Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coloring Rooms with Rules & Scheduling Project Info

So one limitation that I've encountered with Color Fill Schemes for Rooms has been that you don't really have flexibility in terms of a set of "rules" by which to color, its mostly an all or nothing proposition with regards to a single parameter's value. So this week, it finally occurred to me to try filters to color rooms. I tried several view setting with no luck. In my case I wanted to color some very specific rooms all the same, and while I could have used room name, and made each unique room the same color, and turned all the others off, that seemed like alot of work to me. There had to be a way to make filters work!

It finally occurred to me to apply the filter with a color scheme applied to the view. Viola! My filter changed the color of my target room(s). That still left me with the issue of how to only color the rooms targeted with the filter. This actually turned out to be quite simple, rather then turn the rooms off, I made them "white". The white is a good "trick", it means that I can reduce my color scheme to a parameter with fewer values, think Department Names rather than Room Names, you could even create a parameter for rooms to which you assign the same value. With all rooms still visible, but set to white, now I have the freedom to colors rooms based on whatever Filter Rules I can dream up, thus allowing me to effectively right conditional statements to group rooms together under the same color or pattern which a single value would not typically allow.

Another silly little thing I encountered this week. I needed a schedule to contain project information, in this case with a list of areas. I actually needed the Project Name with each row of data (don't ask too many questions). What is one to do? I remembered that a couple of weeks ago when working with schedules that "Project Information" was a valid choice in the schedule field's tab combo box. This time though, I created a new schedule and it wasn't there! Then it occurred to me to check the "include linked files" box. Once again, presto! I had project information available to schedule with my areas. Now ironically I don't actually need to schedule anything from my linked file(s), but that is ok, I can deal with that one way or another. I do somewhat understand why these choices only become available when choosing to include linked file data, but at the same time it is a bit of a needless limitation, I can't think of any good reason why Project Information should not always be a valid choice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Type Catalog Quirkieness

So, was working on Type Catalogs today and came across an interesting quirk. If you're creating a type catalog that is going to populate built-in parameters you have to make sure that while creating the family you've put a value into that parameter at some point (even if you want to leave it blank in the end). It would seem that the blank parameters carry some type of null value by default. For instance my Type Catalog was supposed to populate the "Description" parameter, however I never bothered plugging any data in, as I knew I was just going to build a Type Catalog. However, when I went to load the family the family loaded properly, but I got a warning that the Description parameter did not exist! Obviously as a built-in parameter it is/was there. When I went back to the family, I added a value to the Description parameter, saved, deleted the value, and magically the Type Catalog worked correctly. The interesting thing to note here is that once a value is added it can be deleted, but its no longer a <null> value, so it will carry through the load process when using a Type Catalog.

As another update, house construction is progressing, interior fitout is coming along, cabinets are installed and painting is just getting started.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Art & Science

Vermont House elevation study
It is always interesting to see what pops up on my Google News feed that simply searches "Revit". Most of the time it is various press releases from companies announcing new add-ins or services (not terribly exciting), but occasionally something of real note pops up.

So this morning as I ate my muffin before going to chucch and browsed my tablet I found myself reading an OpEd piece by Michael Graves in the NYTimes. Now Michael (Mr. Graves, I dunno...?)  is not my favorite architect by any stretch of the imagination, but he is certainly not awful in my opinion. When I was in Philly our office had the opportunity to work with his firm on a local project and we chased some work together (I even spent an afternoon in their office working on sketch-up with some of their folks). It was a good relationship and we (firms) worked well together.

So to the point, I generally agree with him in his piece. I particularly like how he separates "Architectural" drawing into three distinct categories. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a good drawer at all, I enjoy sketching, and I love to use it to get my ideas out, but usually I'm the only one who understands my sketches (maybe I should have focused more on hand "art" while in school).

I would however put forward that even the lines of the first two categories (referential sketch and preparatory study) are being blurred by technology. With the advent of tablets, and programs like Evernote, Sketchbook, the new "collaboration" between Moleskin & Evernote and the fact that styli are actually helpful even with a tablet (sorry Steve) it seems to me that more and more people will start to use these electronic tools to do sketching, and in fact they can even support the workflow that Michael describes in his piece. Of course these technologies do not replicate the "feel" of using a hand sharpened lead against yellow trace, but the question I pose is; what is more important? The end product, the result, or the means by which we get there? I understand and support the need to sketch, and I don't expect that we'll ever be "sketching" in a program like Revit, but I do believe that technology can make it easier and faster to collaborate, even when we are sketching and drawing (and still get an artistic end result that we can say is "Art"). Furthermore, at the end of the day, I will still always keep a roll of trace handy at my desk, because sometimes (at least today and likely the near future) it is in fact just "easier".

However, as an example, of where "electronic" is taking over for physical last year when I was the project architect and I had to send "sketches" to our structural engineer, what did I do? I didn't print something out, draw on it, scan it and e-mail it, nor did I just draw something from scratch. Instead I used "Snip" a utility that comes with Windows7 to capture a screen shot from Revit, and use the built in pen tools to mark-up up the screen shot then directly e-mail to the engineer. Now it did help that I had one of the old Wacom screens off to the side (3rd screen, 1024x768) to quickly do my mark-ups, but in the end that is a minor point.

I realize that these sketches do not fall into the two categories that are the focus of the OpEd, but I think the point of the application of the technology still stands, and one can see where the same underlying technological tools could be applied to the practice discussed. I'll also admit that the "study" shown at the top was probably not 100% hand drawn (I honestly don't remember at this point), there is a good chance that the sketch was based roughly on a computer drawing, but the act of "sketching", was way to explore and embellish what would otherwise be a very un-emotional and static drawing produced by a computer program.

The biggest difficulty I find is making the technology available, and part of our dialog. The workflows and processes exist at an individual level (like myself) but I've yet to effectively capture it in a way to teach it, or make it available to others. The limitations of the availability of tablets (and other technology) fully integrated with enterprise systems also raises barriers to teams adopting artistic digital workflows (for instance I can't put a Wacom on everyone's desks, even old ones). I hope that the day will come, but I'm not sure when and I'm also not sure "how much", how much do people need the physical feel of drawing to execute drawing, versus the graphical result, without the "touch"?

What are your thoughts?