Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Just today I was upgraded to the 2013 versions of ACAD MEP and Revit (which is apparently now a 'design suite' - I guess that makes sense...). 

While I always save my settings in case of a crash, I almost never import them - but thanks to having just set up ACAD 2012 on my new computer a few weeks ago, I had it 100% ready to rock in about 10-15 minutes (the only mistake I made when setting up the QAT was having 'extend' and 'trim'  backwards, which made me do a doubletake for a second the first time I did it.  A handful of other settings were easy to fix - getting a BLACK background (not washed out gray), right click as enter (all the time), up arrow displaying snaps instead of previous coordinates, turned off the 'ribbon', etc.

I will tackle Revit in the morning, which (if I am not mistaken) should FINALLY have the ability to modify the 'ribbon' so that I can at least get 'M' and 'P' crap out of my way (although I'm *this* close to eliminating any dependence on the ribbon through the use of keyboard shortcuts and the QAT).  I don't know if I can turn it off, but there is supposed to be a way to revert it back to pre-ribbon (I may or may not fuck with that - especially if I am able to modify the 'ribbon' to my liking (it's going to be minimized 99% of the time though).

It will take a few minutes to set up all of my Revit keyboard shortcuts again (I still don't understand why so many aren't set to anything by default...), but I have a list of the most important ones (it also helps that I can still access the 2012 releases of both programs if I need to see how I had something set).

I'm not holdng out any hope that this ths release of Revit will be any kind of noticeable improvement though.  Autodesk has already done what it set out to do - fuck over everybody.  In the meantime I'll keep cranking out jobs in ACAD, make tons of money for my firm, and laugh at all of the losers who get to spend all day with their dicks in their hands attempting to Revit.

It really would be funny if it weren't for the fact that I carry these idiots on most jobs - with any profits being eaten up by the time it takes them to model endlessly and pointlessly.  Seriously - fuck Autodesk, fuck Revit, and fuck these people.


I've gotten a lot of my chest, but I still feel I have barely scratched the surface - I really lack the words to explain exactly how much I despise Revit, so for a change, I'm going to talk about things that I actually like about Revit (this should be a short one).

First we'll talk about it from the design aspect.

Looking at some of the designs that  people have done with it, especially when they export them out to other programs to flesh them out, complete with textures, lighting, etc. (or even before that in some cases) - I have to be somewhat impressed.  They still strike me as being an inefficient way of making what basically breaks down to being a rendering - but I do understand the excitement of seeing your design 'come to life' in the digital realm.

While I complain about all of the things that architects don't understand about my designs, they are more likely to have to deal with the client.  They like to dazzle the client, and 2D pieces of paper (while they are still what ends up being issued for construction) just don't do that.  Giving them a walkthrough of a fully rendered design blows their minds - and the fact that it has 'intelligence' and can be manipulated in real time gives it a serious edge over a 'dumb' rendering.

The passion that somebody like 'The Revit Kid' (although, seriously - he can still go fuck himself) shows for their design work is awesome.  Even a fairly basic design looks considerably more impressive when you can orbit it in 3D - even if it isn't necessarily an elaborate piece of work.  If someone is really enjoying the way that Revit allows them to design - then more power to them.

It varies from firm to firm, but some architects only ever get to do a tiny handful of actual 'architecture' projects (if any), while they spend the rest of their careers cranking out boxes to pay the bills.  The same goes for me when it comes to lighting design.  I might get to slap a few decorative fixtures on a project from time to time, but it is rare that I get to break out the really cool fixtures (and even rarer that they don't get 'value engineered' out of the project (another topic for another day).

I guess the main thing about Revit is that it has the potential to be an incredible design tool - if its users would simply hold Autodesks feet to the fire and force them to back up all of their talk with a real set of software instead of the half-ass bullshit that the've been pushing.

Value? Engineering?

'Value engineering' is a misleading term used to describe the process of taking a project that has been painstakingly designed and specified - and because someone (or many someones) involved with the project can't comprehend the concept of 'budgets' - attempting to swap out low-cost 'equivalents' for various materials and equipment.

Sometimes this is due to money that the client thought they had not coming through - and so they are simply going to have to make do with less fancy light fixtures, wall treatments, etc. - although a lot of time it is because you handed someone a half-assed set of software, and had them waste inordinate amounts of time modeling it - only to find out that (way too late) that the thing they've been spending so much time nitpicking every detail of can't actually be built based on the budget set out at the beginning of a project.

I can't count the number of times that I have had a Reviteer come to me - over and over - wasting time working out every detail of some feature on a building, only to find out later that the feature wasn't even actually intended to be part of the design. 

Fortunately for my part, all I have to do is slap together some schematics, tweak them as they make endless changes, and then toss it off to the side (or save it into my detail library - I rarely throw anything away). 

On their part they have modeled it, remodeled it, fought Revit at every turn, figured out workarounds, and then... had to toss it.  Feasibly hours and hours of work - all because nobody was actually communicating, because they all had their collective heads up their asses playing with Revit.

This is most commonly a problem with less experienced architect interns or designers/drafters - and the result is immediately noticeable in the massive files that they generate - despite important information (like all of the walls or ceilings) missing or entered incorrectly.

A more talented and experienced architect with Revit will develop a different type of model - stripped back, fast, and most important of all - accurate. 

They know what is important to get everybody working and coordinating - and only worrying about pretty details, finishes, and lighting effects to make the model look like a rendering AFTER the important information has been put in place (if at all).

I have a theory that it's because the inexperienced ones are more concerned about LOOKING like they are doing something rather than actually doing it.  These will be the ones that have tracked down Revit families of chairs, desks, computers, phones, etc. to put in their model, but two days before the project is due, you come to find out that they don't have a single wall in the right place, the wrong kind of ceilings in most of the spaces (if any at all), and that they have made some fundamental errors at the beginning of the project that are now making it necessary to figure out workarounds for every single change they make.

Even if I'm not in Revit, this fucks me over, because they have to be to a fairly certain degree of completion before I (and other engineering disciplines - regardless of software) can be finished.  If I was chasing them around in Revit, they would get punched twice instead of only once.

Then I rush, get done, only to find out that all of the fixtures that I have carefully selected (in order to properly light areas - and know that they are of a certain quality - and have decent warranties) are going to be replaced with sub-standard fixtures that will not properly light areas (although - this won't stop them from coming back and complaining to me about the poor results).

Basically - if the design was the focus, and worrying about modeling everything to perfection was not - then the times we have to crank back the project in order to meet a budget would be reduced.  We often like to comment that they want to swap out lights, hvac, etc - but architects never want to give up their pretty windows, or other features that they have spent days getting 'just right'.

All this discussion of Construction Documents is making me sick...

All of this discussion of Construction Documents leads us to the next stage in every projects life.  One that many 'drafters' or 'Revit Monkeys' don't really have to deal with much, but which Engineers and actual Designers have to not only plan for - but actively get involved with if they don't want to get thrown under the bus for 'delaying' a project.

It is that truly magical time when drawings finally get issued - knowing that you have put your best effort into making sure that you crossed every i, dotted every t, and that nobody else managed to fail to mention items of major importance, even despite repeated questioning (or worse - told you incorrectly).

Tossing it up there, and seeing if it soars, or comes crashing to the ground.  It depends on a lot of people, not just 'cogs in a wheel', but actual thinking, intelligent, individuals working together towards a common goal.

Then it gets handed to the contractor.

Now, there are all kinds of contractors - big contractors, little contractors, smart contractors, stupid contractors, honest contractors, less-than-honest contractors, hard working contractors, lazy contractors, contractors who show up in suits and ties, and contractors who look like they just drug themselves out of the ditch near the bar where they passed out last night.

Some bid on jobs, some of these bids are public (usually depending on where the money comes from), some are sealed, some are selected by the client, some... well - some I have no idea how in the fuck they get the job, but you generally have to work under the 'lowest-common-denominator' assumption.  Someone once told me that you have to make CD's that can be comprehended by a four year old, because that might very well be the mental ability of the contractor who gets it.

With the economy tanked, they are much less likely to work with you on items (despite the fact that they are supposed to have contingency money for little items in their bids).  They used to be a little bit easier to work with - but even then they would bid a job low to undercut their competition, get the job, and then try to make up the difference with change orders.  You have to watch these guys, especially because they are going to be going through the architect for most of them, and since a lot of architects (or their lackeys) don't have any clue what is actually involved to change something electrically any more than I would know how much it would be to make a change to something architectural (although again, I do know quite a bit).

I've had a girl walk up to my bosses desk and say 'they are moving two outlets from 18" up to 48" where we added a countertop - does $3,000 sound about right?'  These attempts to slip things past us aren't necessarily always due to dishonesty - they are often getting it in the neck for other things, and simply trying to make up the difference.  Some things can dick over a contractor - breakers for example.  They are cheap as hell if you order a panel loaded with them, but to buy one by itself, the manufacturer will rape you for it.

Another quick story - we had a bank that was designed by one of the guys who got laid off.  It was under construction, and we had run into a handful of minor mistakes on his drwaings that we easy to correct, and then they noticed that he had shown an electrical panel in the elevator equipment room (which is typically sacred space - reserved only for elevator equipment).  The solution was easy enough - the architect created a small closet on the floor above it, and I moved it there.

The contractor came back with a price of $10K.

Now - keep in mind, the panel hadn't been installed yet (I don't think it was even on-site), but they were trying to claim that 'all of the conduits/wires (which hadn't been installed yet either) are going to have to be longer'.  We requested a line item breakdown of the $10K, and then went to work seeing what all was actually involved.

Okay - the conduit/wire feeding the panel did have to longer by about 10', and there were one or two HVAC on the lower levels that were going to have to extend the same distance, but the rest of the circuits (and the most massive) it was feeding were all on the roof - and the panel had just gotten 10' closer to them, basically making it a wash (or based on my calculations, that they needed to give the customer a refund - although we didn't push that issue since it was our designer who fucked it up in the first place).

Technology Smechnology

We're going to veer off course here for a minute - but this is a related topic that I feel very strongly about.

You always hear (at least since the beginning of the industrial revolution) about each generation, and the greater levels of technology that they are exposed to. The assumption is always that children who are exposed to this technology, and become used to it, also gain an inherent understanding (or 'savvy') of how it functions, and how to use it.

Older generations are - of course, inept, clinging to outdated ideas.  Any ability they have to comprehend or use modern technology is due to having it explained to them by someone younger, and therefore 'savvy'.

There is never the consideration that they used to do things a particular way for a reason, or that the way you are doing them now might have unforeseen consequences.  This isn't just a 'respect your elders', 'back in my day', or 'get off my damn lawn' rant - it's something to take into serious consideration.

The fact is - the average 'kid' today knows about as much regarding technology as a caveman knew about particle physics.  They can turn on devices, and use them - and that's about it.  Despite access to instantaneous communication, there is a lack of actual communication ability.  E-mails (especially hastily assembled ones can often confuse or anger the person you are sending them to because you lose tone of voice, gestures, etc. that communicating in person prevents your words from being misinterpreted.

There is a fascinating amount of new technology being developed every day, but what gets marketed and sold to consumers under the auspices of making them 'smarter' or more 'high tech' is often just that - marketing.

Legal Eagle

So - liability.

On top of the liability that a firm can run into if it doesn't get drawings issued on time (a lot of Revit cheerleaders also don't know anything about contracts - and what happens if you do not fulfill them), there is also the liability that an architect or engineer takes on when they issue construction documents. 

As a designer, I do not immediately take on this liability - however my boss does, and if he gets it square in the nuts because of a mistake I make (though he is responsible for reviewing everything I do) then even if I was going balls deep on the Revit cock I wouldn't be here much longer.  Everybody makes mistakes, but all it takes is one major one that leaves either he or the firm exposed to liability, and it's 'GTFO' time.

Most of these major things don't come up until the building is under construction - or indeed, until after it is built.  Once (hopefully) clear, easy to understand, and hard to misinterpret construction documents get issued, then they are immediately torn a new asshole by all of the people involved in the next stage of the project.  They are subject to approval by Fire Marshall's (Local, State, Federal - depending on project), Electrical Inspectors (same), and other Authorities Having Jurisdiction or 'AHJ' that are specific to the project - like the FAA for example (for projects in or around airports), local utilities, telephone/cable, etc., etc.,  and of course - the contractors (who will get their own post soon) bidding the job.

I have always found it amazing that the Fire Marshall's offices can review and review, make comments, request corrections/alterations to designs, but then when they show up in the field, it's like you are dealing with a completely different organization.  Often it's not the same guy who reviewed it - and despite being fairly good at their jobs - I have run into at least one problem where a NICET 4 certified Fire Marshall inspector was making erroneous claims (that my NICET 5 certified fire alarm installer buddy slapped down).  They usually get whatever they want, but not that time.

At any rate - a Fire Marshall can come into a completed building, point and demand tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment be installed, and withhold the clients certificate of occupancy.  Guess who they are going to blame?  The Fire Marshall?  No.  The contractor?  No.  It's coming directly back into the lap of the engineer (and/or the firm he is partnered with).  The same goes for any other AHJ, and if schedules get screwed up because of it - then it's going to get ugly.

Liability And You

Wow - we've covered a lot of ground. I say 'we' in the royal sense - since I don't know (or give a fuck) if anyone else has taken the time to read any of my rants. With an internet overflowing with peoples idiotic opinions (and porn), this is probably more therapy than anything else. I accept all criticisms and comments that anyone might like to share (unless you work for Autodesk - in which case you need to go fuck yourself).

Today we're going to talk about something that I mentioned early on - the reasoning behind doing things the way that I (and others) do them. Like I said then - not that I need a reason, but they are many, and mostly revolve around little things like liability. Anyone who has worked in this industry for any period of time understand the importance of Construction Documents that are accurate, easy to read/comprehend (more on that next time), easy to reference, easy to modify, and difficult for anyone else to fuck up for you.

Some have managed to accomplish this task with Revit, and I applaud them their successes - they have been hard won.  While almost none of those I talk to on a regular basis would ever consider going back to ACAD, most are painfully aware of the shortcoming of Revit.  Some have decided (not altogether un-wisely in these trying times) to simply 'go along to get along'.  Autodesk was extremely lucky in this scenario - besides making it easier to frighten firms into being 'left behind', it also made it easier to demand a radical change in the way their employees were doing things, otherwise 'we fire you'.

Ironically, at least 3-4 Reviteers (or willing victims if they weren't already on-board) from my department were axed, while the remaining team (including myself) was staunchly ACAD - and still demanding that Architects be responsible for exporting and updating all necessary drawings for reference.  One was brought back when things picked up a little, and had picked up some Revit training in the interim - and the rest have been more or less forced into it, leaving me as the single 'hold-out' (read: guy who manages to juggle 2-3 times the workload of the rest of the team (or anyone else in the firm for that matter). 

A lot of co-workers can't figure out how I've been able to manage keeping my middle finger up at Revit for this long and still have a job - the answer is in the money.  I make money for my firm hand over fist.  I have seen some VERY impressive Revit models cranked out over the last couple of years - but the time and effort involved (and the coordination problems still plaguing these projects in the field) definitely don't work out in the cost to benefit analysis.  From the get go - my main concern was, what happens when someone jumps into Revit with both feet, and despite a good attitude, resources, training, etc. they simply cannot complete projects on time or on budget?

I was told that since it was Revit, it wouldn't be a problem because it is so awesome.  Reality tells a much different story.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Comprende Amigo?

Righty right.

I mentioned 'The Revit Kid' before - who has apparently procured employment at some firm or another, where I can guarantee that he is annoying as hell, but does seem to be interested in at least trying to help out other disciplines where he can.  Chances are this experience has shown him that no, not all disciplines are working with a fully functional set of software that has been developed sufficiently to take into account the complexities of that discipline.

He mentions a back-and-forth discussion regarding phase loading/calculation - and is actually not only intelligent enough to realize, but also humble enough to admit, that he does not know enough about electrical engineering to understand much of what is being said.  This is a huge step for a lot of architect/designer types to take - and one that many never actually do.  Unfortunately his links to the hand-out or whatever are broken, but, like I said at least he is becoming aware that there are other disciplines - each with its own set of problems to overcome.

His ability to help doesn't necessarily depend entirely on understanding everything to do with the problem - and in fact, I have had many non-electrical co-workers be able to catch mistakes that I have overlooked.  I am always appreciative of it - especially because they tend to be very 'now I don't know - but I thought I would give you a heads up' kind of mentality (I try to reciprocate if I catch an error that I think they have made).  Although for every mistake I've had someone point out, I've probably had dozens who simply didn't understand enough to know that it was correct (I try to be nice about it though - because I really do appreciate any attempt at help).

This is exactly the issue though - most people can't comprehend what is on my drawings.  They know that there are various pieces of equipment, panels, lights, receptacles, etc. - and despite it not really being all that difficult to understand (I will take the time to explain it to some people, if I think they might benefit from a little extra knowledge), a lot of peoples brains shut completely off as soon as they look at an electrical drawing.  Obviously the same thing might happen to me if I'm looking at an HVAC, plumbing, civil, structural, or architectural drawing (although I have had considerable experience with each - and have turned out a handful of small projects where I had a hand in designing all aspects of them).

And therein lies the trick - I have to assume that the people who are going to be reading my drawings understand them, without over-assuming or leaving too much to interpretation.  I can spell things out if I think there might be room for confusion, but at the same time I try to keep from filling the page with unnecessary notes.  One of our former electrical designers had a penchant for putting dozens and dozens of keyed notes on his drawings, often repeating the same information in multiple locations - making it necessary to scrub the notes every time a change was made to make sure they all agreed.

I have had what are supposed to be qualified people to have serious trouble understanding my drawings (or more accurately - the design intent of my drawings).  This is usually worked out with a couple of quick explanations in an addendum (or directly), and I can usually tell if the person was just clarifying versus someone who is just incompetent (which you run across from time to time). 

Sometimes I almost have to grab them by the head and force them to look at the drawings - otherwise they will go around telling the client, the general contractor, other people at our firm (or even my immediate boss) that we have made a mistake/omission.  Like I said, mistakes happen, but the only thing I hate worse than making a mistake is having someone make me second guess myself (and/or throw me under the bus).

I absolutely love the feeling when someone tries to call me out (especially on projects that have been issued for a while, but are just now getting bid or built), and due to having clear, concise CD's wtih things laid out exactly as I want them to be, I can easily point at them to the correct answer, or due to my exceptional organizational ability to point them to where someone specifically requested something to be change.  Things still fall through the cracks, but I make absolutely sure that the same thing doesn't ever fall through the same crack again.

A quick story about something that happened to me early on at my current firm.  I completed a design, which is reviewed by the fire marshall, electrical inspector, etc. and issued.  It is completely built, when an inspector (I think it was someone with the utility) came back and requested that a wall be built around the service entrance transformer due its proximity to an exit from the building.  The architect comes over and starts reading us the riot act because it's going to be expensive, why did you put it there, etc. etc.

My boss goes down to chill them out - I go to digging through my job folder (I rarely, if ever throw anything away), my eyes light up when I find a particular piece of paper.  I walk downstairs with it, just in time to catch my boss walking out of the architects office with the 'I just got chewed out' look on his face.  I hold up the piece of paper, which shows the original location of the transformer at the corner of the building (well away from any exits)  which is circled in red pen, with an arrow pointing to the location near the exit with the words 'move here'.

I hand it to him and ask 'whose handwriting does that look like?' (already knowing that it's the architect who just got done chewing him out).  He gets a huge smile on his face, turns around and walks back into their office.  A few minutes later he comes back upstairs (still smiling), hands me the paper, and says something the lines of  'HELL YES SON!'


One of the best analogies I've ever come up with when comparing CAD to Revit is that the former is like having a complete set of sockets, wrenches, and other tools - while the latter is like having a hammer. I can take bolts off with a hammer - given enough time, and if nobody gives a fuck about the result - but why? Especially when I already have a tool that is so multi-functional that it is like having a pair of swiss-army vicegrips with built in bolt-cutters, screwdrivers, a cutting torch, and welder. All of the 'tools' that Revit claims to bring to the party only make it more difficult to complete even the simplest of tasks. Burying important tools under several tons of shit, and a useless 'ribbon' that I am close to eliminating any need for with a combination of keyboard shortcuts (many of which should have been automatically assigned to the first two letters of the goddamned word), and the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT - although I hate that fucking Three Letter Acronym (TLA). The QAT revolutionized the way I used ACAD - I don't actually remember when it showed up, but I know exactly when I started using it because it was at the same time as the 'ribbon' showed up. (I think it might've shown up in '09 - which I believe was when it showed up in Revit). I went straight from '08 to '10 - and the first thing I did was turn off the ribbon, slapped a few commands up on the QAT, and I was rocking on a whole new level. I have one line of QAT a the top of the screen, a transparent line with min/max/close on the right and [-][Top][2D Wireframe] on the left (that I wish I could get to fuck off - interestingly enough the 2012 release managed to try to convince people that (out of the box) you should be drawing on a washed out dark grey rather than a nice dark contrasting black that is easy on the eyes (more on that in a sec). At the model I have one line with model/layout tabs (that I wish I could get to fuck off - more on that in a sec too), and then one more line with coordinates, snap/grid/ortho/polar/osnap (all of which I toggle with Function Keys), plus miscellaneous stuff on the right, almost all of which could be eliminated. I switch between drawings with CTRL+TAB, and now with Windows 7, they show up in Windows almost like separate instances of the program. At any rate, it gives me a vast swath of real-estate to do my work in. I remember arguing with users/IT people years ago about how important it was to not have a bunch of crap that I'm not using taking up space - especially once large flat panels became the norm (I've been using computers since the TRS-80 and Apple IIe mind you - although my first home computer was a TI4a that plugged into a television set, so I had a huge monitor decades ago). The fact is I'm looking at a drawing that might be 24" x 36", 30" x 42", or even 36" x 48" - and I need to be able to see as much as possible. Revit shoots that mentality square in the nuts though - with menus and ribbon all taking up space. Putting them on a second (or third or fourth) monitor works best, although attaching keyboard shortcuts to the project browser and properties were steps one and two, minimizing the ribbon was next - although invariably there will be some idiotic command you have to pull it down and access (I'm slowly eliminating these by putting them on the Revit QAT (or should I say 'TWAT' - as in Totally Worthless Access Toolbar - since even once I have commands at my disposal the rest of the software sucks). I have yet to find a way to completely eliminate the 'ribbon' completely (although there are instructions available online for reverting it back to a 'classic' interface - which thank god for that at least). Okay - now a few words about how I use ACAD. I attempted to convince some of the Revit cheerleaders early on that I needed them to stop sucking on the Revit cock for a minute to see if there was something in my workflow that could be changed in order to make the transition. Unfortunately at the mention of anything other than 'Revit is God' their brains went into shutdown. Projects continued to come at a furious pace - and, of course, the economy taking a nosedive resulted in layoffs, meaning that even with a slowdown, my workload never actually decreased (if nothing else - it increased, on top of having to de-clusterfuck the projects that those who had been laid off had left in their wake. In short - I needed my tools to be functioning at warp fucking speed in order to even come close to completing projects on time. I couldn't be stopping every five minutes to figure out some kind of 'workaround', or hunt on the internet for three hours to figure out if anyone had any idea how to accomplish some (seemingly) basic task (answer: they didn't). Okay - so a black background. First and foremost. I was able to switch Revit to black as well, but again - a black background does not a fully functioning piece of software make (sorry - I went Yoda there for a minute, and Model Space - it's all you need. Obviously there are about as many ways of using ACAD as there are people - which is one of the beauties of it. Some level of CAD standards are necessary if you are going to have multiple people working on the same project, and have any kind of consistency - but as long as everyone is following the most important principles (most importantly - don't fuck with anybody elses drawings), then a little variety in the way it is used won't hurt anything. I have had the model vs paperspace argument for as long as I have been doing electrical design. At the first firm I worked at, they were strictly using model space until they hired a woman who thought that paper was the way to go. Watching her work was like pulling teeth - as she was constantly working in model windows inside of paperspace, and every time she would zoom it would mess up the scale, she would have to undo it (if she noticed it). Now, I know some people who use paperspace with a high degree of proficiency and with great success. I do not argue with these people, especially when they are in different disciplines - but I do not concede that it is necessarily superior. Working with details with multiple scales on the same sheet is one place where paperspace shines, and I can understand the reasoning behind having one file containing all of your drawings, however there are some downsides to this as well. When I first started designing (and for some time after) each sheet would have its own file. Interestingly, this did not preclude the use of paperspace for layout/scaling, but it had the major advantage of several people being able to work on different aspects of the same project - all at the same time. The downside was coordination, but this could be done with a little copy/paste, XREF, or simply by people talking to each other (perish the thought) but go into a 'paperspace only' drawing with multiple sheets on separate layers all drawn in model space (which is how it is supposed to be done, the only thing that should be in paperspace is the titleblock and views - this seems to escape some people) and you will have a mongolian clusterfuck. Multiple users can access it, but only by saving copies, and then carefully cutting and pasting to compile them. This actually is one place where the concept of Revit, if not the reality of Revit, shines - although I can guarantee multi-user functionality (and BIM for that matter) could have been added. Fast-forward a few years, remove a few employees, and 99.9% of our projects are being done front to back by one person, and I eventually shifted into my present mode - one file for the entire project, but done completely in model space. Each sheet gets its own titleblock, scaled as necessary. A boundary box that doesn't print allows each sheet to be selected in a window for printing. Flip on VPORTS, and you can be in 2, 3, or even 4 places in the same project. Revit managed this - but you have to open multiple views in order to accomplish it. The beauty of the way I have been doing it, is that when you zoom extents in a single viewport - the whole fucking project is right there in front of you. Not strewn across multiple views, tabs, etc. - ALL RIGHT THERE. This way of working did not come overnight - but was the culmination of years of fighting to keep track all of the information I was attempting to compile, sort, and display where I could access, manipulate, and review it. Even some Revit die-hards have given me some credit (although you won't hear them doing it in front of their Revit buddies) because it was such a simple solution, and yet so elegant. Printing might take an extra minute - however it makes you actually look at the drawings you are plotting, rather than simply dumping four tons of data onto the plotter. It is also incredibly easy to leave yourself notes, or mark where you left off. It is necessary to export and regularly update backgrounds, and there is little to no coordination with Revit (although I have, on a few projects, conceded to at least put major pieces of equipment, lights, and other 3D elements into the Revit model for coordination purposes - and almost instantly regretted it). The fact is - almost all of my equipment is easily relocated in the field. A light is interfering with ductwork (despite an RCP & Mechanical being done in Revit)? Move that fucker a few inches - problem solved. I don't claim to be some kind of psychic who can coordinate everything and eliminate all issues in the field - but neither can someone who is attempting to model everything in Revit. I have watched untold hours be wasted attempting to coordinate ductwork with structure - they finally get it just right, and while it is being constructed the owner decides to install taller racks than they originally intended, and there they are making custom ductwork fittings to squeeze the ductwork closer up against the structure. Even my electrical panels aren't sacred - beating enough space out of an architect for the necessary equipment, in the necessary locations is yet another constant fight. I am given: triangular electrical rooms, electrical rooms shared with mechanical equipment that is sufficient to fill the room by itself, electrical rooms that have janitor mop sinks located directly above them on the next floor (while also being triangular), electrical rooms that don't have exterior doors (but where the owner doesn't want to pay for an exterior disconnect or shunt-trip switch) etc., etc. Putting panels into the Revit model, and then having to scoot them around, squeeze them into every nook and cranny, and then end up having to relocate them (if I can convince them to attach to the model in the first place), while meanwhile everyone else - including me 'coordinates' with the old locations - when all I (and anybody else) needs to know is that 'here is a plan view showing panels and necessary clearances' - and 'no, you can't put anything over the top of my panel'. Basically this grand 'coordination tool' means jack shit, because nobody gives a fuck about coordinating, and now they think they can just ignore the other disciplines because Revit will magically do their thinking for them. This leads to some pretty funny fucking conversations, where I will ask a question - they snort derisively and refer me to the Revit model (which I have already looked at), and then I get the enjoyment of pointing out that their Revit model is either incomplete, or totally wrong (then they get to backpedal and go 'uh... uh... yeah - that guy was supposed to... um... yeah'. In other words - get the Revit dick out of your eyesocket, and start doing your goddamned jobs people. This isn't necessarily an issue with the Revit software, but it does seem to be a problem with the environment that Revit nurtures and fosters.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Who does what?

Now we're going to delve into another major problem with Revit implementation - the way it blurs the lines between who is responsible for what.

Traditionally, these lines were very clear.  For example - electrical designers were responsible for doing lighting layouts based on photometric calculations - however it was the architects (or architect lackeys) responsibility to create and coordinate the 'Reflected Ceiling Plan' or 'RCP' showing lights, hvac plenums, sprinkler heads, etc.

Now, in Revit (depending on how a firm has decided to use it) the electrical designer is expected to populate the model with light fixtures, and has to constantly update, tweak (or completely redo) their design to keep up with the non-stop changes the architect makes. 

It is not the electrical designers job to populate the model with ceilings, however they have to be created before fixtures can be inserted.

In the case of open ceiling areas with pendant or chain mounted lights, it is necessary to insert a fake clear ceiling to give the fixtures something to attach to.

This means that other people now have the ability to fuck up the workflow - and if architects know how to do one thing - it's fuck things up (ceilings are just the start).

In a perfect world, the architectural model would be at least to a minimum level of completion before electrical even starts on it, unfortunately - reality.

The same goes for mechanical equipment - which dictates the size and locations of panels, and determines the amp ratings of the breakers, disconnects, conduit/wire, etc. - and yet unless information such as voltage, phase, MCA (Minimum Circuit Amps) and MOCP (Maximum Over Current Protection, or other factors like locked rotor amps, horsepower, etc. are entered properly (which may not be until the end of the project (if ever - since the mad rush at the end of most projects usually means this info just gets manually slapped into schedules).

Basically - the more work that gets done populating the model with electrical equipment early on in the project, the more guarantee there will be that you will get to do it all over again.

Other disciplines will look at equipment that has been inserted based more or less on best guesses and take it as gospel - and start 'coordinating' around it, only to have to redo their work as well when concrete locations and requirements are determined.

The ability to work independently of others in order to actually complete drawings gets viewed as a negative in the Revit hive-mind - neglecting the fact that having to depend on traditionally unreliable people in order to get your design work done is a guarantee that you will get fucked over - brutally, and repeatedly.

It would literally be possible for a design team to work on a project in Revit for decades - only for construction to start and the first thing they do is hit a snag that requires something to be moved, adjusted, or completely redesigned in the field because of some important detail got overlooked.

Fortunately with most electrical equipment/lights (with the exception of larger items) can be bumped around here or there in the field to make the design work around unforeseen details - meaning that it is an especially huge waste of time to design a project down to the gnats ass instead of simply showing it schematically.

3rd Parties To The Rescue?

In addition to a point by point photometric layout plug-in (that I remain dubious of), there are also
a handful of companies offering 'content', templates, etc. - and at least one that can develop some kind of riser diagram (although I think it's more like a separate program - that generates somewhat half-ass looking diagrams).

The fact that these exist is yet another testament to how out-of-the box Revit MeP is about as useless as fuck.  Obviously any firm using any program is going to require some time to get standards set up, but consider - I have been been in the field, handed a laptop with vanilla CAD, none of my tools, and within 15 minutes (longer than a lot of Revit models take to load and get set up) I had it set up to where I could go to work - full blast.

The fact that people are paying money for 3rd party content and plug-ins shows how desperate they are to get this pathetic piece of shit moving.  This kind of thing existed for CAD too, but (like I mention above) anyone with more than two functioning brain cells could develop it themselves in minutes - and despite having access to the MEP ACAD package - I never used any of it because it was wholly unnecessary.  

In addition to this, LISP routines can be written, even by someone with little to no programming experience to automate time-consuming and/or redundant tasks (although I rarely - if ever found anything that made this necessary in my design work due to my processes and workflow).

I should probably also add that I don't necessarily consider the Visual package to be a 3rd party solution - because ACAD never claimed to be able to do photometrics (and left that kind of thing to people who knew what the fuck they were doing).

Spreadsheets (either self-developed, or 3rd party) in programs like Excel get used by a lot of people for simplifying panel schedule calculations (and modifications) - but even these are unnecessary.

Even on an extremely complex project I can calculate panels manually (mostly in my head), and in my experience/opinion this has one serious advantage over automated schedules or spreadsheets - it affords me the chance to review everything in the project.

The truth is - I consider this half-assed attempt by Autodesk to quantify all of the compexities of electrical design to be a grave insult to my (and other designers) intelligence.  Any 'coordination', 'error checking', or other 'benefits' of Revit MeP are far outweighed by it's many shortcomings.

Lastly - it is telling (although many firms do work in M, E, & P disciplines) that they didn't deem electrical design to be sufficiently complex to get its own version of the software, and only with the most recent releases (probably due to considerable pressure) have they decided to make it possible to remove M & P related stuff from the 'ribbon' (which is idiotic in its own right). 

The Revit MeP splash screens that display on start-up say it all.  A huge piece of HVAC equipment, and maybe a few lights on the bottom of it.  They started showing some panels and conduit recently, but its obviously an afterthought, and they obviously don't give a fuck about it.


Another bullshit lie that Revit MeP was sold on was its ability to perform lighting calculations.

After a half-dozen releases - it's still a bullshit lie.

There is now a 3rd party selling a plug-in that affords Revit some level of ability to do point-by-point photometrics (something that Visual has been able to do for over a decade - and for all means and purposes, is totally free).

I do not know how good it is (how
ever if it involves Revit chances are it is probably total shit).  As I pointed out before, Bentley systems chose to integrate Visual directly into its BIM software, allowing the user to design in Visual, and have the model populate the lighting fixtures automatically.

While using CAD it is necessary to import a background (and schematical lighting layout if desired) into Visual, export the finished product, and import it back into the drawing.  While this process can be a bit tedious at times, it is fairly simple - and highly effective.

The main reason for a point-by-point photometric plan is to show (with a fairly high degree of accuracy) what a proposed lighting design will look like when built.

For the mentally challenged, proper lighting is necessary to perform certain tasks, as well as for safety and security. 

The last two are key - because if someone gets injured or is the victim of some kind of crime, and they (or their lawyer) can show that insufficient lighting *may* be partially to blame, then lawsuits can ensue (watch for a future entry regarding another concept alien to Revit propagandists called 'liability').

For the unitiated, 'Visual Professional' is an industry standard program (or suite of programs for designing lighting of interiors, exteriors, sites, and roadways.  It is 'free' - at least to those who specify fixtures and have a working relationship with lighting factory reps.

It allows for quick and easy 3D modeling of buildings and/or spaces, insertion of light fixtures into this model (provided by nearly every single manufacturer in the form of IES files - which show the distribution pattern of the fixture, and the intensity of light), and will then display a grid of photometric values, and allow statistical analysis of specific areas as well as average, maximum/minimum light levels - and ratios of max/min.

While Revit can use an IES file - the process is painstaking, and only provides you with statistical information - which is useless without a visual representation (thus 'Visual').

An actual photometric allows field measurements to be taken and compared to the calculated values.  Visual also allows fixtures to be de-rated to take into account factors like lamp and lens degradation (commonly referred to as 'light loss factor' or 'LLF' to reproduce worst-case conditions when the lamp is near the end of its life, and the lens has become dirty.

Sometimes field measurements are purely for documentation purposes, but more often they are to show where installation errors (especially substution of sub-standard fixtures) cause complaints of improper lighting, and (mostly in the case of outdoor lighting) light trespass, glare, etc.

In short, this shit is important.

Sins of omission.

All right - so the Revit craze was based on bullshit, with Autodesk knowing that once firms had spent the money to purchase seats of Revit, update their computers to handle it, and then upgrade their network infrastructure (or keep their old computers and networks intact - just to be dicks to their employees), and re-training their staff (or not so much) that they would have reached the point of no return.

As previously mentioned, they also knew that rather than spending their time and money developing the software, that it would be better spent on advertising and selling the concept to developers and government agencies - basically doing an end run around the design industry (which all by itself would be enough reason for them to have their necks throttled).

Due to this 'fuck the end user - you will be forced into using our software' attitude, critical functionality was left out, because.. well... fuck you - that's why.

From the first time I was first exposed to Revit (2005 if I recall correctly) it was painfully obvious that nobody responsible for developing the original software, or anyone at Autodesk (once the software was purchased) had ever been in the position of having to crank out drawings on schedule, and on budget.  The concept of schematics was completely lost on them, while they got everybody busy jerking off to pretty 3D dollhouses.

The first thing I noticed was that there had been no thought given to anything outside of the immediate building envelope - important things like utility transformers, or some source of power to get the ball rolling hadn't even been considered (more below).

The next was 'single-line' or 'riser' diagrams - something that nearly every single project that I have done has required.  It wasn't even on their radar.

A total lack of site integration was the kicker though.  All buildings have to go on sites (except magical floating Revit shitboxes apparently).  One of the biggest complaints that Revit fucktards have is that if everyone isn't sucking on the Revit dick, then they have to export (and update) backgrounds for CAD.

Well, guess what? There is no Revit Civil Engineering package.  In order for Civil to coordinate the building footprint, exits, etc., it is still necessary for them to export (and update) a CAD background.

Do you know who else has to coordinate with Civil?  Electrical. 

Site utilities, lighting, signage, fire/sewer pumps, hot boxes, etc. - none of which were apparently thought of by Revit propagandist fucksticks (quite possibly because they didn't know any of it existed).

Next time - lighting design, photometrics, Revit, and skullfuckery.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dinosaurs Must Die

As promised, here is my opinion of the 'if you don't want to get skullfvcked by Revit - you are just like the people who didn't want to switch from the drawing board to CAD drafting' argument.

There was a pretty good reason that people were hesitant to switch from the tried and true method of hand drafting: computers were still in their infancy at the time.

They were expensive, slow, and had specs that were almost comically low (by todays standards).

To entrust a set of construction documents to a machine that could barely handle word processing tasks without crashing or filling up its tiny little memory was unthinkable.

I had hand-drafting classes in high-school, but only as an introduction to CAD drafting (ACAD Release 6 - running in DOS).  For anyone who has never had the experience of drafting by hand, it would seem slow and laborious - which is true in some cases, but they fail to take into account many of the simple tricks a hand-drafter (especially one with a photocopier) had at their disposal.

A clever draftsman could use stamps or trace templates rather than having to draw everything from scratch.  By drawing on trace-paper with the building plan as an underlay (the original 'XREF') they could keep track of changes, and prevent the need for constant erasing.

There was also the advantage that if the Architect was drawing by hand, they would be less likely to implement unnecessary changes due to the time it would take (and might be more inclined to request additional fee (for themselves and other disciplines) when the owner started off on flights of fantasy when the project was nearing completion.

Obviously I'm not calling for a return to paper and pencil, which had its own drawbacks and limitations as well - but there are many misconceptions when it comes to the reasons for the resistance to change.

Primarily - the knowledge that at any point in the project, that you do not have to worry about having to fight a mindless piece of software to get whatever it is that engineers, project managers, architects, other disciplines, developers, clients, etc. want to have so they can submit it for review by codes officials, permits, pricing, and ultimately for bidding, construction, and future needs.

It's not uncommon in the industry for a schedule to suddenly be cut in half, or for the owner to have been given unrealistic expectations by someone involved with the project.

In a perfect world, reasonable schedules (and fees) would take into account the intricacies of a given project, and take into account other simultaneous projects (including those that have already been issued but which the owner refuses to stop changing).

Instead: reality.

Obviously Revit isn't to blame for other people's bad planning becoming my emergency - but I have to know that I have tools at my disposal for the times these situations arise.

One final word - 'The Revit Kid (molester)' says something along the lines of 'you will either use Revit or you will not have a job'.

Besides ignoring the fact that Revit isn't the only (or the best) BIM software available (that honor going to Bentley systems - if for no other reason than that they chose to interface with 'Visual' for lighting design/photometrics), it reminds me of how glad I am that design work just happened to be something I stumbled across (being more or less self-taught in ACAD, and now in Revit - for the few things I concede to do in it), and that my resume and skill set are extensive.

Blind Automation

Okay. Let's dive into what everybody that tried to sell me on Revit, and how it's all bullshit.

1) Panelboard schedules.

The concept of a panelboard schedule that automatically fills itself out - and updates automatically is pretty cool.  The reality is considerably more underwhelming.

My initial experiences found a half-ass panel schedule that a brain damaged moron with 5 minutes of training on Excel could've cranked out.  Limited functionality, no consideration for load calculations based on load type (i.e. receptacles, HVAC, lighting, etc.) And the fucking things were so huge only two could fit per page.

This has been improved somewhat, however third-party solutions are typically necessary if you want to get started sometime this decade.  Developing them from scratch, or modifying them is *possible*, but again - what the fuck are we paying for here?

The reality is that I can fill out, calculate, and modify panel schedules in my sleep.  I've never had a project delayed, or had even a single problem ever come back to me on any of the hundreds and hundreds of projects that I have done due to a mistake on a panel schedule or circuit.

2) Things will automatically move when walls/ceilings are moved.

Again - awesome in theory, not so much in reality.  If a wall moves - I don't want shit to move with it - I want to see shit hanging out in midair so that I know that the Architectural team has been fucking with the floor plan and not informing me.

Usually if they've been moving walls, it means that there is other shit they aren't telling me, and I want to know - and that's before you take into account that instead of moving a wall, they might delete the wall and reinsert it, or the design might be modified to the point where what was shown before might no longer be correct.

Invariably, if something in a plan changes, it's not as simple as 'just bump these items over' - it's going to require actual mental effort to make sure that the design has not been compromised.

3) Mechanical (and other) equipment will be able to automatically fill out schedules.

Wow! Really?

No! Not really!

Unless the person responsible for specifying the equipment and populating the Revit model has their shit in immaculate order - this is next to fucking impossible.

Back over here in reality, mechanical designers are usually scrambling until the very end of a project to get their drawings completed.  If I wait until they have everything done, and expect this shit to magically provide me with the necessary information - I'll be fucked every single time (and come close to being fucked anyway - with my only salvation being a close relationship with the designers so that I get the information I need).

4) Manufacturer developed content.

This has been a point of contention from day one.  While most (if not all) manufacturers have attempted to provide some kind of 'Revit content', most (if not all) is also completely fucking useless for anything other than fleshing out the model - providing no benefit to the engineering end of things.

5) Improved coordination, speed, and accuracy.

Ha, ha, and ha.

The reason my drawings get coordinated, and are done quickly and accurately is because I take the time to communicate with other disciplines (whether they want to or not).  Every single Revit proponent that I have dealt with directly has had the same mental defect - they expect Revit to magically do it for them while they scramble to figure out the next 'workaround'.

I don't particularly give a fuck if they want to punish themselves and work extra hours that aren't in the budget (meaning that other disciplines are left carrying them if the firm is to make a profit - or they simply do this work unpaid), but the second they start impeding my ability to complete my work, then they risk a fist to the throat.

Even if I do not use Revit at all, I am still fucked, because I am still left waiting for them to extract their heads from their asses.

6) Revisions are 'easy'

If I'm not mistaken the 'Rev' in 'Revit' has something to do with it's supposed ability to facilitate changes to the design.

As I have stated previously, it is easy for an uncontrolled client to start making an indefinite amount of modifications, changes, or additions (scope creep) to a project.

In some cases, firms are hesitant to point out to their clients that 'you asked us to design a building - not to allow you to re-design and modify it constantly as we go'.

Obviously you don't want to nickel and dime a client, and 'the customer is always right' rule might apply (or you might not mind taking a hit in a project if there is a potential for future profitable projects - but keeping a boot on the neck of a problem client is sometimes a necessity (and if they are being a pain in the ass now, chances are any 'future profits' are likely to go down the same fucking hole).

Combine this with the excessive time and effort necessary to finally get everything in the Revit model tweaked and perfected - only to have some douchebag run rough-shod over it, making excessive (or unnecessary) changes - and you are in for a world of hurt.

Meat and Potatoes

Alright, we've established that Revit MeP is total shit - even those using are quick to point out the lag (on machines that far exceed the recommended specs), unintuitive interface, bloated/corrupt files, and of course - repeated broken promises from Autodesk about fixing the myriad problems and shortcomings.

The drawings that I have seen firms developing look like utter shit.  Information is strewn across multiple sheets rather than being concise and easy to read.

This is primarily due to Revit's inability to be convinced that - yes, I really do want to have things displayed *exactly* the way I want them shown, and for good reasons (not that I need reasons).

Instead, sheep have allowed themselves to have their design processes, construction document formats, and other standards dictated to them by a piece of software.

Rather than having a fully functional, customizable, and USABLE set of software ready to go - this piece of badly coded bloatware was foisted on the design industry, while a massive advertising campaign to switch everyone to 'BIM' (with Revit being Autodesk's attempt at 'BIM').

Experienced designers who did not 'drink the kool-aid' (in an oddly self-aware cult mentality) were immediately compared to those who were hesitant to switch from hand drawing to CAD drafting (more on that next time), and as developers, government agencies, and other clients bought into the BIM craze, they were placed into a very tough spot indeed.

A steep learning curve often gets cited as a reason for seasoned veterans resistance.  It is steep indeed - but made infinitely steeper by the fact that nothing in Revit is even remotely intuitive.

'Training'  suddenly popped up all over the place - giving many struggling designers who had been throwing themselves (or who were being thrown) againt Revit some false hope.  Without exception, these were all basically seminars where tutorials and videos (already available for free online in most cases) were shown by a presenter with no actual knowledge of the subject.

Even Autodesk's official training was a massive ripoff (both in terms of $$$, time, and lack of practical knowledge conveyed. 

Most of the 'training' focuses on how 'Revit is not drafting software' (no shit), and how it was necessary to approach using it with a different mindset.

Obviously, many users jumped in with both feet - unconcerned with sacrificing time, profits, and mental/physical well-being for the reward of having 'panelboards that fill themselves out' (had it years ago), a model that coordinates between disciplines (assuming that any of those disciplines have their information entered correctly), and to be able to brag online about having accepted the Revit shaft deep inside of their eyesocket.

'The Revit Kid' is a faggot.

I don't normally call out specific Revit users - especially those working in different disciplines where the software might be considerably more developed (or suited to their workflow), but I'll make an exception for this self-absorbed piece of shit.

He appears to be perpetual student, and I do not believe that he has ever been exposed to an actual production environment, with actual budgets, schedules, and where an actual architect would be pointing out the numerous errors, and designs that would require specialized materials and construction techniques to make them a reality.

Despite an obvious lack of real-world experience, this fucktard seems to enjoy berating anyone who would speak ill of the glorious almighty Revit, and its many shortcomings, oversights, and just plain skullfvckery.

In short - this douchebag motherfucker can choke on a dick.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Introduction to REVIT-MeP SKULLF*CKERY


Let's start off with some basic facts. 
The electrical portion of Autodesk Revit MeP (note the small 'e') is a complete and utter joke.

The people at Autodesk responsible for purchasing a half-ass piece of software rather than develop one themselves, and who proceeded to force this over-priced, bloated piece of shit into the industry deserve pain - and each subsequent release has underscored this point.

Honest attempts at trying to express my concerns to Autodesk fell on deaf ears - with the only responses I have ever received coming after I started flaming them.

There seem to be two kinds of people using this software. Those who are sick and fucking tired of it, and those who seem to enjoy bending over and having it jammed up their ass sideways.

There are many people using it successfully, however it has only been after extensive training, implementation, and constant workarounds. 

It must be nice to have an indefinite amount of time to work on any given project, and customers who are willing to shell out $$$ for designers to bang out a shitty looking set of construction documents.

Do not make the mistake of thinking I am some kind of 'CAD hold-out' or 'dinosaur'.  I would like nothing more than for Revit MeP to stop skullfucking me - but I'm not holding my breath.