25 November 2008

Sometimes publishing isn't easy

If you have been following this blog you will recall that last week I received copies of my Revit Structure book. After myself and the other authors began checking it out we discovered to our dismay that the book's Foreward, provided by our good friend Nicolas Mangon, was inadvertently left out of the final digital source sent to printing.

Well the publisher is going to post it on their web site and when the book gets a second printing, it will be there, but in the meantime it is only fair to offer up any venue I have to get his statement out in the public eye. To that end, below is the Foreward for the Mastering Revit Structure 2009 book.

When I was only 5 or 6 years old, I decided to become a structural engineer like my father. Every weekend, my dad would take me to visit the construction sites he was working on. I enjoyed watching concrete being poured, rebar being bended and installed, and was fascinated by the cranes, formwork, and cement trucks. As a teenager, I got my first computer, and realized the power of programming and its ability to automate tedious work. I had a big dilemma; which career should I choose? Should I pick computer science or structural engineering? I decided to pursue both. My graduation thesis was naturally a mix of computer science and structural engineering. My passion for conceiving how I might be able to blend these two different fields of study led me to develop load distribution software for concrete structures. The software enabled engineers to pre-size concrete structures in a matter of hours, thus being able to evaluate the material quantities of steel and concrete. In realizing how fragmented the industry was in terms of process, roles, responsibilities, and task automation, I then decided that I would spend my career trying to create tools to streamline the design-to-construction process. Over the past 20 years, I have been involved in the design of software for structural engineers, drafters, and fabricators in Europe and North America. I’ve worked on a wide variety of products that cover all areas of the structural industry including structural modeling, structural analysis and design, steel and concrete detailing, and finally design of post tensioned and precast concrete structures.

In April of 2003, one year after Autodesk acquired Revit Corporation, I was hired by the founders of Revit to extend the product beyond simply an architectural based product to a complete structural package based on the same principles. I remember when I used Revit technology for the first time. I was amazed by its parametric approach and the great potential for the structural engineering community. I was very overwhelmed. I thought to myself; how do I get started? What do I include? On the positive side, I was starting with a blank canvas. The challenge for me was that I had no paint or brushes, or even subject! Through my past experiences, I’ve learned that you should never design software for yourself. I also remembered a line from a product management course that I had taken which was simply “your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant!” Not a very comforting thought, but probably very accurate.

With that in mind, I needed to gather information and input from potential users, industry experts, and engineers. I had to find people that could help me. I found myself chasing structural folks, who were interested in Revit Technology in blogs and forums, when I found Tom Weir from Brandow & Johnston in Los Angeles. I sent him an email to ask for his help. His reply was a resounding, “YES, YES, YES!” He reminded me that he had been in the industry for over 20 years, too! Tom was an early user of AutoCAD V2.6 and Softdesk Structural. He has been a model enthusiast since the beginning. Given Tom’s passion and energy, I jumped on a plane to pay him a visit. We spent quite some time reviewing his process and exploring his ideas. It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship that still continues to this day, and in fact, Tom has been involved in every release of Revit Structure.

A few months later, I was put in touch with Walter P Moore and Associates (WPM). We met to discuss software and technology. At WPM, all roads eventually lead to David Harrington. When it comes to technology, David has extensive experience on model-based technology, and specifically, Architectural Desktop. He is also a power user of AutoCAD. David and I had some very interesting discussions on how to move from an AutoCAD environment to a Revit environment. We still share the same passions and always continue our discussions each time we meet.

In June 2005, we launched the first release of Revit Structure. Even with such a young product, we immediately experienced tremendous interest from the community. I was invited to present BIM vision for structural engineers by Jamie Richardson from Ericksen Roed & Associates, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Jamie started working on multiple projects and rapidly became a Revit Structure expert. Jamie has made significant contributions in the development of the product. Lastly, I am one of the most loyal readers of the content put forth by Eric Wing editor and writer for Revit in AUGI World Magazine. Eric’s creative ideas and desire to take Revit Structure to a higher level for the Structural Engineering community is an inspiration that I am very excited about.

In my opinion, these four authors are a virtual “dream team” of Revit Structure expertise and industry knowledge. They all share the energy, the passion, and even the emotion for Revit Structure. Combined with thousands of users around the world, they play a vital role for the continued success and future enhancement for Revit Structure to make it the best product for the structural engineering community.

With a tighter introduction of analysis in the BIM process, with the new simulation concepts based on analysis, a more complete BIM including more data and details, and with more interoperability between the different disciplines (architects, MEP, fabricators, civil), we see a viral adoption of BIM within the structural community. We also know that we are just beginning a massive industry process change that will streamline the lifecycle of a project from design to construction and maintenance. Very few people have the opportunity to see their industry be transformed so dramatically. These are very exciting times and Tom, David, Jamie, and Eric are active contributors to this phenomenon.

I hope you enjoy this book. I know it will help you to become a more productive user of Revit Structure as it will open your eyes to new technologies and ideas while providing the vital tools necessary to design and build the greatest structures in the world!

Nicolas Mangon
Senior Structural Business Line Manager
Autodesk, Inc.

21 November 2008

Oui Paris!

I was chatting with Nicolas Mangon at Autodesk and being that he is French asked if had a 3D DWG file of the Eiffel Tower. Well he didn't, at least not at that moment. So he looked around and his fellow Autodesker(coworker) Pawel Piechnik came up with one. Impressionnant! He sent it to me as an AutoCAD DWG file. I ran it through a custom program here at WPM and stupéfier! A Revit Structure model of the Eiffel Tower!

Now, for sure the model is not complete. There are lots of little pieces not modeled. But what this does show is that there really isn't a project that can't be modeled if you want it bad enough.

I was going to post the files here but they really are too large for this blog. But if you want a copy, just drop me an email at dharrington(at)walterpmoore.com.

Au revoir!

18 November 2008

The book has arrived!

I got my fingers on my complimentary copy of the Mastering Revit Structure 2009 book published by Wiley! This puppy is nearly 800 pages - whoa. I am positive this manual will really knock the industry and spawn a lot of interest. So often it is the theme for engineers to just do things, you know, the hard way. That is how they are wired. But with this book they stop for a second and let someone else tell them how something should be done for a change!

13 November 2008

What you may not know about RST

As part of the advertising effort for the Mastering Revit Structure 2009 book coming out, my fellow author Jamie Richardson penned a list of 10 things you might not know. I know it may sound a little goofy but it actually is a pretty good list. To save you click time, here is the list:

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Working in Revit Structure

1. Structural Slab Properties: One of the instance properties of a slab is for it to be a structural slab. This is the default setting but can be set to be non-structural. If a slab’s layer function is set to display Structural Deck and its properties is set to be a Structural Slab, the flutes or profile of the deck will be visible in section views that are set to medium or fine detail levels. A slab with these characteristics can be copied into Revit Architecture which will take on the properties of a Structural Slab, thus displaying the flutes of the deck. This allows both structure and architecture to take advantage of the deck profile display.

2. Edit Structure Assembly Dialog: The bottom of slabs can be set to be flat while the top surface slopes. This can be done by setting the layer of the slab that is to be flat to be “Variable” in the Edit Structure Assembly dialog. The overall thickness must be as thick as the distance from the highest point of the top surface to the bottom of the slab.

3. Pressing the Spacebar: Pressing the spacebar while placing elements such as Structural Walls and Structural Columns will flip the wall about its location line or rotate the column about its insertion point prior to placing it in its final location. Pressing the spacebar after these elements are placed will perform similar behavior.

4. Selecting the Appropriate View: Dimension the outside face of an HSS Tube Steel member cannot be done when the view is set to a fine detail level. To place these dimensions, first set the view to a medium view, place the dimension by selecting the outside faces of the member, then set the view back to the fine detail level.

5. Callouts: Callouts can be placed to reference other views the same way Sections can be placed by selecting “Reference other view” from the Options bar prior to placing the Section or Callout. Callouts are a bit different in that views must be set to crop the view in order for them to display in the Reference other view pull down. If views are not showing up, check this setting.

6. Options Bar: When selecting the sketch lines while editing a slab shape, the Options bar displays additional information for adjusting the steel and concrete cantilever distance. Adjusting these settings allows for the steel deck to pull back from the concrete slab edge in a composite slab scenario.

7. Span Direction Tag: Rotating the direction of steel deck in a slab can only be done by using a Span Direction tag. If the slab is not tagged with a Span Direction, you must do so prior to rotating the steel deck direction. Once a Span Direction tag is in place the deck can be rotated by rotating the tag or by selecting the tag and choosing “Align Perpendicular” from the Options bar. Select the edge of slab to align the deck.

8. Breaking Stacked Walls: Stacked walls can be broken up into Basic walls by selecting them and right-clicking to select “Break up”.
9. Splitting Walls Horizontally: Walls can also be split horizontally. In a 3D or section view select “Split” from the Tool bar. Select the location for the wall to be split. When using this tool, the wall automatically creates a lock which locks the walls together vertically and horizontally. If one wall moves they will all move.

10. Reference Planes: Reference planes can be placed to attach elements to or used to cut elements by using the element attachment tools or the cut geometry tools on the Tool bars. After the reference planes are placed, it is recommended you give them a name so they are not mistakenly deleted. If they are deleted, the attachments or cut relationship to the elements are lost.

11 November 2008

Going to AU08?

You going to AU2008 in early December? If so, look me up, I'll be there! Aside from taking classes based on programs I don't know all that well, I'm teaching a class on developing Revit Structure standards which I am actually looking forward to. Standards have always been a fun topic for me - I guess because I have strong feelings about what looks good or not. Back in the day I was trained on manual drafting techniques so whenever I can I try to bring 'sexy back' to the CAD world.

Also while at AU, Wiley publishing is hosting the Mastering Revit Structure 2009 book authors in their booth at various times. Want to say hi? That might be the best way to find me. Another to option is the AUGI Booth. If I'm in the exhibit hall and not at Wiley's, I'll be over at the AUGI Booth hanging with the members. ;)

10 November 2008


Last week I traveled to Las Vegas to conduct Revit Structure training for engineers in that office of Walter P. Moore. It all went pretty well, no major suprises. The only real hickup was that I was out of sync with the beam tag family WPM was using in our default template. It was kind of a shock, leading the students down the tagging path only to not find the tags I was expecting. Luckily we stored the old tags on the server so we loaded those and kept on going. Then in the evening I asked others and looked at our internal RST change posts and learned we had moved to a newer single tag with multiple value capability. So then on the following day I brought the students up to speed and continued on.

I think this internal class was my 9th conducted. So far so good.