into lunch.

2014-03-07 11.48.18
We are thankful for this opportunity to disseminate HOK’s considerable knowledge and experience in BIM and look forward to future engagements with representatives of these professional industry bodies, both national and international.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Key Commands for Frequently Used Symbols

Keystroke-based Symbols:

Here are some useful windows-based key commands for symbols you may want to use in notes, emails, etc:


And the source site is here.

Character Map:

Alternatively, you can use character map, which you can find in the start menu:

but you may find that not all characters can be easily found in the font you're using.


Friday, 31 January 2014

Three Keys to Achieve Lean Design in BIM

Following on from my previous post on the importance of improving on value-creating process linkages, it’s worth looking at the lean design process in more detail.
I want to give you three major practical principles for BIM to help in optimising the design process.

To explain them, I’d like to highlight a different kind of model. It was developed in a package called ExtendSim, a software tool that allows you to simulate a range of processes. The authors of the paper, Application of Lean Principles to Design Processes in Construction Consultancy used this tool to map the building design process.

The Bottom Line

Why this matters is that when applied to the design process of a major engineering consultancy in Egypt, the simulation showed that, by applying lean principles, the time required to deliver projects could be reduced by 7 per cent. The average staff utilisation increased from 0.4309 to 0.5116. That, my friends, represents serious money!

Design Phases

The researchers identified three phases. In the diagrams below, I’ve highlighted with a blue box those steps which create no value, but are unavoidable. The red box indicates steps which create no value and are avoidable.
The Project Initiation Phase corresponds to the RIBA Plan of Work Stage 0 and 1 or the AIA Phases 1 and 2. As we at HOK know, workshops are critical to ensuring that the project gains client approval. Obviously, significant value is lost if a design is completely rejected, or returned to the Workshops stage.

image

The Core Design Phase commences after the preliminary project design gains client approval to proceed:

image
In the simulation, the architectural design was set to develop to 60 per cent before the structural and mechanical design effort was engaged. By way of contrast, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) would involve earlier inter-disciplinary design effort. One of the benefits of an IPD contract is that it permits the HVAC and Structural Design integration to proceed long before the Architectural Design is 60 per cent complete.
In all cases, what is important is the Batching block at the end of this phase. It’s about ensuring that all work-streams are combined to present a coherent design package, bringing together the contributions of each discipline. In lean thinking terms, what you are trying to avoid is unnecessary delay.

The Finalisation and Closing phase looks like this.

image
As indicated by the boxes, wherever information Flow can be impeded, there is the potential for costly delay. Remove those hindrances and you accelerate the value stream. So, this is where BIM can make a difference and here are my three practical principles:
1. Expedite Coordination by Inquiry in BIM.
A key concept in Lean Thinking is Pull: no activity should produce a service until the next process downstream asks for it.
Since documentation is downstream of coordination, views and sheets derived from the models of each discipline can be regularly reviewed in the BIM environment in order to instigate coordination inquiry. From early on in the project, we use Revit and Navisworks to identify design elements that are either absent, poorly defined, inconsistently presented, or uncoordinated with other elements and interfaces.
By querying these discrepancies or omissions with the relevant team member(s), the BIM Coordinator can prompt their resolution. Early on, I’m often asking questions like: ‘Why is that revolving facade door in the middle of the grass verge?’; ‘How is that cantilever supported?’; ‘Why do those ceilings over-sail the facade?’; ‘Where’s the access to the sheave space above the elevator?’
It’s my job, so I keep asking until I get answers.
2. Propagate Design Fixity
Once you have answers, commit them to the model.
On Barts and Royal London Hospitals, the BIM environment (at that time, Architectural Desktop) was used to capture design fixity. Design fixity is a consensus on a design issue that enables the project to progress. It is not ‘design freeze’, but it does provide an agreed basis for making and communicating decisions.
It is attained by what’s known as “Last Responsible Moment” (LRM) decision-making. The LRM is that phase review decision-point beyond which the cost of delay outweighs the benefit of delay. While that moment is the Project Manager’s judgement call, the decision is informed by several factors, including the lead-time for the documentation phase. We can run all the client workshops that we want, but at that LRM, the design team must commit to a decision or begin to lose money.
In order to disseminate design fixity as quickly as possible, the BIM Coordinator must ensure that the project team promptly propagate to all models any aspect of design fixity that affects them. As BIM experts, we need to drive this part of the process.
The lack of immediate propagation of design fixity to the value chain is probably the most significant hindrance to adding value.
 3. Prepare and Provide Early for Drawing Production
The BIM Coordinator should set up the bulk of numbered sheets and implement consistent view templates in accordance with agreed drawing presentation standards long before the deadline looms. This will ensure that, once the design is complete and coordinated, production information is delivered as quickly as possible.
The last-minute implementation of project-wide BIM standards and templates is to be avoided as it will invariably compromise the agreed delivery timescales.
As HOK buildingSMART Managers and BIM Coordinators, we are fortunate to inherit great processes from the hard work of our senior buildingSMART staff. They make our work a lot easier. As we apply them, let’s just remember to prioritise these three key activities that can accelerate the addition of value to our projects.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Opinion: BIM Strategy and the Value of Linkages

Towards the end of last year, I began to think more intensely about how we derive strategic value from BIM, not only as a means of improved perceptions, but also as a competitive advantage. In other words, how does information (the ‘I’ in BIM) enable a practice to outperform competitors?

For the most part, I can often discern in strategic discussions about the value of BIM, a conflation of the terms, knowledge and information. Perhaps, this is aided and abetted by the ubiquitous mantras we find on social media: reminding us that knowledge is power. Well, the same can be said of electricity, but both are useless, if they remain unconnected.

Instead of just knowledge, BIM provides us with a toolset for simulating and varying the complex interrelationship of factors that have significant potential to affect the human experience of a building. From cost to accessibility to environmental impact.

Yet, that’s still not enough. An awareness of these factors and how they are expected to relate to each other (i.e. knowledge) must become information: it has to shape (literally, inform) our design ideas and collaborative decisions. For that to happen, BIM requires Senior Design team participation: challenging the model’s assumptions with added priorities and insight that only experience can provide.  

The challenge that then remains is for us to see the value of information as it relates to the entire value stream, not just one part of it. As Michael Porter says in ‘How Information Gives You A Competitive Advantage’:

‘Linkages exist when the way in which one activity is performed affects the cost or effectiveness of other activities. Linkages often create trade-offs in performing different activities that should be optimized…A company must resolve such trade-offs, in accordance with its strategy.’

Porter goes on to emphasise that these linkages are both external and internal and that value is created when we optimise them.

Think about that and look at your latest process diagram. According to Porter, the connecting lines and arrows are as important as the boxes because they represent value-adding linkages.

However much we initially base our BIM process maps on the intended output, what is key is that we are open to create and improve those linkages as the project changes and advances; linkages that can enhance our overall value proposition.

For instance, could the 3D model of an entertainment venue deliver a better simulation of stadium, or concert seating (including the proximity of field-of-view obstructions) than a static floor plan and further differentiate the venue’s provision of premium versus standard seating? Of course it could, but to add value we have to work hard at developing that linkage of the 3D model to the venue promoter’s web-site. See http://www.seats3d.com/products.php

It also means that BIM must now become more a platform for opportunity, rather than for ensuring data compatibility. Just as a candy manufacturer might save processing steps by persuading its suppliers to deliver chocolate in liquid form, we must discover the optimal form in which and pace at which BIM data should pass through different departments in our own organisation and those of project stakeholders. What opportunities are we missing?

Of course, what affects our capacity to effect a change in an organisation, project, or industry is relative bargaining power of the various stakeholders. Yet, the factors affecting the balance of power between them is not simple. A particular manufacturer may have significantly more influence over their supply chain than another. Equally, the aesthetic vision of a single fashion designer can hold sway over vast swathes of the billion dollar clothing industry. Influence is not just about monetary clout. It is about the ability to inspire others.

It is because of this that we soon realise that while our professional bodies may influence broad agreement on data formats through protocols, it requires considerably more negotiation to develop a project consensus on the optimal form and frequency for sharing data with an extended team. Varying levels of experience and understanding in BIM across the industry make this especially true.

The important thing to remember is that for a Building Information Model to become a competitive advantage, it should both lower cost and enhance differentiation. At the very least, if BIM does not do both, it should do one or the other.

Otherwise, such valuable information can lose its competitive advantage.