AU2015, Day 3

Well, I’m home again…I did warn you that the Day 3 recap wouldn’t appear right away!

The Last Day

The morning started with a feedback meeting on a new website that Autodesk is developing. I can’t say much about it yet, but it looked pretty nice. (And when I get released from my NDA, maybe I’ll review it for real.)

Then I went to a session on incorporating analysis into the structural design workflow. It was a good overview of some of the new tools available within Revit (gravity load takedowns) and the link with Robot. I have to say, it looks like Robot’s usability has improved a lot lately…but I’m more interested in React Structures.

In the afternoon, I did another feedback session on Autodesk Support. (If you haven’t been to in the last couple weeks, go check it out — they just launched a nice redesign!)

Then I had the privilege of sitting on a CAD Management panel with Robert Green, Curt Moreno, and R.K. McSwain, moderated by Rick Ellis. We had a great time talking about our experiences — it was a little like the conversations you get just hanging around the exhibit hall or coffee stations. You can read some of the attendee’s comments under #Ask4AUexperts. (Although I know there are more than are listed under that link…not sure where they went.)

AU wrapped up with a more low-key closing session than in years past, but it was still engaging. They continued the theme of “meaningful work”, and once again I live-tweeted it. My takeaways:

  • If you ask people, “Who does meaningful work?” they often list doctors and teachers. But you shouldn’t forget designers.
  • Volunteers at AU assembled 150 prosthetic hands for children via eNable kits
  • Instead of buying new fleets of electric buses, retrofit diesels with new hybrid engines
  • Paraphrase of one of my favorite parts: “Why air condition the building when it’s the people who get hot?”
  • The Antikythera shipwreck (from 60 BC!) is being mapped & documented with reality capture technologies
  • It’s good enough to read the instructions off the case of an ancient calculator, and to be able to re-cast a fragile artifact after it went to pieces

The AU wrap party was a circus, as it is every year…this year, I mainly found it to be loud, crowded, and cold. (Can you tell I’m not one for big parties?) But it picked up after I ran into some friends–I’ll never understand how, in a crowd of 10,000, you can run into the same people over and over!

I’ll leave you with a final thought from the closing session, a reminder that we can’t just wait around for things to happen:

Be the change. Make the difference.

Hope to see you all in Vegas next year — November 15-17, 2016!

AU2015, Day 2

Autodesk University 2015 is two-thirds complete, and it’s kind of astonishing to think that there can still be more after today. No live-tweeting today, but here’s what I did instead.

Before lunch

I started the day in a focus group for Autodesk Subscription. I always love these, because I’m very opinionated when it comes to using and managing my software, and it’s nice to know someone is listening. And the moderators are so patient, even when the participants contradict each other with our requests!

After that was a lab…unfortunately, the less said about that, the better. It had some technical difficulties that might have thrown off even an experienced presenter, and in the end I left early. It wasn’t a total loss, though, because I stopped in for a chat with more Autodesk researchers, this time about what makes a student seeking work an attractive candidate to a hiring manager.

After lunch

The afternoon was dedicated to prepping for the annual AUGI General Meeting, and then to the meeting itself. It all went great, if I do say so myself. I’m having trouble posting pictures on the mobile WordPress app, but if you check Twitter or the AUGI Facebook page you can check some out and see if you agree. If I get a chance, I’ll revisit this post when I’m back at my computer and can add some images.

After dinner

In the evening, I spent some time in the AUGI booth, still in costume from the AGM. Two things I noticed there: (1) After a while, you almost forget you’re in costume and start to wonder why people are giving you funny looks; and (2) Here, even people in Star Wars costumes don’t get as many funny looks as you might think!

After I ditched the Leia wig, I went to the Social Media & Blogger meetup, where I got a chance to actually see a lot of the great people I only see online the rest of the year. I also had a nice chat with our special guest Roman Mars, of 99% Invisible…don’t mind saying I was a little star-struck!

 To cap off the day, I stopped in at a customer reception hosted by my reseller. I thought it might be winding down, since I got there kind of late…nope. It was in full swing when I arrived, and was still going strong when I left a little while later.

Now this recap is done, and it’s time to rest again for what I know will be a fantastic (but very long) day tomorrow. No promises that you’ll see a post about Thursday anytime before Monday…

AU 2015, Day 1



The first full day of Autodesk University 2015 is a wrap! (At least for me. Some of you can survive on less sleep than I can.) And before I’m completely worn out by the rest of the event, here’s a quick recap.

Construction Launch Pad

Big news here, from the first-ever construction-focused kickoff event. Project Alexandria officially became BIM 360 Docs, a project document management platform that is planned to formally launch early next year. I haven’t seen too much yet, but it looks very exciting.

Class 1: Knowledge Management 

My first official AU session was an exploration of Knowledge Management. It was a very interesting discussion of how to prevent “silos” of information, where only one person possesses critical knowledge. Some solutions were technical, some not.

Opening Session

I’ve been to a lot of keynote addresses in the last 12 years, and this was one of the better ones. I live-tweeted it, but here’s a summary of my takeaways.

  • The future (and the present) is the covergence of building and manufacturing.
  • Always ask yourself, “Are we working on the right problem?”
  • When recruiting new talent, the promise of meaningful work outweighs perks like free food. (Except maybe at Facebook.)
  • Technology has changed the course of human history more than any other development. This is supported by data.
  • Hardware investment has plateaued, while software investment continues to rise.
  • The pace of change will only continue to increase. (It feels like we should do this every year, but it’s also true every year.)
  • If you’re satisfied with “good enough,” you’ll never know what’s possible.
  • Generative design plus additive manufacturing plus advanced materials equals some really cool stuff. (Exhibit A is Airbus’s new bulkhead design.)
  • In the future, you won’t learn a design tool. You’ll have a design tool that learns you.

A great session overall, and it finished early!

Innovation Forum: What’s in it for me?

After a lunch with the AUGI volunteers, it was off to the first of the Innovation Forums. These are sessions focused on real customers doing really cool things. They’re hosted by Roman Mars, of 99% Invisible, who’s always worth listening to. Again I live-tweeted, but here’s the summary.

  • If you’re worried about the effect of a new technology, remember this: “All things will adjust themselves to the new order.”
  • The second half of that thought is that “water will find its own level.” And when it does, which side of the waterline will you be on?
  • The definition of a “killer app” is one that creates a reason for you to buy the technology required to run it.
  • Innovative model-based estimating means starting it earlier, before cost-driving decisions are made.
  • We need to bridge the gap between design models and construction models, and between construction models and the field.
  • When evaluating a project, consider the “triple bottom line”: environmental, social, economic.

Women in BIM

I was fortunate to attend a panel discussion on “unconscious bias” with Autodesk and industry leaders. It provided plenty of food for thought. I’m still processing most of it, and will probably revisit it in a future post.

Ready for Day 2

I wrapped up the day at the AUGI booth in the exhibit hall. Looking back at this post, it’s hard to believe it all happened today! Time to sign off and get ready for Wednesday…

Heading to AU2015? See you there!



The end of November brings two time-honored traditions to the design community: the celebration of Thanksgiving (with our family) and Autodesk University (with our other family).


With various friends & colleagues (a.k.a. AU Family) at previous events

This will be my 12th AU (wow), and by now, that community does feel like family. AU is where I find the people who are trying to solve the same challenges I am in the design process, and who know exactly what I mean when I say “can you believe it works THAT way?” Great big extended family…or group therapy sessions. (I’m never quite sure.)

I’m not speaking this year, so I’ll have plenty of time to attend classes and hang out in the exhibit hall. You can probably find me in a Dynamo session, or a structures-focused Revit talk, or at the AUGI booth in the hall. One place you can be sure to see me is at the AUGI Annual Meeting on Wednesday at 5:30…let me just say you won’t want to miss it. :-)

Can’t come to Las Vegas? Watch from the comfort of your home or office! AU is live-streaming not only some of the mainstage events but ALSO a great selection classes! And of course much of the material presented will become part of the ever-expanding AU Online experience.

Hope to see you there–if you see me walking around, be sure to say hello!

Christmas in October: Revit 2016 R2



Where has the summer gone? For that matter, what happened to fall? I’d swear it was Labor Day only yesterday, and here it is Christmas already!

Okay, not really…but it feels like Christmas, because a new update of Revit is here, and it’s more than just bug fixes. As happened last year with Revit 2015, Revit 2016 R2 introduces actual new features — some that you can actively put to use, and some that will quietly improve things behind the scenes.

I don’t have time to cover all 20+ additions & improvements today, but here are a few favorites. (Click each title for a short preview.)

Draw Visible Elements Only

Revit 2016 now focuses its graphic energies only on elements that are visible in a view, instead of ones that are hidden or off-screen. This speeds up panning, zooming, and orbiting — I think you’ll notice the difference.

Family Visibility Preview

Ever work with a family that uses lots of visibility states, and have trouble keeping track of which elements go with each option? Not anymore! Objects that are turned off in the current type can now actually be turned off.

Unload Link Per User

Ever go to turn on a model, only to sigh with annoyance because someone else unloaded it? (only all the time…) Not anymore! You can now unload a link just for you, improving your model’s performance while letting your colleagues load and unload the links they need.

Name Reference Planes

You’ve always been able to name a reference plane in Properties, but now you can do so in-canvas too. Sometimes it’s the little things, y’know?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a deployment to plan…

BIM Essentials Tip #2: Override View Templates


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Even if you’re a big fan of View Templates (like I am), there comes a time when they’re in the way. Really, that time can be several times a day! Instead of turning off the template entirely–and then having to remember to put it back–use template overrides instead.


Revit 2014 added this handy tool to the status bar and included two options: Enable Temporary View Properties and Temporarily Apply Template Properties. The first one just unlocks all the Visibility Graphics options for you to modify at will. The second lets you use the properties of a pre-existing template. For example, I have a “coordination” template that does nothing except turn on linked models in halftone–I use that one as a temporary override all the time.

And when you pick a template to use as an override, Revit remembers it! That template stays in your status bar menu for easy access later.


When you’re done, simply “Restore View Properties”. The purple border (indicating an overridden template) will go away, your original template will be restored, and you’re back to business as usual.

BIM Essentials Tip #1


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The theme of this series of posts will be “bite-sized BIM” — easily digestible tips, tricks, and hints to help everyday Revit users be more productive.

Tip #1: View Templates

View Templates are a favorite tool of BIM Managers, because they provide control over the graphic settings for plotted views. Turn on or off a linked model, override the graphics for a model category, use filters to select specific objects — it’s all there. Also available are additional parameters for sorting view within the Project Browser, so you can keep your Working, Printed, and Coordination views separate.

1B   1A

Anything with its box checked in the right-hand image above cannot be modified in the regular Visibility Graphics dialog. So if you’re trying to change a graphics setting in your view and can’t…look for a view template! (But don’t change that template without talking to your model manager.)

If you enjoyed this first course, be sure to stay tuned…there’s plenty more where this came from!

I’m baaaack….


Have you ever intended to take a short break from something, but then find that the length of the break keeps stretching…and stretching…and then you realize it’s been over a year since your last blog post?

Well, apparently that’s what happened to me. I didn’t mean to take all that time off, but so much has been going on this past year that the blog got pushed to the back burner.

At any rate, it’s summer again in DC and the heat is back on! (Please excuse my mixed metaphors.) I have a whole pile of content just waiting to be written up, from some tips & tricks I presented at local Revit meetings to tidbits from my upcoming RTCNA class to gripes about phases (still!) in Revit 2016.

I hope you’ve all had a good year, and I’ll see you again here soon. Promise!

Line Breaks in Revit Text


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Today’s tip is about making new endings and new beginnings…for lines of text in Revit.

Did you know you can manually insert line breaks into view titles and schedule text fields? All it takes is Ctrl+Enter. Here’s a view of a schedule before and after I inserted a line break:

Image Image

It only looks like the second half of the line is gone–you can still access it with your arrow keys. And of course, you can see the entire text on the sheet, like this:


A similar trick works for view titles whose contents don’t wrap nicely in the default field width. The only thing to remember is that you have to use Ctrl+Enter in the Title on Sheet field, NOT the View Name field. Before & after:



Thanks to this feature, you don’t have to worry so much about the length of text fields in titles — just make them as long as possible and add line breaks later.

RAM and Revit: Second Thoughts


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Time for an update on our Revit-RAM process!

First, some successes: We’ve been doing a lot of one-way transfers, Revit to RAM, with pretty good success. It helps that Bentley released a 64-bit version of the ISM link, reducing model export times by a LOT. One engineer in my office modeled up a steel-framed building (with something like 2000 columns) in Revit, exported it to RAM Structural System, and ran an analysis in about 2 hours. I did the same thing with a 53-story concrete building in about 4 hours. And for that building, we also brought the new column and wall sizes back into Revit! I hope it is the first of many round-trips.

It hasn’t been an unqualified success. RAM still doesn’t read the analytical location of structural elements, which can lead to some quirks when importing and exporting elements. For example, steel columns are almost always centrally aligned, but concrete columns are often aligned by face. Same thing with walls; sometimes the centers line up, sometimes the hold point is one edge or another. Not all the walls came back from RAM with the correct hold line, but I can’t be positive I modeled them correctly in the first place, so I’ll have to try again another time. Face-aligned concrete columns are at least a little easier to tweak if necessary.

Concrete floors on metal deck still don’t transfer very well, and we’re still doing all our load assignments in RAM because we aren’t trying to use multiple analytical packages on the same model. But the biggest disappointment so far has been rebar. RAM SS will design rebar, of course, and it can export it back to Revit…as 3D rebar. Which we’re not using yet. So I haven’t been able to find a way to automate the population of the column schedule with the appropriate rebar. Maybe by the time I write “third thoughts” we’ll have made some progress…

But honestly, I think there will always be one major deal-breaker when it comes to a true 2-way transfer of information: engineering judgment. Engineering analysis and design does not always require the same precision that a set of construction documents does. It just doesn’t, and it never will. Tweaks to a slab edge condition that require changes to every floor plan and section cut in Revit may not have any effect on the structural design at all — so what do you do? Stop sending the floors back and forth? Send them back and update the design model? Break the link entirely? All potentially valid options depending on how big the discrepancy is and how far along you are in the design process.

Even with the drawbacks, though, the process is constantly improving and evolving. Here’s to progress!


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