Category Archives: BIM

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.

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.

Happy Holidays from Paradigm Shift!

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Have a Happy Holidays and a fun and safe New Year. Looking forward to great things in 2014. Here’s my 30 minute exploration at virtual ornament hanging. Using a little formula magic, based on the pattern of a pine cone, we have an efficient packing of ornaments, leaving little room for much else. Because this is the best part of the tree, next to lights. Since no one in the office can agree which is best: white or colored lights, we’ll just use our imagination for the finished trimmings.

How I made this:

12-23-2013 4-52-33 PM

Go and get the latest version of Dynamo, download Vasari Beta 3.

Download my Dynamo definition and Revit model from a zipped file here: XmasTree.

Open the XmasTree.rvt. On the Add-Ins ribbon, launch Dynamo. If the custom nodes for colors are RED, double-click to download the “Standard Colours” package by the brilliant andydandy (Andreas Dieckmann of CAAD RWTH Aachen University). Although not necessary, it’s very useful to have this collection. I’m far too lazy to look up how to make colors with RGB values every time I need them.

And there you have it: A Revit Christmas Tree. Technically, there’s no tree at all, it’s just a collections of ball ornaments. The size of the ornaments changes as it moves up the tree, and the colors are random in the range of green to red.

Go ahead, experiment. Send me your mash-ups. Cheers!

Autodesk University Recap and Top 7 Digital Practice Trends

Autodesk University, a ReCap

keynote

As a year-end wrap-up, I’d like to share some thoughts from the events I attended at this year’s Autodesk University. During the opening keynote (go ahead and watch, then come back), Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski described going “Outside” as important for the success of design firms. We need to alter our mindsets to embrace change. This may mean working with new team members from external firms, working with new disciplines in other industries and also by embracing technology and tools that were not necessarily designed specifically for our work. We need to re-imagine our work, our business structures and our lives. I really like the quote that he used to make his point:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

At NBBJ, we call this Change Design. This deeply embedded philosophy in our practice enables us to create and innovate in ways not possible by only working with what you know.  Working collaboratively with non-traditional consultants creates that ah-ha moment more consistently for our projects. As design practices regain strength after the last five challenging years, this idea of “outside” could not come at a more perfect time to go mainstream.

Along a similar thread, I decided to go outside my comfort zone when planning my conference. This was a very different AU for me, as it was the first time I didn’t stack up my class schedule with only those offered for my primary tool of choice. In 2002, that was Architectural Desktop, and in 2006 it switched completely to Revit. Seven years later, I am much more interested in Computational Design, and design technology leadership. Key to these interests, which thankfully align with my firm’s vision, were round-table discussions on leadership, fabrication classes, further exploring computational design tools like Dynamo and conceptual design tools such as Fusion 360, and the mighty Design Computation Symposium.

Design Computation Symposium

This is the fourth instance of this conference within a conference. The format this year was a half-day event emceed by Matt Jezyk of Autodesk. There were too many presentations to focus on in this article. I’d like to summarize more of what I saw in future writings.

Day one of AU, it became clear that Autodesk is committed to a computational workflow. Actually, on Day 0, the day before, there was a special day-long Dynamo workshop (which I missed) that looked at the node to code possibilities of embedding DesignScript within Dynamo. At the kickoff of the conference, the gravity of the situation hit when Carl Bass talked about Dynamo in a big way as a punctuation mark to the AU keynote for all 9,200 conference attendees, and 37,000 virtual attendees. He even kicked off the symposium personally for the gathering of approximately 150 attendees. The Design Computation Symposium presentations ranged from case studies from engineers, architects and fabricators to an inspiring closing keynote by Enric Ruiz-Geli of Cloud9 on the subject of “particles”.

Media-TIC – by Cloud9

A key takeaway from Enric’s talk being that sustainable design should be embedded in the project, finding innovative ways to reduce costs of structure, and assembly of the project to cove the first costs for solutions such as the Media-TIC building located in Barcelona. The active envelope filled with nitrogen clouds blocks glare and UV light, significantly reducing cooling costs and making it a more comfortable and dynamic space to be in.

Top 7 Digital Practice Trends

What direction is the industry moving that you need to pay more attention to? What will drastically change the way you design and deliver projects in the coming decade? While at Autodesk University, I attended the usual Keynotes, classes and ad-hoc sessions. I began spotting patterns in the innovative way people are working today, and based on glimpses that Autodesk and the vendors in the exhibit hall allowed peeks into our future, I’d like to share some observations.

Not all of these concepts are available or fully implementable today, and others are definitely ready for immediate use. I’d like to explore each of these in detail in future posts. Here’s what I’m keeping an eye on for the future of the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry.

Computational BIM

Adaptive Stadium in Dynamo (Credit: Case and Autodesk)

BIM and Computational Design will rapidly converge together to become a single process. The fact that these separate silos exist is really only because of the tools of choice typically used by project teams. Design Computation is becoming necessary to realize/rationalize complexity in our designs, regardless of the project team’s formal aspirations. You don’t need doubly-curved surfaces to utilize computational design concepts. Since data and parametric behaviors are shared concepts in both approaches, it only makes sense that the dead end hand-off between the silos and tools dissolve.

BIM and Computational Design have traditionally been different tools, and required different mindsets. By these two mortal enemies coming together, everybody wins. The transition from design to documentation begins to blur and allow decisions to be delayed, enabling deeper design exploration, increased accuracy, & reduced costs.

Grasshopper, while inspiring the paradigm of visual programming employed by Dynamo, is at a disadvantage. Revit is a parametric design tool that understands what building components are, and Rhino certainly does not. While some find this troubling, even stifling creativity, I think Revit with Dynamo is the horse to bet on in the long run, and it’s the only tool in the BIM ecosystem that will span concept design, analysis, visualization, documentation and fabrication. Rich ecosystems and faster regeneration performance will come, and then the holdouts will come over to the dark side.

Open Source

github

Github, one of the free code repositories for many open source AEC projects like Dynamo.

With projects like Dynamo and IFC translator trending toward Open-Source with direct support from a company like Autodesk, this will be an interesting space to watch. Since anyone who wishes to (and possesses the skills) can contribute code, you can mold the future to meet your own needs. Dynamo especially is receiving a great deal of attention in the industry as a way of extending the functionality of parametric design tools like Revit and (more recently) Inventor.

Reality BIM

The evolution of reality capture, from the early black and white low-density point clouds, to something that looks more like a photograph and contains data.

Scan to BIM, Photogrammetry, LiDAR, augmented reality… These are terms you should begin to hear a lot more about in the future. This technology is now so refined that you may not ever have to create record models showing an ‘As-Built’ or ‘As Constructed’ condition again. Instead, you can show ‘As Exists’ at this very moment using reality capture and incorporating with BIM tools. By democratizing reality capture, using a tool as simple as an iPhone or collecting data from multiple sources in Autodesk ReCap Photo, you will have the ability to see this information right in the context of Revit. The digital world can consume reality in ways that a tape measure and sketch pad never could. To find out more, watch the New Reality presentation by Tatjana Dzambazova.

Access to Resources

Otoy ORBX technology running Autodesk 3ds Max 2014 in the cloud, accessible through a web browser.

Otoy ORBX technology running Autodesk 3ds Max 2014 in the cloud, accessible through a web browser.

Increased access to robust digital design tools and infinite computing resources will continue to grow, and be at a lower overall cost. The impact of lowered barriers to accessing technology will be beneficial to both large and small firms. I wrote an earlier piece on the Death of the PC, which received a great deal of discussion on LinkedIn and Twitter. There exist strong feelings both for and against this coming change, which I feel is inevitable and a positive thing for designers and collaboration. Fear of change can certainly hinder adoption, whether legal, cultural or embedded workflows push back against it. The technology preview launched in November has had great adoption, and has implications beyond the use of Autodesk design tools. It could also affect the future of gaming.

Design to Fabrication

Autodesk CAM 360, the FIRST professional CAM solution available on the Cloud.

With more access to CAM tools, designers are becoming fabricators. Rapid Prototyping is becoming commoditized through technologies like desktop CNC machines and 3D printers. While simultaneously, physical mock-ups, often expensive to produce are now easier to create digitally, easier to experience and understand with virtual reality gear like Oculus Rift, or prototype with the many Autodesk cloud hosted tools like 123D Make and the newly announced for Beta testing: CAM 360.

Reality Computing

Technology preview of Showcase 360, soon to be on Autodesk Labs

Technology preview of Showcase 360, soon to be on Autodesk Labs

Real-time collaboration and communication will replace asynchronous, inefficient processes. Concurrent Design, Analysis and Visualization will be a reality in the not too distant future. This is especially true if the soon to be released technology preview of Autodesk Showcase 360 looks as good as it does in this teaser video. Could you imagine being freed from the constraints of design and rendering being two silos of activity, often two specialized applications and two sets of hands?

Showcase, the desktop application, is currently an interactive presentation tool, and it’s doubtful the cloud version will be much different at first. Could you imagine how much more productive you would be if the design tools became as fast and interactive at showing physically accurate lighting, textures and reflections? Pixel-based shaders that use the massive power trapped in a GPU already exist inside Revit as part of the ‘Ray Trace’ visual style. It’s just a matter of time before live rendering is possible in working views, constantly updating as you design. Expect simulation and analysis to follow soon after, perhaps as quickly as the next 2-3 years. This will be a holy grail of advanced computing resources and truly allow enhanced communication with our clients as we share our design ideas.

Embedded Workflow

The Revit 2014 Daylighting Analysis (RDA) plug-in, provides feedback in 1/60 the time it used to take in Ecotect.

This last one is a favorite, and came from a discussion with Enric from Cloud9 after his presentation. Design Computation and Sustainable Design as terms will fade as they become deeply embedded in our work. Analysis as a feedback loop to inform design and real-time dashboards will be expected on all projects.

One example of sustainable design feedback in the design environment is the Revit Daylighting Analysis plug-in technology preview available now. This will help you document and visually check for LEED IEQc8.1 2009 compliance.

Another excellent candidate for embedded workflow, proper Interoperability will enable teams to collaborate more effectively and glide between tools effortlessly to enable posing specific hypotheses to test against the project. Moving geometry between tools is trivial. Moving data between tools is key. With the latest IFC (version 4) pending, this looks to be closer to reality than previously thought possible.

When these three key concepts (Design Computation, Sustainable Design and Interoperability) become commoditized, the terms lose their power. Then, maybe we won’t need specialized symposiums or conferences on these topics, they will just be the table stakes of our core design practice. Then, I can retire happy.

A Knight travails under the idea that he/she is striving for a world where they are no longer needed.

Thanks to Shawn Foster of Black and Veatch for that closing thought during my final session of the conference – Design Technologists and Their Impact On The Organization. I hope this article was impactful on your work. Let me know what you think in the comments.

SunflowersHeader

Nature by Numbers

9-20-2013 9-38-40 AM I decided to get into the Dynamo Package Manager, recently added in v0.6, released just last week. I uploaded my first custom node! It’s probably the simplest custom node ever, however it makes short work of making many things possible. I was inspired by the idea of creating a sunflower pattern on a dome, which is currently a work in progress…

Note: The image is of the latest  daily development builds, found here. There’s a subtle yet useful addition to the zoom in/out icons.

9-20-2013 1-40-50 PMCalled out in this enlarged image: you’ll see a new rectangular icon. It will allow you to toggle between zoom fit and zoom 100%. If you have one or more nodes selected, it will fit them in the canvas window. Happy scripting.

Want to be inspired to create something with math? Watch below (the video that inspired the title of this post), or hop on over and watch the whole Vihart Doodling in Math Class series on YouTube. You will be inspired. Nature by Numbers.