Monday, February 2, 2015

Attention All 3D Model Creators and Vendors...for Revit Users - Stop making my life a pain...

OK, it's time for a quick soapbox post.

First up, to all the manufacturers that are making content for us pain-in-the-rear Revit users. We're a whiny bunch, especially when we want our models to closely represent real world conditions.

For the most part, your stuff is good. The end of line guys - making the equipment, the targets and sources...We don't need every nut, bolt and clip, so when you put a preliminary model together, you can leave all that stuff out. I'm going to take it out of the model anyway when I get it to Inventor, since I really don't want a 1gb family. But if the overall skin detail is good, and when you get me a model, I make sure you're at the top of the list for the recommended vendors (even when there's three required).

For the other guys...that are using companies like ARCAT, SmartBIM and others. It's time for some ground rules.

1. First and foremost - I will jealously guard your intellectual property -as a designer, that's what defines us as well. But you need to work with your content developers and understand the chaos you cause with your shared parameters.

Every time I get a family that includes copyrights, trademarks, links to your website, your content developer's home phone, webpage, Mom's maiden name, that are defined as shared parameters, I start to use words that will make my preacher blush. STOP DOING THIS! I'm cool with you adding them as family parameters, since those don't show up for schedules and tags. You've got to understand that most of our users don't care what 04 CSI is used for, since we already have schedules defined with our standards anyway. So I wind up wasting a lot of time cleaning your mess up - and looking to either make my own version, or go to another vendor's site - which is not why you do this in the first place. You want to market your products, and we're cool with you doing that, as long as you're not making more wasted work for me and the users.

2. Second of all - I'm cool with you adding design criteria data as well - again, make it family only. And use the right format - like electrical Phase - this is NOT the same as number of poles, so don't create a shared parameter that's named one thing and used another way. Make sure it's related to the category and use as what's defined in Revit.

If I want to use your data in a schedule or as part of a load calculation, I'll use a custom shared parameter that matches my schedule, but is set to equal your data. It's easy to link family data to shared parameter data as long as the formatting is the same. You can do this with a schedule or with a formula in the type properties of a part, and they can be instance or type.

3. USE THE DEFAULT TYPE AND INSTANCE PARAMETERS! Like Model, and Manufacturer - anytime we have a deviation between examples, we make a different type - because, gasp, they ARE different - even if it's something simple as a voltage, or connection size. And stop adding your own model numbers in 3 or 4 different shared parameters. Again, make them family based so the guys making our schedules don't see the word Model show up five times when making a new schedule.

4. And last but not least - be CLEAR when it comes to type names. We edit all of these to include a descriptive, Air Handling Unit. If you haven't heard, we use a really neat tool called Navisworks, that allows us to export our models into a format that can be used for collaboration. When a project is exported, Revit will assign the type name to the solid - if no name is provided, then it uses the family name. But it's equally important in the Revit model to make sure it's clearly named, so we can sort and filter schedules easily. If you name your family type 1234-FRGST-LH-BS-UAUMF-L-2, nobody else knows what the heck that means. Be clear, because my IQ isn't high enough to understand this goobletygook.

Again, I can't thank you enough, but you guys are winding up like the good Samaritan on the side of the road with a toolbox, When they try to help you change the flat tire, they strip your lug nuts when they use a pair of channel locks to loosen them up. Use the right tool for the job, and life is better for everyone.

I'm done, you can all return to your jobs now....and, guys, don't forget that Valentine's Day is in less that two weeks!

Later - db

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting your Revit Model back to Warp Speed, Scotty!

We ran into some issues with slow loads and regens with some of our shared Revit models recently, and decided to come up with a checklist to help you look for items that can cause a model to have these issues.Your circumstances may vary, but these should help you eliminate some performance issues.

Location of the Files

How many have servers with mapped drive letters to specific folder locations? And the locations could actually be on servers in other office locations?

When a project is loaded into Revit, the program resolves the path locations to the linked files. But if the drive letter mapping doesn't match from office to office, the program can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to locate files. This mainly occurs when drive letters are not mapped to the same server, or if the server is in a different location.

To resolve this, the first step is the use the UNC file name for the server. This can vary widely across firms, but if a server's actual name is SERVERO1, then you want to start your path like this: \\SERVER01\folder name, etc... This helps out tremendously when you have multiple office locations with a variety of servers in the firm where Revit files are stored.

This applies not only to RVT files, but also any lined DWG or image files you may include in your model.

One other option is to set the pathing to Relative, instead of absolute. If you have files stored on different locations (such as office locations, or practice based servers) and you're not planning on moving the files, then an absolute path option using a UNC name works really well. If you may need to move the project files in the future, and keep them all in the same root folder, then use relative. That way, Revit doesn't spend a lot of time searching for the linked files - instead, it will start in the same root location as the file you are opening.

Workset Control

One item that helps speed up opening a file relates to worksets in a central file. When the program opens a file that has worksets enabled, you get a dialog that asks what workset you want to open:

If you don't need to see or use items in a specific workset, select it - under the Opened column, you can change this from Yes to No by selecting the close command. Since one thing we like to do is place linked files, such as Revit or CAD files, into specific worksets that you can open and close as needed.

MEP Issues

This one popped up when we migrated a project from 2013 to 2015. Since it wasn't one we really targeted to get the systems part working correctly, we had a little spate of errors (ok, a LOT of errors) regarding pipe and duct calculations. Since we're running the R2 version with Update Release 3, I found a neat new little feature.

Under the project browser, and families, select a duct system family. Edit the Type Properties, and look for the mechanical settings:

If calculations are set to All or Flow Only, the program is constantly reviewing the duct and pipe layouts and adding sizing values. The old way was just to set this to none, but Autodesk added a Performance feature that helps even more with files have large networks. The details are a bit long, so here's a link to the actual help file.

Another item you can control lives on the Analyze tab. The Check Systems tools for duct, pipe, circuits and disconnects can really help you find errors. These are toggles that I turn on when I want to check, and turn them off when I'm finished. Leaving these off when you leave the file is another good idea.

The last item to check includes the Warning tool, located on the Manage Tab, Inquiry panel. This lists all errors in a file - if there's a lot, the program will be trying to track and resolve them when opening the file. Finding and fixing thse errors makes the file run much smoother, and keeps your model happy - so take the time to review these on a regular basis.

These are just a few tips - I'll add more as we discover them, but consider this your Christmas present. Enjoy the holidays!

David B.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

AU 2014 is in the Can…Miscellaneous Thoughts…

Had a great time catching up with everyone, and meeting new people this year. Autodesk University (@autodesku) continues to grow and add value to the attendees, and it’s the best run event I attend every year. This was actually a light year from me from a teaching standpoint, but the feature class on Managing BIM Projects without Going CrAzY was a blast to teach this time. Even with a couple of minor technical hiccups on my part, the online portion seemed to go off without a hitch (with all 6 users watching…grin). It gives me good vibes about the Virtual events for the future, and I think these can easily be expanded…provided the conference location can handle the bandwidth. That was the only real hiccup this year – with so many online applications, and users pinging the AU app like mad, we did bring the whole network down at least once.

A couple of observations – the crowd varies from year to year, and while last year’s event seemed to have more entry level users, there was definitely a more forward thinking and sophisticated user mindset at this event. And Autodesk leaders, including CEO Carl Bass, and CTO Jeff Kowalski, played to the future visions of the users pretty well in the opening keynote.

One item that made me think a little harder was a comment made by Jeff, about how, at some point, our creations need to learn how to work more naturally (is that right?) towards each other, instead of being “dead” creations that symbolize a static point in time. He made his point by talking about how he wants his clothes washer to communicate with the dryer, and know when the wash is finished, so the dryer can pick up the task from there.

It’s a great idea to have this type of vision moving forward, but here’s where the “but” comes in. We, the users, can’t help Autodesk move this vision forward if they can’t get their current products to communicate, much less coordinate, with each other now. There’s a million examples, but the discussion came up in an Expert Elite luncheon on Thursday. One of the users asked Jeff when he could expect to see the same passion for the civil products that he was demonstrating in his explanation about 3D printing, and how computers can handle the tasks of designing structures and parts best.

At that point, I attempted to rephrase the question, by stating that you can’t get to appliances talking to each other if you can’t accomplish the goal of having a Revit pipe recognize and connect to a Civil 3D pipe on their own now. That’s where the technology is now, but it’s doesn’t work in the Autodesk product line.

Part of the problem is the wide variety of solutions Autodesk offers, and the fact that the different divisions within the company now, such as buildings, infrastructure, manufacturing, etc. are still very “silo” based. Here’s a simple example: Right now, in AutoCAD MEP, if you want to associate information from a light fixture to be associated with a space object, you simply add an anchor object. This creates the relationship between the parts, and allows you to link shared information between the parts.

In Revit, mechanical equipment can only recognize limited data that’s embedded into the programming – for example, the circuit name and number is automatically associated with the equipment, but that’s it. You can’t easily tie other electrical data – such as the section number that associated with an electrical circuit for a motor control center – back to the equipment. Other examples include horsepower, circuit ampacity or wiring in an associated conduit that’s connected to the equipment.

It’s not that Autodesk can’t develop, or even have that kind of programming available. It’s the fact that it’s not there is where the problem exists. And with the new Dynamo programming language available, we’re still a long ways off from having the tools we need to get to this level of optimization – whether it’s Autodesk, third party developers, or our own in-house personnel developing the code.

Almost every company I’ve worked for – including ours – still struggles with overcoming these silos, and being able to address the needs of their partners in design without having to take a lot of extra steps. But the fact that Autodesk recognizes the fact that these interconnecting relationships are key to their future is important. It’s just a matter of the company’s leadership to develop and push these goals back to the development teams.

And it’s not for want – Jeff’s key comment back to the crowd was that he was simply a visionist, who was on our side and pushed the same ideas back. At some point, you have to get the roadblocks out of the way, and get the communication and goals directly tied to each other – and develop the features in the products we need day in and day out, at the based product line level.

A360, BIM 360, Field 360, Simulation 360, and other cloud based products represent the cloud-based tools to help make the more complex communications possible. But Autodesk should not get too involved in the development of these present and future applications at the expense of their core product line.

In other words – don’t look past the sliding glass door so far that you break your nose trying to get out of it.

Back to AU – it was one of the best events I’ve been to with Autodesk in a while, and the opportunity to meet Carl and Jeff was definitely a high point (sorry, guys, if I drooled on your foot). But it was just as important to me to meet the people that came into my classes, and participated in the topics that I’m passionate about. It was great share that passion, and hopefully I could help them overcome some of their fears, discover relevance, and change their methods to get the message out (thank you, Mike Lee for those words and ideas – be the change!).

Next year – super excited about being back at the Venetian and Sands Convention Center, my favorite venue. The crowds will be large, and the people motivated – let’s see how far we can get in the next 50 weeks…

Merry Christmas!

David B.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is your AutoCAD acting up? Fixing the User Profile...

This one goes out as a thanks to our uber CAD Manager, Nick Seman, who works in the home office at Camp Hill, PA. I'd been having trouble creating projects in AutoCAD P&ID, where I kept getting failures trying to create a new project. Since we push our software to our users over the network, sometimes it;s not an easy task to just "reinstall the software", as support is prone to telling us. One important note - if you're not comfortable editing the registry, then don't try this - get some help from someone who one of your kids, or the neighborhood computer geek...

Make sure your AutoCAD program that's giving you issues is closed. If you've customized your AutoCAD, back the user folder (usually something like this: C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\
Autodesk\AutoCAD 2015\R20.0\enu) up to a different location (Microsoft Windows stores user profile data in the registry, and you can help AutoCAD rebuild their profiles by simply renaming a couple of keys (don't delete them, in case you screw this up). To get to the registry editor, look at the start menu (if you don't have this in Windows 8, that's a whole other issue - get yourself a start menu app to fix this). Use the Search section to type in "regedit" and press enter to continue. If you get a security warning, select OK to continue.

In the registry, you're looking for the HKEY_CURRENT_USER section - don't make this change in the local machine, as it won't fix the problem.Browse to the Software > Autodesk > AutoCAD key:

You'll see the version first - for example, R19.1 is the 2014 product line, while 20.0 is the 2015 product line. Since this is an AutoCAD issue, you may see several keys that start with ACAD. Each one of these represents a specific product, such as AutoCAD Plant 3D (which is where I had the problem, in the database connection part). To see software a key is used for, select it - the E017:409 key displays the program info in the right pane. this way, you know that both E017 keys are related to Plant 3D. In my case, E006 is related to AutoCAD MEP, and E001 is related to plain AutoCAD 2015.

This fix is easy - simply right click on each key for your product, and then choose Rename. Add an "x" in front of the name - do NOT delete the key. Renaming these forces the program to repair the user profile. When you re-open the software, you'll get an installation dialog - let it run, as this is fixing the problem. Check your program after it opens to make sure it's working correctly.

If this doesn't correct the problem, you can repeat the same steps, but this time, rename the C:\USERS\(your username)\Appdata\Roaming\AutoDesk folder for your product, such as AutoCAD P&ID 2014, or MEP 2015...whatever program is giving you the problem. Simply rename it to have an "X" at the start of the name.

If this fixes the problem, go back and delete the renamed keys and folders...after you're sure it's all working correctly. You might want to check the old folder for plotter PC3 files, CTB files, CUI's and anything else you may have customized. These items should be pointed to a custom folder if you're going to be editing them for company standards...and updating the user profile is one of the big reasons why.

Try this out if the traditional fixes don't work, and you can't get a good explanation for why your program is buggy. Make sure you have administrative privileges to the computer and user folder when you do this - if you don't, get your IT guy to take care of it for you.

Happy de-bugging - David B.

ZZZZ....Ugh...Hello? Time to GET UP...for AU 2014!

It's back...and I'm back, after taking a hiatus from the blog. Been a busy summer, with our continuing migration into BIM and newer applications at Gannett Fleming. I've also been busy working as an author/content creator for 4D Technologies' CADLearning online training. In addition to updating AutoCAD MEP, P&ID and Plant 3D, we also updated Green Building Studio in time for this year's AU.

So this is one of my lightest years teaching, with two classes:

MP1573 Managing BIM Projects Without Going CrAzY is going to be broadcast live at AU Online this year, with a review of what you need to know on the front end of a BIM implementation, and then some tips on how to keep things moving after you're rolling. I'm actually going to demo some of the new Inventor BIM Exchange tools, in addition to showing some tips on sheets and views. We're also covering how Revit disrupts CAD tasks, and how to adapt to the change. It'll be a fun, so watch out for the crazy guy in the room. Look for it at at 1:00 EST, Dec. 3rd.

MP6393 Fast Content for AutoCAD MEP covers some new features in 2015, including how to use an ADSK file in AutoCAD MEP to make an Multi-view part. We'll also cover the in-drawing conversion tool, how to make custom catalogs, and how to add 2D symbols to other planes in a part. This one's a fast one - we have 60 minutes to knock all this out, so it'll be hot, hot, hot in the room...

I'm also going to be meeting up with a lot of speakers and Autodesk folks, and am getting to take some cool classes finally. If you want to get certified for AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor or Civil 3D, the tests are free - but get there early, this is a really popular option.

So stay tuned, I've got some tips and tricks to post - see you in Vegas!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Get Some Serious Help for your Revit MEP - the kBIM Template!

Emy McGann, one of my former co-workers, who help me co-author several Revit MEP training manuals, and is one of the best BIM Managers I know, and Karpinski Engineering, have teamed up to release a Revit MEP template and content to help the small engineering firm get started in Revit.

From their press release through the ASHRAE website:

"kBIM Template and Library for Autodesk Revit includes a Revit template, customized Revit library, and supporting help documentation, all designed to enhance the building information modeling (BIM) process for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and technology disciplines.

Developed by Karpinski Engineering for use with Revit 2013, 2014, or 2015, kBIM Template and Library provides large-firm capabilities to smaller firms.
$5,500 ($5,000 ASHRAE Member) / CD / 2014Available Now
Features include:
  • Custom view templates to enhance drawing set-up for each discipline. See a sample
  • Standard symbols for devices that represent regularly used drafting items such as valves, pipe fittings, duct fittings, electrical devices, plumbing fixtures, fire protection devices and data/telecommunication devices
  • Equipment and fixture schedules with corresponding Revit families that enable automatic schedule population
  • Custom schedules and tags to aid in electrical circuiting
  • Standard pipe designations and line type
  • Design checks as visibility and graphical settings (device indication of circuit inclusion)
  • Custom drawing annotation styles and device tags
  • Equipment clearance representation
  • Device annotation offset for drawing clarity"
To get a copy and get off to a great start, follow this link:

Ask for Emy McGann, and she'll get you hooked up. You can also order it through the ASHRAE bookstore if you're a member:

Happy Modeling! David B.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Summer's Up...Conference Time! Misc. Rambles...

The fall is upon us…man, where did summer go? And it didn’t even get hot here until this week…so much for local warming...

Speakin’ time…

I’m up to my ears and elbows the next few weeks. First up is a trip to ASHRAE’s IBPSA conference in Atlanta, GA. The conference runs from Sept. 9-12th, and covers how BIM, analysis and simulation affects today’s engineering firms and designers. I got lucky and will be speaking at the conference on Wednesday, Sept. 10th at 3:30. The session I’m doing is titled BIM Integration Best Practices for Today’s Engineering Firm. I’m covering these four topics:

       Planning for and addressing staff issues for effective use of new technology, and preparing a training program
       Reviewing current hardware/software assets, and how to choose between traditional local hardware configurations and cloud based services
       Understanding the impact of BIM software on project schedules, standards, content and deliverables
       Leveraging BIM projects, associated engineering data and content beyond the typical construction documentation deliverables

All of these came about as we moved into the more advanced stages of our implementation of Revit. In some areas, we’re exceeding expectations while others we seem to be falling off. The idea is to help users address these issues to keep a firm from losing momentum, when it comes to the culture changes and shock that accompany a BIM project.

While focus is on BIM in regards to using it for simulation, analysis and more, the content can be relative to all users. I’ll get the powerpoint available as soon as possible – since it’s an ASHRAE conference, you want see anything specific to reference Revit, AutoCAD MEP or anything else we use, but the points are still applicable.

Vegas Baby!

AU 2014 at Mandalay Bay – Las Vegas, Baby! It’s coming fast, and this year marks more than a decade for me. The load is light, unfortunately, for what may be one of my last AU conferences as a speaker. I’ve loved doing these, but the direction and content is getting spread a little thin. I’m not mad at Autodesk for it – it’s tough to press 175 applications into 700 plus classes in 3 days, so I don’t envy the schedule. The only issue I would have is the reduction in “tips and tricks” classes and labs that can really push the user to the next level, in favor of the more “firm oriented” classes that showcase specific projects. It’s almost like we need to break AU up into two conferences now, since it’s gotten so big. I’m looking to present at other conferences in addition to AU with a lighter load if possible, so let’s see what happens this year.

But don’t think for a minute it’s not worth going – in fact, only having two classes this year is giving me a chance to spend some time with other instructors, something I haven’t been able to do much of. I’ve signed up for a lot of classes this year, and am also planning on renewing my Revit certification as well. Here’s my classes, in case you haven’t signed up yet:

MP5173 - Managing BIM Projects Without Going CRAZY
This course (which is being recorded LIVE and will be broadcast as a part of AU Virtual) covers effective practices for project managers, engineers, and designers working on Building Information Modeling (BIM) projects for heating, ventilating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, water/wastewater, and other engineering practices. Learn how BIM and Revit software alter the traditional design workflows and processes, and discover how to manage the disruptive changes. The course will cover pre-project planning, dealing with project components and content and understanding what tools can really help the project bottom line. We will also cover where Revit software alters typical project tasks. The course is well suited for the first-time manager and experienced user. If you're ready for an energetic, fast-paced class that packs in a lot of information, then sign up early and often.

MP6393 - Fast Content for AutoCAD MEP 2015
AutoCAD MEP 2015 software, a world-class design and drafting application, is the Zen master of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design software. The software continues to lead the way in everything from design to fabrication to owner for excellent workflows. In this fast-paced hands-on lab we will take a look at creating custom content. We will start by using Inventor software to create a more detailed model. Next, we will use this model to create a new multiview part. Once the part is defined you will learn a quick way to use the new symbol and annotation planes to add line-based symbols, and then you’ll create a new catalog to store your custom content. Every AutoCAD MEP software user should learn how to use the overwhelming volume of manufacturer’s 3D content; this lab will help you learn how to do that.

So, no labs this year – but that makes it easy for me…tell you what, I’ll have some other stuff available for the masses as well – if you can track me down this year, tell me you want the “good stuff – the really, really good stuff”…and I promise I won’t send you outside to the street hawkers! Bring your own USB key, that’ll be the only way to get it…sign up at, the early registration period ends soon!

Coming soon…

If you didn’t know this, I’ve been working in my off-time as an author for 4D Technologies’ CADLearning series, which provides online training videos for Autodesk products. My sessions for AutoCAD MEP 2015 and AutoCAD P&ID 2015 are already finished, and I’m working hard on AutoCAD Plant 3D 2015 right now, with lots of new stuff included. I had a lot of people ask about the Plant 3D series last year at AU, so check it out – you can find all kinds of cool stuff at Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Happy modeling! DB