Author Archives: Sean

Dynamo, Nearing its Big Day

welcome-to-the-futureToday marks an important milestone, Dynamo is now at version 0.9, making it one step closer to mass adoption.

Why do I say that? First: The website has undergone a major overhaul. The team has spend a great deal of time modernizing the experience, taking it beyond the typical WordPress theme (something I have to do myself). Second: The fit and finish of the program has finally become stable and the UI for is friendly to both the novice and seasoned beta user. Third: There’s a greater focus on collaboration in this release, with the ability to put shared resources on a network drive within your organization, in addition to the Package manager repository online.

The new features increase interoperability, by enabling the creation of DirectShape elements to place in Revit. Background preview works in Virtual Machines and Remote Desktop – so you can totally be ditching the bulky laptop and using the new iPad Pro while travelling and need to whip up come computational goodness. Also, you can find stuff now. The search is really robust, both in the side menu and with the right click search.apple_pencil_medium

This has been the year of Dynamo, and it will culminate with what I and certain is a 1.0 release announced very soon. Autodesk University 2015 is less than four weeks away and it seems we are gearing up for some greatness. Heck, even in the SketchUp world it was announced this week (from none other than the Computational Design powerhouse of Thornton Tomasetti) that there’s the ability to connect with Grasshopper and Dynamo now.

Colin McCrone recently wrote that the Dynamo Primer is “complete”, or Open Source now, meaning you should use it to learn and contribute back. We get more and more community sharing. I would not be surprised if there were some more video tutorials in the works from some of the industry heavyweights. Stay tuned for more, as I hear it.


*Note: I really wanted to share a workflow I was working on to convert DWG lines to Rooms in Revit, and mentioned this a while ago. I’m still working on refining that process to make it more generic for you all. The client maintains ownership of the original code, however I got my very first ever mention in ArchDaily as a result of this work.


Here comes the Sun

Autodesk announced Revit Sunrise this morning. This is a preview release of Revit showing some of the features in development for Architecture, Structure and MEP. Like Revit Sundial last year, this is provided as a way for Autodesk to validate the next release and generate some advanced buzz.

Note: Not all of these features are guaranteed to be available in the next commercial release, however Autodesk wants your feedback in the Public Beta. This preview release is a hosted solution, which works as a fantastic way to review software in a non-destructive way. You install the client software without affecting your current Revit environment or occupying very much space on your computer – the installer would fit on a 1.4Mb floppy disk, if you remember what those are. The custom Citrix client requires only your Autodesk A360 login and works on any PC with an internet connection. So go kick the tires.

I’m really excited about the introduction of Global parameters, which have been a feature request for a very long time.

More details are available here:

For a list of features, see this article:

Tesla home Battery not all its charged up to be

The newly announced Tesla Powerwall home battery is purely a luxury item. Surprised? That’s what Telsa does well: introduce a sexy object that only the wealthy will buy. So far it’s worked out well for them and a tiny fraction of the potential customers out there excited about electric cars. They are not Apple, yet. Apple sells affordable luxury. Tesla will get there when they make their money, so long as they don’t pour it all back into R&D for their next big thing or a “city on Mars”.

The real buyer of these 7kWh and 10kWh batteries will be Elon Musk’s other company, SolarCity who currently lease to own solar panels with no money down. Pairs well with an efficient battery that is comparably priced to the much bulkier and obsolete lead acid batteries.

It makes almost no sense to buy these to expect a significant savings of money and change nothing in the house – the same insulation, the same equipment and appliances. You can see that without some incentives for energy saving improvements this is purely becoming a status item. It would have to be seen as also an emergency backup after an outage. Easier to use and maintain than a generator. There is an extremely long payback for simply using off peak electricity – the big selling point for this device. My household’s total shared electric bill is $60 per month. Even if I theoretically save $20 per month, it would take 12.5 years to break even. By then the battery would be long retired.

Some utility companies don’t even have variable rates for residential customers and Washington state has the third lowest rate (6.9¢ per kWh retail before taxes) in the country – so long as the hydro plants keep churning.

If you’re a U.S. resident, check to see if your location makes more sense for this new thing. Certainly places that have expensive nuclear power plants to feed and pay off have higher rates:

The year of the Dynamo


Dynamo*, of the 1987 sci-fi movie, The Running Man.

Ah.. Springtime. It is such a great time to celebrate new things. This Spring is no different. Snows are melting, trees are blooming, or soon will be. It’s a wonderful time to start something new. Plant garden. Take on a new hobby. Build a Tiny House. One thing I wanted to announce was a new role I will now have at NBBJ – that of Performance Analysis Lead. While this may seem like a big shift, it’s still in the realm of BIM, and gives me even more excuse to continue dabbling in the Design Computation world.

I’m at Midwest University 2015, which you can follow on Twitter with the hashtag #MU2015 (which incidentally, oddly also happens to be the hashtag for Miss Universe 2015. Who knew?). And this week, I am presenting a class titled: “Working Smarter in Revit with Dynamo”. Preparing for this class has made me think about the value Paradigm Shift brings to the AEC community. There tends to be a technology cycle. With it, I am going to be taking a slight bend in the road. Here goes…

I plan to write more about Dynamo. A lot more. Dynamo is a visual programming language to help make your own tools for doing all the things you wish your software did out of the box. Still don’t know what it is? I’ve written a little about tit in the past… however now, it will be a main focus. Stick with me and I promise you will find some value if you use Autodesk software, especially Revit. Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 9.42.39 PM

Above is an example script that takes all the Revit walls and colors them according to a variation in the Fire Rating Parameter. I’ll explain it more in my next post. Using tools like Dynamo includes concepts revolving around, automation, model checking, Design Computation, Big Data, Performance Analysis and how the “i” in BIM can really be leveraged in new ways. I hope you will all join me in this transition and I look forward to the new roads ahead. Dynamo will be huge this year and I want to share with you all ways it can help you be more productive and happy in your work.


* not the actual Dynamo


Screencast is dead. Long live Screencast.

I’m amazed that some folks still visit older posts of mine, such as this one on Exploded 3D Drawings from 2009! I’ve decided to end my account on due to the incredible amount of spam and no way to filter for ‘humans’. So, as much as I like using Camtasia and Jing to capture video, those videos are thus, gone. Poof. They need to be updated for new capabilities in Revit anyway. The articles will still exist, however a handful of my older videos will be broken links – until I can connect to the YouTube versions on my channel.

I would like to start making more videos soon, if I can ever get time away from building my Tiny House. If I do, I will begin using the new Autodesk Screencast tool instead of hosting on Wow, those names are awfully similar for a similar product. Did someone do their legal homework, or are we in for another name change since this amazing new service was released? Hope not. Anyway, Autodesk has made this tool available for free, and you can upload to the community site

You can check out all kinds of screencasts here, sorted by the (at the time of this writing) nine Autodesk applications that are supported.

You can also see some of my latest work as well on Autodesk University Online – where both presentations on Dynamo and FormIt in which I co-presented are now available for your viewing pleasure. A free Autodesk sign-in is required to view AU classes. Enjoy!

How to Survive Autodesk University

Realizing that this Autodesk university is a special milestone for me. It will be my tenth conference. I started attending these in 2004, missing only one in 2006 – oddly, the years I joined Autodesk. Since then, many new things have happened in my work and home life. Today, I would like to share with you my top 10 tips for surviving the week. These should be helpful to veterans and newbies alike. This is really just a list for myself so I don’t forget anything. See you next week!

Tip # 1

How many business cards should you bring?


IMG_2300-0.JPGNo matter how hard I have tried to remember in the last few conferences, I always seem to forget this and am telling people in the middle of breakfast on day one that I’m out, because all I had was three or four in the paltry card holder already in my bag. Grab your cards now. Like, right now.

It’s likely that you won’t be coming back to the office between Thanksgiving and the conference. If you are in the United States and have to work this weekend, I will pray for your soul.


Tip #2

You don’t really need to bring your laptop.

1004981_662667670432848_1981346585_n_by_kakasasu4eva-d6sdku0Yes, you should have some way to communicate. Bring your phone or other lightweight mobile device. There is little desk space to open your 21″ mega workstation replacement laptop lid, and if you think you’ll be doing real work remotely, you should ask why you are at the conference in the first place. This is a place to learn, network and share ideas. Designate someone else to cover the help desk while you are away. Reward them handsomely when you return, perhaps with a nice bonus or free software for them to play. Ask the boss if they can go to AU or some other event next year as a thank you for saving your back. If you must bring a laptop, because you are presenting and haven’t’ finished putting together your presentation, join the club and prepare for some very sore shoulders. Also, check out the spa at The Hotel. I hear the hot stone massage is very relaxing.

Tip #3

Its gotta be the shoes

pTBL1-14087926enh-z6While at the conference, and if you are me, you will find that you will walk more than any other time in your life. Things of it like spending an entire week trying to find the giant jar of whatever at Costco. Wear comfortable shoes, and hey while you are at it – get those things polished. You want to look casual, but sharp. If you really want to wear your Jordan’s from 1991, just do it.


Tip #4

Need a bag, take a bag

DRBPR1As we learned in Florida, rollerbags are a terrible idea at a crowded conference, leave yours at home. More importantly, don’t trip those around you. Put it on your back if you decide you like it.

After realizing I had four AU bags of all configurations still kicking around at home, it was time to make a conscious decision to carry the one I know works for me, holds everything I need and will be comfortable carrying around for 10-18 hours at a time. I have opted out of the gift bag when registering for AU this year – just in case that rollerbag returns. Messenger bags work well, however they tend to be bulky. The vendors at the exhibit hall will have lots of books, brochures, and tchotchkes. You’ll need a place to stow these.

Tip #5

Register early

Calendar_0Save this one for next year. Register early, like in the first two days. No one likes staying at a distant hotel where it would take an hour to get to your room and back. This is one thing I do not look forward to, given my late acceptance to register – I am in the MGM Grand 1.4 miles the way the crow flies, and certainly much further given the need to walk through casinos and down long corridors.

Tip #6

Walking outside

racetrack__blue_jaguar-wallpaper-1680x1050Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Las Vegas. Watch the signs, and always pay attention to the speed demons racing up and down the strip. Also, be aware that while the average city block is between 250-300 feet approximately 20 blocks per mile, the distance between hotels is about 1300 feet, or 1/4 mile. It may be the desert, however it gets really cold at night. Dress appropriately.

Tip #7

Backup battery packs

$_57No matter how efficient your device’s battery, this is no regular day at the office. You will run out of juice. Finding a free outlet for the unseasoned traveler means hanging out in the back hall somewhere sitting on the floor.

We like staying connected, and even more so when there are 10,000 people that need to coordinate ad hoc meetings, check office email, find where the heck you have to go next, and the all important in-class tweckle (v. conjugation of “Twitter” + “heckle”).

Backup batteries are your best bet. I don’t recommend the BioLite CampStove for indoor use, however get one for your next camping trip unless you want to use human energy.

Tip #8


Front image_drinking-waterThere is a significant amount of moisture vacuum everywhere, indoors and out. Unless your classes are at the pool, you might want to bring a family pack of lip balm and a refillable water bottle. There’s also a significant amount of free flowing alcohol at this conference (shhh, don’t tell the boss). Drink responsibly – 7:00am comes around faster than you might imagine.

Tip #9

Meet new people

make-friendsSit at a table with strangers. Go to a class that’s outside your normal area of expertise. You never know who you’ll meet or how fascinating their work is. It might lead to new ideas and a radically different approach to how you solve problems at the office. You might meet someone who becomes a life long friend. I have met so many people at AU, and will spend hours chatting with someone I’ve never met before, all because of a common purpose and our profession. AU is how I recharge my batteries. It is here, in the middle of an artificial desert oasis, that I and thousands others complete their annual pilgrimage in order to find and renew my passions for this amazing intersection of art and technology that we at NBBJ like to call Digital Practice.

Tip #10

Have fun!



The VDC Cycle: Leveraging the “I” in BIM

For quite a while now, I’ve been considering having some guest posts on the blog to help liven up the conversation and add some new perspectives. I was contacted by Elijah recently and after reading other examples of his work on The Iterative, I thought it would be great to give this aspiring student a chance to share his voice. I’m pleased to present the first in what I hope to be a new collaborative approach to sharing insights on technology trends and advances in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Please, give us your feedback. We’d love to hear from you. – Sean

Elijah Gregory is a high school senior who’s interest in architecture software and BIM has lead to him becoming a fount of knowledge in this evolving field.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an industry review on a relatively new Trimble product, Vico. Vico is a VDC, or Virtual Design and Construction, software which bridges the gap between the BIM guys and decision makers in a company. In the two-day introduction to the product and the product’s capabilities, a common construction cycle became clear to me: receive concept of a proposed structure, design, estimate, schedule, and deliver.

A Brief History

Initially, BIM and VDC originated from CAD software. The original goal of CAD was to increase productivity and accuracy hand-drawing lacked. From there, simple 3D models arose to display a more comprehensible visual to both designers and clients. And following simple 3D models, BIM was created to derive information from drawings and models. Finally, VDC has been created to leverage the information created by BIM software to make accurate estimates and schedules as well as do statistical analysis on various aspects of the structure.


VDC essentially takes a project from the design to delivery checkpoints in the construction cycle and by doing so, quickly breaks down projects so decisions can be made quickly and appropriately. The VDC cycle follows the same steps as the construction cycle by reaping the information produced by BIM software, provided BIM managers follow best practices during design–a key issue not so uniformly answered, but that’s for another article. Provided best practices have been used, when a model is loaded into VDC software–Navisworks or Vico or whatever your preference may be–a tremendous bank of values should be at the tips of your fingers and the click of a mouse. Who said being a computer nerd wasn’t cool?

VDC in Practice

Today, the amount of information which can be leveraged from this initial model is up to three variables: the quality of the model, the level of skill of the VDC software user, and the desired amount of information to be leveraged. From the initial design, material and quantity takeoffs are created, which can be used with known labor rates, overhead, and profit to generate an estimate. From the estimate, budgets are established. On the same work plane level as estimating and in collaboration with the model, schedules are created, which can be projected from inception to delivery of the structure. These three parts allow the decision makers of a company to look at accurate information graphically, via modeling, and by hard numbers which act as a facilitator to the most important element in construction: decision making. But wait–there’s more: The VDC cycle takes the construction cycle a step further by integrating actual values produced into future projects for an incredibly accurate projection of costs and scheduling. In other words, the company can analyze decisions made in the past to add curves in the road to making decisions in the future. BIM-ception? Diving into the current BIM and VDC software lineup from front-runners offer a promising glimpse into the future: collaboration with all stakeholders from inception to delivery.

Elijah can be found on Twitter – @ElijahGregory97

~ More of his recent writing can be found here: