Revit Users do a lot of funny (and sometimes quite terrible) things. BIM Managers have spent years trying to control the chaos, through training, documentation, standardisation, model auditing, Big Brother techniques, and a mixture of carrots and sticks. And that is why I really like the idea of Guardian.
Ultimately, people just can’t quite be trusted to comply with all the constraints you think are valuable. But if you have a ‘virtual firewall’ for Revit, it should take the human element out of the equation, right? The idea is that your Revit model is a secure and safe place – a lot of important work happens in there, so you don’t want it to get infected with junk. It is harder to remove the junk later, than it is to programmatically STOP the bad stuff from entering your model. Enter Guardian for Revit…
Have you ever wanted:
To restrict users from exploding CAD, modeling in-place, etc.?
To prevent users from creating duplicate properties?
To automatically clean content that users bring into projects?
A better ‘purge unused’ tool that cleans object styles, patterns, etc.?
To translate content to meet different requirements / standards as it enters projects?
To quickly align your library and details into complete conformity with your template?
I recently had the chance to interview Parley Burnett, the creator of Guardian. Parley has had a lot of experience with Revit and content management over the years, and he offers some great insight below as he describes the ‘journey to Guardian’.
LJ: What motivated you to create Guardian? PB:
Revit can be so fun to work with and… not so fun. We understand the issues that cause inconsistencies in data and graphics and believe we should tackle them on a fundamental level before we can REALLY benefit from all that BIM can offer. We need a ‘new class’ of cloud powered assistants in our BIM environments as the old approach of adding complication (most other add-ins) to solve complication isn’t working. I have also tired of “standards” discussions never materializing and have come to believe that we can do this in smarter ways than maintaining spreadsheets and documents.
LJ: What key problem does Guardian currently solve? PB:
Cluttered properties in projects!!
Without Guardian, anybody can do anything at any time in any Revit project anytime and, as a result, administrators are forced to react rather than anticipate the resulting damage. Without intense oversight, Revit projects can quickly become a quagmire of properties such as materials, patterns and parameters. This causes confusion and friction as projects progress and deliverables can be messy.
Revit offers little assistance as many of the property types cannot even be purged if they are unused. Worse yet, administrators have no way of knowing WHERE these properties are used so and if they did, the cleanup would take far too much time.
Guardian allows complete transparency into incoming properties including whether they are used or not used. It then allows properties to be mapped to existing properties or removed. These decisions can be saved as rules and enforced silently across an entire firm.
LJ: What is coming up on the Guardian feature roadmap?PB:
We have hit several releases already since launching late last summer and are only picking up the pace even more! We expect to add more ways that Guardian can be extended to existing projects and more flexibly across project teams and user roles.
Here are some new things in Guardian 1.4.0:
Ability to detect duplicate properties
New Suggestions Framework
User prompts when duplicates are made or modified
Below I have included some how-to guidance information in the following sections:
In the download package, you will get an MSI and current Release Notes:
Just double-click the MSI to install.
You can install for Current User or All Users:
And choose from supported Revit version:
License activation is achieved by entering your Company ID during installation:
When launching Revit, you can press ‘Always Load’ at the normal security prompt:
To manage your Revit content standards in Guardian, you use the ‘Admin Login’. Following this, you will see more features in the menu:
In Projects, you can define mapping files for each project, and you can create Project Templates:
The Mappings dialog provides the real ‘nuts and bolts’ of Guardian, you can individually configure constraints around the following items:
It basically works by taking some incoming data from whatever source, and mapping it to the ‘project template’ or standard Revit libraries that you have implemented in your firm.
There are some really interesting features in the ‘Company Settings’, and this is where it really starts to take control of the human element I mentioned earlier:
In ‘User Behaviours’ you can actually stop or restrain certain commands from executing. Evidently, Guardian makes a distinction between ‘normal users’ and admin-level users:
It will appear in your Add-Ins ribbon like this:
This is what happens when you load a new family:
And this is what happens if you select “Let me choose which properties to keep”:
As you can see, you then have the opportunity to enter the Mappings dialog.
“Suggestions” will dig deeper into the content and let you know if certain things are similar or identical (very cool, it feels a bit like AI):
We have come a long way at Virtual Built Technology through building our VirtualBuiltApp federated project-wide data platform in recent years, and Guardian is an excellent accompaniment to it. As a company-level control mechanism, it aims to prevent the problems that can be detected later through our analytical methods.
If you are in a situation where you would like to really improve the overall quality and consistency of the Revit modelling in your firm, I recommend that you check out Guardian.
Ever since I bought it, the Metabox occasionally began screaming at me by way of extremely loud internal fans. As we know, cooling equals performance in laptop devices. If its not cool, it will ultimately either scale down performance through CPU throttling, or the effective life of the components will be adversely affected.
Up until today, I have been using this cardboard box and timber stud cooling device:
As good as the above solution was, I believed that it might be possible to reduce the decibel rating and extend the life of my laptop… so I was moved to purchase a ‘gaming laptop cooler’ – basically a laptop base with an integrated fan. I chose the CoolerMaster CMSTORM SF-17. This has one large turbine fan, and includes height adjustment and an inbuilt USB hub.
The new solution is much quieter and neater, and hopefully will give the Metabox ‘tank’ some extra longevity:
Box is great, and Box Sync is still the most robust file sync tool I have used for huge datasets. In BIM and VDC, our data is getting bigger, primarily due to the prevalence of point clouds. It is not uncommon to have 50gb of scan data for a single site scan. Moving that data to the cloud is challenging, and a lot of data processing and point cloud indexing work still happens on local machines. This means we have to upgrade our local storage devices (hard drives) to handle those tasks.
Recently I went about upgrading the storage on both my Workstation and my Laptop (a Metabox). I wanted a relatively huge platter drive in my workstation, and a relatively huge SSD in my laptop. I had a look online and after a bad experience with Umart, I ended up buying an 8tb Seagate Barracuda from MSY, and a 2tb Samsung 970 EVO from an eBay vendor. Both drives come with a 5 year warranty.
I’ll describe both of these upgrades in detail below
Upgrading the Box Sync Hard Drive on my Workstation
Box recently released ‘Box Drive’, but it has a local cache limit of 25GB, which is quite useless for BIM in my opinion. That means I still wanted to keep using the old faithful Box Sync. But…
Box Sync does not allow you to move or change the folder location of its data (actually you can, but you only get one chance when you first install it). After installing, you can’t move the Box Sync root folder without some kind of hacky tricks like pointers, and I didn’t want to go down that path. We have been syncing Box to a folder on our E drives (secondary hard drive), and now it was time to upgrade that 2tb secondary drive to something bigger.
Here’s how I kept all my Box Sync data and upgraded the hard drive:
Shut down computer
Install the new hard drive (it was a simple SATA drive with data and power cables)
Boot up the computer
Initialise the drive with GPT Partition Style
Use Macrium Reflect to clone the partition from the old drive – including all Box data – to the new drive
Reboot into Safe Mode
Use the video below to ‘swap the drive letters’. This step basically tricks Windows into using the new, larger hard drive (as the ‘E’ drive in my case). And Box Sync works perfectly, it just picks up where it left off.
Now we have lots of room for Box Sync and more:
One final thing I had to do was “uncompress” the drive data. I had used NTFS compression with the previous drive but now I no longer needed the compression. Just go to the file or folder properties and untick “Compress this drive”.
Adding a New SSD into My Metabox Laptop
The next thing I did was add another SSD to my laptop. I looked up the manual and it said I had another M.2 2280 (22mm x 80mm) slot available. In the first slot I already had a Samsung 950 Pro 512gb as my primary drive. I did some research and decided to go with a Samsung EVO 970 2tb drive. After waiting patiently for my ebay order to arrive, I then cracked open the Metabox to install it.
Here is what I did:
Removed the back cover of the laptop
Looked around everywhere and couldn’t find the M.2 slot – in fact I couldn’t find my primary drive. After a moment of panic, and then a quick look on YouTube, I realised I had to remove my keyboard. So I removed the KB screw and carefully pried the keyboard off, then there it was – my spare M.2 slot!
I carefully installed the 2tb SSD and then closed up the laptop
The system booted up fine, then I went into Disk Management and initialised the disk with a GPT record,
Created a new partition with NTFS default sector size, and
We are good to go!
Now that I had a much bigger SSD to work with, I immediately moved my Revizto Working Folder onto that new 2tb SSD. This will allow me to fully utilise a lot of the great new Revizto Point Cloud features and at the same time have full M.2 SSD performance.
Out of interest, I have added the Samsung Magician performance scores for the Samsung SSD 950 PRO 512GB and Samsung SSD 970 EVO 2TB below:
A couple of days ago I was considering how Architects design, and how their processes can be very detailed and effective, and yet those ideas are often presented in somewhat traditional ways: like a binder full of prototypes and design ideas that lead to the ultimate solution of a specific design challenge. During this particular introspection, I came up with the term “Digital Prototyping Framework”. Let’s call it DPF, because what we need are more acronyms in the AEC industry.
In all seriousness, I believe I have come up with a term that describes a new era in collaborative and cloud based design platforms. The term “digital prototyping” already exists, it refers a way of doing things that gives conceptual design, engineering, manufacturing, and sales and marketing departments the ability to virtually explore a complete product before it’s built.Industrial designers, manufacturers, and engineers use Digital Prototyping to design , iterate, optimize, validate, and visualize their products digitally throughout the product development process.
The concept of frameworks in software design is also well known, referring to something that provides a standard way to build and deploy applications. A software framework is a universal, reusablesoftware environmentthat provides particular functionality…
By combining the idea of Digital Prototyping with Frameworks, I’m describing a tool or set of tools that empowers you to design, iterate, optimize, validate, and visualize in a standard environmentthat provides particular functionality.
The best example of a Digital Prototyping Framework that I’m aware of at the moment is Revizto. It provides a standard and consistent environment where design and feasibility studies may be recorded, discussed and reviewed. It combines 2D and 3D context, along with other technologies that provide high-value context to design tasks. It allows direct integration with reality capture and meshed photogrammetry, along with the ability to attach other data types to design nodes (referred to as “issues”).
Digital Prototyping Frameworks facilitate knowledge sharing and distributed design efforts, as the design process is fully exposed and transparent to those invited to the framework. The environment becomes familiar, and interactions are increasingly focused on design and ideation, rather than becoming distracted by technological barriers to design.
What is a Digital Prototyping Framework?
A tool or set of tools that empowers you to design, iterate, optimize, validate, and visualize in a standard environmentthat provides particular functionality, while providing access to contextual and historical data.
Why did I invent this term?
I hate the term “digital twin”. I think it is simplistic and does not describe anything useful about underlying processes and workflows. It implies “identicalness” between the physical and digital world, which is a grossly juvenile comprehension of potentially deep and complicated differences between something that is physically real and something that is not.
I believe we need some new terminology to describe new ways of working. BIM and VDC are some of these terms, but a DPF is part of how we connect BIM with VDC.
An example of a DPF in use:
Michael Clothier from Virtual Built Technology worked with Bronte Modra from Specialised Solutions to prototype and visualise the work required to install “anti throw” screens on a bridge in our local area. They combined reality capture information with physical models in the Revizto collaborative visualisation environment, and it was used as a DPF to describe both the design and the installation process.
I’ve recently had
the chance to put the new Lumion 9 through it’s paces.
At Virtual Built Technology amongst the many BIM services we offer, we also create construction visualisations and animations.
Over the years we’ve
played with many software solutions to get the kind of results our clients are
after. Each time we do this kind of work it’s slightly different, either a
client will require something different, there’s all sorts of budgets, a client
might want to focus on a specific area, and what we can get our hands on in
terms of models etc, is always different. In the past we’d model in Revit and
Sketchup, federate and visualise in Navisworks or 3DS Max, animate in
Navisworks or 3DS Max and then post production in iMovie or Motion and Final
Cut. A complex high end animation, might see us jump in and out of several
different applications several times over before completion.
However, since Lumion has come along, we’ve been able to significantly increase our output by simplifying the often many different steps we’d need to take. And whilst it isn’t quite a one stop shop, it is definitely made life a lot easier.
How we use Lumion
Firstly we define
the clients requirements. Is it just images, or is it an animation? Then we
define what are we trying to show in the images or the animation – Is it the different stages of construction,
the site setup, the greater site context (say a busy city street), the
architectural finish? The animation might become more complex if there’s
something specific that the client wants to demonstrate in detail (say safety,
traffic, or a lifting sequence) In this case, we’re not just rigging up a
camera, we might also be keying and animating objects.
Lumion is more then
capable of all of the above, but more importantly it’s able to do it all with
ease. The software is intuitive and simple. And since this type of work is very
susceptible to ‘scope creep’, and client whims, this kind of simplicity and ease
adds up to hours and hours of time saved.
Building a model (a typical example)
We primarily use Revit for developing a lot of our initial model content. Often we’re able to get our hands on the consultants models (or we build up our own), then we add some context like neighbouring buildings, streets, pathways etc. (Lumion can also do this with OpenStreetMap data) Then we add other content like cranes, concrete pumps, people, fences etc. This particular part requires some thought, because there’s a couple of ways we can arrive at the end result. Firstly Lumion provides a lot of really good content (People, cars, trees, cats, etc) and we can add this in Lumion (saving a few steps in the process), however, there isn’t a lot of “Construction” content or the right content, so we often need to get that elsewhere. Sketchup Warehouse is an example of a good source. Getting content from Sketchup Warehouse, we can either bring it directly into Lumion, or go via Revit into Lumion.
Back in Revit
however, we can utilise the LiveSync option to quickly generate content and see
it populating Lumion. I’ve created a tutorial of the LiveSync tool below.
In the more complex
projects, we will use many 3D views to export different ‘scenes’ to Lumion.
With each 3D view’s content being controlled by Worksets or Phases. Lumion has
layer control (20 max) that can control the visibility of content. So, the different
views in Revit might then correspond with different layers in Lumion.
The layer manager is pretty limited however, and one area Lumion could improve on.
Lumion also has a feature called Variation Control that allows another layer of management to model variations
feature is great for different phases of the same model. (ie construction
phasing) You bring this feature into play particularly when you’re animating a
sequence where you want a model to change over time. It is limited a little in
its fine tune control, for example you cannot “fade” the different
phases in, it’s just one at a time.
Images and Animations
Once my model is
sufficiently built up and materials applied we can now begin composing images
and animations. Lumion provides three different outputs. Photo, Movie, and
feature called 360 Panorama.
In the Photo tool, you simply navigate your viewing window to a desired location and Store the camera. Then it’s simply a matter of adding a Style or adding various effects. Then hit Render and you’re done… It’s really that simple!
The camera location
and Effect is stored, so, as you change your content (at your clients whims)
you can very quickly fire off an updated rendering that reflects the changes.
I’ve created a tutorial on how to create an animation in Lumion.
This tool is great and is something we’re doing more of. It provides something that is a more interactive.
Let us know what you think… leave a comment or get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
The Technical Stuff
Some of you may be interested in how we go about producing some of this content. I’ll keep it short and sweet, but you can see some of the programs we use below.
Models: The actual model content always comes from a variety of different sources, but primarily we produce most of our modelling content in Revit. This is often where we start, where we federate models and develop up a scene. However, we’re also use prone to using Sketchup, 3DS Max, Meshlab, Reality Capture (Drone captures), Lumion (for content)
Animation and Visualisation: When we get into animating our scene, we again play with a few different tools. Navisworks is ok for relatively complex scenes, and if you persist with the rather clunky Animator you can get some really cool shots and sequences. The biggest downside with NW is the visualisation department. You can render our the animations, but it’s really intense on your computer… Navisworks is also good for dealing with construction programs in Primavera or MS Project which although not impossible (with the use of scripts) is difficult in other software. 3DS max is also good for animations, but we’re finding lately that’s it’s a bit overkill for what we need to do, plus there’s quicker and easier solutions. That brings us to Lumion. Lumion is really great at producing some of this content. However, I’m not going to go into it too much… stay tuned for an upcoming post!
Post Production: Gone are the days of Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. Most of our content goes into post in Final Cut Pro and Motion. Here we’re slicing up music, adding annotation and text overlays. Here we also can add calendar sliders and other widgets.
Workflow: As you can see above, we need to use a lot of different applications to get to the result. On some projects we may use several applications several times over to get to the final deliverable. There is a lot to of other things to consider along this journey too… things like file formats, budgets, and timeframes. The biggest thing here then is having a good workflow.
What technology stack should you use when managing and collaborating on a significant and complicated design-build infrastructure project?
Stantec recently shared their workflow on their Ideas website – and it has Revizto right in the middle of it.
Here are a few quotes to get you started:
“The team decided to implement Revizto early in the design phase. It’s an easy-to-use, secure, file-neutral, cloud-based, model-review solution. Model files were published to Revizto, unattended, every night. Each day, the design-build team and Sound Transit could visualize the current design in all areas of the facility. We saw a vast improvement in collaboration and engagement because the model was accessible to anyone, from anywhere, at any time.
Revizto’s issue tracker became a one-stop shop for model-issue and clash management. Typically, a team might use Revitzo to coordinate a single building model. But our team took that a step further by using it for the entire site—multiple buildings, the site, the tracks, and the underground utilities.
This is a process we intend to implement across our suite of transit projects going forward, changing the way we do work by building it into our mindset from the start. By using Revitzo at the very early stages of design, we were able to facilitate a level of teamwork and collaboration that was instrumental in helping us to meet deadlines, stay on track, and stay in lock-step as a project team.
the ability to visualize and identify issues early and across the entire facility saves thousands of dollars in change orders and construction delays.”