Here's a flythrough rendering of a project we're currently working on in Mid-City, coordinating with structural, MEP and food service equipment consultants to create an information model that coordinated equipment in tight spaces, produced construction drawings and provided the zoomy experience you see here!
What is BIM and why is it being implemented?
As if you were building a structure in real life, BIM, otherwise known as Building Information Modeling, is a technical software that graphical builds components of a model, as opposed to illustrating the design intent as architects have been doing for decades. BIM is being used worldwide by AEC firms for several reasons including increasing productivity, streamlining workflow and minimizing risk on projects.
So, what's my take on the program?
Diving deep back into my vault of colorful memories from my time as architecture student, I don't think any of my successful projects came to life because I was thinking about how to build a footing properly to take on the massive loads created by a crazy cantilever I designed. In fact, knowledge of construction was only briefly touched in school and most of my learning came about in the years following graduation. The best architects are those with experience and knowledge of construction means and methods, but also know that implementing all that practical knowledge in the early phases of the design process can be like having the first discussions of AMC's "Breaking Bad" plot twists without having developed the characters first. I don't think the writers sat down and created some of the best drama on television, without fully conceptualizing their characters first. I don't know, you tell me, Vince Gilligan.
Despite what is being said about the major disconnect between the imaginative right-out-of-college BIM draftsman and the talented, experienced project manager whose time on drafting programs are limited as they advance into more senior roles. We, the experienced project managers, were once the right-out-of-college draftsman and believe both generations are imaginative. For me, the disconnect is the expectations of the software. As a beginner in Revit, but an experienced project manager, I found myself frustrated with basic functions or what I call, road blocks, on a daily basis. My biggest concern was that these road blocks resulted in discouragement and lack of creativity.
So, what can we do about it?
To have the best results in Revit, I needed to separate the data and the dream! The dream comes first and should take shape the way we see it with hand sketches, rough layouts and shapes...not the way I believe I must to stay productive and efficient as a firm. I, the dreamer, should choose the tool to craft my art.
The data is the key component in bringing our dream to life. Typically, we develop our dream into a design that takes conceptual shape and gets approval by an owner, then a trial and error process of details and specifications formulate which advance our dream. Hundreds of micro decisions are made along the way, stretching and pulling our dream into many forms until it has taken its final shape. Until I know what is final about my dream, I don't use BIM (yet).
While I'm learning about all the advantages the BIM provides, I have also had to strategize my own workflow to allow me to stay creative and encouraged and productive. When my dream is defined enough that I feel I know enough to put it into the BIM, then I'm not learning skills and evaluating design at the same time, and all is good in the world. It helps greatly to have guidance as to when and where to begin to drop things into the BIM from an experienced voice.
I wear many hats running my own architecture studio. In the mornings, I am social media director, marketing manager, administrative assistant and principal decision maker. Some afternoons, I am a draftsman and other afternoons, I am a designer and creator. Through all the different digital tools I use all day, my thought processes remain the same, except now that I'm adding BIM Student to the list, my processes - my marketable product - hit a road block and I can feel stuck. I use BIM to the point I'm comfortable, and use other tools to get over the hump; but I keep learning so that one day I'll have the momentum to go straight from dream to BIM, with no road blocks in sight!
I was having a little difficulty understanding the VIEW RANGE settings which is an important tool in setting up your views, so I thought a visual guide may do me (and you) some good! I'll jump right into it.
- Double click into your view and refer to your PROPERTIES tool bar. You will see an "Edit" box under EXTENTS. Click it.
- the CUT PLANE box controls the elevation at which you want to cut your model. In this example, I am cutting my model 4'-0" from the associated level. My view will show everything from 4'-0" downward to the BOTTOM.
- ASSOCIATED LEVEL: what is that? The ASSOCIATED LEVEL is the level you choose to associate the views from. Here I am choosing the FIRST FLOOR. You may choose a datum level that best suites what you are trying to show.
- the BOTTOM is set to 0'-0" so my view stops there with exception of model elements within the VIEW DEPTH, see below for more information on VIEW DEPTH.
- the TOP is a tricky to visualize, because by principal if you are cutting through something, why would you need to see anything above the CUT PLANE? But this is architecture and we know that we need to see things above the CUT PLANE for the sake of showing locations. Setting the TOP at 7'-0" means elements with super powers will show up in the view. The elements I am referring to are programmed into the software to show up in the TOP portion of the view. These elements are WINDOWS, GENERIC MODELS and CASEWORK.
- the VIEW DEPTH is an adjusted range outside of the primary range where part of the model will be illustrated using a <BEYOND> line by default. There are exceptions. FLOORS, STRUCTURAL FLOORS, STAIRS and RAMPS within the VIEW DEPTH will appear as their designated PROJECTION LINE. I guess these elements have super powers too!
I hope I provided a little guidance when setting up your views. If you are still having difficulty understanding the VIEW RANGE, the software help center breaks it down more thoroughly. Don't be afraid of the little blue links!
When Revit has a case of the Mondays, that is, none all of the windows (properties, project browser, etc.) seem to be frozen and you're treated to repeated blasts of whatever noise your computer likes to make to let you know to 'stop clicking that,' you can spend tens of minutes trying to break it free.
Fortunately, there is a Konami code to fix this - just start a new project and save it as a file on your desktop. This seems to snap any version of Revit out of its stupor. The Big Blue R saves the day!
Today, I am sharing one of the most important lessons in getting your Revit sheets to look like you want them to look using visibility graphics, phase filters and overrides (in the voices of Kim, the student and Ben, the teacher):
Student: The existing structure is printing too dark. How do I change the line weights so that the new structure appears darker and existing structure appears lighter? You know- line weight properties.
Teacher: There's a few different ways to change the way your model will look, therefore changing the way your drawings look. Your brain is trying to make parallels from AutoCAD to Revit, so the first thing is stop making that comparison. Think of the elements as something abstract like a football team, the Saints!
Student: Noooo, the Saints lost last night...LSU Football!
Teacher: Ok but you DO realize Revit has nothing to do with Football?
Student: Geaux Tigers!
Teacher: Moving on, let's say all the elements in our model are football players on the LSU football team. When looking at a sheet, we can control one view at a time (one player) or the entire model (the whole team). That's the difference between the "visibility/graphics override" and the "view template".
Student: This is way more interesting now!
Teacher: The 'visibility/graphics override' box will be the first place you will visit when you are looking to set the characteristics of the lines, hatches, etc. I'll break down the categories (top tab buttons) in this property box.
Model Category: All your elements in your model: walls, columns, floors, windows, etc.
Annotation Category: Pretty much speaks for itself, it's where you'll control notes, section and elevation markers, grid lines, etc.
Analytical Model Category: You won't use this. Let's skip it!
Filters: This is the next level of control where you may want to control how a specific wall, specific floor, or specific window looks. Let's say this specific player is the kicker on the team. He calls himself a football player but his job is different, except for those occasional times when he has to tackle!
Student: You are pouring salt into those Saint-loss wounds!
Worksets: The control here only allows for visibility completely on or off. We can touch on worksets at another time.
Revit Links: You can think of this like an AutoCAD xref, I'm giving you that permission on this one. You'll link certain things like consultant drawings and ifc files to the main Revit model and this is where you will control how it will look. The way these files look can be customized exactly the same way you customize the way your model looks. It becomes very helpful when your structural engineer sends you his file that you'll link and his structural walls are showing up and overlapping yours; here you can control that visibility.
All of these can be controlled with a 'View Template' which makes setting up sheets quicker because you can apply its pre-modified settings to multiple views all at once. If you set up 'view templates' for your views on your sheets, when you click on the 'visibility/graphics' button, you will see grayed out tabs which means these categories are being controlled by the template.
Student: This is clear but what about the 'existing structure' which is what I was having problems with. What's the easiest way of modifying the way it looks throughout the entire project. 'Existing structure' is not necessarily a model element, annotation, workset or link.
Teacher: Glad you asked! Another way to manage the visibility characteristic of your model is by going to the 'manage' tab and clicking on 'phases'. Here you will be controlling the visibility based on the phase of the project. 'Existing Structure' is a phase. There are only three ways to set your phases: 'by category', 'not displayed' and 'overridden'. If all the 'existing structure' in your model wants to be purple, you can set that here as an override by phase. Set 'existing' override to purple and the whole model will show 'existing structure' as that color when that phase filter is used!
Student: Geaux Tigers!
Teacher: Please stop. The third way to control the way your drawing will look is by a right-click option called 'override in view'. This command only changes the visibility locally not universally throughout the whole model. It's best if this isn't used with larger project teams, because only YOU remember when you made this call to change the way something looks in a view and could be confusing for team members trying to navigate through the model.
Student: It's like putting graffiti on the model?
Teacher: Congrats, you passed Revit 7th grade!