Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Expanding the Narrative from AU 2016, and Wrapping the Year…

This year has been a busy one…too busy to be paying much attention to the posts, but it’s time to get back to some writing. So here’s the latest….

Live at AU – Energy Modeling!

AU 2016 turned out to be one of the fastest ones I’ve ever attended. The days screamed by, but it was cool to see Autodesk extend some events into the Monday before. We’ve always had our Expert Elite and Speaker/Blogger socials on Monday, but getting the rest of the crowd together as well for a social expands what I consider to be the most important parts of AU – the networking. I learn as much from my co-workers and fellow attendees just from sitting down and talking shop, so that time is valuable to me.

I did three classes this year, two labs on Perfecting the System with Revit, and a lecture on Powering BIM – Capitalizing on Revit for Energy Modeling. You can see the latter at au.autodesk.com under the live streaming section. The labs were a blast this year, since we made sure everyone’s datasets were open to the right models, and even to the right view. That way, we could focus our time on the key topics, rather than having to wait for users to find and open the projects. There was a lot of good feedback as well (as well as a bizarre comment about not willing to have an open discussion, since the class was based on my personal beliefs – huh?  A lab?).

But the lecture, which was featured live, left wishing I had more time to expand on why conservation is important to me. So here’s a clearer view of my belief this time, to help fill up a few holes.

First – climate change. Yes. The climate changes. The climate has always changed. Nothing about weather and related events is static. While science can give us averages, most models are based on current conditions, human assumptions and past trends. The input can cause a wide variety of results, based on what outcome you want. That’s why I don’t believe climate change should be used as a political football to force human behavior. The world is so culturally diverse that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get every person on the planet to go back to the dark ages, even though some areas may seem like that’s where they already are.

I love the outdoors. I love to hunt and fish. I love to hike. Was raised by a family that loved to camp, and enjoy a lake. Love being able to play with my dogs. Get awed by the beauty of God’s creation, whether it’s standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, straying 20-30 miles of the coast to fish and seeing more life than you can possible imagine, to the beauty of an early morning sunrise in central Tennessee, turkey hunting on my uncle’s farm. You can’t sit still in those times, and not appreciate how important it is to save all of this – and share it with others.

In the US, we’re consumers – always have been and always will be, as are most developed countries. If you look around objectively, you’ll learn that we are already of the mind to be conscious of our resources. The impact of this consumption goes back centuries, and became prevalent during the Manifest Destiny. But we’re only talking about one country on one continent. It’s probably just as likely that pollution, deforestation, and other behavior that was occurring during this period, already has had its impact. Wholesale changes in the US alone, won’t be enough to alter the outcomes – you’ve got to get other developed nations around the world to also uphold the same standards that we’ve come to now. And some governments see this strictly as a US problem, expecting us to be the leaders but not necessarily taking the same steps.

Where does that leave us? It’s not the fact that we have abundant resources. It’s the fact that we have them, and use them like there’s no tomorrow. As I stated in my lecture, I come from a different time – my approach of conservatism is rooted in the belief that we have an obligation to conserve our natural resources for future generations, and is why I support hunting and fishing organizations that promote resource conservation. As long as it’s not at the expense of relieving property owners of their assets, but rather working in conjunction with them to set aside a reasonable amount that assures a balance between personal/private needs with the overall common good. It can be achieved as long as you don’t fail into the fears disseminated by the extremes of our political parties. It can be achieved by providing non-biased, easy to understand education about conservation combined with personal responsibility.

Second – this is why I say that leveraging our energy models tools and practices is an industry obligationnot a government one. We don’t need a group of politicians – which are far more likely to follow a trend to win votes that actually be of service to their constituents, or being technologically savvy enough to understand the science – to be the ones making decisions about leveraging design technology to reduce our impact on the environment. All natural resource utilization should be based on how, in the free market, providers can develop the technologies that we need to move past the consumption of non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas. We should have a balanced plan for using and managing these resources that are not based on the government’s selection of favorites.

That’s why I’m such a large advocate for the use of solar power, which offers the best small scale ROI compared to the larger scale energy industries. If government is going to be involved, it should be to incentivize both individuals and small businesses, the backbone of our country, to integrate and leverage this growing technology. Make the tax incentives enough to offset the early investments costs, so that homeowners aren’t breaking the bank by adding solar power to their homes. I’d do it, for nothing more than being able to kick the energy providers to the curb. That kind of independence will do more to reduce residential consumption that any other idea on the market. Even giving large scale corporations similar incentives frees up other financial resources, which can be used in other areas of a business – such as salaries…

What influences peoples beliefs more than any government program is the fear of the unknown, of what’s to come. Fear in and of itself is counterproductive, and only serves to prevent us from making the changes we need. We need clarity in the message, all the way down to the layman – my mother. She’s a great woman, but not technologically savvy. We have to be able to frame the discussion in her terms, which was a point I was trying to make in the lecture.

And that’s where I think Autodesk – and other energy modeling software companies – have a large, untapped gold mine. The details are not in the reams of variations in data, which are compiled by PHD’s based on complex models. It’s in the ability to make the complex, understandable. It’s what I love about tools like Insight 360, which provide simple, easy to use graphics and reports to explain how changes in a design can dramatically affect the building energy performance.

Here’s a thought – BIM is a sales tool, not just a process. It’s being able to take what were a complicated series of documents stretched out over hundreds of sheets of 2D documentation, and convert it into a visual that a client can more clearly understand. It expands our ability to make sense of design decisions, and helps us avoid the short term construction issues, while also helping us see the long term implication of the same design decisions. Insight 360 is just one of those tools that will help us sell these concepts to the general population, and achieve the common goal – preserve our resources for future generations while allowing us to still enjoy what we have developed from the same resources for centuries.

So, don’t get caught up in the TV and the hype, and the politics and scare tactics. Instead, do your part – get your boss to let you work from home more often – and actually work at home. Spend the extra money to get a high efficiency HVAC system for your house – and don’t give the money to the power company in the first place. And pick up the cans and newspapers, and put ‘em in the recycling bin. Like we say at church – reach the Triangle and change the World.

By the way – if you watch the live stream video recording from class, I didn’t finish the joke. We’re a rock blazing its way through space at 268,000 miles per hour, and we get behind an asteroid – driven by a blue haired old lady doing 35 in the fast lane with her left turn signal on.

Forgot to say we ran over it – and caused a tsunami that wiped out the Pavilion in Myrtle Beach, causing widespread vacationers to go back indoors to turn up the AC, advancing climate change by 20 minutes…

Back to AU

Did I forget about AU? Man it was packed – love the fact it is before Thanksgiving, and lets me stay home more for the holidays. But the Sands is by far the best place to have the event. The people were awesome, and the accommodations worth the price. Of course, I need to find cheaper places to eat – they do think highly of their food.

The keynotes were a little much – not fond of Autodesk taking an extra block of time away from classes, and offering fewer choices in the time slots. I know, we’re still getting in over 700 classes, but I’d really like to see more of them. Consolidate the keynotes back to opening and closing, and we’re good.

The industry sessions were also cherry – I like the fact that Autodesk is opening up about their future plans. Even though it’s only a crack in the door, I like the idea that they are trying to communicate better with their clients, and make sure we’re all headed to the same goals. Nice!

And the people that hang out with me when I present...man, I love you guys, especially the ones that keep coming back year after year. I've always wanted to make sure you left with more than just a set of directions or tips. Keep plugging, and improve your own world. I'm glad you're in mine!

Having the Expert Elite program members, which I became a part of last year, as guests to the event, shows the appreciation has for this extraordinary group of users. Since the program has started, we have taken – and solved – over 30 percent of all the support cases that are posted to Autodesk. The new Directly program that I’ve been involved with puts the general users directly in touch with Expert Elite team members, who bring their solutions based on real world project experiences – and the same ones you encounter every day. These folks are family, and have a great respect for one another. I’m happy to say I appreciate the opportunity to become friends with some awesome people in this program.

And thanks to Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO, for hanging out with us at our annual lunch meeting. Your insights help us keep moving in the right direction. One of these days, maybe I'll get to see Pier 9 myself...

Next year, we’re back at the Sands on the same week before the holidays, 11/14-16. And I’ll be happy to be there again – and hang out with my extended family.

So it's Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the 'Quay. Ya'll have a great rest of the year!

thanks - David B.

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 (www.cadlearning.com), 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.