Thursday, June 21, 2012

June Meeting

Attendees: Dave Bleiman, Victor Chu, Naveen Govind, Bruce Madsen, Nancy McClure, Mabe Ng, Shaun Peppers, Dan Tsui, Marla Ushijima, Brett Young.

Dave hosted June's meeting at his office to preview an architectural version of Rutherford & Chekene's PopIcon plug-in for Revit, and to solicit feedback on its value.

R&C have identified the interface between Revit and Autocad as problematic and made the decision to produce all their details in Revit, but they've also recognized some challenges with that workflow. It can be difficult and/or time-consuming to locate detailing components within a project file or across a firm's servers; and redundant families can accumulate - causing project file bloat, graphic inconsistencies, and confusion.

AutoDesk has not been very successful at improving the situation, but when they released the API in 2010 it became possible for third parties to develop solutions. R&C took up the challenge in order to improve their in-house process, and developed a system of pull-down menus to ease the family loading process. They subsequently put that solution on the market as a plug-in called PopIcon for Revit Structure 2011. When Dave presented it at Autodesk University, he got requests for versions in metric and versions for other design disciplines.

The difficulty for architects is the need for a MUCH greater variety of objects (even MEP requires a surprising amount of content). Dave showed us what they came up with for Revit 2013 (which has also been back-engineered for Revit 2012). The group recognized a great deal of potential, and came up with a lot of suggestions for improvement.

PopIcon adds tabs and tools for modeling, detailing, and annotation. Content is drawn from the standard Autodesk library, a Pop-Icon library (included), and user-defined custom libraries. Multiple outside folders can be linked, and family catalogs are automatically created.

Nancy really liked the preview icon in the selection window, which is generated from the actual object - making it a lot easier to identify the desired family. She requested that the type selection include a preview of parameters. Nancy also asked for the inclusion of generic models.

Shaun asked about using .rvt files as sources of PopIcon content. At Forell Elsesser, they have library projects with walls, detailing components, hatch patterns, etc., which they insert as groups into a project file. He theorizes that PopIcon could be much easier. Dave responded that currently PopIcon uses only .rfa files but he'll look into adding that capability.

Dave demonstrated the fireproofing feature that HOK developed and made available for inclusion in PopIcon (thanks, Bruce!). It approximates the required fireproofing layer; the exact thickness is not guaranteed but it can be used for clash detection purposes.

The consensus of the group was that the real solution to the workflow is to provide one-stop shopping for content from all sources. For example, in any one category pull-down list (such as for windows), there should be access to families and groups within all of these:
  1. Content already loaded in the project
  2. Project libraries
  3. Office library
  4. Content within other project files (provide links to other projects which then populate a category-specific list)
  5. Autodesk library
  6. PopIcon library
PopIcon does not require hard-coding of folder hierarchy, so additional file locations are easily incorporated; but R&C will have to do some engineering for content within .rvt files.

If new content duplicates content already loaded into the project, it should be indicated somehow (grayed-out?) as a safeguard against overwriting customized content (in addition to the standard Revit warning).

We also discussed an option to open a family to check on naming conventions. Discipline is necessary; there's a difference between good practice and what people actually do. Management tools to handle this - locking families? confirmation messages? electric shock?

Some other particulars that Dave mentioned: PopIcon installs at individual machines, not the server (there are no network licenses). The standard price is $400/copy for individual licenses, with enterprise pricing negotiable. R&C provides tech support as long as it's not abused. More info and beta-testing options are available at