First theme of AU2016? Connectivity

On Monday, I’ll be arriving in Las Vegas for my 13th Autodesk University. I haven’t missed one since I started attending in 2004. I’m always amazed that, after so many years, there’s still something fresh and new to learn every time.

One way it keeps from going stale? The themes of AU change every year. In previous years, there has been a lot of attention on BIM, or 3D Printing, or Making, or Fabrication. Many of those topics will probably be featured again, but the AEC Community this year will be training its spotlight on Connection.

The phone in my pocket already connects me to the world in ways I couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. What other opportunities are out there for exchanging data and communicating ideas? What does BIM look like in a connected world?

The AEC Community will be addressing those topics and more, with four areas of focus:

  • Connecting Insights: Data Collection and Analysis
  • Connecting Delivery: Design to Fabrication to Field.
  • Connecting Assets: Facility Operation & Management
  • Connecting Teams: Around the Block or Around the World

For a little eye candy, here’s a video from the Autodesk team.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s coming for each of these ideas. Personally, I’m looking forward to connecting with many of you! AU is a great time for catching up with old friends and making new ones. Will I see you there?

BIM Essentials Tip #3


Okay, seriously, who’s responsible for the time machine? I swear I just got back from RTC, and now it’s almost time for AU 2016. Some of this is probably due to the fact that, for the first time since I’ve been attending AU, it’s before Thanksgiving. The rest is because life and work have been running non-stop all year…and I don’t think it’s about to change! Better busy than bored, right?

Before I send a lot of visionary posts at you next week, with all the big ideas I’m sure we’ll hear at AU, here’s another small-but-important entry in the BIM Essentials series.

If you’re opening a workshared model with Revit Viewer, use Detach from Central.

At first glance, this sounds redundant. Why would you have to detach your model, when you can’t save your changes anyway?

As a reminder:

Viewer mode allows all functionality of Revit, except the following: save or save as in all cases; exporting or publishing modified projects; exporting or publishing any projects to a format containing model data that can be modified; or printing projects after changes are made.

If all you want to do is look at things, you don’t have to detach. But if you try to change something–cut a new section, rotate a 3D view, change Visibility Graphic overrides–while in Viewer mode, Revit will check back with the central model for permission first. And it won’t get it–because you’re in the viewer mode!


Detaching the model means it won’t try to check out objects, and won’t trigger that error.

Revit Viewer does try to warn you about that when you open a model, but we know not everybody reads every warning…


Side note: Even if you do detach, if you have linked models you’ll still get this warning. The dialog won’t tell you that it’s related to the link, but it is.

Maybe some of you have your own dedicated Revit licenses, so you don’t need to worry about this. But if you use network licenses (or if you have friends who do), and you use the Viewer when you don’t want to take up a license, keep this tip in mind!

RTC and AU and BIMThoughts, oh my!

Once again, it feels like just yesterday that I was writing about the new features of Revit 2017 that I was looking forward to…but here it is July, and I haven’t gotten to use them yet. (Ahem…Service Pack 1 is out…you’re welcome.)

But I haven’t been bored waiting for our clients to upgrade–it’s events-preparation season!

Next week is RTC North America in Scottsdale, AZ. This will be my second trip to RTC (after last year’s event was held in my own backyard in Washington, DC, which they apparently deemed “not hot enough” in July), and I’m excited to be leading a forum discussion on “BIM for Existing Structures”. Between my own experiences and what I hope to hear from my fellow attendees, there should be plenty of material for blog posts! (Whether I have time to write them may be another story.)

We’re also starting to look ahead to AU 2016. I’m leading a roundtable on existing BIM there too — those classes fill up fast, so be sure to sign up early! I’ll have more on  AU as we get closer to the live event in November.

And last but not least, I recently had the pleasure of appearing on the BIMThoughts podcast with Bill Debevc and Carla Edwards. (Previous guests have included Brian Mackey, Paul Aubin, Steve Stafford, among others…y’know, just a few people you may have heard of.) We had a great chat about existing buildings and structural BIM in general — you should take a listen!

I hope to see some of you at RTC next week — I’ll be tweeting from there, so you can find me online even if we can’t meet up in person.

Revit 2017!

If it’s spring, it must be time for new releases of Autodesk software! (And it hasn’t snowed here in a week, so I think it finally is spring.) You probably know that AutoCAD 2017 was released last month, and today I have a preview of some things that are coming for my fellow Revit fans. (At least, it’s officially a preview, because full support & resources won’t be available until April 18, 2016. But I also saw Building Design Suite Premium 2017  in my Subscription Center this morning, so…)

The focus for this year is on connecting the steps in the construction process. You’ll see things for design, detailing, fabrication, and construction. Some of them previously debuted in Revit 2016 R2 — so if you haven’t installed that yet, go get it! I’ll be here when you get back.

(tl;dr — I think it’s worth the upgrade! All my architect friends, please don’t wait too long…remember I can’t upgrade until you do…)

This is not a deep dive…just a quick overview of the things I’m most interested in. If you want a closer look, here’s the Help file. Let’s start with the new stuff.

WYSISYG Text Editor

Who wants outline lists? (We do! We do!) Yes, that’s right: there’s a new text editor.

This might seem like a small thing to lead with, but sometimes even little things can make a big difference. We still need to have notes on sheets and sets, and the ability to have outline lists (with spaces!) is something we’ll be able to put to use right away. There are even subscripts and superscripts! (My design parameters table thanks you.)

I’ve said for a long time that text is one of the only things that AutoCAD does better than Revit, and this new editor goes a long way towards leveling that particular area of the playing field.

Fun with Parameters

Need to show two values in one schedule column? Now you can. Trying to show a calculated value in a tag? You can do that too. How about creating a Global Parameter that can be used in project elements (like you’ve done before with family parameters)? Yep. How about a schedule-friendly slab thickness parameter? Yes, thank you!

Steel Connections for Revit

This is technically an extension, but anything that makes modeling these connections easier is a win in my book. It’s supposed to facilitate LOD 350 and 400-level connections, and even includes code checks.


For those of you doing renderings, know that Raytracer is now the default engine in Revit. Mental Ray is gone.

There’s also a neat new feature called Depth Cueing, which lets you add shadows to elevations on the fly, without doing a full-blown render.

Data Sharing

Revit 2017 is IFC4 compliant, for those of you working with that. There’s also a new Formit 360 converter, which helps bring FormIT and SketchUp files into Revit.

Structural Fabrication Suite

Here on the east coast, structural engineers don’t always do our own connection design. But for those engineers and detailers who do, you may be interested in the new suite. Announced yesterday at NASCC, it combines Autodesk Advance Steel, Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Navisworks Simulate


Dynamo & Collaboration For Revit integration

A couple of great Revit add-ins are now fully integrated into the main program. You’ll find Dynamo now on the Manage tab. And although Collaboration for Revit still requires a separate subscription, it no longer requires a separate installation.

Familiar faces from 2016 R2

As I said earlier, some of these appeared last year for Revit 2016. No surprise here, they’re back!

  • Global parameters: see above
  • Occlusion culling: for better performance in 3D and cropped views
  • Family preview: visibility parameters!
  • In-canvas names for reference planes: a small but convenient tweak
  • Link unload per user: for better performance

One more thing

Say goodbye to “Revit Architecture”, “Revit Structure”, and “Revit MEP”. Starting this year, there’s just Revit. (And Revit LT, which will have an architectural focus.)

I’m looking forward to trying these out for myself — when  you do too, let me know what you think!

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.