Xrev API Tools: Increase Productivity!



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Revit Material API Workarounds

If you've worked with the Revit API you'll know that often there are holes...  That is, things you can "almost" do, but there will be one item you can't access through the API that makes it impossible or require some obscure workaround.  This can be frustrating, as it can easily make a task you expected to take a day, take a week or even longer as you trial & error every possible approach and research a solution!

The Revit Material API is no exception.  Through the API you can create a new Material and set all its identity data, create new Thermal & Physical Assets and set all their properties, create an Appearance Asset and Apply Assets to the Material.

However, you cannot set/modify the properties of an Appearance Asset.  So how do you create high quality and "render ready" materials through the API.  Well effectively you can't...  However, what you can do is create families containing the pre-setup materials and through the API, load those families into the project and then delete them. 

As you may know, loading a family also loads all the materials and those materials will remain after you delete the family.  It also won't overwrite existing materials/assets if they already exist in the project.  So you can be sure it won't ruin any modifications a user has made.

Unfortunately if you are dealing with a Paint Manufacturer's colour palette they could have thousands of materials, and you are going to have to create all of these Appearance Assets manually using a duplicate and change the colour approach (and perhaps change the reflectivity depending on the finish).  Maybe a job for outsourcing...

Perhaps this will change in the future, but given the hundreds of different options available on Appearance Assets, I don't expect it will happen soon.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

3D View/Perspective viewpoint changing unexpectedly on file reopen

Have you ever opened a Revit file only to find that all those 3D Views you setup yesterday are no longer orientated correctly?  This can be very frustrating!

Typically when I create a 3D View, I'll then use the Steering Wheel, Look mode, to adjust the viewpoint to exactly where I need it.  If you'd like those tweaks to be retained you must SAVE VIEW.

There are 2 places you can Save View:
  • In the View Cube menu drop down
  • In the Steering Wheel menu drop down
Unfortunately this is easy to forget to do, it would be great if Revit prompted you with something like "3D View:3D View 2 has unsaved changes, would you like to save view?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Revit 2015 - BORING...?

So for those that have seen the Revit 2015 new feature list, its pretty boring.  I'm not against a release that aims to fix up a lot of minor limitations and/or bugs, but pick some decent ones!  And at least address 1 or 2 major ticket items.  I consider major ticket items like:
  • Finishing Railings/Ramps/Stair tools
  • Upgrading the Text tools to match those of just about every other CAD/BIM Software
  • Integrated Graphical Door/Window & Curtain Wall Schedules
  • Fixing Groups
  • Making Assemblies do what they need to, IE: Be easily reusable, have the concepts of a fabricated element, sub-assemblies etc.
  • Library Management - detect what families have been updated and allow us to quickly reload.
  • Improve Worksharing to allow more users to work simultaneously and more robust!
  • And there are many more I can list out
I think Structural got the best improvements this year...

Lets take a look at them:
  1. Link IFC's: Okay this is a good BIM feature, but for me it needs to be a high fidelity link.  IE: No geometric conversions of the content to Revit elements, give me the raw geometry as defined in the IFC associated to the correct family category.  I don't want to have to worry about possible conversion based issues which plague IFC conversion between platforms.  If that's what it is then awesome.
  2. Trim/Extend Multiple Elements: This is a much needed feature, being able to window select the elements to be trimmed to the reference will be a large time saver for me.
  3. Family Parameter Order Adjustment: This bugged me a lot when I first started creating families, but I've gotten used to the Reverse Alphabetic ordering.  I don't think this is going to save many people a lot of time...
  4. Tooltips for Family Parameters: As someone who creates a lot of families, some of which can get quite conmplicated, being able to include some instruction on what parameters do will be very useful.  No longer will I have to create an extra instruction parameter.  Pretty happy about this one.
  5. Reinforcement for parts: IMHO this should have been in the parts tool from day 1, so glad this has been completed.  But what about reinforcement in families!  That would save me the most amount of work, as I could set once, rather than have to place everywhere after the fact...
  6. Presentation in Rebar Sets: This would be useful if we could document and display reinforcement to our standards.  Many of my clients are now building their own Rebar families, with built in symbology just because this is so inflexible.  EG: Area Reinforcement doesn't have the control we need, but has symbols.  Rebar does have the flexibility required (for the most part), but you can't easily get it to display how you want to see it in documentation...
  7. Reinforcement Numbering & Multi Rebar Annotation: More ways to tag is useful, but if doesn't look right in the first place it still only part of the solution.
  8. Structural Section Properties: Useful and avoids manually input data, which is always good.
  9. Calculation methods for pressure drop: Not being a systems engineer, I'm not yet across the benefit of this.  So I'll reserve judgement on this until I have some feedback from engineers.
  10. Great Structural Beam Join Control: This is a much needed feature.  I just hope that they've allowed us to set either family level defaults for setback and snapping, or at least project level defaults.  This would enable us to get the majority of joins correct using the defaults and then individually edit only a few.  However, based on other similar tools, I doubt this got implemented.
  11. Assembly Code Settings: On a couple of occassions it would have been useful to be able to easily customise the Uniformat classifications, so some may find this useful.
  12. Pinned Element Enhancements: Deleting a pinned element no longer just provides a warning and deletes the element.  This is how it should have always worked!
  13. Show Hidden Lines in 3D: Good to see Autodesk are realising we use 3D Views in documentation.
  14. Revision improvements: Finally they have done away with the horrible click fest that is clouding!  It also means the clouds have some consistency in spacing, so look a lot neater.  Deleting a revision isn't something I've had to do a lot in the past.  But why didn't they add a new parameter for Revision Classification/Stage and allow us to have prefix/suffix!  This would finally give us the ability to use the revision numbering we need...
  15. Enhanced Schedules/material takeoffs: It's great that we have a few extra boxes to filter with, but what about an OR condition!  Also, we can customise the Grand total text, but what about footer sub-total text?  And then being able to use the totals, in other places in Revit...
  16. Images in Schedules: I have a lot of clients that have needed this feature.  The issue then becomes though, how are these images managed.  We don't want to bloat our file sizes, simply because someone didn't optimise the size of the image before associating it to the family type.  I realy hope these images can be linked as opposed to embedded.
  17. Keynote Settings: Woopdidoo...
  18. View References: Repathing a section/elevation using Reference other view to an alternate view without having to delete and recreate, is welcome.  But its not going to save me hours in my day.
  19. Duplicate View Default Names: Certainly an improvement over the old behaviour, but I would prefer they dropped the word Copy...  I've never wanted a view to have the word copy in it ever...
  20. Tapped duct and pipe tags: Very useful to be able to get correct values along the length of a duct.
  21. Anti-aliasing by view: A much better approach to manage performance...
  22. Sketchy Lines: They're here, they work, people will use it.
  23. Ray Trace improvements: Another bug fix to get rid of noise displaying in the result image
  24. Shared Parameters in View Titles: I've certainly needed this in the past.  Just wish we could have graphical scales that were automatic as well...
  25. Manage Links Dialog: Can't say that I'll use the ability to add link in this dialog...
  26. Tag improvements: Finally some consistency in leaders between tags and text...
  27. Double click to Deactivate view: Useful
  28. Structural Element Graphical Display tweaks: Okay...
  29. Performance Improvements: Many tasks seem to have been streamlined and now take less processing time.  This is great, we need to get to a point where we can successfully have up to 20 people working in single file without spending 50% of your day saving/synching!
All in all, there are certainly features in here that I welcome.  I guess along with all this I was expected a couple of other major items.  Who knows, perhaps Autodesk and realising that its better to withhold these new features sometimes until they are finished, before implementing them into the software and frustrating all the users who nag them every year about finishing them off...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Xrev Transmit - Version 2 - Quick rundown!

New Features:

  • Matrix Transmittals
  • Report Designer
  • Bulk Selection (Shift & Control Click)
  • Bulk Editing
  • New Naming Rules
  • Better Validation of Settings
  • Autodetect paper size option for PDF
See how much time you can save issuing drawings from Autodesk Revit in PDF, DWG, DGN, RVT, DXF, DWF, DWFx, and as many physical printers as you like, all at the same time!  Then have it produce a transmittal for you automatically, or publish the files directly to Aconex to instantly share them with your team!!

New Instructional videos coming soon...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Are you getting the most from Revit in your office?

Optimizing your Revit implementation can be the difference in a success or failure for your business.

  • Do you find yourself having to change things every time, for each project, to have your drawings look reasonable? (object styles, by element overrides, line weights, etc.)
  • Do you have to always search through old projects to copy/paste work you've done before?
  • Do you find each project looks a little different in terms of graphical consistency?
  • Is your family symbology inconsistent across your library? (EG: All your windows have the same coarse/medium/fine display and the same symbology for sliding panes etc)
  • Are you recreating legends and schedules from scratch for each new project?
  • Do your projects quickly become slow, performance wize?
If you answered YES to most of these then there is a good chance your implementation is not optimized.  Having to change all these things with each new project can greatly effect your design and documentation efficiency, and be the difference to making a profit or a loss!

Over the past 12 years I've completed Revit implementations that are customized for each individual office or projects needs.  I've completed templates for Architectural, MEP, Structural, Interior Design, Landscape, Multi-Discipline & Hospitals.  They all have commonalities, but they must all be tailored and optimized each time.

Your template should have:
  • View Templates for every standard view that you typically create, resolved to the point that you don't have to change it graphically ever...  Just apply your tags, symbols, dimensions and text notes.
  • Extensive use of Filters.  By category or even sub-category is not a sufficient way to achieve the graphics requirements of most offices.  Filters can be used to pick up commonalities of elements to control them graphically.  Try to never use by element overrides!
  • All your standard views setup.  This includes the typical number of levels for the bulk of your projects.  Remember you can always delete things you don't need.
  • Levels & Grids pre-placed.  I typically have 3 levels in my templates
  • All your standard sheets setup, with views laid out on them.
  • All your standard schedules laid out.  Have schedules for documentation already laid out on your sheets, but also have schedules created purely for editing data in bulk (working schedules)!
  • All your standard notes & legends setup and placed on the appropriate sheets
  • Views for BIM, EG: Navisworks or IFC export views
  • Guide Grids for your various paper sizes
  • Options to switch between paper sizes and have all your symbology update accordingly.  (EG: At A3 you may reduce the size of your section/elevation markers)
  • The most common families you use (2D & 3D).  Don't load too much or all you'll forever be updating it.  Only include families that are in 90% of your projects.
  • Version Tracking.  This will help you identify what varies between your current template and your project.  Remember your template should be always evolving!
  • Standard materials correctly setup
  • All your Fill Patterns
  • All your Line Styles
  • All your commonly used tags loaded
  • Colour Fill's setup - Too often do I see people using colour fills to only colour fill some rooms for example.  As a result they are forever changing the colour fill scheme to exclude certain things.  DON'T do this.  Use a filter instead!  Then you won't have to change it every again.
  • All your systems setup (Pipe, Duct., etc)
  • All your commonly used system family types (Walls, Pipes/Ducts/Conduits with correct routing, Floors, Roofs, Curtain Walls, Sweeps/Reveals, Ceilings, Stairs, Railings, Ramps etc.).  Don't include all of them, store all of them in a special project so you can copy/paste them in.  Only include types that you use in 80% of your projects in your template.
  • Text Styles, Dimension Styles, Spot Elevation Styles, Spot Coordinate Styles with names that are descriptive of their use, rather than their appearance...
  • All your Phases/Phase Filters/Graphic Overrides setup and mastered
  • Mark Number start values setup correctly, chain options in sketches set appropriately, the default open view set appropriately
  • Your users adequately trained in the use of the template so they take advantage of all of its features!!
Your library should have:
  • Some sort of vetting of content, so it can be identified what is "company standard"
  • A naming convention and structure that makes content easy to find, both in the library and once loaded into your project.
  • Consistency of representation and functionality for elements of similar type.  (EG: all your pipe fittings have the same parameters and functionality, or all your sliding windows etc.)
  • As much meta data/parameter information populated as possible to reduce the need to fill this out every time in every project
  • Type Catalogs wherever there is more than 2 types, to limit the loading of unneeded types
If you'd like some help optimizing your Revit Systems please don't hesitate to contact me at support@xrev.com.au 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Using Temperature Parameters in Formulas

Yesterday I was working on some MEP families and thought I'd do some tricks to generate some formulas to match a manufacturers capacity tables for Total Cooling Capacity & Sensible Cooling Capacity.

Being metric, the Dry Bulb & Wet Bulb Inside temperature parameters I had setup were in degrees Celsius.  The Capacity parameters are in kW's so in order to use the temperature parameters in the formula I would need to remove the units.

Easy, I thought.  I'll just divide by 1°C and that will give me a unitless value.

Unfortunately Revit decided to throw a curve ball at me.  Internally all its calculations are done in Kelvin.  For example, if I use my DB in a formula and its value is set to 20, Revit actually uses 293.15.  So then I thought I'd divide by 1 K... No luck!

After trying for 3 hours I eventually gave up and went to bed.

With a fresh head I did some playing around in Excel to try and figure out how Revit was getting the results it was and eventually I came to this:
Unitless Temperature Parameter

So essentially what Revit is doing here is:

(293.15-272.15) / (546.3/546.3) or 20/1 = 20

Now hopefully someone else doesn't have to go insane trying to figure this out!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A guide to employing a BIM Manager or Revit Manager

If you are looking to really accelerate in the changing world of Building Information Modelling (BIM), you are going to need a dedicated BIM Manager (aka VDC Manager, Revit Manager, BIM Strategist etc).  There is certainly no shortage of people sporting this still relatively new job title.

So if someone has been a BIM Manager in the past, does that mean they are qualified?  

Unfortunately, not necessarily.  In many firms the title of BIM Manager is often given to the existing BIM technician who knows the most about BIM at the time.  That's certainly not a bad thing.  But depending on their environment and their strive to learn new things and expore it may not necessarily qualify them to be 'your' BIM Manager.  Many users with this title still only perform their same technician roles.

As such I strongly recommend evaluating their experience and skills practically.  How do you do that?  

There are online test systems available for BIM such as Knowledge Smart.  With these systems you can customize the test to suit the types of BIM tasks you'll require and then see how they fair.  There are also the general aptitude tests that evaluate how well a user picks up new information, performs under pressure etc.  However, if you are relatively new to BIM as well, you may not know what you need.

It is very easy for someone to throw around buzz acronyms like BEP (BIM Execution Plans), IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) and appear to know their stuff!  But talking the talk and walking the walk are very different.

A BIM Manager needs to know a lot of different technologies, not just theoretically but practically.  Specifically the methodology and best practices of information exchange, file formats, optimization, collaboration and the required information.  Also depending on your company your BIM Manager may have different roles (lists may not be exhaustive of roles):

Contractor BIM Manager:

  • Developing BEP
  • Performing Clash Detection & Coordination Meetings
  • Performing 4D Sequences/videos to win Bids as well as for construction and working with the programmers (typically in Primavera)
  • May involve modelling temporary works, scaffolding, formwork, traffic, cranes - or you may simply just coordinate someone else to do it for you
  • Ensuring Design Consultant, and sub-contractor models are supplied at regular intervals and dictating the formats to be supplied in.
  • Extracting quantities/take offs from the models
Design Consultant BIM Manager:
  • Briefing the client as to the BIM options & establishing to what the BIM deliverables are
  • Developing BEP
  • Ensuring adherence to BEP and maintaining BEP as amendments are required
  • Performing Clash Detection & Coordination Meetings
  • Developing & Managing Content Creation to the required standard
  • Setting up Project Models
  • Producing IFC or Navisworks/VEO files for coordination
On larger projects you may have different hierarchies of BIM Managers.  EG: Someone who oversees everything to maintain consistency and perform the collaboration tasks.  Then people that are more hands on concentrating on the authoring of the models to the appropriate standards.

Manufacturer/Supplier BIM Manager:
  • Development or delegation of BIM Content for customers
  • Managing feedback from customers and revising content as required
  • Ensuring the embedded information is correct and the content accurate represents the products

So to know if someone is right for these roles, I like to ask more specific questions to try and establish whether they have real knowledge or are just going on some things they've read online:
  • How would you go about setting up a BEP?
  • What would it include?
  • If you've been involved with BEP's in the past, what issues have you faced?
If you are a design consultancy, whether it be architectural, structural or MEP, I'd want my BIM Manager to also know the practicalities of the design software.  Which in many cases these days is Autodesk Revit.  One of the best skills to have in Autodesk Revit is great content creation/family creation skills.  I find that if a user knows how to make a good quality family and has worked on a decent variety of projects at different stages, they are going to make a good Revit Manager at least!  As such, testing their content creation skills is a must!  In my book if they know that they are half way there...

I hope some find this a useful reference for either finding the right person for their company.

If you need any help evaluating candidates feel free to drop me a line.