Category Archives: Building Information Modelling

Presentation tools for BIM models

  • Independent Living Units - BIM vs Rendered image
  • Independent Living Units - Rendered image
  • Independent Living Units - Rendered image
  • Nazareth Catholic College - Caritas Building
  • Nazareth Catholic College - Caritas Building
  • Nazareth Catholic College - Caritas Building

Beautiful renders can really capture the atmosphere of a project and help show the client not only what their project will look like but also how the virtual space can become a useable one. But for many of our projects, spending hours on competition style rendering or the cost of outsourcing is just unrealistic.

In times past, smaller projects have been left with flat elevations and renders that can make it difficult to convey our true design intent to the client. It’s easy for us to imagine and trust in our vision for a building, but the process of client consultation can really benefit from the client sharing in this.

Over the past year we’ve found plug-in programs to be immensely useful for quick and easy render production. Creating convincing images and walk-throughs without the need to spend hours on settings, materials and editing, our plug-ins create rendered images in real-time using graphics from your BIM material library.

From fast white card models, to realistic rendering; this tool allows the client to gain a greater understanding of our designs – what they see is what they’ll actually get. The panoramas and whole model walk-throughs allow for a far more immersive experience and can be used to easily and accessibly bring VR into small projects.  It also means the rendered images are always easily updated as the BIM model changes.

The State of Virtual Reality in Architectural Practice – 2017 Part One – Where we are

At Russell and Yelland we have been working with Virtual Reality for a year now. We would like to share some of our experiences and lessons from this journey which we see as the early days of VR.

The term Virtual Reality is an oxymoron; it is the combination of unreal ‘virtual’ and real ‘reality’. Virtual in this context is the computer simulation of what our senses perceive to be the world around us: that is, Reality. From its beginning VR hardware has looked like a bulky, cumbersome set of goggles.    While the technology is evolving it’s appearance has not changed much.

VR is not a new thing but recently there has been renewed interest and big name technology companies are jumping on board.

There are two key factors which recently arrived and made Virtual Reality accessible for architectural firms such as Russell and Yelland. We already had the first piece of the puzzle, the virtual 3D model, because this is part of our regular architectural design workflow.

The recent innovations which have been able to plug into our architectural practice are;

  1. VR hardware, now accessible, user friendly and at a level of quality able to provide an immersive experience.
  2. Real-time rendering software, aka a ‘gaming engine’ that runs in our regular design environment.

A life-like experience where one can move around the environment requires a powerful computer to perform the real-time graphics processing to update the view corresponding to every movement the user makes. The hardware providing the best experience right now is a ‘head tracking virtual reality headset’; the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two products which have created the recent VR sensation. These headsets both launched consumer products in 2016. Both plug into a desktop computer and require additional sensors placed around the user to translate real world movement into the virtual environment. The VR hardware acts as both the screen and the input (keyboard/mouse), movements of the users head are translated to input commands for the virtual environment.

The virtual environment must respond instantaneously to the actions of the viewer to create a convincing reality. Without the recent development of graphics technology and ‘gaming engines’ we would have to wait hours for CAD software to render a single realistic image. While not a super realistic representation, what the gaming engines lack in detail they make up for with speed. Real-time speed. Using our regular design software we are now able to plug-in a gaming engine and see our digital models in a life-like view while; moving through them, working on a design or trying different options.

The graphic output required to present an immersive VR experience is beyond anything we require regular video to provide and it all comes down to the frame rate. Typically a video can look seamless at 24 frames per second but when you introduce head tracking (the ability for the viewpoint of the scene to move in relation to the users movements) the frame rate demand skyrockets. A typical video feed at 24 frames per second, strobes as you turn your head, leaving gaps of darkness in the path of your glance. This is referred to as ‘latency’, not only does latency disrupt the immersion of the scene it is also a cause of motion sickness. The output recommended for a realistic experience with a motion tracking VR headset is 90 frames per second (FPS) and that is per eye, as there is a unique image sent to each eye. Comparing that to the movie industry standard of 24, a quality VR experience is asking the PC to output a total of 180 FPS which is 7.5 times more images than a movie presents its viewers with. Even The Hobbit movie which created fanfare with its “High Frame Rate” of 48 FPS is not even a third of this frequency. With that perspective it is not surprising you need a very powerful PC to produce this graphic output.

Such a setup is not very portable, though we did take the whole kit to Brompton Primary School for a media event (as pictured), it is not something you would want to assemble every meeting. At a minimum it required; 5 power outlets, the desktop PC, the PC monitor, two independent sensors plugged in and on tripods and the headset link box. We also set up a projector so the students not wearing the headset could see what was happening in the virtual environment.

With all of the setup, bulk and cables between everything including from the users headset to the PC we have still found the experience and comprehension of a design to be unequalled by any other presentation method. There have also been a spectrum of ways we can share these experiences with varying dependence on technology.

Stay tuned for part two to hear what else we have been up to!

Step up, don’t step back…

Is stepping up to the small stuff also the path to improving the profession’s wider role in society?

In recent weeks I’ve heard some horror stories of projects going wrong. I don’t know all the details (and thankfully they are not our own projects) but there seems to be a common thread in many of them of architects simply not stepping up.

At the same time I’ve been reading about the architect’s role in society. Indy Johar, for example, states that for architects to have relevance “we must realign to focus  on all citizens and all their needs; not the construction and real estate industry  who are only a means for making our environment”.  He talks about both social and spatial justice to allow all citizens to flourish.

How are these connected? Is it because, in both cases, architects don’t step up?

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Point Clouds in Revit

What is a Point Cloud?

A point cloud is a digital representation of existing space in three dimensions. It is created by laser scanning existing buildings, spaces and structures, linking hundreds of thousands of such spatial coordinate ‘points’ together . The 3D map of points (often overlaid with a colour photographs) rendition of the points) and is then imported them into specialist software which can interface with our 3D building modelling systems.

Point Cloud - RGB
The above view is a point cloud, overlaid with photographic imagery

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Five Tips to Speed up your Revit

As for most budding architects who have used Revit on large projects, I have dealt with its labyrinthine interface sluggish performance.

From my experience I would like to share…

1. Auto Section Box

a. The section box in Revit is a great tool, and something that makes it even more powerful is my favourite Revit Add-In: the ‘Auto Section Box’. It saves time getting a good look at anything in 3D, no matter where it is in your model.
b. If you haven’t installed any Add-Ins before, you can get them from Autodesk’s Exchange Apps website. Clicking on the X in the top right of your Revit window will take you there. Once there, search for Coins Auto-Section Box, download and install it.  Most Add-Ins will install while Revit is running.

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c. Or simply go to: https://apps.autodesk.com/RVT/en/Detail/Index?id=appstore.exchange.autodesk.com%3acoinsauto-sectionbox%3aen

d. This Add-In allows you to automatically position a section box around any element in any 3D view

i.      Select the item you want to focus on. You can select it in any view or schedule

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ii. Click Add-Ins > Auto Section Box > then select the view you want and the size of the section box.

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iv. Press OK and the 3D view will open with the section box positioned around the item you selected

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v. I find this an efficient way to jump to a specific part of the model, or by selecting a floor it is a quick way to cut the top off and have a look inside a level in 3D.

vi. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on linked model items. [I set and use the short cut AS to quickly launch this tool]

2. Double-Click Options

a. Once you are familiar with the interface of Revit, power-up your double click options by making the double click action for all the available elements allow you to jump right in and edit the element. It is useful to activate any view on a sheet at the double click of the mouse: simply double click outside the view to deactivate it.

b. To set this up click on the big R, go down to Options > User interface > Double-click Options > customize… and set them all to Edit Family/Element and Activate View.

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3. The Shortcut to Keyboard shortcuts is ‘KS’

a. Have a look in the Keyboard shortcut settings by pressing K then S.

b. These are unique to each work station so go ahead and add some of your own.

c. You can have the same shortcut for multiple commands; if you do you may need to use the arrow keys to cycle through the commands available depending on the work environment you are in. press space bar to accept the what is displayed in the prompts area (bottom Left of the Revit window)

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d. One of my favourites is to have the shortcut ‘FF’ for; basically every finish command there is. eg. Finish Sketch, Finish Model and the many Finish Edit mode commands…

e. With the powered-up double click and the FF finish sketch you can quickly edit the boundary of a floor, for example, by double clicking on it, making the change to the outline the hitting FF and its done!

f. You can export your shortcut settings as a text file and load them on to another computer.

4. Microsoft KeyTips in Revit

a. KeyTips allow you to use any command in the ribbon without moving your mouse.

b. Press and release the alt key and you will see the key tips appear above the buttons on the ribbon.

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c. Once you press one KeyTip it will either activate the command or take you to the next set of options. My favourite use for this is quickly creating new sheets by pressing alt then V then NS

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5. Set your Windows theme to Basic

a. Speed up your Revit by setting your windows theme to basic, which will free up some memory and improve performance.

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i. Right click on your desktop and you will see a pop up menu: select personalize.

ii. Use Windows 7 Basic, which will save your computer thinking about all the pretty graphics and transparency in the Aero Themes.

Bonus tip!

a. If you aren’t toggling already you need to get on to it!

b. Press ctrl+tab to cycle through your open windows or ctrl+tab+shift to reverse the direction.

Thank you for reading, I hope this will save you some time!

From Project Team Integration to the Architect’s Trojan Horse…

Peter Barda, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Construction Industry Forum, has visited our office several times recently to conduct pilot Project Team Integration workshops for one of our projects.  This is based on the ACIF/APCC guide “A Framework for the Adoption of Project Team Integration and Building” using the “Project Team Integration Workbook”.

This allows all team members to discuss, in a very different way, how they might work as an integrated team, with great benefits to the whole project.

While with us, Peter gave our staff some off-the-cuff thoughts about the profession. He’s expanded those ideas in this month’s article for the Association of Consulting Architects: BIM – the Architects’ Trojan Horse.

It’s not all complimentary about our profession – but well worth a read!

3D Coordination

 

Galilee Catholic School Administration Building - cloud based model
Galilee Catholic School Administration Building – cloud based model

There has been much discussion recently about the role of an Architect , and as a profession we are aiming to explain to the community  what an Architect does., Having recently completed my registration studies, this topic has been of particular interest to me. Registration has opened my eyes to exactly how important it is for the Architect, as the lead consultant of the design team, to communicate and coordinate with all members of the project team through all stages of the project.

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The Gap Between Authority and Expertise

I recently wrote an article reflecting on the importance of the educated government client and architects that have a sophisticated understanding of the client organisation.

7 - Unnamed

Reviewing draft documents on Project Team Integration and the BIM process in government procurement, soon to be published by ACIF and APCC, it struck me once again how important the educated client and the mature approach to risk are in successful projects. In writing Deskilling and Reskilling Architects, I had been thinking about how architects might survive and flourish in this new world of construction. Perhaps the two are connected?

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Money for nothing…..

What would you pay for information? It isn’t a tangible object, you can’t hold it, sometimes you can’t even use it, but people pay for it all the time. In the gaming community alone in 2011 $3.7 billion was spent on virtual items -intangible objects which only exist virtually in an artificial environment. How can these items have this kind of value?

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Where is the value in BIM?

There is a great deal of commentary about the apparent value of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Much discussion revolves around costs associated technology, hardware, licensing, and how this cost is recovered. Are these costs the real impact on value?

To address this question I want to talk about bike helmets.

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