Autodesk Revit 2012

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There are a number of much-anticipated improvements to the latest Revit release, and yet Paul Woddy of still recommends that clients do not update to the new version until after the first service pack.

Product Info

Product: Revit 2012
Supplier: Autodesk
Price: On application

The month of April brought many things to the United Kingdom this year including our annual allowance of sunshine and a new swathe of products from Autodesk.

It is always my recommendation to clients that they do not update to a new version of Revit until after the first service pack, which may be viewed by the cynics out there as a thinly veiled avoidance of having to support teething issues. No comment!

The fact is that we do not have a great deal of project experience on Revit 2012 as yet, and this is an important release in terms of project workflow and BIM protocols. Hence I think it worthy of a status report in that regard, but before I do, I will run through a smattering of highlights.

Some of the headline features include, in no particular order:

With Revit Server in Revit 2012 a local copy of the central file will be held on the local server and it is this which the users are synchronising with, albeit unknowingly. This ‘local central’ stays in touch with the ‘central central’ and keeps up-to-date quietly in the background.

3DConnexion devices

Regular readers may have seen the article on 3D mice in the May/June edition of AEC, so I will not dwell on that other than to say that, like anything shiny with buttons, and lights, they seem to be going down very well with the Revit community.

Those that have not read the article can see it online here. Point cloud survey data

Point cloud data support appears to be part of the Autodesk response to a request for better handling of refurbishment projects, which in the current climate, have a larger part to play in the industry than in previous years. The huge quantity of data in a point cloud has meant that the Revit programmers had to come up with a new way of handling information as the existing method of handling CAD files was never going to cut it.

For those that have never worked with point cloud data it delivers hundreds of thousands of points, which are the result of a laser beam reflected back to the survey station from objects in direct line of sight. In raw text format, the points are stored as six values, separated by a comma. The values refer to x, y and z location, relative to the defined origin of the survey, and are followed by r, g and b to express the colour value of the point, thereby providing a pixelated 3D image in colour.

Being able to get the information into Revit is impressive enough, but the really clever part is that Revit can analyse the points and calculate the existence of planes within the groups of points perpendicular to the current view, so we can snap to faces when positioning such things as levels, walls and windows, effectively tracing over the survey data. This is pretty incredible stuff and hats off to the development team responsible.

CAD export improvements

The DWG interoperability has been revisited in this release with much broader control of the export settings. Line patterns and fill/hatch patterns can be mapped across or created as required, and fonts are automatically mapped to DWG equivalents unless you wish to override manually.

These changes do not address all the wish-list items in regard to DWG interoperability, but certainly provide an improvement. It is also worth noting that the DGN export options remain as they always have been, driving a wedge between the export capabilities of the different formats. I think it is an oversight in not making it easier for Bentley users to integrate with or migrate across to the Revit platform should they wish or need to.

MEP functionality

You would be forgiven for thinking that Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) users got the lion’s share of development time among the three flavours of Revit, due to the massive room for improvement that exists in a less mature product. Among many features in MEP 2012 we have the ability to toggle insulation on and off around pipes and ducts, customise system types and define sloped pipes.

Common best practice advice suggests that a generic concept model be developed using simple placeholders and then swapped for manufacturer- specific content as the design progresses. Until this release, the exception has been in MEP where systems collapsed if elements were swapped, but new functionality now allows this to an extent.

User niggles

In the also-ran bracket, I have selected a couple of minor points of note.

A small but helpful change to the process of rotating elements in Revit allows us to shortcut to specifying the centre of rotation rather than having to drag the symbol from the centre of the selected objects. This was a real pain point when working with survey information and aligning linked files so many users will be pleased with this little gem.

For those that liked the position of the Type Selector when the ribbon first arrived, we can now opt to dock it back in the modify tab on the ribbon again. It remains on the Properties Palette as well, which uses up valuable screen space but it is an option available if you right- click on the type selector in its current location.

Collaborative workflow

With the introduction of the Revit Server, changes to the way linked files can be manipulated, plus enhancements to the worksharing process, the whole collaborative workflow has been given a much needed shake-up.

In an earlier article, Martyn Day looked in detail at the Revit Server, but for those new to the concept or vaguely aware of it, the Revit Server principle is that two or more offices can work on a Revit model without the WAN slowing them down. Basically the users take a local copy to their desktop and work as usual, seemingly synchronising to a central file held on a central server somewhere in the world.

In actual fact, a local copy of the central file will be held on the local server and it is this which the users are synchronising with, albeit unknowingly. This ‘local central’ stays in touch with the ‘central central’ and keeps up-to-date quietly in the background.

The last year has seen nothing short of a meteoric rise in the use of Revit and, hanging somewhat on the Revit coat-tails in a bizarre tail-wagging-the-dog sort of way, BIM has also started to become the accepted future rather than a fanciful concept. The two are still very different and at the risk of repeating myself too much, BIM does not equal Revit and buying Revit does not mean you are BIM-ready. That said, Revit provides as good a route into BIM as any other and better than most.

I was recently asked if the 2012 improvements meant that the BIM Holy Grail of a Single Building Model was a realistic possibility, because research on various blogs and articles certainly seemed to be pointing that way. The firm answer from me was no, but not before I checked with friends and colleagues around the world, inside and out of Autodesk just to make sure.

The truth is that all the 2012 improvements in collaborative workflow reinforce and assist the current advice, which is that regardless of whether all parties are independent practices or are subsections of a large multi-disciplinary practice, each different discipline team will work on an autonomous model, and these are then transmitted to other stakeholders at agreed intervals to be linked in for reference.

I personally cannot see this workflow changing in the near future because it is not technology that is the main barrier, but a combination of culture, trust, risk and contractual obligation.


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