Monday, November 21, 2016

Manager's Monday - Opening a File

Welcome to Manager's Monday where I give a brief how to of tools and knowledge needed for individuals in a management position.

Today we talk about how to open a file.  Seriously, I'm going to walk through the steps about how to open a freaking file.  The reason this is a topic all on its own is because it encompasses the concepts of work sharing.  But before I dive to quickly into the depot end, let's stay simple.

Basically - to open a file, you go to the big R at the top left hand corner of the screen, you click on the carrot next to Open, you click on project, you navigate to the project & you open the file.  But wait!!  There is more you need to know...

There are three things you have to know before you can open a file.
1. Where the file is located.
2. What version of Revit the file is using.
3.  If the file is a workshared file or not.

Let's start at the top.  Where is the file??

Of course you can't open a file if you don't know where it is located.  Typically your BIM Manager has set up a decent folder structure and everything is pretty well located.  In most cases the Revit file would be located within the project folder structure.  This is all pretty easy cut and dry stuff for a one office, one city firm - but it can get pretty complicated if your firm uses multiple IT platforms or uses collaboration platforms like AutoDesk A360 Collaborate or Revit Server.

It is you BIM Managers job to set up & locate complicated jobs.  It is also their responsibility to communicate the project set up to the project team.  I have found that the easiest way to communicate where a file is located is by leaving a .txt file in the standard folder with the location as the file title.  If the file is on Collaborate or Revit Server stating the Revit release is also helpful to do here.

If the file is on Collaborate or Revit Server, you will only be able to access it through Revit.  If it is on the network you will see it in the Windows Explorer folders.  (Make note that copy clipping a file from the Network onto your hard drive does NOT make a unique file and this is those of the most common managerial mistakes.)

This takes us to our next topic: what version of Revit?

This is important because you don't want to accidentally upgrade a file.  No only can upgrading cause errors, it can also affect all the consultants, the contractor & all the sub-contractors.  This is because everyone must use the same version of Revit and you cannot "save down" a Revit file like you can an AutoCad file.  Once it is upgraded and saved, you either have to use an older file, or everyone in the project must also upgrade.  Just writing about this sucks, actually managing it is the worst.

Finally, the last thing you must know before opening the file - is the file workshared?

Worksharing is a term used to define whether a file is set up so that multiple individuals can work on it at once.  When Revit is set up to be workshared, it does not act like a Word file that gets locked when one person opens it allowing others only read only access.  A Revit workshared file allows multiple people to open the file and save to the file at one time.  I will go into this in more depth at a later time, but what is important in this conversation is that when you open a workshared file, you are actually creating a local cached copy on your hard drive.

If you want to open a file and work on the file, be sure that "make a new local" is checked at the bottom of the screen.  If you just want to do some printing, or look at a few views, then I suggest clicking "make a detached file."  This will make a completely distinct model from the main file & it will ensure you don't screw anything up.

And that's it.

1. Open correct version of Revit
2. Go to big R
3. Click on carrot next to Open
4. Click on Project
5. Navigate to project
6. Click on file with ONE CLICK (Do not double click)
7. Check "make a detached file", or open a local copy if you wish to make changes to the file.
8. Click open.

A simple eight step process - go Revit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Latency in Architecture

When I fly to,the western side of the US I typically like to fly during the day, but this time I'm flying at night.  I'm watching the cities pass below me with their grid work of lighting, thinking of fossils fuels, Mother Nature & the amazing force of the human factor.  We have created an incredible inter-connectivity between cities and cultures.

Distance was once marked by walking and song, then it was marked by the distance a tank of gas could take you.  Now geographic distance is marked by latency and ping time.  Our world is more interconnected than ever before, yet buildings still carry importance to our culture.  We still exist, we still get rained on & we still need shelter.

This is where I stumble.  This is where I want to say something bold like "the need for shelter will never fade, but the need for architecture has."  Has architecture taken a backseat to technology?  Are photos of buildings more important than how well they support their function?  Is it more about what they look like than what they are?  How shallow...

Through the lens of a small interconnected world, architecture is a space that encases one end of a connection, the start or end of a ping.  Architecture is still the physical embodiment of gathering or repose, but the even in the most private of spaces the ping gets through.

Technology in architecture is most easily discussed by practically looking at the tools and processes that we use to manage our businesses.  But let us not forget that technology has changed the way we use buildings, and let us push back on technology.

I do not believe this is done by ignoring technology, but rather by embracing so fully the push through to the other side can be reached more quickly.  That is what I intend to do.

At one point I considered really good architecture that which brought a person back outside, a space that blurred the lines of inside and outside.  Today I amend that and state that good architecture cuts through the technical haze, a space that makes technology invisible and overwrites a person's media obsession.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

FormIT and the Process Gap

Autodesk has a new-ish tool that it is promoting as an alternative to Sketchup.  In the world of AutoDesk, Sketchup seems to be the thorn they can't remove, the program that must not be named.  FormIT is their current answer for how to take over that market.  It might work.

What I have found in my work as a Revit Traininer to BIM Manager to Director of BIM, is that if there is a solution from AutoDesk, use it.  I am of course like everyone a bit bitter about this, and have my opinions of the subscription model, pricing structure, and all over feeling of being hosed that comes with AutoDesk - but if I were the CEO over there I would be quite proud of my self.

The thing that FormIT does it it provides a workflow that is more streamlined workflow between a conceptual model and a production model.  When you import to Revit from Sketchup, you get a model that isn't very manipulative, you get simple static boxes.  You can export to an IFC model and import that model, but that extra step is many times not completed, and can feel like a burden.  With FormIT, you import to Revit with the handy-dandy add-in AutoDesk provides and you get masses that you can manipulate and tweak.

(There are many other things the program does, but I will post about those during my sessions next week at AutoDesk University...)

Still, it doesn't mend the gap.  I don't mean in terms of "minding the gap" in technology acceptance, I mean the gap between working conceptually and working for production.  I am going to call this the Process Gap. The Process Gap can not be mended by this simple type of technology, and we might never want a technology that can mend this gap.  

My firm tends to be separated out between Designers & Production staff.  The funny part is that this has become totally a misnomer as these roles are fulfilled by the same people - it just depends on what hat they have on that day.  When someone is designing, they are pulling ideas out of the ether, they are making the concept work, not making the construction work.  Some designers will model more exactly than others, but many times there can be a 5' tolerance between what is modeled and what will be built.  

We will never pull a model with a 5' tolerance to reality into a production model - never.  We will remodel it.  Now we might just start doing that remodeling in FormIT, use the tool to get the proportions correct and then import into Revit - but why do that when Revit could support this workflow just fine.  Now what if we pushed the process in the other direction, and conceived of an idea where we do the documentation in Sketchup?  We would still remodel.

We would remodel, because each of our designs are completely unique from the previous design and we like it that way.  One can not be restricted by what has been done to invest in what could be done.  Instead of looking at the Process Gap as a negative, I propose re-framing the problem as an opportunity.  

The Process Gap is what give us the ability to research what architecture could be, not what it is.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Wintern!

Welcome to Wednesday, the week just begun and it is almost over.  At this point you are in the thick of a project, and you are probably facing some modeling and drafting issues.  There is a big difference between knowing how to model, and knowing why something is modeled a certain way.  Wednesday Wintern posting are here to help you go from an Intern to a Wintern... pretty witty hunh???  Yep.

Today we are going to talk about a slab on grade / exterior wall /  footing detail.  There are ways it is constructed on site, and there are fast ways to model that do not match.  I am going to review the detail and discuss why something might be modeled a certain way to help develop your ability to this strategically about your model.

Here is the detail in question:

Pretty standard detail, but modeling it can become tricky.  Just look at the wall structure, you have three separate conditions, one condition with a wood stud wall, one condition where the slab intersects the wall, and then the CMU foundation wall below.  I have seen this handled several ways, but only one way where a section can be cut anywhere in the building and this general condition is displayed.  If it is not modeled "correctly" then the sections have to be attended to one at a time with drafting regions really taking away from the functions and 3d modeling that Revit offers.

If you build this as a stacked wall, with three walls stacked upon one another for the three conditions, you can then place the concrete slab with a boundary to the appropriate place provide turn downs, attach a footing and wahlah!  you have an accurately modeled detail in your entire revit model.

Revit goal:

If you start to detail out your model according to the actual details, you will be surprised by how realistic the model becomes and how accurate your drawings become.  With the detail above I also provided topo, and put in a pad that acts as my porous fill.  This allows the sections to read very well, and the exterior renderings are appropriate for my needs.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

DigitalBlue at Architecture Exchange East

Happy Sunday morning!  This past week I was pleased to present at the Architecture Exchange East in Richmond, Virginia.  My sessions were happily attended by around 30 people each and the conversations were lively.  What I learned was that the conversation about Data in Architecture is many times confused with an over the top idea of BIM rather than a simple approach to how to better use the work that we are already doing.

When I think of data in architecture, I think of appropriately used layers in AutoCAD, or the elegant use of categories in Revit.  I think of how far the industry has come in the application of data onto a model, and how poorly the conversation was started.

Architects like organization.  I was trained in AutoCAD by a woman, who taught me that the only way to make a corner was to "fillet 0" which means fillet two lines with a radius of zero.  If you pulled a line you had the opportunity of making a line slightly off orthogonal and jagged on the screen.  All architects I know have these quirks.  These opportunities for BIM.

Data in architecture is about organization, which leads to clean drawings.  If we help our owners organize their facility files, then the idea is that eventually that will benefit the community.

There are many reasons why I like my job - as technical and boring as some might see it.  I see my role as supporting the ability for people to have a better life.  If you work on an organized file, and you can easily make changes then you get to go home at a reasonable time and see your family.

If I help people go home early, I have been successful.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Data in Architecture

One of the oldest records of a drawn architectural document is the Chruch of St. Gall dating around 850 AD.  One thousand years later, the profession was still drafting in the same manner.  One hundred years after that, Ivan Sutherland invented SketchPad one of the first graphic programs for a computer.  Since that time computers have become integral in the development of the physical environment in which we live.  Computers are not only integral in the creation of architectural design and production, they have become embedded into the act of engaging in a space.  Many times our enjoyment of a space is dependent on the access to wifi, or our enjoyment is marked by the impression our images make on social media.  
Access to, development of, organization of, and subsequent management of data has become a normal daily activity.  Yet, when the building industry is challenged to organize and manage the data of a building many respond with disdain.  Whether it is through fear of a process change, a defense of the waste that props up their organization, or simple lack of interest -managing data in a building has been ignored by the little guys and only tackled by those that have the most money and the most to immediately gain.  
Software companies have all but ostracized the little guy.  Applications are too expensive to purchase, and the time necessary to learn them isn’t invested.  Applying a term like BIM to a project many times means that we only want the best teams with the most resources, but we want those teams to bill like BIM wasn’t a part of the process.  
The industry has been wrestling with this for ten years, and will continue to wrestle with it for the rest of our professional lives.