Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A sneak-peek at Revit 2012

The blogger webcast was held earlier today and I’m sure plenty have already posted about the upcoming features. Some bloggers are just too rapid but I’m not going to compete for the scoop! So I’ll now bring you my take based on first impressions, at my leisure.

Almost every year, the camp is split between those that are very excited and those that are bummed. In past years, I’ve almost always been in the first camp and couldn’t understand what the rest were fussing about. However this year, I am feeling a bit disappointed about the quantity of improvements for the Architectural discipline. This is just a personal opinion based on the perceived frequency of use of the new features. Personally, I like to see a balance between new toys and fixes for long standing issues (in other words, how is my team’s productivity going to improve and by how much?). My feeling is that it’s quite light this year. That doesn’t mean however, that you won’t be thrilled with the new improvements, especially if you’re in the Engineering and Construction disciplines.

During the webcast, only the top new features were highlighted and those are the ones I’ll be discussing here. There are other upcoming enhancements that might seem trivial to some but could potentially be at the top of your own personal list, which is why opinions about a new release tend to vary greatly.

Architecture

Slide1

A welcome new feature for the construction industry will be the ability to take an architectural model and add further model granularity without having to start the modeling process over from scratch. Parts can be automatically created for system families such as walls and floors, which can then be further manipulated to your heart’s content. So for example you can take a wall, add parts and end up with a solid for each later in your wall. These parts stay tied to the main parent family and can also be adjusted individually and phased independently from the parent family. I can see these new tools used effectively in IPD environments, where constructors can start refining and testing strategies as the design evolves. Changes to the design model can then automatically propagate to the construction parts.

Another good use case is the division of pours in a structural foundation slab. So you can now pick the Architect’s floor, create parts from it, and then divide those parts further using existing datums that intersect them (such as levels and grids). In addition you can also sketch your own divisions. This is much more efficient than re-modeling each concrete pour as a separate floor sketch.

Note: A use case that was suggested for the architectural discipline was to model the various floor finishes. I think this has potential, but I have not been able to come up with a whole lot of other scenarios where I would actually use this tool. Unfortunately due to the current implementation, parts add yet another line item to your visibility troubleshooting list, as each view can now show the original families only, parts only, or both. Perhaps a separate tab for parts in the V/G dialog would be a better long-term strategy. Another new construction modeling feature, Assemblies, was discussed later in the Revit Structure segment. A scenario in which I could see myself using this feature would be in the creation of documentation 3D views where I would want to “peel” away layers to explain how materials come together. Since I can create such views using parts and still maintain model integrity in regular views through the original system families, I would think this is a possible use case for Architects (trust me when I say that I’ve been trying hard to come up with opportunities to use this functionality, but I have been less than successful!).

A nice new feature is the ability to import point clouds directly into Revit and thus model existing buildings based on this point data. I think this tool will be valuable in the immediate future while lots of firms are busy working on a larger-than-usual percentage of renovation projects. That is, if the project can actually afford the extra expense of laser scanning! I suppose now that integrating this data is possible with relative ease, there is a good chance that laser scanning costs might even come down to more reasonable levels as demand increases.

Finally for the first segment, User Experience enhancements were discussed. These are platform-wide enhancements that aim to improve the experience while interacting with the model. For example now you can enable edges in Realistic views, enable Ambient Shadows (formerly known as Ambient Occlusion) in views set to Consistent Colors or Hidden Line, and (drum roll) they print too! A new Ghost Surface option has been implemented. This can be enabled as a display setting and will render all model elements with a 30% transparency, or it can be applied individually as an override to filters, to individual views through individual categories in V/G or at the element level. This should open up a world of possibilities for presentations, although I secretly yearn for the moment when the Transparent and Ghost columns are combined into a single Transparency control that is user-adjustable at the category, subcategory and element level. Don’t you love more control? Selections now can also be transparent, revealing elements beyond. This setting can also be turned off globally if you don’t find it useful.

Structure

I don’t have an overall slide of new features for Structure. I probably missed it while chatting with some fellow bloggers. But I did manage to capture a few screenshots of the new enhancements.

analytical2

Analytical visibility is no longer scattered as various subcategories between multiple object categories. Instead it has now all been promoted into a dedicated tab (and I believe parts ought to follow this strategy eventually). I‘ve seen many engineers and structural designers struggle with the analytical model analytical1(especially bracing) in past releases, and I think this version should provide greater control over the analytical “wireframe” without causing heartaches in the building/documentation model. Here you can see the control widget that allows you to move the various nodes around in all directions.

Creating 3D rebar has been significantly improved and it seems one Rebar1can model with relative ease and efficiency. I was quite impressed actually with this functionality, which I think really  highlights the power of Revit’s sketching paradigm to quickly model seemingly complex elements.

Assembly views

An Assembly example was demonstrated using 3D rebar. As further assemblies are created, Revit will create new definitions for unique assemblies or utilize existing definitions if such assemblies are identical. I have to confess that Assemblies confuse me a little as they seem to be “groups”, but kinda backwards. So if you modify one of multiple instances of an assembly, it will not modify identical assemblies. Instead it will create a new assembly definition. It’s almost like taking a group, duplicating and renaming it. I don’t fully understand why this was done and personally think that perhaps Group functionality should have been leveraged and expanded to add this concept to the toolset. This way the user can decide whether to propagate changes to other assemblies or to create unique definitions. I think this grouping/assembly concept could easily apply to other mainstream uses. However I don’t know the whole reasoning behind how the tool came to be in its presented form. I’m sure we’ll learn more over time!

MEP

My impression is that out of all the disciplines, MEP engineers should be the happiest bunch of us all (What? You said “good luck getting an engineer excited!”?? Come on now!).

MEP

There were several enhancements/overhauls aimed to improve usability. For example one can now explore all parts of systems in the new System Browser. One can hover over each element in the table to cause it to highlight in the canvas (3d or orthogonal views). Selecting one or more elements will now also select the element/s in the project (shown in red below).

MEP System browser

One can filter systems based on Discipline (ex: Piping above) and drill down to each individual element in that system, all represented with their own icon.

MEP system graphic overrides

You no longer need to use filters to identify systems in views. Instead, each system now has a graphic override incorporated into it. So basically the filter has moved out of the views and into the system itself, which should greatly simplify view creation.

You can now also add placeholder ducts (with no connectors) which can later be turned into actual systems. This workflow is ideal for the early phases of a project where conceptual layouts are required to start exploring routing strategies. This first conceptual “stab” at the problem can then be refined and tweaked without destroying the initial effort.

MEP system warnings

Other demonstrated enhancements were those pertaining to warnings. As you can see from the image, icons shows up in-canvas to warn users of potential problems. Clicking on he icon displays the warning that pertains to the object, system or connection. I think further additions of in-canvas controls is a very positive development direction and should occur in all flavors of Revit. As we all probably agree, warning review in all versions of Revit leave a lot to be desired.

That’s all for now folks. Stay tuned for more news in the days and weeks to come before the new versions ship out to you (probably delivered digitally…no “ships” required!).


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9 comments:

Philip said...

Dave,

You should probably do a presentation for HRUG on Revit 2012

Ewan said...

one thing: 'Non-Disclosure Agreement'....

Dave Baldacchino said...

We'll see Phillip!

Ewan, what do you mean?

Ewan said...

Not to be a bit of a narc; When you sign up to the feedback community/beta testing, you have to agree to a non-disclosure agreement. From their site (and this may even be a breach on my part);


No posting of any details, including screenshots, questions or rumors in the public domain. That includes but is not limited to public web sites or discussion groups. The requirements are outlined in the NDA


I may be wrong tho!

Dave Baldacchino said...

I am fully aware of NDA. As I said, I attended a private blogger webcast and we were released and encouraged to blog about the new features. In fact I asked about specially about NDA and was told we could discuss what was presented during the webcast. They even told us we could discuss more as long as we verified with them whether those features made it to the final release, since the last beta build was not the release candidate and some features might have been pulled. I chose to mention only the topics covered during the webcast, so trust me when I tell you that I did not break any rules. Thanks for looking out for me though!

Ewan said...

Sweet :)

Anonymous said...

My impression is that out of all the disciplines, MEP engineers should be the happiest bunch of us all (What? You said “good luck getting an engineer excited!”?? Come on now!).

We'd be more excited if Revit had backward compatibility - because since the arch version of Revit 2012 does not have much improvement, the architects will continue to use 2011. This means that we engineers won't be able to use 2012 - ! We might get to try it out in 2014 ... or not ....

See Mr. Brisk: http://revitmep.blogspot.com/

Thanks

Dave Baldacchino said...

Mr. Brisk, that is surely a risk, but if RAC2012 is stable, then there is absolutely no reason not to deploy it. IMO, architecture firms would be stupid not to deploy it. The top reason is that you cannot just look at how many new features it brings to your discipline only, but also what it offers the other members of the extended design team. We are a team after all, right? ;)

Backward compatibility would not be high priority on my list, although nice to have. I think what we have right now at least is a compelling reason to have everyone get together and hash out an upgrade date. With backward compatibility, you'd lose that.

Anonymous said...

Actually Dave, there is a reason not to deploy it - and that is the memory requirements of Revit releases continue to expand. Our firm is on subscription but will not be upgrading to 2012 anytime soon because our 32-bit Windows XP machines (yes we are not all on 64-bit yet) - don't recognize all of the 4gb or more we have installed.

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