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Triskaidekaphobia – the fear of 13. you may not have heard of the word, but are probably familiar with famous movies surrounding this. Movies such as the Friday the 13th series and 13 Ghosts, just to name a few. Even most public buildings avoid floor 13 on high-rise buildings. It’s just bad luck.

This week, Autodesk OFFICIALLY announced and showcased some features of its new Revit MEP 2013. I’m sorry, but every time I hear of 13-anything on software, I am transported back in time to the year 1996; when Autodesk released their ill-fated AutoCAD release 13. So, when I heard that Autodesk was calling their newest releases 2013, part of me was stuck with horror that it might be as ill-fated as the AutoCAD 13 was. In all fairness, AutoCAD release 13 was actually AC1009. 🙂

There have been many good blog posts on the new features of Revit MEP 2013, and since I have no real hands-on experience with it, I cannot rightfully say whether it is good or bad or meh.

But some of the highlights of the new release include:

  • ASHRAE Duct fitting catalog integration
  • Photo-realistic views
  • Duct/Pipe Pressure and flow calculations
  • Bentley import/export
  • Enhancements with Revit Server
  • Revit Exchange App Store

Sounds like a nice roundup of features. I hope that work will be getting the release so I can play with it first-hand. It is probably way early in the release, but let’s hope that we don’t have a recurring Triskaidekaphobia.


It’s so good that its bad

Continuing from my previous post (well, along the same thought lines), I have come to the conclusion that Revit MEP is so good that it can actually be bad! Let me explain.

With Revit MEP, I can design ductwork with its insulation, and while coordinating with structural and architectural, I see that the duct is banging right through a joist. It is at this point that I need to make a value determination; do I fix it or let it go through? Let’s look at both:

Fix it
I need to get the duct through the space given me from the architectural plans and the structural. Oh, we can’t forget about electrical and their lights and cable trays. If the duct is a large duct carrying lots of cfm, then I really have to worry how to get that darn duct through the maze presented to me. One choice would be to throw it back to the architect and tell them that they need to give me more space. This might mean raising the roof, or lowering the ceilings. None of which the architects (in my experience) cherish doing. 🙂 We can go to the structural engineer and tell them they need to give me more room, which means they have to spend more time re-designing and evaluating. Rarely, have I seen structural engineers willing to make their steel members shorter. I mean in both the architects, and structural  engineers minds, they are designing for certain criteria; whether it be photo metrics or the clients desired ceiling heights. And the steel is sized to make sure the building doesn’t fall down when they get that record 3 feet of wet snow on top of their roof. I get it. So, we all are pretty stubborn in our minds. 🙂 And we absolutely cannot forget the biggest factor that prevails: we all have a budget and time allotted towards the project. And it is our common goal to come away from this project with a profit. If that were not so, I would no longer exist in my company because they could not afford to keep me. So, lets talk about if the duct is a small little thing and I am presented with the same issues, the solution would be easier in my mind – let it go.

Let it go
I know we all glory and revel in the wondrous achievement of BIM and Revit, and love to spin that 3D model around to see our handiwork. C’mon, admit it you DO like that! 🙂 But sometimes if it s a small issue, like the smaller duct, then I feel that we leave that judgement to the contractor. After all, the endgame of our design is a 2D REPRESENTATION OF OUR INTENT. We all know that in most cases, the contractor is going to look at our plans, roll them up and put it up the way that they feel that will make their process shorter. The drawings and the engineers stamp indicate that we have a set of plans that we present and that they are there to show the contractor that this is the route we want the duct to go. The more important things for the contractor (where they WILL take a closer look), is the equipment, controls, and balancing requirements. If you are lucky to have a competent contractor that you have worked with before on project, then the project flow is almost zen-like. They know the intent. They have done this kind of work before and there will be very few RFI’s. I know, I’m speaking about the ideal situation. But let’s get serious. The bottom line is that everybody is doing their thing to make money. So if Lowbid Contractor gets the job and you have not worked with them before, then your drawings have to spell out all the p’s and q’s otherwise you will be nickel and dimed for every change. So back to Revit. Sometimes, letting it go is easier on you and your company but COULD come back to bite you later.

Pipe Blobs
So, another scenario where Revit is so good that it is bad is in pipes. I am amused at the various tutorials showing all your pipes doubled up on a rack in real sizes, real spacing. umm, have you even tried to plot that out on your 1/8″ = 1′-0″ plan? Do you also get a large black blob on your screen where all those pipes are? So, we have to go back to the ‘old school’ CAD drafting and space all the piping out so that when it is plotted one can clearly see the pipes. Yes, one could cut all kinds of sections to show the intended pipe configuration (and it is desirable to do that). But Revit is so good at what it does that it slows you down in that aspect. Think about a pump room and the all the suction and return piping in the pump room. If you designed your piping the way that it actually WANTS to look, on a plan (even a large-scale plan, it will be totally unreadable/un-understood. The bottom line in this case is that one would have to design multiple view sections of the pump room to clearly show the intent. Once again, the goal is to produce a set of 2D plans to the contractor to show them the desired layout scheme.

Home-Run, baby!
I stole that line from a co-worker. 🙂 We are experimenting with an idea that we borrowed from electrical, that should meet all the demands  of the above mentioned. Here it is: For congested areas, such as lavatories and situations where we need to run hydronic supply and return to VAV boxes, we simply – home run it. We run the main pipes to the particular rooms and stop there. We give a detail of a common layout. We keynote all the equipment. We provide a schedule for the keynoted items with the required pipe sizes. DONE! What does this do? It saves US time. We no longer have to run that 3/4″ water line all around to each fixture. We have to give all the information to the contractor to FIGURE IT OUT FOR THEMSELVES. We don’t need (or shouldn’t need) to hold their hands on the exact routing of the VAV hydronic piping.

We are trying this process out, and hope that the authors will smile upon this and that the architects won’t be tho upset that we didn’t show every tiny little pipe, fitting, valve, etc. We feel it is a win situation, and unlike the architect that must show the clocks models on the walls, blackboards, etc. We don’t need to go to that level of detail UNLESS the client wants a super-cool 3D model where they can virtually go in each room, above the ceiling, in pipe chases to see everything. If that is the case, then we will need to discuss more money! 🙂

Let me know how your company deals with these situations and perhaps we can collectively help each other out. Hope this long dissertation was of a benefit.

Keyboard shortcuts – Addendum 1 of ?

I knew that once I hit the publish key that I forgot to add something. So rather than edit the other post, I decided to make a new, er addendum post.

The scenarios are this: You have customized your keyboard shortcuts with every command you desire using the shortcuts that you know and make you uber-productive.

You are using someone else’s computer to run Revit and notice right away that your keyboard shortcuts are not loaded. Or someone needs to jump on your computer while you are vacationing in Tahiti. They proceed to modify your keyboard shortcuts. You return from your dream vacation all tanned, sit down at your computer and start to type your beloved commands and find that they aren’t working! Now you ate beyond tanned – you are burning mad.

Well, if you look at the bottom of the keyboard shortcut dialog box, you will see two very useful options; namely IMPORT and EXPORT! Yes, folks your short term tantrum can be alleviated if you first EXPORT your keyboard shortcuts and place the file on your trusty thumb drive which you carry around with you all the time. Then when such things like the above scenario occur, you can simply insert your thumb drive into your USB port and Click the IMPORT button. Life is good once again.

The keyboard shortcut is basically an XML file that you COULD modify using your favorite XML editor, but this blogger recommends that you let Revit do it, which is much easier!

Hope this addendum may be of use you some people.

Adventures in Typing

There are some old habits that will probably never die with me. The one I want to blog about this time is typing. If you are an old-timer in AutoCAD (back in the pre-Windows era) you will remember that the two popular ways of getting a command into AutoCAD involved either this:

or this:


For you who don’t know what the latter one is, I refer you to this article.

I personally liked the first one UNLESS it involved a lisp routine or some other multi-chain of events that did something. It is beyond the scope of this blog to explain that! 🙂 The keyboard coupled with the command line was my biggest pal. As a matter of fact, for those still unsung AutoCAD, I would HIGHLY recommend looking at the command line. It tells you what it expects. And especially with release 12, you just start typing in something that autocomplete/lookup function will do the rest for you! I have fond memories in AutoCAD of typing in L for Line, CO for copy, etc. One of my AutoCAD pet peaves was when a user would sit there staring at the toolbars, ribbons, whatever to draw a line for an inordinate amount of time. For goodness sake, type L!!!!!

ANYWAYS, When  I jumped over to Revit, one of the first things that I looked for was good old L for Line. OOPS! Not there! Or is it? Revit DOES come with a keyboard shortcut set, but it might not be what you are expecting if you are looking for the same keyboard shortcuts as AutoCAD.

In Revit, if you type KS from the keyboard, you will see a window pop up with all kinds of useful information:

In this dialog box, you will see the commands filtered  by how they appear on the ribbon. So, to find out how to draw a line in Revit, type LINE in the search bar. It will find all occurrences of line based on the filter. I found the one that I use a lot using the Annotate filter. DL for Detail Line. Of course, if you are a die-hard AutoCAD user, you can change the DL to L. But! Here is one thing that you AutoCAD faithful-converts-to-Revit need to know:

Remember when I said to type KS above? What would be the very next thing you AutoCADies would do? I’ll give you a pictorial hint 🙂

DON’T DO IT!!! You will become frustrated wondering why your command doesn’t work. In Revit, pretty much all of the keyboard shortcuts are two letters.When you press enter, you are effectively canceling out that typed in command. And Revit knows what you are typing, so when you type the second letter it knows. Like a filter, if you will. But, once again, if you REALLY want to change the DL to L, you can. You WILL have to hit the return key for single letter commands.

While we’re taking about good old days using AutoCAD, here is something else that is missing from Revit:

The Command line! Or is it?? It is there, but not really as you would expect it to work. Look at the bottom left of your Revit screen. While using a command; in my case placing a duct, look at the bottom and observe what it is asking you to do? Isn’t that what a command line does?

So, I hope this helps you as it did for me.


Back to the Workforce!

If you will indulge me for this one blog post, I would like to say that after a month and a half of unemployment, I have accepted an offer at a Mechanical Engineering firm in Salt Lake City as a Mechanical Designer. I am truly humbled and grateful to be back in the workforce again, especially since most people I have talked to have been unemployed for months; even years.

The Mechanical design field is a departure from what I have been doing over the past 10 or so years. I have been involved in the civil field doing things such as subdivisions/land development, stream restoration, highways, bridges, and hydro-electric plants. I have been on the Civil 3D beta team since its inception. I have been blessed to meet many great and knowledgeable people in the civil field, and have been fortunate to have been a Technical Editing and co-authoring several Civil 3D books through the years.

So one might ask, “Why the change”? The answer is quite simple for me. Without getting religious (I am trying to keep this blog non-demoninational), I believe that everything happens for a reason and this is what I am supposed to be doing at this time. I have done HVAC/Plumbing before right out of trade school. I did it for a little over 9 years and thoroughly enjoyed that field. I had the opportunity to going out on job sites such as the Hershey chocolate plant in Hershey, PA, the Twizzler plant in Lancaster, PA, the Pepperidge Farms bakery in Downingtown, PA and many cold storage warehouses. It was exhilarating to see what I designed on paper actually be installed. I got to go to places to perform field surveys and was given the freedom to actually design many Mechanical rooms for some of those mentioned. One of the more memorable places I visited was a facility where they produced freeze-dried coffee. I had the opportunity to do a field survey of their blast freezer. Mind you, the temperature in that room was a pretty constant -40F and in front of the blast chiller coils, it was -170F 😉

So I leave the civil field as some good and bad memories to embark on an old friend. Back when I was doing it before, my time was split between board drafting and AutoCAD release 9. Now, a product called Autodesk Revit MEP will be my main tool. It is not a perfect software package; it has its flaws. But consider that Revit MEP is about 5 years old. It has some catching up to do with its big brother Revit Architecture. And it IS getting better with each new release. I would like to think people such as James Wedding, Dana Probert, Jason Hickey, Louisa Holland, Lisa Pohlmyer, Bill Frederick and many others for their help with Civil 3D over the years. I hope I am not an enemy now that I am on the “other side”. I’d like to thank Melanie Perry for her encouragement of getting into this field again.

I’d like to leave this blog post with some thoughts on employment and some data to consider. In the time I was unemployed, I sent out roughly 60 resumes.That was broken into the following methodologies:

  • Blind send – Open up the Yellow Pages, find a firm and send your resume asking if there are any opening that match my skill set.
  • Answering Ads – When something opened up that peaked my interest and was a compliment to my skill set, I send a resume.
  • Networking – This involved talking to people and using the great social networking tool called LinkedIn.

If I were to break down those methodologies into a chart, it would look something like this:

So, one can clearly see (and it should be nothing that you don’t already know) that networking; talking to people who are in the field, asking them for names or leads, and then continuing on from there is the most effective way to land a job. For your information, here is the time sequence from the time I sent in my resume until I accepted the job: Thursday, called the network lead to see if he knew of any openings, he told me to send in my resume to his company. 3 hours later, a phone call form the company asking me to come in for an interview on Friday. Friday, went in for interview. Felt it went well. They said they would make a decision the following week. Monday, received phone call with verbal offer of employment. Emailed copy went out 1 hour later. I reviewed, talked it over with my wife (important step!), and emailed acceptance letter same day. Of course, your mileage may vary.

But it goes to proves that it IS who you know. And now with that, I am pleased to announce that my blog will continue on and hopefully I will pick up a few cool tips and tricks that I can share along the way. Until then, I am humbly Rick Graham, Revit Convert/newbie! 🙂

Why Revit MEP is an untapped resource

During my downtime (read unemployment period), I have been self-studying with Revit Architecture and Revit MEP. While looking at resources for each, I have come to the conclusion that Revit MEP is still a vast untapped resource.

If you jump on Amazon and do a search of Revit Architecture, it will yield a result of 297 books. Granted some of these are older versions, but the fact remains there are lots of them out there. Now do the same for Revit MEP and you get a result of 78 books.

Narrowing that down to the latest versions (2012) and just looking at page one of the Amazon site, you get the following Revit Architecture 2012 books:

  • Revit Architecture 2012: No Experience Required
  • Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012
  • Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012 Essentials
  • The Aubin Academy Master Series: Revit Architecture 2012
  • Introducing Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012
  • Residential Design using Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012
  • Autodesk Revit Architecture 2012 for Architects and Designers
  • Commercial Design using Revit Architecture 2012
  • Revit Architecture 2012 Basics: from the Ground Up

And on the MEP side, here are the offerings:

  • Mastering Autodesk Revit MEP 2012
  • The Aubin Academy Master Series: Revit MEP 2012

That’s it, folks! Two books! The list is just taken form the first page of Amazon; there may be other books out there, but they are hiding pretty well for me.

Even the famed Autodesk University speakers forums were pretty much slanted towards Architecture over MEP. 88 for Revit architecture vs. 41 for Revit MEP. Actually, that last one surprised me a bit. I’ll have to dig through those in my never-ending quench for learning.

My point is that Revit MEP is still an untapped resource. Out of all the books mentioned above for Architecture, 4 of them deal with ME the beginner. And Out of the MEP, 0 (that ZERO, ZILCHO) deal with beginner users there. Granted, that Revit Architecture has been out longer, and there are many closet architectural-type people out there. Not many WANT to admit that they are MEP-types. Well, I AM AN MEP Person! 🙂

Is there a market for more books that deal with beginning MEP? This blogger/author very much thinks so.

Why Revit is NOT AutoCAD and vice versa

While experimenting with Revit, part of me wants to say “Oh, so this tool is like XZY in AutoCAD”. But then I stop myself mid-sentence and say “This is NOT AutoCAD”!

So  here is my early list showing why Revit is NOT AutoCAD. I’m sure it will grow and expand as time goes on, but it is a good start (for me):

A. Revit is built on a totally different base than AutoCAD. Let’s turn the hands of time back and discover the beginnings of Revit. Rather than go through the entire thing, I found this site that explains the origins of Revit. Go ahead, read it – I’ll still be here! 🙂 Ok, you’ve read it? My take on it comes down to a couple of key points:

  • The original company that it came from (PTC – Parametric Technology Corporation). Back in 1997, it was developed mainly for Architecture.
  • The name Revit itself means: REVise InsTantly. It was designed from day one as a means for doing something and having it automatically change other views instantaneously.
B. AutoCAD was designed originally as a 2D CAD system. You can read more about the history of Autodesk here:
C. Later in Autodesk’s development of the software did they introduce 3D. But, in my opinion 3D is only PART of the parametric process. And yes, Autodesk introduced parametric design in later versions too. But remember, that Revit was built from the ground up for the purpose it serves to this day.
D. My immediate background  was in Civil 3D (a vertical), I loved the fact that it had this sort of BIMish take on it. That is where you created a surface, created an alignment and a profile and it was all dynamic. Dynamic is the terminology used in the Civil 3D world. Substitute Dynamic for BIM and you might be getting close. But I still have to go back to the basic tenet that anything built on AutoCAD is not Revit – this includes Civil 3D in that. Because it is built upon, yep, you guessed it AutoCAD. It still has the original AutoCAD in it and that is why its called a VERTICAL. It inherits “the sins of the Father” in it. Such, in my opinion most stupid commands like PEDITACCEPT that have been carried forward since that command was first introduced, and yes, it still a default YES out of the box, which to this day I will never understand. But I digress.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that there is nothing wrong with AutoCAD! It has been my bread and butter for many decades now. And I still love Civil 3D. They all have their place. But I like to think that I have a “look forward” type attitude and vision and right now, Revit is winning that battle. I love the behind-the-scenes things that happen in Revit. I love the simplicity of Revit. I mean click twice and you have a section. Move that section around and it automagically moves with you. You can create on-the-fly new components. For example, if you have a specialized wall system, in a a short amount of time, you can have that created. It even makes an attempt to *shudder the very thought* mimic surface creation! A twitter friend said, that if Revit could do “this”, then it would be a no-brainer for them to switch over to Revit from Civil 3D.
Think about that! When you see the big-screen presentations from Autodesk about “future technology” with their forward-looking statements. They show mainly a Revit-centric technology. So what is the future of AutoCAD as we know it now? Will the VERTICALS become Revit: Civil so that everyone can play nicely in the sandbox together and (again shudder the thought) actually coordinate data seamlessly across ALL AEC disciplines without running through hoops? This (really not new technology) technology called The Cloud is really manifesting itself especially in 2012, and I would submit that even in future releases of all Autodesk products. I submit that this is only the very tip of the iceberg in this area.
The future looks very bright to this blogger for the AEC world – and it screams Revit!