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Didn’t attend BCS? 3 Things you Missed

For those who didn’t attend the Building Content Summit a few weeks ago, here’s what you missed out on!  (And why you should become involved next year in Phoenix!) INVIEW labs had 3 directors present; Bryan Novotny, Steve Germano, and Myself.  It was a pleasure to see this event transition from a concept to such a positive outcome that it was.

1. You can’t beat the NETWORKING

AEC firms were there.. CHECK!  Manufacturers were there.. CHECK!!  Service Providers and Software vendors were there.. CHECK!!!  The BCS offered many different formats that allowed for discussions between these groups.  We had over 100 in attendance!  Pretty good for year one.  In a way, the collective group represented the best and the brightest in the BIM content world.  Whether you were talking with your competition (gasp!  how dare you!), or talking with others from a different group, you gained a different perspective.  Prior to BCS, some folks expressed fear to me of discussing their own solutions in front of competition.

“Perhaps the fear of losing competitive advantage may be overridden by pain of loss of efficiency due to recreation/duplication.  It’s not the interface stopping us, it’s fear of loss of differentiation stopping us.” Nancy McClure, Interior Architects

The truth is, aren’t we all passionate about the same thing?  The challenges we face are far larger than any single one of us can solve.  We each have many other areas where we can and should differentiate ourselves but content elements itself should not be one of them.  Come out next year and be sure to open up!

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2. PROBLEMS were defined

How refreshing it was to have a day focused on CONTENT!  This was unlike other great events where content challenges are only one of many items discussed. At INVIEW, we believe content is THE foundation for all else.  It was great to see BIG problems being exposed and hear some of what was proposed as solutions.

It was particularly interesting for me to hear folks express more frustration centered around DATA in BIM content than GEOMETRY. Though, maybe I have selective hearing since DATA is so much of what we talk about in UNIFI development discussions.  It does seem that folks ARE more accepting of manufacturer models than in the past, but those models are difficult to use because they lack compliance to firm-wide parameter standards.  My favorite quote of the day:

“One-size-fits-all is great for socks, but bad for BIM” Marcus Fich, Grundfos

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the day:

“Maybe we need to upload all of our content for all to use. Open source it!” Jason Bailly, HDR Architecture

“The better you understand a problem, the closer you are to the solution”, Chris Needham, AECOM

“The conflict of content creation for BIM: Detail depends on context which depends on creator and consumer”, Phil Read, Read | Thomas

I also enjoyed hearing about the HUGE effort from Bentley to consolidate around a single content authoring and distribution tool.  I know most everybody attending BCS works in Revit, but you gotta hand it to them.. THAT’S cool, and something we haven’t seen from Autodesk.

My hat goes off to Jose Fandos who is doing some impressive things with the CIBSE and ASHRAE standards.  This and his concept of Product Data Templates (PDT’s) is the first standards (dare I say it??) effort that seems legit.  How can we help, Jose?

You’ve got to visit the #RTCBCS twitter action here to get a feel for the fun we had defining problems with BIM content.

Oh, and did you see that awesome graphic at the top? There’s more graphics on the twitter feed you can look at..  These are a great summary of discussions we had.

3. MANUFACTURES showed up

Problems were defined in front of the right group.  This was and will be a disruptive event.  The more manufacturers can understand the needs of their customers, the better everybody will be. The fact is though, the sales process of BIM content to a manufacturer is often devoid of the realities of content.  Now, through the BCS, manufacturers get a raw exposure to how widely used it is, what the value is, how to do it right, etc. I anticipate many interesting partnerships forming between these groups as a direct result of this summit.

I had some manufacturers come up and state their surprise at some of what was discussed.  Some were surprised that at one table, only ~30% of design firms desire manufacturer content. Others were excited about being able to meet the actual users of the content.  One thing is certain, all manufacturers surely took one thing away:  if there is one group you need to impress with your BIM geeky-ness… it is BCS!

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It was also great to hear so many mentions of Unifi in the table discussions .  We’re thrilled to see those individuals who have helped us develop features enjoying the benefits. This event embodies so many of the same goals of Unifi.  We look forward to supporting it through the years to come!

Geometric Point Manipulation: Parametrics Made Easy

You should always try to be as efficient as you can when making Revit families. Always try to keep them as neat and organized as possible. Sometimes doing things the quick way can cause issues and take up more time down the road if updates are needed.

When creating families for Revit content it is important to get the most out of your models. Sometimes it’s more efficient to have one parametric family that contains twenty configurations rather than twenty static models: it helps to lower the impact on your project’s file size and gets things running smoothly. Another bonus is that time is saved when making an edit: changing multiple families when they could have been one is a time-waster. However, if a family is not built properly from the ground up it can still have a big impact on your project.

There are quite a few methods that lead to more parametric models. One of the biggest impacts on file size is from having a large number of lines (or geometry). Keep in mind that Revit doesn’t just track each extrusion but every line they are created from, so it is best to keep that number as low as possible.

One way to build numerous products into a single family is to use multiple sets of geometry and visibility parameters. Say, for example, that you need a table family with differently shaped table tops. By using this method, you would make all the different table tops as separate extrusions and control their visibility through parameters. This may not always be the best approach: each additional table top drawn adds more file size.

Another, more economical, method includes having a single extrusion that is manipulated to change between different configurations. One way to accomplish this would be to constrain the points (edges) of the extrusion. For this example we will build a table family that will have multiple table tops all varying in size and shape. It’s best to start with the most complex version, or the one with the largest number of sides. We will start with an octagon and have it change into a hexagon and then to a square.

  • The easiest way to start this extrusion would be to use the polygon tool to draw an eight sided shape.
  • Draw reference planes at every intersection where two lines meet. There should now be a total of ten reference planes, including the Center Left/Right and Center Front/Back if drawn in plan view.

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  • Now you can constrain all of the points of the polygon to their respective planes. Consider this creating an axis for each of the points. Keep in mind that at an intersection of two lines only one needs to have its point constrained.
  • Draw dimensions between the outer reference planes to set the overall width and depth of the table top.
  • Set dimensional parameters from the inner reference planes to the outer ones. These will be the offset parameters that allow you to control the number of sides on the table. To change the table top from an octagon to a hexagon, we just need to reduce the right and left offset parameter to zero. Similarly, if we want a square top we need to also change the front and back offset parameter to zero. This allows us to manipulate extrusions a little more by controlling the number of sides of our polygons: complexity of the geometry is altered using only length parameters.

Image 2Image 3

Another way to make families more parametric is through the use of nested families. Nesting families is a great way to save time and add more functionality to your models – but using nested families also brings up your file size quite a bit. Nesting a lot of families into one model can quickly bloat file size, especially when there are families nested several levels deep (nestception). If a nested family is needed it is best to have as few of them as possible. Try to make your nests as efficient as you can, since one complex nested family will have less of an impact than multiple simple ones.

For complex models, getting lost in your reference planes is a common issue. There are a few solutions for this as well. If you have overlapping planes, it is best to name the individual planes so you can keep track of what is locked to which plane. You also have the option to constrain within the extrusions by drawing reference planes within the sketches. When you do this, the reference planes will not be visible outside of editing the extrusion. When constraining inside the sketch, make sure that you don’t find yourself drawing redundant reference planes. Also, one of the major issues to watch out for is if someone else is trying to modify your model, it might not be apparent to them that the reference planes are there. If someone tries to constrain geometry (that is already constrained inside the sketch) to an outside plane, then they will start to get over constraint issues. It is always best to try and make the families in such a way that anyone can open it up and make changes without any prior knowledge of the model.

UNIFI Implementation – First Steps

The purpose of this post is to outline some first steps for implementing Unifi.  If you are a new customer or using the trial to justify the use of Unifi to leadership these steps should help.  The organization, state and quality of content varies firm to firm, read on and make a plan.

Collect your content.

Your firm probably already has one standard location and naming convention for content, so you are already halfway there, good job!  If that is not the case, then you got some work to do 🙁.  One way to collect content is to create a project from your standardized company template.  Load all the standardized content that you can find scattered across the network (Loadable families of all categories, system families, anything and everything you can get your hands on).

Once content is loaded, use the out of the box Save As -> Library -> Family to export your content.  This exports the content to one folder.  There are several free add-ins to export content to folders base on categories, which Unifi will use as tags.  Since you can upload content to Unifi from the project and already have a naming convention, exporting content may not be necessary.  If there is content that uses Type Catalogs, export those and don’t forget to find all of the Type Catalogs and place them beside the family!  You will drag and drop that content to Unifi to upload the Type Catalog.

Standard naming convention.

I highly recommend a standard naming convention.  It can be as simple as adding your abbreviated firm name as a prefix or suffix: #ADSK-Overhead-Rolling.rfa or Overhead-Rolling-ADSK.rfa.  I prefer a convention similar to this: < Identifier >_< Units >_< Category >_< Type >_< Manufacturer >_< Descriptor> _< Host/Size >   There are several benefits to a naming convention and I will assign that as homework.

Content can be renamed with free software.  I prefer this bulkrenameutility (don’t forget to donate).  Yep, new software to learn!  It won’t take long, maybe 30 minutes of practice on practice files on your C drive.  Don’t practice on critical production files!  Renaming 11,000 files in 7 seconds is pretty darn cool!

Upload content.

Here is the easy part.  After content organization is complete; loadable families, system families, model groups and drafting views can be uploaded from the project with the Unifi add-in.  Content stored in folders can be dropped into Unifi where it will store them in the libraries that you setup.  Tags are created from the folder names and you can add any tags you want.  For more details on uploading, the help file and tutorials are great!

You can do it!

In between all other responsibilities and duties, I was able to collect, organize, rename, upload and train users in a lunch and learn in less than a month.  Make a plan and implement it!  You will be glad you did.  Your users will be as fast as mine, 2.1 times to be exact.

Thanks for your time.

Chris Ridder – BIM Manager – GBD – LinkedIn – @cridder_


This is a post by a guest contributor not affiliated with INVIEWlabs. The opinions expressed are that of the contributor not INVIEWlabs.