Thursday, February 28, 2008

Absolute and Relative Elevations in Revit Projects

Now that the spin from Autodesk's World Press Days is behind us, I figured it's time to get back to some general Revit tips and tricks.

Today, let's look at how you set the zero level in a project and display absolute elevation levels.

For example, suppose that Level 1 in your project is actually at 355-feet above sea level. Rather than physically moving the Level 1 datum up to 355'-0", you simply want it to display the actual elevation.

This is really quite easy to do. First, set the true project elevation by doing the following:

  1. Open a view that shows your project levels (such as an elevation or section view).

  2. Click Tools>Shared Coordinates>Specify Coordinates at a Point.

  3. Select a fixed point in your project (in a view that shows the elevation).

  4. In the Specify Shared Coordinates dialog box, enter the actual elevation of the point you selected, and then click OK.

Then, change the type properties of the level system family by doing the following:

  1. In a view showing the project levels (again, such as an elevation or section view), select any level.

  2. Right-click and select Element Properties from the shortcut menu.

  3. In the Element Properties dialog box for the Level system family, click Edit/New.

  4. In the Type Properties dialog, under Constraints, change the Elevation Base value from Project to Shared, and then click OK to close all of the dialog boxes.

The elevation labels will all change to show the true (absolute) elevations.

The following short video shows this procedure in action:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More Revit 2009 News

Yesterday I reported on what I learned about the next release of Revit Architecture at Day 1 of Autodesk's second annual World Press Days in San Francisco. Today, I'll unveil a bit more information—this time focusing on Revit MEP and some other exciting announcements made during Day 2.

[Disclaimer: Again, please remember that anything Autodesk showed at this event is still subject to change, so please don't assume that everything I describe will actually be included in the next release.]

In Revit MEP 2009, spaces will populate automatically from architectural spaces, and slivers (unoccupied spaces) can more easily be dealt with. Revit MEP will also now be able to deal with mechanical zones. The heating and cooling dialog has been updated to show spaces and zones, and the resulting report enhanced to include check sum values. Users will also be able to export light fixture data to IES to do lighting calculations.

For plumbing, flow values are now converted from fixture units and a slope tool shows which way pipe is sloping. According to the product specialist I spoke with, the new release includes much more 3D content, although I did not get a chance to see how extensive this new collection of components really is. Users can also bring 3D AutoCAD blocks into the Family Editor.

Users will now be able to model in elevation and section views. There's also a tag on placement option and the ability to add MEP detail lines as separate objects from architectural detail lines. And of course, all three versions of Revit 2009 will use Autodesk's mental ray rendering engine.

At the AEC breakout session, product specialists showed how all of Autodesk's products help deliver on the promise of BIM. The demonstration began with preliminary design of a building using a rules-based approach in Autodesk Inventor (yes, Autodesk is now promoting Inventor as a tool for use in building design) and a free-form modeling approach using Maya. We then watched team members use Hydraflow Storm Sewer Extension for AutoCAD Civil 3D and HVAC load calculations performed using the HVAC Load Calculation Extension from newly acquired Carmel Software. Steel detailing can now be done by exporting the Revit Structure analytical model to AutoCAD Structural Detailer from Robobat, a company Autodesk acquired last fall. The Revit Structure 2009 Suite will include the AutoCAD Structural Detailing application.

But perhaps most exciting were two announcements made during a Media & Entertainment industry workshop. Autodesk announced that it would release two different versions of 3ds Max: 3ds Max 2009 and 3ds Max Design 2009. 3ds Max Design is a customized version of the software, optimized for use by architects, designers, and engineers. It will have the same functionality as 3ds Max with the addition of new exposure lighting analysis technology to assist with LEED 8.1 certification and the elimination of the Software Development Kit (SDK).

Autodesk also showed off a new technology under development, codenamed "Newport." Autodesk representatives prefaced the demonstration by asking "What if visualization could be easy? What if it could be learned over lunch?" Newport was initially talked about at Autodesk University, but today we got a chance to actually see Newport in action.

Running on a system with multiple quad-core CPUs, Newport is a "sandbox" for visualization that eliminates many existing limitations. This R&D application was able to render a Revit-based model placed into its real-world environment, with photorealistic materials and lighting and interactive motion and animation in real-time. It understands the Revit model. Users can dial in a stylistic scheme and then replace it later with a more realistic scheme. It can handle real-time presentations and HD-quality output.

I'll finish off this posting with a video of the Newport technology demonstration.

[Disclaimer: Remember that this is a technology demonstration only. This is not a product and may never actually be available as a product. Also please note that this video was shot from an LCD display using a handheld camera.]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's New in Revit Architecure 2009

As I've told many of my PPI clients, I am spending the first part of this week at Autodesk's World Press Days in San Francisco. This is an annual event at which the company unveils its new products to press and analysts from all over the world.

Today consisted of opening sessions during which Autodesk representatives laid out the broad picture of where the company is heading with its product development efforts. Autodesk also had selected customers from each discipline show how they are using Autodesk products. The presentations were all quite compelling, and I'll report on them in a future posting, but I know that those of you in the Revit community are most interested in what's new in the next release of Revit.

Although there were no actual product demonstrations today (those will come tomorrow), I did have an opportunity to get a brief look at what's planned for the next release of Revit Architecture and Revit MEP.

[Disclaimer: Autodesk was very careful to preface the day's presentations with a statement that there was no guarantee that what they showed would actually be in one of its products, so please don't assume that just because I saw something today that it represents the feature set of the next release. Until the actual product launch, features are still subject to change.]

The enhancements in Revit Architecture 2009 fall into three general categories:

  • Control and flexibility
  • Design and visualization
  • Performance and integration

In the control and flexibility department, look for improved dimensions and text, with enhancements such as the ability to dimension to intersections and arc centers. Users will also have more control over text formatting and the ability to replace dimensions with text. But since altering dimensions could potentially corrupt the BIM model, this feature has been implemented in such a way that a user can completely replace a dimension with a text string (or add a prefix or suffix), but Revit will not allow the user to replace a dimension with a substitute dimension. So you can change a dimension on a stair section to read “See floor plan” for example, but you couldn’t change a tread dimension from 11” to 12”.

The biggest change in Revit’s design and visualization enhancements is the news that Autodesk has finally removed AccuRender from Revit and replaced it with the much more powerful mental ray rendering engine. That’s the same renderer found in all of the other Autodesk products, including VIZ and 3ds max. That means that not only will Revit users now have physically accurate lights, photometric lights, and real sun and sky settings, but they’ll also get a new material library—the same material library found in VIZ and 3ds max. Users will lose AccuRender’s fractal trees, but will get RPC content for trees. And perhaps more significantly, users will no longer need to save to DWG in order to get their models into VIZ or max, but rather will be able to save to FBX, which captures geometry, lights, materials, settings, and perspective. Render settings will also be simplified so that architects don’t have to wade through a myriad of dialog boxes just to produce a pretty picture.

Performance and integration enhancements include improvements in initial program startup and plotting. Revit will now open onto a dashboard showing recent projects rather than taking the time to open a blank project. The new release also incorporates some UI tools already available in other Autodesk products, such as steering wheels for navigation and a view cube for orienting a 3D model.

I saw lots of other subtle enhancements (such as improvements to revisions, rooms, and view templates) that should make it into the upcoming release. I also got my first look at Revit MEP and AutoCAD 2009, and I’ll report on many of the additions to those programs in future postings.

Tomorrow Autodesk will do formal presentations on all of its new products, so I’m sure I’ll pick up more information than I was able to assimilate during my brief look this afternoon, so stay tuned.