Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Importing Vendor Content into AutoCAD MEP

Been seeing a lot of questions about content for AutoCAD MEP, so I thought I'd through a little gem out there. The Building Component tool lets you import an ADSK file, which can be generated by Inventor using the BIM Exchange tool, and convert it to a multi-view part for AutoCAD MEP, a multi-view block for AutoCAD Architecture, or just a block for AutoCAD.

I'm stealing a little bit from one of my online training courses provided by 4D Technologies (, so if you want to see the video, you'll have to subscribe to the lesson set.
When you receive an ADSK file to work with, the first step is to make sure you are already in a drawing file. It does not matter what file is open, since the Building Component tool will add it to your catalogs, and insert it in the current drawing for you.

On the ribbon, Insert tab, Content panel, select Building Component. Select the ADSK file you want to import, and the Import Building Component dialog appears.

You are given three options:

Multi-View Part is the basis of an MEP engineering model. It includes the tools needed to add connectors, and allows the part to be added to a standard catalog.

Multi-View block is the basis of an architectural model. It is used to define parts that do not require connectors, such a furniture or owner provided equipment.

Block allows the model to be defined as a basic part.You can use this later to make a Multi-View part or Multi-View block.

For AutoCAD MEP users, select Multi-View Part and the Import Building Component dialog appears. 

From here, you can enter the name and description of the part. 

Select the part catalog and chapter you want to store the part in.

Next, select and define the part type and subtype. While you cannot create your own part classifications, you can add any subtype as needed.

For the last step, select a layer key, which controls the layer the part is placed on when added to a drawing. The layer key is based on the layer key styles that are loaded in the current drawing, so make sure you start from a template as needed. Click OK to continue.

Once you have assigned these values, take a look at the object viewer in the upper right corner. These tools let you change the default orientation of the part on the Object View tab, including along the x, y or z axis. Leave this set to the default. You can also select Preview Image to see what the block will look like in the catalog and drawing.
Make sure you have reviewed all of these settings, and then choose Add. The Multi-view part dialog appears, and let you place an example in the drawing.

The part is also added to the default catalog in the location specified (and I recommend making your own custom catalogs, anytime you want to customize AutoCAD MEP content!). You can also add this your custom parts library as needed. You can also edit the part with the Content Builder tool to add connection points for pipe and wire as needed.

If you have Inventor, make sure you check out the BIM Exchange tools. Inventor can take a wide variety of 3D file formats, with IAM and IPT parts being the best options. My next preferred file is a STP or STEP, since it converts easily to an assembly, which makes it easier to edit and remove smaller parts and detail. You can also use SAT, IGES and more, but you're limited on the file editing with these.

Use this tool to get more detail and accuracy in AutoCAD MEP - you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wrapping up 2015 and AU - it's NEW Year!

It’s been a pretty amazing year, and one of the busiest I’ve had to date. We’ve worked on dozens of BIM projects, had learned a lot and improved our process, while made some mistakes that have help us grow as well.

Here are my key takeaway tips for Revit and BIM projects:

  • Make sure you stop using mapped drive letter designations (i.e. x:\project) when linking files – this includes CAD and BIM. When you’re working in a Revit project, it’s the name of the server, or UNC name, that gets stored with the project (i.e. \\server01\project). This especially rings true when you’re working with multiple office locations that aren’t using some form of document sharing, such as the A360 Collaboration for Revit tools.
  • Clean those CAD files up - especially the layers! Make sure you’re following the national CAD standard, but assigning the lineweight to the line, instead of using colors for plotting lineweights. These convert automatically to Revit linestyles, when linked or imported into a Revit model. And make changes in the Revit model to these settings after the file is linked in for more consistent plotting results.
  • Keeping pounding away at Inventor for Revit families – it’s the best tool to clean up and prepare content for a project. The best file format for conversion has been ADSK for me, since it got be defined for an assembly of parts, rather than just the part.
  • Take some time get to know Dynamo if you’re writing code for Revit. One of the tasks I want to look into is whether or not this up and coming programming language can be used to define and control parameters that are associated with MEP connections in a family…stay tuned…

AU was a great event as well. I think it was definitely one of the busiest for me personally, between the Expert Elite events, user research, classes I attended as well as my own. The quality of the instruction continues to rise, and Autodesk is really picking a lot of winners when it comes to classes. The only comments I received regarded the lack of technical instruction over customer stories, and the limited number of MEP classes. Hopefully they can tackle some of these next year.

I went outside of the box this year. Since it was Gannett Fleming’s 100th anniversary, we’ve had these cardboard cutouts of Farley Gannett, the founder of the company, in every office. Since it was nearly time to retire the cutouts, one of my co-workers who was attending this year’s event, helped me drag Farley all through the Valley of Fire state park, and then through the exhibit hall on opening night. We got to tell his story, and he made some great friends. Here’s a few of pictures from the event.

Speaking of next year, Autodesk has made a change that has really made me happy, and hopefully will make it easier for others to attend the event. They have signed a five year agreement to have AU stay at the Venetian and Sands conference center, which is definitely my favorite venue. It’s right in the heart of the strip, with easy access to other casinos, shopping and more. The quality of the accommodations is outstanding, and the hotel really knows how to host a top shelf convention.

But the better news is the schedule – next year, it’s before Thanksgiving – Nov. 15-17th! That means that I get my week back in between the holidays, to spend more time at home with family and friends in one of my favorite times of the year. It also gives me more time to absorb what I’ve learned, and figure out how to implement new techniques and methods before the new year. I’ll definitely be there, teaching or not!

As always it’s an honor to teach. I know it’s hard to please everyone, and every year there’s someone with a bone to pick. Normally I don’t do this, but I do want to answer one easily offended critic. I’ve been showing home movies for years before my class, but if you don’t want to see the fishing videos, that’s fine. But I would like to personally invite you to contact me directly, so I can invite you to go do a little fishing with me. We’ll crack open a couple of beers, have a “come to Jesus” meeting, and I’ll do what I can to help you have a happier life. I do hope you got something more out of the class, that will help you in your career.

And next year, the videos will all be about AU – top moments, great friends, and my favorite parts of AU. Who knows…maybe you’ll be in them, too! For all who played along, and hung out with Farley, and then came to the class and listened to all the old jokes, thank you, thank you. I hope the classes were insightful, and you took away something that will help you in your job as well.

On to 2016 – let’s roll!

David B.

Monday, November 23, 2015

How about a little Insight...360?

A while ago, I spent some time getting my Autodesk Building Performance Analysis class completed, and learned quite a bit about using programs such as Vasari and Revit to perform whole building analysis - as well as what goes into these tasks, that really should take place on every occupied structure that is designed.

During this time, I had gotten wind that Vasari was a limited shelf life product. I also had written and produced the latest Green Building Studio training videos for CADLearning, where I'm already producing content for AutoCAD MEP, Plant 3D and AutoCAD P&ID.

Then I got this press release from Autodesk about Insight 360, which "which empowers architects with centralized access to their building energy and environmental performance data and the world’s most advanced analysis engines, all within a beautiful and intuitive interface. Through robust bi-directional Building Information Modeling (BIM) integration, direct access to leading analysis tools, and guidance and recommendations from industry benchmarks, architects can approach the design process with more effective understanding of the elements that lead to better building performance outcomes throughout the building lifecycle."
We're users of IES Virtual Environment and Trace, and last week covered how to use models developed in Revit to perform energy studies using the Green Building Studio engine, but now it looks like the next generation is here. The top features include:

  • Visualize and interact with key industry benchmarks for performance with real-time cause and effect feedback to guide you toward better building performance outcomes. 
  • Model with Revit and FormIt 360 Pro to generate insights using robust automatic analytical model creation and visualization of performance information directly in the modeling environment. This capability offers a powerful comparison workflow to run millions of design scenarios and see energy savings with immediate and interactive feedback. 
  • Access to trusted industry leading engines for whole building energy, heating, cooling, daylighting, and solar radiation simulations. 
  • Organize and share insights with project stakeholders and support geographically dispersed team collaboration from early targeting and feasibility analysis through operation with access anywhere via desktops, tablets, or smartphones.

Stephanie Eggers, who I met at the ASHRAE/IBPSA energy modeling conference a couple of years ago, maintains a blog with details about Insight 360, and how it can help you make better design tools via the BIM interface. Check it out at

I'll be checking it out at AU next week, and hope to report back with a little more detail.

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy modeling!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

AU Starts in TWO WEEKS…Are you READY?

It’s that time of year…the leaves are changing, a chill is in the air. Holiday decorations are going up, and turkeys fear for their lives. Stress sets in as you realize that Christmas is only 38 days away…and you have no clue what to get the kids, the dog or your crazy aunt. Fears creeps up as you remember you’ve got to get that donation to the thrift store or make that tax payment…and the in-laws tell you they’re coming to stay from Thanksgiving to New Year…and it’s your turn in the rotation to host the office Christmas Party.

And then, for the geeks in the crowd…Autodesk University is only two weeks away. If you’re a speaker, it’s a special time of year.

A time to reflect on the thoughts and ideals you wanted to share…until you realize you left that key sentence out of your handout, “the opinions expressed in this document are only those of the writer”.

A day to plan out how you want to go through the right series of steps to get a point across…and the Autodesk Application Manager installs Revit 2016 Release 2, which changes the dialogs you captured 6 months ago.

A minute to polish your presentation…and you see a hole in the corner of your sport coat’s armpit…and you’re an arm waver.

A second to consider using the latest model you worked on…and realize you never got permission to use the file from the client.

But putting all the fears aside, you plug through your PowerPoint, make sure your teeth are brushed, that you have plenty of business cards, and get your tablet or iPhone updated with the AU application that will keep you from getting lost for the next several days.

For me, this year’s reflection goes back to the classes I have. The two that Autodesk selected. The ones that were almost an afterthought, fillers for what to use if they didn’t want the ones I really wanted to teach this year. And it got interesting…why did these get picked? What it something that they believe the industry wanted to hear and needed to know? Or was it just eeny-meeny-miney-mo?

There are two, but the first one is the one I wanted to cover the most. We talk about worksharing in a Revit project, and networking, and collaboration solutions the design firm should consider, that offer the best return on investment. And it wound up being the hardest presentation I’ve had to write to date…how do you make this topic interesting? Challenging? Inspirational? And Valuable?

As I was writing it, I realized how intense the topic could become, and how easy it is to get lost “in the weeds” drilling down to too much detail. I had to back myself up, and realize, from my layman’s perspective, that sometimes it’s not about presenting yourself and how “smart” you are.

But rather, it’s about being able to relate to the same problem someone else may be having, and how insight we provide could help them avoid the same problems later. AU isn’t about the classes…it’s about the networking, the personal connection and the shared mindset we all have. It’s about coming to a common place, that we all have the same goals. To get better at what we do, making the most of our time so have more time later to do…something else. Sort of a “love what you do, to get to do what you love” mindset.

I realized that going back to the beginning helped me understand better what it took to get where we are, and just how much life has changed since the garage so many years ago.

And I as was reflecting back on the class, I thought about what I had seen this year. I got to meet the original creators of Revit, and tell them how big of an impact they not only had on my life, but on thousands of others. I got to spend time with some awesome co-workers, who seized the moment, jumped on the bandwagon, and continue to push me – and the firm – to the next level. And we’ve been having a great time doing it, too. But it was cool telling Leonid and Irwin just what we were doing with the software, and seeing their keen interest in how it was being used, so far beyond what the original expectations were.

I turned the speed limit this year, and was able to look back on how much has changed since 1985, when I first got the chance to sit down at a computer and draw, and see the output on an old HP pen plotter. I look at the fascination I had then, and marvel at how far we’ve come, in just a generation. Not just buildings, but systems. Not just offices, but water treatment plants. Not just piping, but distribution stations that aren’t in a building at all. And when I come back to the handout for the class, I realize – it’s important to share where we came from, but just as important to have clear vision for where you want to go…and learn what’s out there for you.

I think ahead about who I would groom to take my place, to carry the banner and lead the charge for the future of design. Would they have the same passion? Would they be willing to commit themselves to being an advocate for getting away from “we’ve always done it that way”? Would they be able to blend common sense in, with the same desire for making their spot in the office and the community a better place?

Let me make a suggestion – spend some time this year looking for the students at AU this year. Go to the exhibit hall, and look for the youngest person in the room. Strike up a conversation – and ask them what they think. And realize…

That’s who we’re working for. That’s who we are teaching the skills we’ve been lucky to learn. That’s who will carry that torch. Share your passion, your knowledge and make sure they know – hey, this can be fun, too. Have a good time in your class – get down off the stage, get out in the audience, and make contact. And walk away with a lifetime of friends…that you’ll never forget.

At least until that average temperature of summer catches up with you…you old folks know what I mean…so get ready. In two weeks, it’ll be time to show the next generation…this is how we roll…and ramble…;-)

See you in Vegas!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Autodesk's New Structural and MEP Fabrication Suites

For those of you who prefer to use our design models for construction, Autodesk has made a couple of new product suites available. Here's a press release from Julie Jacobson and Joy Stark at Autodesk that detail the packages.

Structural engineers, detailers, fabricators, and MEP [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] contractors around the world are realizing that the increasing adoption of Building Information Modeling [BIM] within the AEC industry, coupled with government mandates, is fueling the need to participate in collaborative BIM processes to remain competitive. In response to these trends, we’re announcing two new suites that combine comprehensive tools to support BIM workflows for structural and MEP design, detailing, fabrication, and construction.

The new Autodesk Structural Fabrication Suite provides structural engineers, steel detailers, and fabricators with tools to help streamline the process from design to fabrication with model-based deliverables. The new Autodesk MEP Fabrication Suite provides MEP contractors, detailers, estimators and fabricators with tools to generate better estimates, create more accurate detailed models, and directly drive MEP fabrication while   transitioning to a tailored BIM solution.

The Autodesk Structural Fabrication Suite, which includes Autodesk Advance Steel 2016, AutoCAD 2016, Autodesk Revit 2016 and Navisworks Simulate 2016, offers tools to better connect structural design to detailing by allowing you to work more collaboratively within a BIM environment. Revit, AutoCAD, and Advance Steel together can help users streamline the detailing process by integrating steel detailing expertise alongside the design.  Advance Steel’s model based environment helps users produce accurate detailed drawings faster, helping to speed time to fabrication. The inclusion of Navisworks Simulate helps extend fabrication to the field by supporting estimation, coordination, and 4D simulation of steel projects. Models can be easily shared and viewed with contractors, improving coordination and reducing waste.

The Structural Fabrication Suite is available for an annual desktop subscription price of $3,500.  For more availability and product information, including languages supported, click here

The MEP Fabrication Suite is a portfolio of interoperable 3D construction software that enables MEP contractors, detailers, estimators and fabricators to move to BIM based workflows at a lower cost of entry.  The Suite offers tools to streamline your detailing and fabrication workflows, including the latest versions of CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct, AutoCAD 2016, Autodesk Revit 2016 and Point Layout.   Combined, these tools offer fabrication products that generate better estimates, create more accurate detailed models, and directly drive MEP fabrication.  The Suite can also help you achieve better outcomes with advanced coordination, 5D analysis, and simulation tools that can be used throughout the project lifecycle while bringing model accuracy to the field more efficiently.

The MEP Fabrication Suite is available for an annual desktop subscription price of $4,600.  For more availability and information, including languages supported, click here

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Update to Windows 10….Is it REALLY this Easy?!?!?!?

Now that I’ve gotten through a lot of Windows 8.1 testing, I updated my test system, I updated to Windows 10…and surprisingly enough it was the easiest update I had been through. Now, don’t get me wrong – I did a lot of prep work – but the amount of post work I had to do was related more to setting up the interface for my preferences than fixing things.

So here’s some notes, if you’re an Autodesk product user (or even Bentley, Adobe, etc.). My system is an HP Envy 17" about two years old.

First, I removed all of the older versions of Autodesk products prior to 2016. I didn’t need them since I had already migrated, but I’ve been hearing from others that 2015 still works fine as well. Autodesk hasn’t come out completely (as of this post) and said everything was compatible, but I’ve test driven everything in the Building Design Ultimate and Plant Design Premium suites and they all work. Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to take the folders off the system if you don’t need them, if any remain. Another note – remove all plug-ins, add-ins and extensions prior to uninstalling the main program, as uninstalling some (like the Revit Extensions 2015) would not uninstall after the main program was removed. Make sure you scroll all the way down in the Programs and Features list, since not all of the product names start with “Autodesk”. My bad…

Second, I used Norton to run a performance test on the drive, allowing it to defragment the disk. I thought about using a registry cleaner tool, but decided not to do this, and see if the install had any issues with extraneous registry keys. So far, nothing has happened, so I’ll come back and clean this up later.

Next, I did a disk cleanup using the drive’s Properties tools, cleaning up temp files, system reports, debug logs, etc. to get a clean slate. This is something you should be doing on a regular basis anyway, but definitely do this first. Here’s what the new tool looks like in Windows 10, and it’s pretty much the same as the earlier versions:

After doing the cleanup, I used System Recovery to set a restore point just in case, and named it Pre-Windows 10 so I’d know which one to use.

Last step was to back everything up that system restore didn’t cover, like my files. I use Western Digital’s backup software with the external hard drives as my backup system (look Ma, no tapes). I also use Beyond Compare for folders that aren’t covered with the backup lists, as mans to sync folders.

Before starting the update, make sure you turn off extra apps in your system tray. I turned off the Autodesk App Manager, since it’s one of the biggest burners, along with my cloud service apps. I temporarily suspended real time scanning since I wasn’t going to be hitting the internet after the installer downloaded. Getting the running apps down to a minimum helps the installer to run faster.

Once the installer was finished, all it took was a few preference settings, and the system came back up looking very similar to Windows 8/8.1. My shortcuts were all the same, my taskbar has the same icons. The only thing I messed with so far was the start menu tile settings – but I’m so glad that guy is back as part of the program, I didn’t care about the rest.

One item you need to check for sure – your System Restore settings may get disabled. Go to Settings, and search for System Restore. Run the configuration tool (I accepted the default amount of maximum disk space to use), and then create a restore point. I named this one Windows 10 Initial so I’d know where I started from.

So the good news is – Microsoft appears to have gotten this right…give yourself an Easy button!

Happy upgrades! – db

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Erupting from Chaos…AU, RTC and Catching Up!

Man has it been a busy summer…between work, vacation, getting this fixed and repaired around the house…2015 has shot by like a rocket, and now the fall is on us. The older I get, the faster it goes.
So here’s the catch up time….

RTC First!

I finally got to attend a Revit Technology Conference, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The folks at RTC put on a great show, a little irreverent (just my speed) but populated by a mass of “true believers”. Users attend this conference because it’s the passion. And there was no better way to stoke that passion when Jim Balding, the conference host and talk show wannabe, brought out the founders of Revit. That’s right – Irwin Jungreis and Leonid Raiz, from the original Charles River Software company.

This got me feeling my “Sheldon” coming on (I have the DNA of Leonard Nimoy, er Leonid Raiz), and after the excitement of hearing the history of the program, it was awesome to realize how close I had been to the beginnings of this product. My days started when my old employer, CADRE Systems, became a Revit reseller right when the acquisition took place. That’s where I met Richard Taylor and the others, in the old Waltham office.

I made sure I got their autograph on my badge, and also made sure to tell them both how big of an impact they’ve not only had on my life and career, but on countless thousands around the world. It’s not every day that you meet someone that helped create a paradigm change…and they’re about as down to earth as anyone can be. I had a few conversations with Leonid over the next couple of days, and he always seemed to be amazed at how much enthusiasm and respect people had for him, and his accomplishments.

Back to the conference…I got added as a last minute speaker, and presented a lab on Advanced Content Editing for Revit MEP Users…And More. We took a little time talking about nested families, and how to leverage parameters to get the families to behave the way you want. We also covered my favorite activity of late, converting content from Inventor, which I feel like I’m finally getting better at doing. The room was full, and had a lot of great feedback and conversations after the class. Thanks to all those folks that signed my coffee mug - you're the real stars in the real world!

And I actually got to go to some great classes. Aaron Mailer, who was in a similar boat to me, having to pick up someone else’s class, did a great job with Navisworks Optimization, which we want to use more frequently. Paul Aubin, the Revit maharishi, did a great job of covering Revit materials, which I put to use right away in our 2016 content. And sitting in on Don Bokmiller’s roundtable brought tout some great, open, and honest assessment of the state of content for Revit.

So here’s the takeaway – if you’re a Revit user, and can’t afford AU, save your money and go to RTC. The quality of the conference, the staff, presenters and the people that attend match and exceed AU quality. The comraderie and networking is priceless…and you can really learn a lot at the after party! 

Next year the North American conference is in Scottsdale, Arizona, July 14-16th. Yep, it’s gonna be a hot one, in more ways than one. For more information, go to

Autodesk University 2015!

…is just a few months away, and RTC really got me stoked up for it. Sign up now at before it gets booked up!

This year, I’m presenting two classes:
ES10022 - How’s BIM Doing in Your Multioffice Pond? – on Thursday, December 3rd at 8:00am PST, is about optimizing Revit workflows between offices and outside firms. The course overview is listed:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) represents a great deal more than switching from 2D CAD to 3D modeling. Face it; these tools and work processes can be complicated. Throw in multiple office locations, different design partners, and old work methods, and you can have a real mess on your hands. In this session we will take a look at how programs like Revit software disrupt these ponds, and how you can learn to gain efficiencies while you’re in it. We will start by explaining how a basic peer-to-peer type of environment could work, and the pros and cons of this system. Next, we will throw CAD into the mix, and we’ll cover lessons learned. Then we’ll review document management tools such as Vault software, and we will wrap up with a discussion about how the Autodesk 360 software applications can help. If you’re a business owner trying to make sense of all of this, or a designer just looking to get your work done, you need to join us for this fast-paced and sometimes downright funny way to learn how to manage your BIM projects.

Learning objectives

  1. Learn basic worksharing methods and best practices for Revit projects in multiple office locations
  2. Discover the lines where CAD and BIM are blurred, and how to avoid duplication of tasks with correct application of tools
  3. Examine the next level of document and project management with Vault integration into Autodesk’s design applications
  4. Learn where the cloud-based A360 software applications can benefit your multioffice projects
Since I’ve been playing a lot with the new Revit Collaboration tool for A360, as well as trying to ge tmor engaged with Vault, this course will cover the pros and cons of both, and will hopefully help you make the best decisions for you firm. We’re also going fishing in this class, complete with poles, a pond, and maybe a hook or two. Bring your waders, you may need them…

Next up:
IT11130 - Seamlessly Integrating CAD and BIM Standards for AEC Projects – Thursday, Dec. 3rd at 1:00pm PST.

Session description:

If you listened to all the grand predictions a decade ago, you’d think the only thing we’d be doing is modeling everything in 3D. But that reality hasn’t come to pass. The CAD manager and Building Information Modeling (BIM) manager have to know how to get everything to play nice, capitalizing on the power of BIM tools while making sure the 2D work that’s still required is completed correctly. This course will take a look at key settings and work methods, beginning with a comparison of national CAD versus BIM standards. Next, we’ll examine tips for making CAD files such as templates work better in a BIM environment, and then move into sharing files both ways—correctly. The last item examines how to alter the CAD interface to follow BIM tasks, making it easier to move back and forth easily between the applications. Taking this information-packed course will help you maintain your 2D sanity while moving the Design Team forward with today’s 3D modeling tools—so sign up early and often.

Learning objectives

  1. Compare National CAD Standards with National BIM Standards
  2. Discover key setups for CAD and BIM templates for smooth sharing
  3. Learn how to import and export guidelines for 2D and 3D files—both ways!
  4. Learn how to alter the AutoCAD CUI to better emulate the BIM environment
Autodesk has changed the format for lectures into Industry Talk, which is what the first class covers, and instructional demos, which is what we do in this session. The difference is Powerpoint versus real world. I do both in both sessions, but the focus is stronger on the demo in this class. It’s the first IT based class I’ve taught at AU, and has filled up enough once that it’s already been moved to a larger venue.

Register soon, as the classes usually fill up the closer we get to the conference. The early bird registration period ends September 24th, so save some money...and get in on next year's home movies! 

But even more important, we’re back at the Sands Convention Center at the fabulous Venetian/Palazzo Hotel and Casino, where the crowds and atmosphere are great. You won’t want to miss this event, it’ll be a doozy!

See you in Vegas!