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My Personal Notes from the Revit Technology Conference 2014 in Melbourne, Australia

Prepare for landing…

After flying some 5 hours from Orlando to Los Angeles, and some 15 hours from Los Angeles to Melbourne, it was a joy for me to see the coast of Australia and to hear the captain say: “Prepare for landing…”.


I was very excited about coming to Australia, for the first time, and being a speaker again at the Australasian edition of the Revit Technology Conference

And, as I did last year, I am writing a blog article about my experiences during the trip and the classes that I attended, and then I will post another article with a review of the handouts and presentations from other classes that I wish I could have attended.

By the way, I’m getting better at coming to this part of the world. I didn’t have any issues with visas or with crossing the streets in a left-driving country. Yes, lessons learned from last year.

The Speakers & Sponsors Cocktail

After arriving in Melbourne in the morning, my first event was scheduled for 6 p.m. It is a pleasure to greet someone you haven’t seen in a whole year. In a small group, the speakers who had made the long flight from the US: Aaron Maller, Steve Stafford, David Baldachino, Kelly Cone, Steven Shell, David Conant.

Around the room, there were several other groups with speakers from other countries. From the Australians, I recognized Tim Waldock, Mark Cronin, and from the New Zealanders, Ceilidh Higgins, Petter Jeff. I was looking for my friend Kelvin Tam, coming from Hong Kong, but he couldn’t make it on time for the cocktail.

After a couple of beers, I went to catch some sleep to prepare for Day 1 of the conference, scheduled to start the next morning at 9 a.m.

Day 1

The Keynote Presentation, by Mike Burry

After the welcoming messages by Wesley Ben and Chris Needham, we had the privilege to watch a presentation by Mark Burry, an architect and professor who has had a very unique career. Instead of having worked on several projects during the past 25 years, he was worked in one single project. How is that possible? Well, he has been part of the team who is in charge of one of the most complex construction projects in history: the eternal construction of the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, Spain, by Antoni Gaudi.

There were lots of photographs and videos explaining the difficult challenges that the team had to solve during all these years: understanding, drawing, modeling, documenting, fabricating, and installing the parts and pieces required to complete this gigantic cathedral. Mark Burry explained to us that parametric software is not something new for him, since he had been dealing with it for more than two decades, making all kinds of amazingly complex geometrical figures.


LAB : “Structural Design Inside a Family”, by Florian Neumayr

Being scheduled as the first class in the morning of the first day of the event caused some difficulties for this class. Some time was wasted because the technicians did not have everything ready for the instructor on time, and some people had trouble trying to find the room, just getting used to the venue.


In spite of the difficulties, Florian managed to show some interesting examples of how Revit Structure can be used for structural design. The common belief is that Revit Structure is good for modeling, applying loads, and creating an analytical model of the structure. But, after that, the model should be exported to a structural analysis application.

All this is true. However, this class showed that up to a certain range of simple structures, it is possible to introduce all the necessary set of formulas in structural families. This allows us to check, if, given a certain load, the dimensions of the structural elements provide an adequate reaction to the loads. It was interesting to see the yes/no parameters returning messages of failure or success as the instructor was trying different values for the dimensions of the structural elements.


LAB: “Revit to CNC Fabrication” by Scott Hunter & Callum Freeman

This was a very interesting class, showing a very detailed and advanced usage of parametric families to design, fabricate, and build an object. The story begins with a design competition, calling for ideas for a partition, division, or module, that could define a small meeting room inside an office. There were certain rules in the competition; some of them were these:

  • the object should be easy to assemble and dismount.
  • the object should not use nails, or screws,
  • fabrication with parts that can be cut with a CNC machine is preferred.
  • space for 2 to 4 people.


    Therefore, the class is an exposition of the design development and fabrication of the winning entry in this competition. Some kind of “wall” that is made of several “panels” that can be folded. Each panel is connected to the others with some “hooks” that allow the rotation of each panel, without using hinges or other means. All the parts of this design are parametric families, some of them adaptive. Then all the elevations of these families are laid out on a sheet, to optimize the process of cutting these pieces in plywood. At the end, we saw a video showing how all the pieces were put together. Very interesting work.


    LAB: “Parametric Da Vinci” by Kelvin Tam

    This was a fun and interesting class, in which Kevin demonstrated two different methods for rotating elements in families:

  • Rotations in generic families: several levels of nesting.
  • Rotations in adaptive families: points hosted on points.
  • blog_rtc14_class_Kelvin

    The class used a nice theme to explain all this: a “Vitruvian man” family, fully parametric, able to rotate in all directions, and able to be in all kinds of positions. Kelvin’s handouts and dataset contain the complete exercise. In the class, Kelvin showed the first two or three levels of nesting of the first method, beginning with one foot of the Vitruvio Man, until making in rotate in two directions. Then, he demonstrated the method of points hosted by points, which does not need much nesting, and therefore it is faster, even tough it is available only for adaptive families.

    At the end, Kevin showed a “bonus” exercise: one of his creative explorations; a sphere made of linear elements, like noodles, repeated and rotating along a sphere. Check Kelvin’s blog for more information.


    Lecture: “The Future of BIM Collaboration” by Kyle Bernhardt, from Autodesk

    For me, it is the first RTC event where I see some official presence from Autodesk. RTC is gaining more importance every year and Autodesk is finally paying attention.


    This was an informative session. The speaker did a good job in presenting products that can be used for collaboration in BIM projects, mainly through cloud services. Revit Server is moving to be a cloud-based service, eliminating the headaches of the IT setup. Products such as Glue have the potential to become popular. Autodesk BIM 360 Glue is announced as “Navisworks in the cloud”. It’s a product that allows the user to put together different models, perform clash detection, send and receive instant feedback, and handle all this in a tablet, at the construction field. For more information, visit Autodesk BIM 360 Glue.



    Well, and part of Day 1’s surprises was to find several friends, and make new friends at the exhibition hall and classrooms. Specially significant for me was to meet Ian Kidston. He lives in Melbourne. He is one of the five original administrators of Revitforum (RFO), and because of that, we have “known” each other for over three years, but had never met personally. In this photo, from left to Right, three of the original co-founders of RFO: Aaron Maller, me, and Ian Kidston.


    The next day, Ian invited Aaron and myself to watch a football game, but we got confused with the instructions. We waited for him at the main lobby but he was waiting for us at another place, and we never found each other. At the end, Aaron and myself end up going to the planetarium, instead.


    Day 2


    LAB: Emergency Room for Generic Families

    Well, this was the first of my two lab classes this year. (As last year, I was still double checking all the files of my datasets the night before). My idea this year was to show some difficult families that don’t work. Explain why they don’t work, and show how to fix them.


    This was a lab & lecture combined. The first part of the class I talked about a workflow for making families. We were able to complete 3 out of the 4 exercises that I had in the handout, as following

  • A “carrier” family that is supposed to connect toilets and pipes but is not reporting fixture units.
  • A handrail for a swimming pool that is supposed to maintain tangential arcs, regardless of the slope and number of risers of the stairs.
  • A fully parametric radial array, useful for making things such as auditorium seating or an arch of bricks.
  • A double tee structural framing family that needs to “warp” to adjust one corner to a different elevation.
  • I had some issues handling the display of the monitor on the screen. I think it was due to my own actions with the laser pointer. Someone from the audience came to my rescue. Thank you!

    Based on the number of thumbs-up signals that I got, apparently, most of my audience was able to complete all the exercises successfully.


    LAB: Emergency Room for Adaptive Families

    And this was my second and last of classes this year. Same format and idea of the previous lab, but different content, this time, adaptive. The part that referred to the the workflow was similar to the previous class, with the exception, of course, for the topics that apply only to the adaptive template: reference points and adaptive points, and the alternative of making a skeleton of points, without using reference planes or reference lines.


    This time, we were able to complete 2 of the 3 exercises that I had in the handouts, as follows:

  • A “panel” that is supposed to be generated by clicking two points, and rotate with the click of another point.
  • A progressive repetition of beams for the structure of a roof.
  • A decorative parametric wavy pattern for a wall.
  • We had to vote between doing exercise 2 or 3. If you were one of the people who raised their hand for the exercise of the beams, remember, all the step by step information is on the handout. There were more votes for #3, the decorative pattern. If you want to see more information about that exercise, please visit Revitforum at this link.

    By the way, I will be teaching these two classes in Orlando, Florida. For more information, follow this link.


    LAB: “Scan to BIM” by Kelly Cone

    Kelly stayed until 3 a.m. the night before this lab class, trying to get everything ready. He had written a thick handout, double sided, with graphics and instructions. However, Murphy’s laws… There was an application that we were supposed to use for about half of the duration of the two labs. I think the name was “Edgewise BIM”, but… the application could not be installed. On top of that, later on, when we were trying to follow Kelly’s instructions on how to manipulate a sample point cloud, our computers would crash. Why? the computers for this lab class, on point clouds, were… 32-bit computers! I didn’t even know that these computers were still around.


    Anyway, let’s concentrate on the positive aspects of this class. I learned about “Scan to BIM”, which is an add-in by Imaginit. It was very interesting to learn how to load a point cloud file, and to learn about the benefits of using a cloud model. Kelly showed on the screen an application that is able to detect that a cylinder could be a pipe, and that the extrusion of a rectangle could be a wall, and then, this tool is able to create new elements, for example pipes and walls, based on the information from the cloud. Once this is loaded into Revit, you have new Revit entities, without having to draw them from scratch.

    Sometimes the application thinks that the branch of a tree is a pipe, though. 🙂


    LAB: “Introduction to Dynamo Visual Programming for Autodesk Revit and Vasari” by Steve Elliot

    Dynamo! This is the future of Revit, according to Marcello Sgambelluri (by the way, we missed him very much this year in RTC). This class by Steve Elliot was good to get an idea about what Dynamo is, what a node is, and what the basic idea of Dynamo is. It was a little strange that this class was listed as a lab, because there were not any exercises to do, or activities to follow in the computer.

    But anyway, I liked this class, as a lecture. From a programmer’s standpoint, it achieved the goal of providing an introduction to the “spaguetti”, or “visual programming”, which allows us to do some things that we cannot do with the built-in features of the family editor.

    Think of Dynamo as a way to create relationships between your parameters, in a visual mode, by creating “nodes”. A “node” works like a function that executes arguments. The data flows from left to right, and top to bottom on the visual canvas; so we feed a node with data from the left, the node outputs data to the right, and from there we take the data and feed another node. Simple!, yeah right?

    Seriously, I can’t wait to start doing stuff in Dynamo! It has a lot of potential!


    The Museum and the Planetarium

    At the end of Day 2, we had a nice activity. We went to a museum and a planetarium. Very cool stuff. Thank you, RTC, that was nice! I had fun talking and laughing with my new friends Robyn Rooschüz, who works in CristChurch, New Zealand, and Nidhi Sharma, who works in Sydney.


    Day 3


    Lecture: “Pump up the Volume, with or without Dynamo” by Tim Waldock

    For a Revit enthusiast, it is a pleasure to attend a lecture by Tim Waldock. He always brings original contributions to the conferences, product of his own explorations and methodical studies. This year, Tim introduces the idea of “sliders”. What is it? A “slider” is like an auxiliary Revit family, (or it could be a node in Dynamo) that is supposed to drive parameters of a more complex family. The slider families can be reused, by nesting them into more complex models, and linking the parameters of the slider to the parameters of the main family, to make the complex family more user-friendly for the end users, the designers.

    blog_rtc14_class_Tim Waldock

    Think of a large design office, in which there are design teams experimenting with the shape of some masses. The designers want to do some “what-if” explorations. What if we make this profile bigger? What if we increase the number of these items?, What if we twist this in this direction? Well, then, instead of looking at a long list of strange parameters, the family maker inserts these little families, the “sliders” so that the designers can have “controls” that drive the geometry of the masses. Simply slide this, slide that, and see your form take a different shape. For more information, visit Tim Waldock’s blog.


    Lecture: “Real Time Visualization for Building Life Cycle” by Jeremy Harkins

    This was an interesting class. The instructor started his lecture talking about software for games. I was disoriented about this, but then, after some time within the lecture it all made sense. A BIM model is “gamificated” (that would be a derivative of the word “gamification” that the instructor used to explain the process of manipulating a Revit model with features and software tools that we have seen in games, all this for a very serious business, which is Facilities Management. The software can provide information about events inside a building, such as detection of fire, detection of intrusion, detection of failures in lighting fixtures, etc.

    For all this to work, some sensors have to be installed in the building, and then the information of the sensors is used in the very serious “gamificated” model. Did I spell that word right? For more information, visit Inani Realtime.


    Lecture: “Get your Groupon” by Ceilidh Higgins

    This was a very nice and informative class about one of the most hated and least understood features of Revit: Groups! Who doesn’t hate groups? Probably Ceilidh herself and Aaron Maller, the experts. Mostly everybody else seems to have a hate-hate relationship with groups (it’s not even hate-love relationship, but hate-hate!).


    Why? Because most of the times when we think that groups is a good idea, we start using groups, and very soon we start getting scary error messages about things being duplicated, things being removed, things disappearing or things going to the wrong place, right?… Well, don’t panic. This class, and Aaron’s class on groups, come to the rescue. In this class, Ceilidh explains the relation of groups with most of all the other features of Revit, such as links, worksets, details, mirror, rotate, design options, etc. Very nice class, that helps in understanding and hopefully getting to love this hideous feature of Revit.

    All indicates that if you really get to understand groups and harness their potential and overcome their limitations,… they can be actually very handy! 🙂


    Gala Dinner

    This is the last event of RTC. Nice dinner with friends, and shows, and prizes. The results of the competition of this year were announced, in four categories: innovation, integration, presentation, and documentation. Franz Hein received two of the prizes, on behalf of Woods Bagot. There were clowns’ noses, wigs, and bow ties, on all the tables.

    And at the end, dancing! Have you seen a bunch of BIM evangelists dancing? Well, …
    The person who really knew what she was doing was Michelle Leonard. She’s a lot of fun!


    Epilogue: 3 days in Sydney

    After RTC, I went to Sydney to spend some three days there. I want to express my gratitude to my friend Diego Fernando Rayo and his wife Ximena, for their hospitality and kindness. I stayed at their apartment in Epping, not too far from Sydney.


    Where else can we see a sign like this? …


    Here, in Australia, close to Lake McQuarie!


    We also went to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House…


    So much to see, and too short the time to do it! After my brief three days in Sydney, I took my way back home: Sydney-Melbourne-Los Angeles-Orlando.


    Thank you, RTC, Australia, and my friends. I hope to see you again some day!

    See you in our next blog…

    â’¸2014 Planta1.com, inc. , Alfredo Medina | permission to reproduce this article is granted if the name of the author and the URL of this article receive proper credit.


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