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.


  • 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

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. )

Shall we play a game?

How can we learn to be better at using resources? Can we all be a little more consistent at turning out the lights when leaving a room, (our family was obsessive about this) — or barring the presence of an all seeing eye of the Google Nest Thermostat in your home — remember to turn down the heat before bedtime? Use less gas, without driving less?


I’ll admit to having a little bit of a lead foot and I’m working on it. Games can help solve complex problems. In 2011, a group of gamers solved some difficult AIDS protein problems. Can gamified experiences in life go too far? Sure. Everything in moderation.

The gamification of learning is becoming popular to help shape behavior through positive reinforcement. This is probably much faster (and less frustrating) than having someone telling you how to drive properly. A good instructor, like my Great Uncle Emile, will go that extra mile and use story-telling and metaphor to help you ‘get it’ quickly with little frustration. Image a room temperature raw egg between your foot and each pedal. I’ll never forget that lesson. Most people do not have the knack for teaching that he has.

Since I started taking an occasional Car2Go for some trips to the office, I noticed I could actually enjoy seeing how well I could do on what they call their Eco Score. The little reward is seeing the images develop (only looking at the screen when the car is stopped in Seattle’s famously snarly traffic).

When you get a perfect 100 in all three Car2Go Eco Score categories, there’s a little reward. For the holidays it was Santa riding in his sleigh. Now, it’s a very unseasonably warm looking scene with a rainbow. Although, if memory serves, flowers should start popping out of the ground here in about three weeks.

Anyway… Here’s my high score for the new year. I hope to keep this up, and use the learned behavior in my own car. I can always fall back on the memory of the potential for scrambled egg shoes, in a pinch. Hopefully this tip will help put a little money back in your pockets. Gas prices are rising again. Oh, and don’t forget to check and maintain proper tire pressure… That helps save gas too.

See you in traffic.



Words to bid farewell

We’re all guilty of it: using jargon to wave our hands over complex ideas. I won’t even discuss the way architects make up their own words. Others have already done a fine job of pointing that out with clever wit. Yes, architects, engineers, general contractors and especially software executives, please pay careful attention.

We use jargon in everyday speech and presentations at the office. Often these verbal crutches mask their true meaning to soften the blow, and have long ago lost their impact (I’m looking at you “Value Engineering”). Other examples can be so obscure, that sometimes it’s required to step off the soap box to explain.

Heck, even my blog’s name ‘Paradigm shift‘ may be considered out-dated. Bear in mind I did start writing this blog in early 2006; so it’s grandfathered in.

Here’s a list of phrases, words and general business jargon we could do without ever hearing ever again:

  • Multitasking (thanks despair.com)
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Table Stakes
  • Thinking Outside the Box
  • Value Engineering
  • Blue Sky Opportunity
  • Boil the Ocean
  • Take Offline
  • Utilize, utilization, usage and other variants… Just say ‘use’
  • Empower
  • CAD, drafting, or (my personal favorite) CAD it Up!
  • Peel the Onion
  • Working in Silos
  • BIM Model – thanks James for that important public service announcement
  • “We’ve sent your request to the development team for consideration in future versions of the product” – ’cause we all know that generally means: “don’t count on it”

For the residential architects and designers out there:

  • Bonus Room
  • Great Room
  • Foyer, unless it’s the classic ‘All Foyer House
  • Man Cave — drink, Betsy

Last but not least: one of the most offensive, and winner of Forbes 2012 viewer bracket “Drinking the Kool-Aid”. Because nothing motivates a team to be loyal and work hard more than reminding them of an over 900 person mass suicide / massacre in 1978. Go ahead, and read for yourself before you ever utter that phrase again at the office. If you do, be accurate at least and call it Flavor Aid.

I’m looking forward to a more thoughtful and thought-provoking 2014. Did I miss anything? Please add your thoughts to the comments or reply on Twitter using the hashtag: #JargonBeGone