Friday, 27 September 2013

What do Revit, CodeBook, STRATUS and Snoop Doggy Dog have in common?

Well one is a building information modelling platform, another a space data management tool, STRATUS is a private BIM Cloud and the last is a famous rapper - so nothing obvious that's for sure!

The CodeBook User Group has recently been trialling Revit + CodeBook in the Cloud, using the STRATUS Private BIM Cloud as a platform. What that means precisely is that the Revit and CodeBook software is installed on a cloud server, which is accessed remotely through your internet browser using a secure login and password.

So the applications are running in the cloud, not from your PC, think of it like STRATUS providing you with a tunnel to their server and window to view the server desktop, or perhaps more importantly the software.

The Revit model and CodeBook database are co-located (i.e. saved on the same cloud server), making both perform very efficiently. Typically most firms use a LAN or WAN, which regardless of the spec or amount of money spent on infrastructure, will be subject to latency - i.e. a time lag.

This time delay is caused by the volume of traffic passing through (i.e. your colleagues working), routers, switches etc... I've even known underfloor cabling to get damaged by rats chewing through them, resulting in slow network performance!

Running RAM, processor and data hungry applications like Revit + CodeBook from the cloud makes a lot of sense. The spec of a server can be modified quite easily and "throttled" to provide specific users with a higher spec, or provide extra RAM during intensive periods leading up to a deadline - that's the power of cloud based resources.

Removing the LAN or WAN from the equation also offers performance gains, the model doesn't have to be copied across the network to your PC when first opened - it's there on the same machine as the applications. When synching with the central model etc... the distance the communication or changes have to travel is greatly reduced and is subject to fewer human or environmental conditions.

So this all sounds great Chris, but what happens if my internet connection is slow or worst still drops off? A good internet connection and graphics card certainly helps, but should your connection be interrupted all you need to do is log back in and you'll be taken back to where you left off.

For more information on STRATUS visit their website - http://stratus.net.nz/ - and if you have any questions, or to arrange your own trial contact Des or one of his team and they will be happy to help.

The next CBUG is on Tuesday 1st October and Danielle, Adam and I will be collaborating to give a live demo of several cool features - Room Tasks, Flex Reports and C-sheet generation - all from the cloud!

For more details check the CodeBook User Group on LinkedIn, here's the meeting invitation for Tuesday including WebEx details - https://www.dropbox.com/s/idgp59x82p3sm2i/CBUG-AU13_11_invite.pdf#!

Oh and back to the original question about Snoop Dog... he provided the background music to this sneak preview video of CB+Revit on STRATUS and may be making a guest appearance at the next user group session.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=3zR1RXOnXwA

Make it happen.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Making the complex that little bit easier...

Large, hi-tech projects are rarely easy and straightforward. They often require detailed planning and the sub-division of tasks, their sequencing, consultant inputs, reviews etc... so that the end goals are achieved.

The development of the CodeBook GUI over the last year reflects this and the user experience has been simplified, based on roles. The CodeBook software has grown organically exponentially over it's life and around a year ago the development team took the opportunity to rethink, modernise and streamline the GUI.























Those that have been using CodeBook for a while, will remember the old layout and where each function was located. For new users this could take a while to learn and get used to in v10, whereas within v11 CBI have introduced "the ribbon", large icons and grouped together tasks based on workflows which make it much easier to find the function you need and navigate around the system.

When I first looked at v11 it took me a while to understand the layout and why things were arranged in the way they are, but when I started thinking in terms of roles it made a lot of sense.

The Home Tab is aimed at your general users, that are involved in developing rooms. You can navigate around your project through the Properties section, choosing whether to view Sectors, departments, floors, rooms, room data etc... which appear in the "main window". You can switch between these views quickly and easily too from within the main window, or from the ribbon.







The Room Linking section allows you to create or remove links, synch rooms etc... based on what you have selected within the main window. The FFE section currently shows Library Viewer and Attached Files and it is at this point that I want to draw your attention to the "local window" which runs along the left hand side, next to the main window.



















The local navigation and main window work together when you are in related views - i.e. if you're in a room based view in both local + main, or FFE view within both local and main. In the example shown however, I have an FFE local view and room based main window, which means I can navigate around both quickly, but also drag and drop components from my local navigation into my equipment list in the main window - adding them to the equipment list.

Those of you with a keen eye will have noticed that the ribbon has slightly changed too, to reflect what I am now working on - i.e. FFE and I now have a Placement Section available, which allows me to insert equipment into my CAD/BIM model.

This adaptive GUI is fantastic in my opinion as it keeps things generalised where they should be and more detailed when you need them to be, rather than having every option presented to you all the time.

The Synchronise commands require you to have CAD/BIM open and Reporting enables you to create reports, or generate views/drawings depending on the CAD/BIM system you are using.

So most general users can now carry out 100% of their work all from within the Home tab!

In addition to general users, or room loaders as I sometimes call them, we have a couple of other types of users to consider - the template builders and administrators.







Template builders are able to generate Room Data Templates, Room Type Templates, Edit Equipment, Unions and Assemblies all from the Build Tab. Again the dynamic GUI will adapt and some additional options become available depending on what is happening within your local navigation or main window.

Administrators have several tabs to work with, first is Load, which enables you to import rooms and FFE from Excel, Revit, ADB, HFBS or wherever the brief data has come from.











Next is the Output tab, which contains features like creating Image and Revision databases and exporting data to A.N. other system.









Then Manage, which contains more advanced functions such as batch updating info, merging databases, creating shuttle databases, the placement matrix etc...








The penultimate tab is called Database and this allows you to compact & repair your database, query database types - yes it happens, sometimes people rename bizzarely / accidentally so knowing if a database is a project, equipment or room data is useful! If you are using the SQL server version, this is managed from here and likewise the mobile server.









The last tab Mode simply shows the current user mode selected, i.e. what Graphics Tool you are working with and the User Interface, i.e. Administrator, Project Manager or Team Member. You can switch between modes without having to close and restart CodeBook which can be useful on occasion.

So General Users = HOME
Template Builders = BUILD
Administrator = the rest

You could almost state that the tabs get increasingly more complex as you journey to the right and that individual capability is measured by how many tabs to the right you know... but that's just silly.

Make it happen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The next CBUG AU will be held on May 28th, 2013

The next user group session will be held on Tuesday, during which Danielle Currie will present the second part of the library development sessions.

Last month Marnie Reid presented a Library development session that focused on the many considerations when building a library, the common problems encountered and advice on how to manage things in the long term.

Danielle's session will look at how to link individual equipment definition with a family, but also how to do this en masse, using the Bulk Add functions and also how to Bulk Edit library definitions using the descriptions, codes, groupings etc... it should be an informative session, for info on locations and WebEx details check out the Invite & Linkedin post


































The User Group does have an Australian focus but we welcome CodeBooker from overseas to join in via WebEx. You're guaranteed to learn something new, get a new perspective or perhaps a fresh approach to common tasks - hope to see you there!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Save weeks of work with Room Types

Room Types are a great way to rapidly populate your project with the Room Data Sheet requirements and also provide a powerful tool for driving information consistency across a project.

Below are notes which will guide you through creating and editing data templates, but remember, strategy is everything.

The basic concept is that rather than filling in the design issues, finishes, m+e, doors and required equipment for each individual room, we create templates for each of these elements which in turn are combined within a Room Type template and assigned to the applicable rooms.

To get started, open the room editor window, insert a new room and then start filling in the design issues fields, notice that your information is coloured green when you hit the save button.






















Once you've finished, go to "Room>Make Data Template" and you will be presented with a new window - the data templates editor.

All templates are assigned a code and description, which in the case of design issues defaults to DSxxx and the name of the room that the template was created from. Now edit the template code to be "DS_TEST" and template name to read "TEST DESIGN TEMPLATE" - congratulations you've just created your first template!




















If you go back to your room editor window, you'll see that all of the values in the Design Issues tab are now coloured black, which indicates that the values are coming from a template. Colouring the differences in green provides a quick way to see where your room differs to your template, i.e. contains room specific overrides.

To change a green room data override to be the same as the template you simply change it to "as template" and hit save. To make all the design issues reflect the template, simply hit the "Default" button in the bottom left corner of the Room Editor window, which will update all of the design issues fields to be as per your assigned template.

Creating the required equipment list for a room is done by dragging and dropping equipment or unions from the library into the required equipment section of room editor. If you need to add the same item multiple times, you can do this by dragging and dropping multiple times, but an easier method is to right click on the item from the required equipment list, Select increase quantity and type in the number required.

















You can delete items of course, however, once your baseline brief has been established it is generally advisable to omit items and specify a Reason for Update. This is part of the track changes process and provides visibility about when and why items were removed and gives a running history of what has changed during the design phase.

Every project I've ever worked questions why you would do this at first, but as soon as the contractor / client RFI's start rolling in this audit trail becomes immensely valuable and saves hours (if not days) of painfully trawling back through meeting minutes and markups. So much so I'll dedicate a future post to this.

At the bottom of the required equipment window you'll see a button "Properties", which unveils a section where you can add further information against each item of equipment, such as highlight transfer items or assign an asset ID. The "asset" information relates to the equipment in a specific room - not to all of the equipment in your project and it is important to understand the difference. Asset based changes = required equipment list. Project Equipment based changes = Equipment Library.
















Once you have created a required equipment list, you can convert this into a template, or Assembly as its referred to. Select "Equipment>Assembly>Make Assembly from Required Equipment List"

Just like other templates, equipment Assemblies should have a logical code and description, so update the assembly code to "AS_TEST" and the assembly name "TEST ASSEMBLY" from the Summary tab.



















Assemblies can be further edited by using the Add / Remove Member buttons at the bottom of the assembly window. The thumbnail image is displaying a cross at this stage as the equipment hasn't been arranged - so once you've "loaded" a room in your project with the items from your assembly, use the function "Librarian>Update Graphics>From Loaded Room" and this will be updated, but more importantly it means that the next time you insert the assembly it comes in set out in the desired arrangement!

The Doors tab in Room Editor will appear blank when you first select it, as not every room will necessarily have a door. Select "Door>Add" and fill in each of the fields listed - again notice the green colour. Then go to Door>Create Door template and give the template the code "D_TEST" - you're probably noticing a pattern here and how easy it is to create templates.





























To complete our Room Type we need to create the rooms Finishes and M&E templates using the same method as the Design Issues and Doors. Once all of your templates have been created, go to the first tab in the Data Templates Editor - Room Types.

Create a new Room Type template by selecting "Edit>Insert", give it the code "RT_TEST" and description in line with what you have used for the other templates. and then select your Design, Finishes, M&E, Door and Assembly templates from the drop down menu. This groups all of the information together as a room type, which can now be applied quickly and easily to the rooms in your project.





























You'll see some fields such as Standard Room Name, Required Area, Room Category etc... which relate to standard information. At this point you might be thinking "doesn't this information come from the Schedule of Accommodation that I imported?"

It certainly should do, however, the SofA may have contained subtle variations to room names, for rooms that are in essence identical but exist in different departments. It might also be useful to apply a standard Room Label to the Room Type, which can then be used for tagging in certain scale drawings (1:100 or 1:50) where the full room name takes up too much space.

Once you have created a Room Type template, applying it to a room is easy. You can do this by opening the Room Editor window and in the Room Information tab, pick the desired template from the drop down list in the Room Type field.

To assign Room Type templates to many rooms quickly the best way to do this (two clicks) is in the Room Properties window, selected from the Control Centre. This will give you a list of the rooms in your project, which you can sort by department, or by room name etc... and then go through the list applying the room type templates from the drop down menu.












The above method is the standard way to create Room Types i.e. as individual templates, another option is to enter all of your information within room editor (green) and then from the Room Information Tab select the "Room>Make Room Type" option. This is a very powerful function as it gives you the ability to create room types very quickly, from room specific values, or even from a mix of templates and room specific values.



















You'll get the option of creating new templates or updating existing - AND AN IMPORTANT POINT TO HIGHLIGHT - when editing templates, is knowing which rooms have the template assigned that you're about to update.

Generally Templates will form a project wide standard or perhaps a departmental standard, which should be reflected within the code & description, however to double check run a usage report from the Data Templates editor. (File>Usage Report)


You should always use meaningful, logical and succinct codes for templates, with standard prefixes for template codes and names. The CodeBook standard for design issues templates is to use the prefix DS_xxx, finishes templates = FN_xxx, M&E templates = ME_xxx, Doors = D_xxx, Assemblies = AS_xxx and last but not least Room Types start with RT_xxx.

The xxx should be consistent across each of the templates making it straightforward to group them together and easy to differentiate with other templates.


Strategy is very important - take time to consider your approach, where possible keep it simple and make sure this has been communicated between the team. Depending on the size of the project, it may even be prudent to have a single person act as the "gatekeeper" for these templates.

Hopefully this post will help you understand the power of Room Types, its one close to my own heart, as I suggested them to Peter many, many moons ago.

In typical fashion I had a new build waiting in my inbox a day or two later and was able to utilize them straight away on my project saving hours, if not days of work.

Make it happen.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

It's the little things that count...

Sorry for the rather lengthy delay between posts, it's been a busy few months on many fronts and I've now got to play catchup! There's been a significant amount of development by CBI over the last few months so there's lots to blog about over the next few weeks!

I've just finished putting the latest release of CodeBook (26.05.2012) through it's paces and have been very impressed with some great new functionality and lots of small enhancements that have been made. These little tweaks will save a mouse click here and there, simplify processes and make day to day work just that little bit easier - which is what this post focusses on.

I spoke with Peter about the release and he said that during the last few months they have looked at introducing new "game changing" functionality, such as the mobile tablet version, taking full advantage of the improved Revit API which will now allow CodeBook to generate c-sheets (currently beta testing) but also working through the user-based-wish-list i.e. all those little requests we've been emailing support about.

The first enhancement I came across involves Lookups Editor, which now includes several new Categories that can be edited - Equipment Library Info, Equipment Asset Info and Equipment Asset Data.
















Ever wished you could rename some of the default Equipment Library fieldnames? Well now you can and whilst CodeBook has always been highly customizable, this demonstrates a greater maturity in the userbase and responds to the needs of the different geographic regions using CodeBook.

























Equipment Asset Info and Equipment Asset Data, relate to several areas which also can be renamed - the BIM interface fields, some relate to FF&E positional data and some to the Facilities Management realm - all of which provide the ability to respond to even the most whimsical of client requests!

























One to highlight is the CodeBook Asset guid, which enables each FF&E item within the building to be given a unique asset based identifier which is increasingly being requested on projects. Procurement, assigning barcodes, QR codes, asset tracking and management etc... all rely on this.

Next up is the Revision Editor, which allows you to manage revisions more easily across a project, especially when there is a staggered programme and departments with different revisions to manage.
















Within the Equipment Library it is now possible to provide an Alternative BIM name. Typically you would have single Revit family|Type associated with a single equipment record within the CodeBook Library - but it is now possible to link to multiple families or family types to a single equipment record in CodeBook.













I think this is aimed at slightly more experienced Revit users and I'd suggest carefully thinking through how you wish to use this. One specific application of this for Health Projects in NSW, Australia would be to link multiple family types of different sizes (e.g. desks) to a single CodeBook equipment record and single HFBS code. The Health Facility Briefing System groups many items under a single code, yet during the user review process when planning and modifying room layouts, different sized desks are specified. So these family types can now all be linked to the same equipment record.

Whether you SHOULD group them together regardless of size is another matter and whether you need to provide a comprehenive schedule should also be considered - the functionality is there, but my advice would be to use sparingly.

Get location using BIM Pick/Hit can be used to find out the coordinate information for a piece of equipment along with the headline data (code, description etc...)


















Once selected in CodeBook, click on the Revit family and the info will appear in a small window.


















There are several enhancements within the Equipment Library - Find Using Query now includes a NOT button, so you can search / filter even more precisely. For example you might want to search *stainless* to get a list of stainless steel benchtops, but you might not want to include those with a lipped edge, so you'd simply type in *lipped* and tick the Not button.




















The equipment library is sorted by equipment code, but there is now an option to switch the sort order to Sort by Description. Which of the two you use is a personal preference, but now you can easily change between them.

















Two questions that I'm often asked are "How can we permanently delete equipment from the library?" and "How do I know if I have duplicate equipment codes?" There are now two functions available that do these tasks, Purge Equipment Library and Ensure equipment codes are unique.












Both are useful, but should be used sparingly - for example, if you have just hidden several equipment items, give it a week before Purging the Equipment Library. Purging permanently removes the equipment, so if you've hidden an item by mistake you can't get it back (through using the unhide items function).

Two very welcome additions to Project Explorer are Insert New Department and Insert New Floor. In the past you had to close Project Explorer, open the Department or Floor Properties, create the new department or floor, close the properties window and open Project Explorer again. It might seem small, but this will save some to-ing and fro-ing in the early stages of a project.


















Room Editor has some functions that have been revised, Synchronise a (individual) Room and Remove BIM link used to require clicking on the Revit Room that you wanted to synch or remove the link to. Now you don't need to click on the Revit Room.

Show Properties within Room Editor, now expands the room editor window, as opposed to opening a separate properties window. I prefer this format from a workability perspective and it means there is one less window to worry about. You'll also notice from the image below that the Required and Designed equipment are grouped together by code where you have more than one item. You can expand this if you need to carry out a task on a individual item, but again I prefer the format and it means you don't have to count up on screen how many items you have in total.



Adding, Removing and Substituting equipment items now has the ability to create a list of add/omits/substitutions which can be applied to individual rooms, or all the rooms in a department or all the room in the project. This will certainly help make global modifications a bit easier, but I think the most value will be when making department based changes.













Update Designed Equipment Lists now has two additional options. Use graphics centroid means that CodeBook will calculate this from the family extents when updating equipment lists, rather than using the origin point specified when you built the family. Also CodeBook can now pickup on the Phase data, should you have equipment placed on multiple project phases.
























There are two major new functions that have been added - Task on Selected Rooms and Set worksets - but these are both quite large topics and deserve a detailed explanation, so I'll cover these in a subsequent post.

So all of that should save you a few clicks per day and hopefully you found the post useful, any requests feel free to email me.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Clarity in the sea of BIM complexity

Many CodeBook users gained their experience using CodeBook with 2D software such as AutoCAD, Microstation etc... and making the transition from 'flatland' to BIM not only requires learning new CAD software, it also requires a fundamental shift in thinking and update in how you use CodeBook.

In this post I'll cover some theory, planning principles, standards and technical elements - hopefully addressing some of the questions surrounding how we used to work in CodeBook 2.5D and how we now work in the BIM world.

Historically 'CodeBook Equipment' would consist of blocks/cells that were linked to the CodeBook library database containing the code, description, group, class and numerous other properties.

Stretching items, such as benchtops, would be driven from CodeBook as would equipment fixing heights. Typically you would 'load' all of the equipment @ FFL and specify the fixing height in CodeBook, so that when you created c-sheets, or room elevations, the front or side elevation of equipment would show the bench at the correct height.

This functionality hasn't really changed in CodeBook, but how this works in the BIM environment vs CAD flatland has changed. We no longer load flat graphical repesentations of equipment @ FFL, instead we load 3-dimensional objects @ the correct fix height, so that they instantly look accurate when viewed in elevation or 3D. Additionally, equipment is often stretched directly within the Revit or Archicad interface by updating parameters / properties.

So what does this mean from a CodeBook perspective? Well, we should still correctly define this information within CodeBook, however the control of these parameters/properties may be driven by the BIM platform and so we need to consider this in how we create our family/GDL objects and also map the fields in CodeBook to the corresponding parameter/properties.

Taking the example of a benchtop, generally you'll have a set number of types based on material, depth and thickness, but the fix height and width will vary from room to room. Within the Revit family, you'll draw an extrusion of the size / shape you require and enable the control of the width (image_1) and fix height (image_2) through assigning a parameter to a dimension and locking to a reference plane.

image_1

image_2

Recording / controlling these correctly in CodeBook requires mapping these equipment parameters within the project properties > administrator > cad and bim settings (image_3), plus project properties > administrator > define parameter mapping > equipment parameter mapping (image_4)

image_3

image_4

Configuring and mapping this data ensures that when you link equipment graphics in your library and also update designed equipment from your project, the correct values are recorded within CodeBook. There is another consideration you need to make - do you want to report the stretched size, or default size? In order to report the stretch size, you need to tick the checkbox 'output the sizes of items or stretched sizes from bim to reports' under Equipment library > Details > Options (image_5)

image_5

You can control fixing heights through CodeBook, by defining the fix height value in the CodeBook library, constructing your Revit family so that the fix height parameter is locked to the reference plane (top of bench) and mapping this parameter in CodeBook as described above. It is also possible (and perhaps more common practice) to control this in Revit, in which case you should select to 'place equipment blocks with a z height of zero' - which means that the fix height is determined by what you've defined in your Revit family.

Think about it this way - specify the fix height in your Revit family by locking the parameter to the reference plane, specify the fix height value in Revit and tick the 'place equipment block with a z height of zero'. CodeBook then ignores the value it has in the CodeBook Library and uses the default value you've specified in your family.

If you lock the parameter to the reference plane and specify the fix height to be zero in your family, leave the 'place equipment block with a z height of zero' unticked and CodeBook will insert the family using the fix height specified in your CodeBook library.

Controlling such parameters through CodeBook or directly in the BIM platform is a decision each practice needs to make individually - CodeBook can work with this whichever you choose.

Utilizing family types, graphical visibility options and the ability to stretch equipment are all technical Revit family options readily available. Practical considerations relating to modular sized items, construction and procurement though are often forgotten in the sea of BIM complexity. Just because you can embed complex functionality within your Revit families, doesn't necessarily mean that you should.

A classic example of this relates to cabinetry - you could create an adaptive Revit family that allows you to freely adjust the size, shape, material, shelving etc... but this freedom doesn't take into account key construction considerations. Building contractors and cabinet manufacturers will not want to custom make every cupboard on site, rather they will have a stock set of modular sizes they will use and so discreet family types based on these modular sizes is generally the preferred option.

When handing over a BIM model to the client, there is a requirement to have order and structure within the model, so that the procurement, fabrication and installation of equipment and furniture can be managed effectively. This is partly covered by IFC standards and partly by COBie, but the fundamental question you should be asking yourself is what do we need to design, how is it constructed and whether the item in question is a prefabricated modular item that should be based on what is available in the marketplace?

Having FF&E practice standards, based on building code compliance and market availability are where synergies across projects, studios or even geographic regions are gained - which ultimately lead to fewer defects, RFI's and greater profit on jobs.

Clarity of thought, for where Design and Innovation in best focussed and should be applied to projects is common sense that is not always common knowledge.

Understanding the downstream requirements of the contractor and client are considerations that need to be applied during the design phase, software doesn't do this for you. The "BIM enlightened" integrate these considerations early on, so that software can make the documentation and scheduling of complex building easier.

Make it happen...