A White Sheet

DSC_7237

A white sheet.

For the first time for as long as I can remember, I start drawing on a white sheet. Not a sheet of paper. A clean, untouched white canvas on a computer screen. I use white paper sheets all the time, but I have never started to draw on a white drawing canvas on a computer before. At least not on a real building project.

This magic happens in a meeting room with two friends working on the same project. I watch the first lines I produce while discussing dimensions with my friends. I sense the thrilling feeling of starting on a new adventure, all the possibilities in an empty room with no noise. I realize that this has never happened before. I have always started every drawing bringing in someone else’s work, smudging every white spot with filthy realities of past projects and real world. Dirty groundwork and zoning plans. But not this time. This time me and my friends have all the space and tranquility of an infinite silent white room. Perfect.

The white sheet is one of four things that I absolutely love with the building project I work on now. The other things are:

  • It’s tall.
  • It has edge cutting technology.
  • It has awesome people working on it.

The height of the building project was the first property that caught my attention. It will be the tallest building In Norway, probably some 46 meters taller than Oslo Plaza, which is the tallest today. How many times do you get to work on the tallest building in the country? That’s right: not many.

I suspect there’s some kind of masculine phallus complex going on. I don’t know. But I really like tall buildings. Apparently the owner does too. Perhaps we have that in common. Tall buildings look epic and inspiring from distance. They are terrifying when standing on the top floor looking down. And they make you feel humble, small and insignificant looking up from close. Every ingredient of a femme fatale. Perhaps that’s why some of us feel so fascinated.

Apart from height and the white canvas, or perhaps because of them, we have had the chance to do some design research while building the digital and physical models. We have used visual scripting to generate loads of facade modules for various skin iterations. These facade modules have been constructed using native building information model elements, with parameters and materials, allowing us to design parametrically and fast, while also maintaining all the benefits of working in a building database. For instance, it has been crucial that we have had control of glass versus solid material ratio in the facade, and area use in the different parts of the tower. (It’s rather expensive to build floors 150 meters above ground – you should make sure you’re within the regulations and also utilize every square centimeter.)

A Dynamo definition that will generate 2106 randomized pixel facade modules in 7.2 seconds

A Dynamo definition that will generate 2106 randomized pixel facade modules in 7.2 seconds

Pixel Facade 14. floor

Pixel Facade 14. floor

14. floor: 8 different randomized Pixel Facade modules

14. floor: 8 different randomized Pixel Facade modules

We have had the chance to use some new daylighting tools that calculate and render visual design feedback that we can evaluate directly in our modeling software. Like the visual scripting, these tools are either beta’s or open source software, and of course free. This means we have had to do a lot of research analyzing software behavior, analysis results, and the odd crash. That’s the prize you pay using edge cutting technology, but to me that’s a no brainer. I’ll rather do that any day of the week, instead of repeating myself with old workflows. Besides, we learn a lot about how digital technology works, building our own scripts, debugging and re-reading mathematical curriculum that we forgot in a bar 10 years ago. (I’m speaking for myself.)

14. floor with pixel facade rendered in cloud

14. floor with pixel facade rendered in cloud

14. floor illuminance analysis render

14. floor illuminance analysis render

Daylight analysis 14. floor collage

Daylight analysis 14. floor collage

As a comic contrast to the above ranting about technology, and directly related to the white sheet, for the first time ever I have given life to a form, and I did it with pen and paper. We had been evaluating multiple shapes for the top of the building, without finding an alternative that had function, aligned with the owner’s wishes, and balanced the dimensions of the structure. One morning, when I had breakfast with my son, we drew a design alternative that I really liked. I went early to the office, modeled it on my computer and showed it to our CEO Christine, whereupon she responded “that’s nice”. Awesome moment.

Together with Christine, I work on this project with some fantastic people. Caroline, always positive and never give up; Ida, with the great imagination and always new ideas; Jeanette, with tons of knowledge on interior design and always smiling; and Kaja, with the fantastic design skills and good sense of humor. Young Henrik runs the workshop operations like a champ. In addition I’ve had the privilege of working with two of our inters: Olaf; with a secret passion for adaptive components, and Elena; her 3ds Max skills and ability to both learn and teach has impressed more than just me.

My sheet is not white any longer. But it doesn’t matter. It has been filled sky high with beautiful edge cutting technology by fantastic people, and I am pleased.

Ida, Kaja and Caroline are working, while I'm taking pictures.

Ida, Kaja and Caroline are working, while I’m taking pictures.

Physical model made by Olaf and Henrik

Physical model made by Olaf and Henrik

Physical model close up

Physical model close up

Various 14. floor b&w interior perspectives

Various 14. floor b&w interior perspectives

Facade Module Scheme

Facade Module Scheme

Detailed daylight analysis with shadows

Detailed daylight analysis with shadows

When you forget to check the Family Type node in Dynamo before Run, you get a beautifully randomized distribution of Plumbing Fixtures across your facade.

When you forget to check the Family Type node in Dynamo before Run, you get a beautifully randomized distribution of Plumbing Fixtures across your facade.

Door Swing Direction in Revit

Mondays are perfect for making videos.

On Saturdays though, you find the right problems to solve.

Last Saturday, at around noon, I asked my friend Konrad Sobon in New York City if he had ever considered looking at the old Door Swing problem in Revit with Python, API and Dynamo eyes. Later the same day (I think it was Labor Day in the US) he uploaded a small Custom Node to his website archi-lab (archi-lab.net). I’ve been waiting since then to test and break it, but apart from a small bug that prevents me from using the Categories node in Dynamo (this is not Konrad’s fault), it works fantastically well! Hard as stone – impossible to break!

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Until we can bake Dynamo definitions inside Revit families, the way to use this is the same as most other addins: Run before you QA your documentation. (Striking double meaning there.)

Documenting Door Swing and Handing Direction has been a lacking OTB functionality in Revit for a very long time. Architects who needed to handle this had two choices: Do it manually (suicide!!!) or buy addins. Many of these addins have worked extremely well, but now you can do it yourself. For free.

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This is another example of how building designers, with a little help from people with programming skills, can start designing their own software, and share it with the rest of the world.

Flat People

I see flat people.

Flat 3

Andy Milburn did too, and not only people. In his posts Flat People and Tree Family Download from last year he uploaded a sample of Entourage and Planting families that look much better than the OOTB RPC’s Revit ships each year. Both on drawings, in perspectives, with or without shadows and transparency. I downloaded them, did some enhancements, and now you can download my versions from Content.

Andy encouraged people who used his families to share their developments. As it turned out (in the comments of Andy’s post), Ukrainian Revit blogger Dmitry Dronov had already made some flat people. They were published in his post People. Entourage. from 2012. I’ve downloaded his starting 11 as well.

Flat 2

I recently met Andy Milburn for the first time. He spoke at Revit Technology Conference North America in Chicago in June, and so did I. Great guys, interesting story, and I have to admit that I felt like a groupie again for the first time since I first met Steve Stafford.

I hope you enjoy using this content as much as I do, and that you will post your own flat people if you make some.

i see flat people

 

Dynamo for Structural Design at RTCEUR 2014

One of this year’s definitive personal highlights will be the dual lab Julien Benoit and I will be hosting at the Revit Technology Conference Europe 2014 in Dublin by the end of October. My recent adventures at RTCAUS in Melbourne (read more here) and Julien’s unstoppable research has produced some interesting results, particularly on working with Adaptive Components, Structural Framing, Analytical Models and Loads effectively. We’ve made a short teaser to show a glimpse of what you can expect to learn if you decide to show up on the green island.

Sign up for the conference: Revit Technology Conference Europe 2014

Julien’s blog: AEC, you and me

See you there!

Space Frame with Structural Framing in Dynamo

Space Frame with Structural Framing in Dynamo

Dynamo 0.0.1

Space Frame with Structural Framing in Dynamo

Space Frame with Structural Framing in Dynamo

The last year I’ve become more and more involved with Dynamo, the open source visual programming interface that eats, drinks and sleeps with Revit. Since Christmas I’ve arranged multiple Computational Design workshops at Dark with the goal of increasing interest in visual programming and narrowing the gap between BIM and Computational Design tools. We’ve had Nathan Miller from CASE over the Atlantic for a fantastic training session, and I’ve started speaking about Dynamo at international conferences.

Twisting Elliptical Tower with Attractor Wave from Nate's training session

Twisting Elliptical Tower with Attractor Wave from Nate’s training session

Why? Apart from the obvious fact that I like it, I think there are three very interesting aspects of playing around with it. First, and most apparent perhaps, Dynamo provides an opportunity to work with complex and optimized shapes and structures in far less time than traditional tools will. Second, since it interacts deeply with the Revit API, it allows us to develop and share BIM automation scripts. In other words, you, me and everyone can create automated behavior and extend the hard-coded capabilities of BIM and Revit with little or no experience with programming. Last, and for me most interesting, it opens the first door to a vision of designers taking ownership of, and designing their own design tools. Ever since the Personal Computer became mainstream almost all building designers have been slaves to what software developers have done. This might provide an opportunity for the building design industry to start getting actively involved in how software works.

Jesse Pinkman as Adaptive Components in Revit with Dynamo

And that’s pretty interesting stuff. Ever since my introduction to CAD (you can read more about that here), I’ve spent an enormous amount of energy on working for a more efficient and fun way of deigning better buildings. It’s hard not to imagine Dynamo, or an evolved version of it, being part of that now.

Very well. So what have I done lately?

Dynamo in Structural Design

At the recent Revit Technology Conference (RTC) Australasia in Melbourne, I gave my first ever presentation of Dynamo in Structural Design for an international audience. I got overwhelmingly positive feedback after the session, which confirms my suspicion that visual programming and computational logic in structural design has some promise.

Space Frame with varying thickness

Space Frame with varying thickness

During the hour and fifteen minutes I basically went through two examples of working with Conceptual Modeling, Math and Dynamo, both involving some version of a space frame.

Space Frame based on Massing, Adaptive Components and The Pythagorean Theorem

Space Frame based on Massing, Adaptive Components and The Pythagorean Theorem

The Dynamo exercise builds a double-curved space frame of native Revit Structural Framing elements, that include Analytical data. This offers loads (pun intended) of potential re-use in structural analysis workflows.

Reaction Loads (Dead and Live) analyzed in Revit Extensions, saved as Internal Loads in Revit and tagged

Reaction Loads (Dead and Live) analyzed in Revit Extensions, saved as Internal Loads in Revit and tagged

The frame has a computational attractor system that makes it thicker in the middle and more narrow by the supports, all perfect for an optimized structure.

Axial Stress analyzed in A360 Structural Analysis and visualized in Revit

Axial Stress analyzed in A360 Structural Analysis and visualized in Revit

The four steps in building a Double-Curved Space Frame with computed varying thickness in Dynamo

The four steps in building a Double-Curved Space Frame with computed varying thickness in Dynamo

Those who will be at RTCNA in Chicago can see this material on the Friday of the conference. Not only can you see how it works; I’m modifying the presentation into a lab so you can interact as well.  I wasn’t originally scheduled to be there, but dues to cancellations the committee asked me to come. Hope to see you there!

Training

If you, or someone you know, is interesting in learning how Dynamo works, interacts with Revit and extends the capabilities of BIM tools, please do not hesitate to contact me for availability and details. All my training sessions are highly interactive, and we use a lot of improvisation to find the right problems to solve. I’m also constantly updating the Dynamo part of my Training schedule, in addition to the Gallery.

Exercises in use of trigonometry to generate different surfaces and control parameters

Exercises in use of trigonometry to generate different surfaces and control parameters

Workshops and development

I will continue to host Computational Design workshops at Dark. During these we usually start by going around the table with a quick recap of recent developments, and continue by working collaboratively on different design problems. Please let me know if you would like to be invited!

Recent research on Diagonal Grids and Structural Framing, Perspective

Recent research on Diagonal Grids and Structural Framing, Perspective

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Recent research on Diagonal Grids and Structural Framing, Dynamo definition

Acknowledgments

Three individuals come to mind when I’m thinking about who to thank for my new found passion and skills. First Nathan Miller at CASE for traveling far across the continents to help me and my Norwegian colleagues and friends take a leap in Dynamo knowledge. Only months before his first child was born. Congratulations and thanks! Second Dynamo Master Andreas Dieckmann for his extreme Dynamo and Python knowledge, but perhaps most of all because of his inspiring attitude towards sharing that knowledge along with vast amounts of valuable packages. World class innovation. And last, but not least, my own mentor Julien Benoit. Our brainstorming, regular meetings and common goals are fantastic to be a part of, and I look very much forward to our collaboration in the future, first of with a joint lab at RTC Europe. Interestingly, a little over a year ago I didn’t know who any of these individuals were. 2013 really seemed to be the year of fantastic new connections.

What lies in the future then?

Like most Dynamonians, I have realized that Python is something that just has to be learnt. It’s not a question of if any longer, but when. It’s when you dive into Python that you really start automating BIM, as you can build a lot of custom Revit interaction through Revit API. Also, I both hope and believe I will get a chance to use this technology on innovative architectural and sustainable design soon. I’ve done some simple research on competitions and early phase design iterations, but it lacks depth. Oh, and I need to make Dynamic Relaxation work.

Simple Facade Study Dynamo Iteration

Simple Facade Study Dynamo Iteration

I hope some of this can contribute to expanding interest around this new box of technologies. My enthusiasm and knowledge of this has little value if there is no one I can show it to. That’s you. Let’s do it!

Revit and Reinforcement

 

Structural rebars in beam

I had the great pleasure of presenting Revit Reinforcement problems, solutions, features and workflows at the Revit Technology Conference Australasia 2014 in Melbourne Australia last week. As always on these conferences I get to meet so many interesting and smart people who share my passion for 3D digital building design, but this time something was slightly different. This time I met surprisingly many who was already familiar with parts of my work on Reinforcement and Adaptive Components. That was a bit new to me, and something that makes me immensely proud. To realize that people on the other side of the planet use your research is indescribably motivating.

2014-06-04_14-25-11

Changes since previous Rebar presentations

The presentation I did was basically the same brain dump curriculum that I did at AU 2012, RTCNA 2013 and AU 2013, although this time modified with updates for Revit 2015 (there are a few important ones) and removal of the sections on complex modeling (double-curved concrete walls and post-tension reinforcement). I decided to remove the last parts mainly because I’ve done little progress on the Adaptive Component research lately, and also feel these families have some performance issues when used on multiple and large repeaters.

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Rebar Set Symbolic Representation

To me, there are two big new features in Revit 2015 when it comes to reinforcement: Symbolic Representation of Rebar Sets and Rebar Number. As I said during my presentation, these features seem to work really well, and especially the representation tools look good with last year’s Multi-Rebar Annotation families. Hat tips there to Pawel Piechnik and his team at Autodesk for implementing important features that are easy to use, fast and well implemented.

Rebar Number

Rebar Number

The presentation I did at AU 2013 received amazing reviews, something I naturally was rather pleased with. Here is a selection, with ratings from 1 to 10:

  • Quality of the class materials: 9.44
  • Overall Class Satisfaction: 9.24
  • Speaker’s level of preparation: 9.56
  • Quality of the technical content: 9.38
  • Speaker’s knowledge of the subject: 9.47
  • Speaker’s ability to present and communicate: 9.41

The RTCAUS 2014 presentation was also well received, but feedback forms are not yet complete.

Download and read the updated Rebar bible and RTCAUS handout from Content.

Training March Update

Dynamo

Dynamo

One of the things that I both do and enjoy most at my work is teaching Revit to architects and engineers. Building on my experiences the last couple of years, and in particular the last year at Dark, I’ve come to formalize the different training sessions that I feel are valuable for the people who attend, and that I enjoy doing most myself.

I’ve updated and added these to the Training section.

I freelance these sessions now, in addition to doing them at Dark, and whoever is reading this and thinking “that would be cool” is more than welcome to check with my availability.

Here are the courses and presentations that I have formalized so far:

Concrete Reinforcement: The topic of my presentations at AU and RTC the past year and a half, and my main occupation for the good part of the past five years.

Conceptual Modeling: Derived from my obsession with Adaptive Components, learnt during last years paternity leave and quality assured at Computational Design workshops at Dark.

Dynamo: Julien Benoit told me I needed to learn this, and he was right. Not only is it the future of building design, whether you make crazy forms or just work fast, It’s also very much fun. The exercises have been developed at Computational Design training sessions and workshops at Dark this winter.

Families: The first thing I was told at Dark when I came here was “make a training session for family creation”. I’ve taught families for 7 or 8 years now and still work on perfecting the exercises. My focus now is user friendly and beautiful content; Less is more.

Let me know if you are interested in these topics, know someone who would be or if you have suggestions for other content!

Adaptive Components

Adaptive Components