AEC FIRMS: MAINTAINING CULTURE & EVALUATING YOUR TECH STACK IN A REMOTE WORK SETTING

How are you? No really… how are you? It’s been a few weeks since the world as we know it began to turn upside down and many, if not all, AEC Firms have now transitioned to remote work. While some AEC firms already had a remote work structure in place, IT studios struggled keeping up with support tickets as newly remote employees found themselves not only trying to figure out where to set up their desk, but also how to stay best connected both in terms of technology and culture.

We posted tips for working from home for an AEC firm last week and highlighted how leveraging cloud based platforms (such as BIM360 and UNIFI), open collaboration tools like Bluebeam Studio, Tips for working from homeand establishing a solid routine will help AEC firms through the rapid changes that come with remote work. As we all work through this transition, Gautam Ramchandra Shenoy DBIA, BIM Director at Steinberg Hart, published an excellent blog post walking through their tech stack.

One may ask, is it even worthwhile to spend the time to get a great remote work set up or should we just wait for the COVID-19 threat to pass? Exactly how long can we expect the remote work atmosphere to continue? Just last week, Technology Review published an article talking about the timeframe we’re looking at for practicing ‘social distancing’.  While the article acknowledges that while we all want things to go back to normal and quickly, they likely won’t. Therefore,  optimizing your remote work policy is critical. 

Guatam’s post highlights how we can not only make a remote setting work, but how we can also use it as an opportunity to improve. He said, “…at no point in time, have we been able to step back, connect the dots and review the resources at hand.” While a set of deliverables or construction drawings may be part of the consumer product within AEC Firms, at this point other toolsets and how we fine-tune collaboration is key. While once COVID-19 passes it’s likely that AEC firms will go back to an office work setting, the enhanced connectivity and skills developed during this time will remain and benefit workflows.

Architecture firm, tvsdesign, is another great example of an AEC firm transitioning to a remote work setting seamlessly. Prior to the latest updates of the COVID-19 pandemic, tvsdesign scheduled a mandatory work from home day in order to test their remote work capabilities firm-wide. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up their plans however and tvsdesign went fully remote prior to their scheduled mandatory work from home day. Quickly rising to the challenge, their IT Studio quickly compiled numerous resources that were clean, concise and well detailed to make things as easy as possible. They’re also managing to keep culture a top priority by having employees’ webcams on to collaborate during their team meetings. In addition, they have continued to have breakfast together on Fridays, just as they did in the office prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Keeping such traditions and allowing for social interactions beyond typical meetings is a great way to improve morale and keep team members feeling connected.

In addition to Gautam’s article, our AEC work from home tips, and the real life example of how tvsdesign is spearheading the transition, AIA California has published a web page with some fantastic resources for employees and employers alike that you may also find useful. Here, you won’t only find remote workplace policies but also legal concerns and support resources for small businesses. While this particular page is tailored specifically to California, there are resources here that you can take advantage of regardless of where you are located.

Finally, Autodesk has also set up a resource center to help you with their software in a remote setting. We highly recommend reviewing their best practices for accessing Autodesk software if you’re having any difficulties. In case you haven’t heard, they’ve also extended the ability to purchase new multi-user subscription plans to August 7, 2020. Previously, they were going to begin transitioning customers to named users starting May 7, 2020 but this has been extended which is a sigh of relief for users as they are still in the process of getting comfortable conducting business as usual.

We hope these resources help as you continue to establish your “new normal” remote work routine. Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll cover what the future may hold for remote work and AEC firms.  In the meantime, we want to hear from you! Please comment below with any resources that have helped you in the transition to remote work and the greatest challenge you’ve encountered so far.

Pro 3.5 & Portal 2.12 Release Notes

As of 4/20, we fixed some bugs from this release. Click here for details.

Overview

We’re excited to announce our latest software update is available now! Pro 3.5 and Portal 2.12 updates include performance enhancements, saved search updates and several bug fixes. 

At UNIFI, our main focus is to journey with our customers in their BIM data management strategies and deliver a best-in-class platform. Thanks to the feedback from our customers and Executive Advisory Board members, we’ve worked hard to address your valuable input with this release. We are thrilled to report you can now expect your UNIFI experience to be significantly enhanced across the board.

Keep reading for the low down and please note you need to  update your platform to access these enhancements now.

Highlights

•Performance Improvements: 

We’ve focused on improving the overall infrastructure of the UNIFI platform which ultimately means you’ll enjoy an enhanced experience. You will notice a better general performance across UNIFI, including when you’re navigating and performing tasks, such as search and browse.

•Saved Searches

We’ve updated Saved Searches to include options for selecting search fields as well as filtering by Revit parameters. We also updated the UI for creating/editing saved searches to improve user experience.

ADDITIONAL UPDATES

•UNIFI Pro

We’ve made several improvements to Pro. Namely, Revit materials will now simply load into an active project (rather than initiate paint mode) and your shared parameters will be checked for updates more frequently to ensure the latest version is in use.  In addition, content request comments can be saved with CTRL + Enter and time can be specified as part of the due date.

Web Portal

As previewed in our last release, the event stream has been removed from portal and is no longer supported.

• Project Analytics

 

Upon syncing a Revit model that has analytics turned on, you will now receive an alert letting you know UNIFI is collecting data for Project Analytics along with a progress bar.

Coming soon

•Autodesk 2021 Support

We’re just as excited as you are for Autodesk 2021 software!  To prepare, we’re already working on 2021 support.  You can expect that UNIFI will be ready to support Autodesk 2021 software shortly after it’s released.  We’ll notify you directly when it’s officially live.  Until then, check out the Autodesk software versions we’re currently compatible with here. 

BUG FIXES

We’ve fixed several issues affecting your experience with UNIFI including: 

•Fixed an issue where companies that had non-alphanumeric characters in their company name could not download their shared parameters stored in UNIFI

•Increased the number of users that can be saved in a user group

•Fixed an issue where non-Revit file revisions fulfilled through content requests would fail to download and subsequent revisions would fail to upload

•Fixed an issue where some channel selections were not being maintained when creating a saved search by saving

• Fixed an issue where users could not view family types for content in a shared library

•Previewing saved search results will now display the proper results

•Using the Sort By search filters now sorts the results correctly

• Using F5 to refresh UNIFI Pro while browsing will no longer navigate the user to Search

•Revit materials and fill patterns can now be inserted into 2D RFA files

•Usernames can now contain single quotes

•Fixed an issue where batch inserting multiple sheets would fail to insert all selected sheets

•Fixed an issue where base files of Revit families that contain an en dash in the name could not be downloaded

•User groups are now listed in alphabetical order when creating/editing users

•UNIFI will now connect to BIM360 project files that have tabs in the name

•Inserting content from UNIFI that already exists in the project, but the name differs in case will now insert and trigger the overwrite dialogue

•Navigating to a file or content request using a UNIFI URL will now work while the UNIFI application is both running and not running

•Fixed an issue where the material class filter would stick after selecting a material class in browse

•Material class names that contain a dash will now display results in search/browse

•An error message is now displayed when attempting to insert a Revit family that already exists in the project, but the types have all been deleted/purged from the project

•Inserting drafting views and schedules into a project that has the “Open workset default” setting set to “Specify” will no longer prompt the user with the specify worksets dialogue

•On the Dashboard page in the UNIFI Web Portal, the Licenses graph has been updated to properly calculate the values using the UTC time zone

•Fixed an issue where the family category would not update in UNIFI after uploading a revision where the family category was changed

•We have updated all dates and times to be displayed in local time, unless specifically stated otherwise

•File names in the batch editor now match the same formatting as displayed in UNIFI Pro

•Fixed an issue where the Administrators table would not list new admins when viewing library details in the UNIFI Web Portal

•Project Analytics data will no longer be collected when locally saving a workshared model

•In Project Analytics, when exporting Family data to Excel the number of instances is now per type instead of per family

•Fixed an issue in project analytics where data for large projects and models would not display in the project and model level dashboards

One final note, for customers using Project Analytics:  Please ensure all users have the Revit TLS update applied to all Revit versions, otherwise Project Analytics data collection may not occur.

Wrap up:

Thanks for being a valued UNIFI customer and taking the time to get the scoop on our latest update. We hope you find the updates and fixes in this release useful.

While we have you, we want to mention that in the wake of the COVID-19 news, we’d like to reinforce our commitment to journey with our customers and offer you additional licenses on us. If this is something you would find useful, please contact us here.  We’ve also shared some tips for working from home specifically for the AEC industry that you may find useful here.

The health and safety or our customers and employees is our top priority and we hope these tips will be helpful to your team. We’ve implemented these tips at UNIFI to ensure we’re fully prepared, don’t miss a beat, and continue to provide top notch products and support to our customers.

Please stay tuned for updates on Autodesk 2021 support! In the meantime, please remember that your feedback is very important to us and we use it to continually improve our platform. If you have suggestions for future updates, please click here to learn how to submit your recommendations directly in the UNIFI platform.

UPDATE:

As of April 20, 2020, the following bugs reported by users who updated to Pro 3.5 have been fixed: 

•Receiving a “Could Not Insert” message when inserting an object with a name that already exists in the Revit project
•System family types that have been renamed in UNIFI inserting incorrectly
•The UNIFI desktop application crashing while performing operations that involve user interaction
•The UNIFI desktop application becoming unresponsive when uploading files while maximized at certain display resolution and zoom combinations
•The “External Tool Failure” message appearing for some users when launching Revit 


For Project Analytics users, as a temporary measure in reducing data collection times, parameter data collection has been disabled in order to bring collection time to an acceptable level:


•This will not have any impact on the prebuilt dashboards in the web portal. If you are accessing the data via our API, you will notice that syncs performed with UNIFI 3.5.1 will not contain parameter data.
•We are developing a permanent solution that will allow you to choose what data is collected, including parameter data, that will be available in an upcoming release.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

March 18 @ 12 PM PDT: SEARUG Webinar

Join the members of Seattle Revit User Group (SEARUG) on Wednesday, March 18 at 12 PM PDT to discuss: 

-The UNIFI Platform
-Approaches to Managing your Content (and Mistakes to Avoid)
-Choosing the Right Platform for you
-Understanding Cloud Security
-Calculating your ROI to Get Upper Management Buy In
-And Beyond

Space is limited, please click below to save your seat now! 

AEC FIRMS: Tips for Working From Home

Tips for Working from Home

Over the course of the past few weeks, we have witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic change the daily lives of people across the globe. Grocery stores are struggling to restock supplies, schools have closed, bars and restaurants across multiple states in the US have also eliminated their dine-in option, and many companies are transitioning their employees to work from home. While the news has at times been frightening, the pandemic has also been a good reminder of how much of an impact we can have on each other and the importance of embracing our roles of good neighbors and citizens.

In the wake of this news, our team at UNIFI would like to reinforce our commitment to journeying alongside our customers in any environment as our number one priority. In our hometown of Vegas where so much of the economy relies on the service industry, we feel fortunate to have work that is easily continued remotely. We have the processes and tools in place to continue business as usual and will continue to support our customers’ BIM data, project insight, and content management needs to the highest standard of platform reliability. Your projects are certainly not stopping, and neither are we. 

We’re aware that many of our customers and AEC firms across the globe are actively encouraging or mandating their employees to work from home. While some AEC firms have facilitated work from home policies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for many of our customers it was on a case-by-case basis and not accepted as a long-term option for employees. This is partly due to the high level of collaboration required for AEC firms, as well as the fact that employees must develop a specialized skill set for remote work to be successful.

In continued support of our focus on journeying with our customers, we’ve created a list of tips for AEC firms to successfully transition to working from home without skipping a beat:

1. HAVE THE HARDWARE, CLOUD-BASED SOFTWARE,  AND TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS YOU NEED

Your employer has likely issued you a laptop as well as the software you need to be successful. To put this to use, having a solid internet connection is a must. Take it upon yourself to get up to speed 😉 Tips for working from homeand understand there are limitations on your household internet speed and  that will affect your VPN connection or cloud-based applications.    Considering employers across the globe are implementing work from home policies and schools are out, chances are you’re not the only one in your home or neighborhood who needs access to the internet. As a result, you may find that your download speed is slower than usual. On top of this, ISPs are within their rights to throttle speeds during peak times. Many AEC Firms utilize a VPN connection for their employees to access their network outside of the office. Here is an interesting article on what else your ISP can do regarding your bandwidth. . 

ISP internet speeds aside, do you know that your VPN server will also further limit your browsing speed as you access the network? Server bandwidth is limited so if 100 people are sharing a 1000 mbps server, that means that each person can average no more than 10 mbps. Please note that encryption protocols take some of your bandwidth as well. As a solution for this, I choose to use cloud-based applications like BIM 360 Design and UNIFI wherever possible to only access the VPN when I must.

2.COMMUNICATION TOOLS

Virtual workspaces such as Bluebeam Studio, Microsoft Teams, and Slack  have made communication and collaboration for remote employees a breeze. However, responses are sometimes not as quick as simply poking your head over the cubicle wall or walking to your boss’ office.tips for working from home You’ll need to be resourceful and learn to problem-solve more independently than you may be accustomed to in an office setting. This doesn’t mean not communicating with your colleagues though, in fact, we recommend over communicating with the tools above. Slack gives you the option to set status’ when you’re away or unavailable. We recommend taking advantage of these to set expectations with your colleagues when you’re not available to reply right away. With clearly defined tasks, you’ll be able to easily communicate with these collaboration tools to and keep your team in the loop on what you’ve accomplished over the course of your workday. 

3. TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY

As we just mentioned, since there is no boss looking over your shoulder at home, there is a continuous pressing need to get your tasks accomplished. Simply showing up and sitting at your desk will no longer show your boss you’re working. You’ll need to be a self-starter and limit distractions. If you have young children at home, consider finding some help during your workday just as you would if you were in the office. Tips for working from homeAs tempting as it may be to rock the pajamas, getting dressed in the morning as you normally would is a must.  While remote work has endless benefits, your work life and home life can quickly bleed into each other and affect your performance if you don’t set specific working hours. Also, set aside a working office. Working from the kitchen table can open your workspace to countless distractions versus working somewhere where you can close the door to the laundry machine or the television running.

Wrap Up

While some AEC firms may have employees already accustomed to working from home, others will struggle to adapt and obtain the necessary tools and skills to be successful. We will continue to provide tips and tricks for working from home for AEC firms as well as provide first-hand insight into how other AEC Firms are adjusting to a life working from home in future posts. In the meantime, please note that UNIFI, impart due to the tips we’ve implemented in this post, is fully prepared to continue to provide the best in class products and support to our customers.

Please feel free to comment below and let us know, what are some tricks you’ve implemented that have helped you work from home in an AEC firm?

Until our next post, we wish you health and safety from our family to yours.

The Best Revit Add-Ins You Can’t Afford to go Without

As we get more and more comfortable with Revit, we find ourselves wondering why Revit doesn’t have ‘X Feature’…. ‘X Feature’ would save us tons of time! Some of Revit gurus out there might even develop our own custom applications utilizing the Revit API. However Not all of us are programmers, which sends us on the search for the perfect add-in. We’re even willing to pay for the best Revit add-ins so long as they significantly improve our workflows. Below is a list of what I’ve come across as ‘The Best Revit Add-Ins’ no matter your discipline of choice. Hope you enjoy and find them as useful as I have.

KIWI CODES – BONUS TOOLS –KIWI CODES have a few products within their Revit add-in line(s), but I’ve found the Bonus Tools product instrumental one of the best Revit add-ins both as a designer and a BIM Manager. With tools like Family Tracker, View/Sheet Creator, Aligning Views on Sheets, and beyond I’ve gotten countless hours back into my day. Starting at $35 for a single license annually, this tool set is a no brainer. 

COINS Auto-Section Box  – this free tool is considered one of the best Revit add-ins because it gives you impressive speed,  dexterity, and creates three-dimensional views while analyzing model areas with native Revit versions 2016 and forward. This functionality allows you to create section boxes from model elements and improves the workflow to allow for aligning the section box to walls or other line-based geometry by showing your newly created 3D view automatically next to the view you started from and more. You can’t afford to go without this tool if you’re a BIM coordinator.

RAVEN – BIM Communication – since Autodesk has done away with the Communicator within BIM360 Design, a few people have asked if there is tool I consider one of the best Revit add-ins that can assist them with inter-model communication. (especially regarding who is syncing the model). Including a Revit model chat room, this easily affordable Revit add-in (starting at $5 per user/per month) notifies users whenever team members join the model, reloads or synchronizes with central. You can easily mitigate hours of wasted time due to overlapping sync with Raven.

UNIFI – a cloud-based content management platform built with Revit in mind, UNIFI can store virtually any file type. With a built-in content request platform for new/existing content, you’ll ensure nothing is buried in email or desk drop-ins ever again. The ability to add additional data to your content as well as search by parameter within Revit components, UNIFI seamlessly integrates into any workflow. UNIFI is a must have to find content up to 78% faster and save designers over 200 hours a year.  To learn more about UNIFI, get a free demo here.

In conclusion, adopting the best Revit add-ins into your team’s workflow for optimal efficiency. On top of that, using Revit add-ins is a great way to be successful in your position as a BIM leader and advance your career.

We want to hear from you… what are the best Revit add-ins that you absolutely can’t be without? Please comment below to let us know!