Author Archives: Sean Burke

Revit 2015 System Requirements

Windows 8.1 is finally supported. While I still haven’t been able to install Revit 2014, or Vasari Beta 3, Revit 2015 is officially supported on Windows 8.1. With previous versions, you get the following error (I’m currently testing Windows 8.1 Enterprise in a Parallels Virtual Machine). Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 10.51.01 AM

So, good news if you plan to upgrade your OS and all of your active projects. As far as large firms are concerned, I wonder what is the intended upgrade path that makes sense? We still have a project wrapping up that’s using Revit 2011, many projects starting out with 2014 today and everything in between. Very little is seamless in the world of AEC, especially when some of the buildings we design take several years to complete.

Interestingly, there’s now published recommendations for Parallels Desktop for Mac. I’ve been using that for years, and given I have a three-day old Mac, am anxious to try it out with these settings.

Source: http://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/revit-products/troubleshooting/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/System-requirements-for-Autodesk-Revit-2015-products.html

Is Revit dead?

cross-159805_150Many of my colleagues have recently expressed concern regarding the future of Revit. It’s not a terribly difficult observation to make; from the end-user perspective, Revit (the client application) has shown a reduced pace in the development of new features. Yes, there’s seemingly been for a number of years the long list of requests for better or new features in the core Revit product that are still unmet. So, is Revit dead? Certainly not. I don’t think any of you should be worried. I’m very hopeful for the future of this tool, and feel this lull is merely the calm before the storm.

Will something replace Revit as the de-facto BIM application? Perhaps. Nothing lasts forever. I cannot predict what Autodesk or its competitors will do over the next decade, however I’m sure we will see some significant advances in technology. Infinite Computing? What the naysayers may be missing is that Revit is no longer just a single desktop-based client application. It has evolved into a platform, or perhaps something more like a BIM ecosystem. It’s about connected-ness.

Autodesk is in this for the long-haul. And it’s not just about you and I, it’s about the next generation and ensuring the company can engage and continue to provide relevant innovation. Take for instance the Design The Future US campaign, to donate tools to STEAM schools across the United States.

I sincerely believe the Revit development team has taken a page from the Apple playbook. Much like the iPhone has become a new digital hub, replacing the Mac, the new, more mature Revit ‘the platform’ is replacing the Revit ‘the client’ of old. Revit is repositioning itself to replace, well Revit. The other page they are taking is more secrecy, which makes one wonder if they might just be working on that Next Big Thing.

This new role as platform is allowing Revit to stretch its legs and become even more important as it moves away from being perceived edge of design and focussed more exclusively on documentation. Revit has now and will become more deeply integrated with the core of planning, conceptual design, detailed design, fabrication, and operation of our built environment. Take, for instance the tools that integrate with BIM 360 Glue and Field as more details of the upcoming release are revealed.

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The Revit 2015 BIM 360 ribbon panel

To better predict what Autodesk might have up its sleeve, let’s look at the shape of the current ecosystem that may not be completely obvious, especially to those who only use a handful of these tools and services.

Let’s look at what we know from publicly available information:

  • With ‘prosumer’ iOS apps like FormIt and SketchBook mobile in the iOS Apps Store and Google Play, in-browser apps like Project ShapeShifter and Fusion 360, and mature professional creation tools like Maya and AutoCAD for Mac – the exclusive focus on Windows-based desktop applications is long behind us
  • Autodesk is investing heavily in the cloud – by some accounts up to 500 million USD per year
  • With Rendering, Daylight, Energy, Material Life-Cycle Costs, Wind and Structural Analysis all now available in the cloud, simulation is getting closer to the design tool, more real-time and more accessible
  • No longer just Buzzsaw and Vault, arguably little more than file management systems with some data capabilities, collaboration is something that they now are exploring on multiple fronts. With communities and tools such as: Autodesk 360, BlueStreak and the new iOS app Autodesk Instant, expect more to come.
  • Design computation within the Revit environment, with a relative newcomer named Dynamo, has become a reality in the last year. While still in Beta, the active community and rapid development pace has been really exciting. This is especially true since Dynamo is an Open Source project (found here), with a few interesting forks, including one for Autodesk Inventor on GitHub. Even though this is Open Source, it is a project that Autodesk is spending significant time and development to bring to bear.
  • Revit in the Cloud – with the last few releases being certified for Citrix, creating your own private cloud to allow access to your models, even while away from the office or without a powerful laptop is completely possible. When at home, I don’t need to bring my workstation laptop home. It’s very simple to access the Citrix farm from my own personal computer, even a Mac. With any stable internet connection, I sometimes use an iPad to quickly view models. I’ve written about the experimental cloud solution Octane Cloud Workstation in the past, and this now seems to be getting more recent press coverage – see this article on Architosh.
  • Revit interoperability with fabrication tools, facilities management platforms, Civil 3D and Infraworks means the useful data accessible to your fingertips is growing exponentially – to help make better decisions and incorporate the knowledge and experience of those in allied disciplines to ensure your architectural designs both take their environment into account, and are also more easily made and deployed and integrated into the built environment.

So, while some of you may not be pleased with the new features list (described in my previous post), you need to see the bigger picture. It may be made from Sketchy lines today, and it will sharpen over time. The new BIM workflow focusses more on collaboration, construction and not just design and engineering, simulation, visualization, and most of all harnessing and contributing to Big Data. I, for one, welcome our new digital design hub.

The future of design looks bright. Viva la Revitlution!

What’s new in Revit 2015

So, let’s just get right to business. What you came here for, the Revit 2015 new and enhanced features summary. I have no images to share, yet. This list is not exhaustive. For more information, until Autodesk rolls out it’s own announcement, visit: CADLine

New Features:

  • Sketchy Lines can be applied to any 2D or 3D view to help present your ideas.
    • To get good results, it is recommended to have a supported graphics card and driver with hardware acceleration and utilize anti-aliasing.
    • With this new graphic display setting, you can now enable anti-aliasing per view.
    • The Graphics tab of the Options dialog allows finer level of control for anti-aliasing, which will let you dial in to the right level of performance.
  • There’s a new ability to order and sort parameters within the Family editor.
  • Linking IFC files is now possible.
    • Revit displays IFC geometry much better than with the native import method, and this may change as the import/export IFC tools are still Open Source.
    • At this time, linked IFC files cannot be dimensioned to or used as room-bounding elements.

Enhancements:

  • Schedules are much improved – with type and instance parameter images able to be shown in the schedule – think room data sheets and furniture spec reports.
  • Revision cloud drawing and management tools much improved.
  • Hidden line display in various discipline view settings is improved, especially holes in slabs.
  • Revit Fabrication export settings for moving data to AutoCAD MEP or AutoCAD Fabrication CADmep is improved.
  • Many other productivity and performance improvements.
    • One example: Duplicating a view used to take a view named ‘View 1′ and automatically name it ‘Copy of View 1′, and will now put ‘Copy #’ as a suffix, so you don’t lose track of where the copy went in the Project browser.
  • Energy Models geometry extraction from the Revit model are significantly more accurate.
  • As per usual, many API features have been exposed.

I’m certain there will be more to write about this release over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Shake some trees, make some noise

How do you knock down the tallest tree? One hack at a time.

I was going to write about the upcoming AEC Hackathon at Facebook HQ, and my new BIMbuddy, Jared,

beat me to it. If you don’t follow Shoegnome, you really should.

AEC Hackathon 1.1

Last week I had coffee with Greg Howes of IDEAbuilder, and one of the AEC Hackathon organizers, and we had great conversations about BIM, digital fabrication, and the shortage of high-quality technical designers and fabricators. There’s such a lack of qualified people, that some firms who have traditionally been super competitive have to turn away work, or don’t bid on as many projects for feat they might win them all. The equipment, and by extension BIM software, doesn’t run itself.

Some well-respected designers in the AEC community have recently been quite outspoken on their belief that firm structures and business decisions are why they have not yet mastered their tools. To them I say, “stop making excuses.” The only way to master a tool is to both want to excel and put the time into doing so. There is no magic pill. I recently attended a great lecture by Andrew Kudless of MATSYS, who also happens to be on the dFab Net (Digital Fabrication Network) board with Greg Howes and other prominent industry leaders. AS he began his talk, he mentioned that while in Japan he learned that in order to be a carpenter’s apprentice, you must first spend a year in studies making your own tools. Only then are you allowed to work on a real project. Here in the USA, despite what some may think, training dollars spent on unwilling participants is wasted time and money. Jumping in with both feet or a project manager throwing bodies at a project with no training, à la ’trial by fire’, can be equally destructive to the established team’s productivity.

The inefficiencies in the industry have very deep roots. Those roots are paper drawings, orthographic projection of 2D views, lack of understanding from clients, operators, and code officials as to why BIM will never flourish with these things in our way. Rather than save those roots, I say cut down the tree. Together, we can plant a new tree, or an entire forest. Things can be better. So, what can the construction industry do to get it’s groove back? Make everyone an expert in a particular brand of BIM software? No. Good start, and it’s not enough. We must also redefine the process, tools, and deliverables necessary to create a functioning ecosystem. Things are far too out-of-balance.

The industry needs more meet ups like the Hackathon. Did I mention that you should go? It’s not just for architects. You’ll find designers, engineers, contractors, fabricators, and a whole lot of software developers – many not even from our industry. As Jeff Kowalski said during one of the AU2013 keynotes, “the answer is outside.” The hackathon model, a similar event was hosted by Case at AU, is the perfect venue to partner directly with some very smart people in the technology sector to identify opportunities and roll up the sleeves to rapidly prototype solutions – all in the heart of one of the most innovative places on the planet, Silicon Valley.

In a time where there are many industry forces threatening to make the role of the architect less in the center of things, there’s a tremendous opportunity to redefine what it means to design and create buildings. It’s time to change the conversation. Don’t let the narrative that’s all too common out there get you down: “Architects are no longer master builders, and therefore doomed to become extinct.” Failure is inevitable. Well, that’s true if you’ve already thrown your hands in the air. It’s getting old people, and just another excuse. This reframing of the conversation for the AEC industry is critical to increase relevance in an ever more crowded landscape of constraints and competition.

We live and work in a time where we can create anything we want, including creating and reshaping the tools we use everyday. Design Computation might be is now a huge part of this opportunity. As I’ve said on several occasions, the sweet spot is where those tools combine with BIM to create the complete package of Computational BIM.

Are you ready to (really) change the world? Sign up for the AEC Hackathon, and if you need more reasons to attend, read the excellent article, on Shoegnome.

Deconstructing the Box

I’ve been spending some time researching the construction of a typical shipping container for my project: Unboxed House. As a result, I’ve been thinking about the deconstruction possibilities of this box. My sketch book is about to have a serious workout.

While in Revit, I wanted to explore a handful of concepts. One, through the use of the Displacement option in Revit 2014, it is very simple to dedicate a view to see the walls, doors and roof removed form what ultimately is a very light-weight minimalist frame. For more information on how to use Displacement Sets, check out the Revit Jedi or watch this video by Ideate. The exploded axonometric is really just a way for me to consider this imposing, metal box as something that shouldn’t be feared as static and immoveable. It can be pulled apart, remixed and re-assembled, right in Revit.

Exploded Axon

 

One possibility, although not terribly original of me (see the Port-A-Bach prototype by Bonnifait + Giesen in New Zealand), is the idea of folding out parts of the walls as a way to create something completely new from the original configuration – a deck in this case. By using the corrugated metal wall as a frame for wood decking, the boundary between interior and exterior space can begin to become a little more loose – through glass walls, and/or exploring the potential to create slide out volumes of space that ride on tracks in the ”deck”.

Parametric Folding Wall

This model is being created with Revit walls, floor, roof and structural framing members. I decided to assemble it in the project environment, to make the “existing conditions” easier to document, and to manipulate or even selectively demolish. So, if you know anything about Revit having a preference to keep walls vertical, you may ask – “How did you manage to rotate the wall?”

 

Parametric Folding Wall 0Parametric Folding Wall 1

It’s very simple actually. The walls are modeled “in-place”, meaning that I used a profile sketch for the corrugated steel, and created an extrusion. I then created an instance parameter as shown below, that allows controlling the wall Fold Down Angle – zero is closed, 90 is open.

Parametric Wall PropertiesAs with any Revit family, if you wish to control the angle, you need to use Reference Lines. The most common example is opening a door, or pair of doors. Yes, the doors are operational on this model as well.

I used two reference lines in this case. One which is locked to the front column, and the other hosted on a plane of the first reference line. The angle between them is managed by a parameter, which is then easily controllable from within the project environment using the properties palette (shown) when the wall is selected.

I added a second parameter (Angle Open) to make it easier to understand the relationship between the two lines. This way they are never coincident (unless you for some reason wish to fold the wall in and onto the floor). Angle Open (what’s actually doing the heavy lifting) is controlled by the formula “Fold Down Angle + 90″.

reference lines

Bear in mind this is a work in progress, and more parametric goodness will follow in future posts. I’ll get the model ready for sharing. Soon, you will be able to deconstruct my work.

Prepare to be #UnBoxed

For those of you who may be following this site and are not yet on or connected to me on Twitter or LinkedIn, I have an announcement: I have started a new project to design, build and live in a shipping container home on wheels. (gasp) Please, I encourage you to visit and subscribe to The UnBoxed House, where I will share the journey. The new site will be about design, precedent studies and the process of building my new, tiny home.

Unboxing, as I call this process, is about evoking the joy of opening something new, discovering personal freedom and shedding unneeded ‘stuff’. Little Boxes, an early Malvina Reynolds song as covered by the late, great Pete Seeger says it all. I desire to live a life that’s mine, not one that our culture says is the ‘right’ life. The right life is different for everyone, and we should all have the ability to express our individuality and choice. I respect those who choose a life that is different. There, that’s the last you’ll ever here anything remotely political on this blog. On Twitter, I will use the hashtag #UnBoxed to identify things not related to Revit, and specifically focused on my new project.

This site – Paradigm shift will continue to focus on BIM and Digital Design tools. Occasionally, I may cross-post items like how I built the model above, and describing some of the techniques for making better presentation drawings in Revit and exporting model parts to fabrication. There will be opportunities to dive deeper into the ‘Maker’ movement, with CNC for certain, and 3D printing for prototyping. I see some Dynamo scripting coming into play, perhaps as Matt Jezyk suggested “an acetylene torch in Dynamo” to help slice up the model.

My feedback, your feedback

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Moving is hard. Moving a website with an established community to a different platform is even harder. Remember when AUGI tried to change their forum software and it resulted in RFO, as well as a user-revolt that cancelled the migration and restored balance back to the universe? Have you experienced difficultly getting old wiki.help links to function now that Autodesk Revit help has moved, again? Sure, it’s faster, however the wiki nature is gone, and with it the richness of user-contributed content, filling a gap in documentation that has now returned. Well, some lessons are quickly forgotten.

Yes, moving is hard. Put some pictures on the walls and make it feel lived in. That’s sort of what I’d like to see with the new home for Autodesk Labs. Granted, I understand a little bit more about the situation after having an IM session with someone in the office of the CTO, I still feel I need to explain my tweckle.

You see, I am a huge, no an enormous, fan of Autodesk Labs and their super-adventurous cousin, Autodesk Research. Perhaps the frustration of losing something valuable like ease of access and a graphically-rich experience of the former Labs site got the better of me. You can go check out the link, although a better idea of what I’m talking about would be cached in the internet wayback machine, here.

When I heard the Labs site was shutting down (yes, the same site that nurtured the highly successful Projects’ Vasari, Inventor Fusion and Pinocchio) and moving to the same platform that runs the beta site, I was saddened. Labs started shortly after I began blogging, in mid 2006, so this all felt like I was losing an old friend.

To clarify: I enjoy the beta site, also known as ‘My Feedback’, for what it is and am usually only participating in two projects at a time. Who has time for more? So, with all the tech previews, as they’re called in Labs, how could you find what you’re looking for or understand what’s new or changed when all you see is a non-graphical list? The ability to filter items by industry or platform was very useful, and is sadly not available at the moment — I do hope that capability comes back, even if in a splash page that let’s you sign up for a project.

What’s going to be most challenging in maintaining engaged participation, for me, is that each discussion forum is completely distinct and separated. I’m not going to walk away by choice. The future still has some fun technology developments to come.

Why silo tiny projects in this way? Sure, metrics are important, however if the measurement gets in the way of the primary activity of testing new tools and connecting with the development team, is it really worth that loss? In an age of growing complexity and number of tools and communication platforms that we need to deal with regularly, this doesn’t need to be so.

If you agree, I hope you’ll let the Labs team know by visiting Scott Sheppard’s blog, and give them some constructive ‘You Feedback’, here: http://labs.blogs.com/its_alive_in_the_lab/2014/01/q-what-would-make-autodesklabs-more-compelling.html

(P.S. Some changes have already occurred since my initial rant, as I suspected the moving van was not yet empty. On the Labs walls now hang some very lovely artwork. Is it compelling enough yet? You decide. )