Monday, March 16, 2015

Case Study

Greetings to All.

I am trying to arrive at consensus with my colleagues regarding some aspects of our Standards and Procedures for Revit.

Many Revit users follow the practice of customizing content with a "company" acronym to signify that the content is vetted to conform to office standards. My personal preference is to precede each family type name with an acronym derived from the family category, and I have now expanded the list to include content in all disciplines. I maintain that the presence of the acronym provides ample significance.

However, in the Project Browser, I contended that OOTB naming of standard content was desirable. My view was countered with the argument that confusion may result if other parties with whom we might collaborate used modified content with OOTB naming.

One well-respected colleague has developed a naming strategy that includes the prefix ‘AN’ for most annotations. I’m inclined to concede, but I happen to disagree on the practice of ALL CAPS in the browser.

Again, most users follow the tradition of capitalization of sheet names, however I would even question that practice. I believe it is a remnant of old-fashioned CAD thinking, where the practice originated because of the extension from hand drafting. (I was there.) ALL CAPS is generally avoided in graphic design and web design because it is harder (slower) to comprehend. There is some fairly consistent information available to back this point of view.

I’d like to know what other Revit users have to say about these options:

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Happy Holidays to all of my friends and associates around the globe.

Christmas is not an official working holiday in the Middle East, but most of my coworkers have already departed, and I'm still here because I will be joining a few of my colleagues for dinner near the office.

I recently returned to Qatar after a three week vacation in the U.S., encompassing Thanksgiving, Autodesk University, and an early Christmas celebration with my family. I was pleased to have met with several friends at the Las Vegas event, and the time spent at home was precious indeed.

Future Rail Station
I have moved on from my role as BIM Manager of the Al Wakra FIFA 2022 World Cup stadium, having been promoted to BIM Manager of KEO's Architecture and Engineering Services division. I now occupy a nice corner cubicle in our Doha office with this view of one of the country's underground rail stations under construction.

KEO has several BIM projects underway in our three main offices in Qatar, UAE, and Kuwait. I was invited to the BIM Leadership Forum at AUx Dubai, and will be presenting on BIM at the Future Interiors Conference January 20-21 in Dubai. We have recently organized the Doha BIM User's Group (D-BUG), Qatar's first ever BIM group, for which I will serve as chairman.

Hopefully this change will facilitate my return to blogging, and I intend to focus on the unique situation which now confronts everyone involved in BIM and construction in the MENA region.

I wish everyone a peaceful, happy and prosperous New Year.

Fortune Passes Everywhere

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Global BIM Acceptance

In the U.S., after two decades of development, Building Information Modeling has gained a fairly broad acceptance in most sectors of the AECO industry.There are many organizations involved in promoting and advancing BIM. Building Information Modeling is typical for large and complex buildings - airports, hospital & medical facilities, laboratories, schools.

In the beginning, BIM adoption was driven by professionals who quite simply wanted to improve quality, performance, and profit. In 2007 BIM adoption was boosted by the GSA National 3D-4D-BIM Program. Transition has not always been easy, and the level of implementation as well as methodologies vary widely, but today the top design firms in the U.S. are BIM firms: Gensler, HOK, HDR, Perkins+Will, SOM, HKS. Not coincidentally, the top construction firms have also invested in BIM: Turner, Clark, DPR, Hoffman, Hensel-Phelps.*

Similarly, in the U.K., BIM adoption is being driven by the government sponsored Building Information Modeling Task Group. The 2011 Government Construction Strategy will require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on its projects by 2016.

The story in the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region is not the same. Doha, the capital and largest city in Qatar, did not exist just fifty years ago, and it seems unlikely that many of the towers that have seemingly erupted from the desert were conceived using BIM. Even today, the new buildings currently being constructed are not exactly high tech, in terms of construction. They are reinforced concrete with block infill structures clad with aluminum and glass. They are massively built and labor-intensive and fantastic, but any evidence of BIM use is difficult to identify.

Qatar does have a National BIM initiative, which is an aspect of its 2030 National Vision for growth and development following the FIFA World Cup in 2022. All of the major infrastructure projects and all of the 2022 stadiums are BIM driven projects. Familiar names like Atkins, AECOM, Jacobs Parsons and Turner are among those involved. Overall, however, the progress and development of BIM is far behind what we take for granted in the West. Why?

In his LinkedIn article "10 Barriers to a Full BIM deployment in the Middle EastHamzeh Nawar, BIM Coordinator at Arabtec Construction LLC, explains:

Software companies took the lead in introducing BIM to Middle East, as a set of software and tools in the form of modeling, clash detection, quantity take-offs, and drawing extraction. This has resulted in a huge misunderstanding of BIM as a collaborative business process and limited the deployment of BIM in industry to the usage of BIM tools.
  • As BIM is new to the region, qualified BIM specialists are rare. Accordingly firms tend to hire and train people on using BIM tools without educating them on BIM process.
  • BIM requires significant sharing of data and information through the project life cycle between internal and external parties involved in the project; however companies in this region tend to be conservative and not so open to the sharing of information
  • BIM is a collaborative process that requires a major change in the internal work process and culture.
  • BIM (as it is meant to be!) is struggling to float to surface in this part of the world. A conservative and limited form of BIM is starting to form in the Middle East, a version of BIM limited to technology and capabilities of BIM software and tools.
Hamzeh concludes, “Benefits are still realized with this version of BIM, but the major benefits of a full BIM deployment are still a long-shot. Apparently BIM-ers still have a really long journey to go before they start realizing the actual benefits of BIM in Middle East.

*Source: 2013 rankings by Building Design + Construction

Friday, July 4, 2014

Qatar Update

I've been silent for quite some time, but I've decided to start blogging again.

The reasons for the silence include immersion in my work as BIM Manager for the FIFA 2022 World Cup Al Wakrah Stadium and Precinct Development project, the intensity of that activity, and the observance the of the client's explicit interest in confidentiality. I am not allowed to share any of the details of the project, the processes involved in its creation, or detail the challenges that are typically encountered on any large and complex building project. I intend to comply with that mandate, no matter how much it goes against my professional and democratic sensibilities. Imagine where we would be with BIM if we could not share and learn from each other's successes - and failures.

I can confirm that it is a BIM project with a high degree of complexity. I am on the Project Management team from KEO International Consultants. The project's architect of record is AECOM (London), the design architect is Zaha Hadid, and the client is represented by Project Management Consultant CH2MHill. Most of the professionals involved are British, along with Australians, a few Americans, and workers of many other Asian and European nationalities.

Personally, there are always two aspects of my work-life from which I derive satisfaction, in addition to the actual objective activity of the job. Teaching and learning.

In Qatar I have learned quite a lot, but so far the opportunities to "pay it forward" have been limited. The revival of this blog is one of the ways I intend to change that.

Thursday, September 5, 2013



At the end of this month I will be relocating to Doha, Qatar to serve as Senior Architect and BIM Manager for a sports complex renovation.

I will be working for project manager KEO International Consultants. The design consultant is AECOM, project designer Zaha Hadid Architects.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Finding the Efficiency of BIM

Revit Model
With two weeks until first building department submittal, our "GA" apartment project has steadily evolved since the decision to continue using BIM was made. We now have three Reviteers involved.

The GA project is a large stacked flat apartment building. We have evolved a method that incorporates groups, links, design options and phasing to achieve the maximum efficiency in creating and managing the BIM for construction documents.

SketchUp Model
In multi-family housing CADthe design development process relies on surface modeler SketchUp. While most agree it is a "great design tool", the model is not connected to the plan development, and frequently loses its fidelity.

Projects often receive client or agency approval in spite of inconsistencies. When a project moves from DD to CD, the 2D plan files developed by the designers are handed over to production staff who refine the building plans and develop construction documents. It is they who must decipher or verify the "design intent" while applying their knowledge of building codes and constructability. The redundancy and inefficiency in this process is apparent. The obvious solution is to use the same program for both modeling and plan development. That is the reason that BIM and Revit exist.

Are designers really challenged by the process change required to switch from SketchUp to Revit? It is a move which offers many benefits. For those not familiar with the MacLeamy Curve, one effect of BIM is that effort is shifted forward where the  ability to impact cost and functional change is greater, and the cost of making changes is less.

Repeat: The cost of making changes is less.

In the technologically held back housing industry, the perceived additional effort to start up a Revit project at the CD stage is a difficult sell, especially when the client has not requested it. 

Vasari is an alternative
for concept design.
The efficiency of BIM is found in moving the effort forward where the cost is less. Designers should be eager to to accept the challenge of learning new methods, when there are benefits for all involved.

Once the basic building form has been conceived, designers must evolve the aesthetic concept, optimize dwelling unit mix and design, and provide accommodation for the infrastructure, services and common facilities.

The arrangement of the various unit types has significant impact on the building's form. Using mass families these unit types may be modeled as multi-story elements that can be driven parametrically to analyze and optimize the building design. Over time a library of plan types and plan forms will be developed that may be combined to rapidly complete the plan development. 

The mass family is also the basis for development of building modules that will be linked into a host model. At this stage design options may be used to explore and evaluate different material and finish options. With this method, "skinning" the building is achieved by manipulating the unit type model and propagating geometry and material changes throughout the model.

Groups are used for the interior of each unit type model to assure floor-to-floor consistency and modeling efficiency.

Revit is very entrepreneurial, and even within the same company, there are often as many modeling strategies as there are modelers. Methods also vary depending on the type of project. My goal is always to improve both the process and the product. The knowledge gained will be applied to subsequent projects, regardless of type.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Revit to CAD - Nothing to Fear

We are well on our way to our goal of 50% DD on our new 'GA Apartment' BIM project, with a well developed model, fifty sheets set up, and the first round of CAD backgrounds issued to consultants. 80 hours.
Our largest BIM housing project so far was nearly derailed during a kick-off meeting with the owner's MEP consultants. I was not present (perhaps I should have been) but it was reported that these CAD based designers were upset about the extra effort involved in working with CAD files exported from a Revit model. One claimed that they would need to add 4 weeks to their schedule because of problems they have had with some other architect's BIM output. Of course this is just fear the unknown - were have not yet provided anything. (Owners take note - if the work were being done with BIM, this would be a non-issue.)

It was stipulated that unless we can provide backgrounds and sheet layouts that look exactly like our standard 2D files, the project will revert to CAD. I did not hesitate to guarantee that will not happen. I further guaranteed that the export will be better than, not equal to, the typical 2D output.

Internally, we had previously discussed that the 'OOTB' Revit export setup produces files that conform to the AIA Layer Standards, which is also the basis for our office standard. To placate those who cannot seem to conceive of walls with finishes, we had further decided modify the export setup to place the finish material line work on separate layers, allowing these items to be hidden or deleted.

The main problem with CAD standards is they DO NOT WORK. We have a very well documented office standard that defines layer names for every type of "object" in the 2D world. We also have a table listing all of the approved line colors and their corresponding line weights. I randomly chose one base plan file from the project's "xref" directory and easily discovered violations of both these "standards". Non-standard layer names and colors.

With the typical "x-clip/xref" methodology, there are literally hundreds of layers to manage - one set for every instance of every unit plan, plus many other random layers - more than six hundred layers in all.

The CAD exported from the Revit model is completely consistent and reliable. The options for CAD export are explained very well by Steve Stafford in this Revit OpEd post,
"It is important to understand that the intended purpose for exporting to DWG is to create files that can be used as a background for other trades. It was never really intended to be a better way to make DWG files."
In the export dialog Revit categories are mapped to layer names and colors in CAD. I actually had to "dumb down" the standard export setup, combining items that would normally be on separate layers.

For export to our specific office layer standard, line weights are controlled using color by layer:

In the Visibility Graphics dialog, Cut Line Styles allows adjustments of lines weights of host objects (floors, walls, ceilings & roofs) which affect both display and export.

While some fine tuning remains, we achieved the goal of providing CAD base drawings with separate layers for finishes (which do not exist in the normal CAD world!) Overall the output is better. 689 layers in a typical CAD floor plan base are reduced to thirty-one - yet CAD is the "industry standard" that is defended, against the elegant, simple, consistent output created by Revit.

Strange but true.