Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Unifi Schedule Support - October 26th, 2016

How much time have you spent trying to recreate or build schedules?  What about trying to find or share a schedule?  With UNIFI’s newly released support of Revit Quantity Schedules, you can easily set up or retrieve a schedule in seconds and you don’t even need to open Revit to view it. Learn how this time saving, headache-free solution that will enable you to focus on what you do best – designing and building structures. 

The Value of Schedule Support Inside UNIFI
Schedules are data-centric views of a BIM model and are critical to a firm’s documentation workflow.  The manner in which firms create and deploy schedules is similar to how content is managed, since schedules are the tool for the reporting of quantities and attributes of content.
UNIFI built our Schedules feature based upon input from our user community and we focused on what mattered most to our users - ease of use, efficiency and business value:
  • Hassle-free set up - While other folks still debate how to best organize, maintain and distribute schedules inside of Revit project files (optimal balance of quantity, organization, etc.), UNIFI allows you to free your schedules from these painful workflows! Set up is extremely easy and matches the familiar upload process, versioning and revision process used for other elements, saving considerable time.
  • Easy access - Individual schedules are immediately indexed and accessible through our powerful search system without any extra effort to manually meta-tag or parse data out. Our analytics show us that 80% of inserts made by customers were displayed in the top 10 search results.
  • Fast - Don’t bother anymore with the time consuming task of opening a container Revit project file every time you have to access a schedule! With UNIFI, schedules are stored as small, individual, versionable elements – fast to preview and fast to add to your project.
  • Instant Previews - In UNIFI, you can immediately preview the schedule.  Our platform does the heavy lifting for you by analyzing the schedule structure, then rendering the schedule header for you.  You can even cycle through previews for each base file.
Customers will now enjoy storing all of their schedules in the cloud, ensuring they have access to them anywhere, anytime, on any machine.  One customer we recently spoke with has over 400 schedules already planned to utilize this new feature and give their users access.
Schedules support is a great addition to UNIFI’s already supported Revit element types of Families, System Families, Drafting Views and Groups.

How Does this Feature Work
Schedules can be added to UNIFI by opening a project and then opening the ‘Batch Export’ dialog. Schedules will appear there as a parent type and expanding this will reveal all of the available schedules.  Choose the schedules you want to store in UNIFI and click “Export”.  This will queue them up in UNIFI for upload – just like any other element, you can choose your tags and libraries before uploading and following upload they follow the same approval process that you’re familiar with already.
In Browse mode, schedules will appear as their own folder after choosing a library.  Schedules will also appear in your search results if your search term matches against tags, the category of the schedule and of course, the name.  You may also apply a filter for ‘Schedules’.  Inserting schedules works like other elements; simply click ‘Insert’ to load into your project.  To assist you in making a selection, a view of the column headers is even conveniently located on the Details page.
Schedules are managed like every other element type.  Tagging, renaming, library management, custom preview images, revisions, etc. are all handled the same way.

UNIFI’s new Schedules capabilities provide even greater value to leading architectural, engineering, construction firms who use UNIFI to create and manage their building content.

Find out more information here: http://unifilabs.com/seamlessly-create-find-share-schedules-cloud-unifi/
Sign up for the informational webinar on the 26th here: Unifi October 26th, 2016 Webinar Signup

Monday, October 17, 2016

Revit 2017.1 - Revit Listens

This was originally posted here.

This may be one of the greatest updates yet, especially for the MEP world of BIM. Major enhancements and functionality has been added to the fabrication content. HUGE enhancements and functionality. Don't wait to install this. It's an amazing new release, and a step forward for our AEC community.

Thanks to Luke Johnson for getting this posted up for everyone!
Direct Download Links - Thanks to What Revit Wants!

October 12, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

September Application of the Month: Slack Team Integration

For anyone looking to ignite their productivity in their offices I highly suggest Slack. Slack is a team based communication system that allows users in any office to collaborate live through a messaging platform that is incredibly dynamic and user friendly.

In our firm we've implemented slack to communicate design intent, ideas, and details back and forth to other key players in other offices in our building without having to lose productivity getting up and walking back and forth between each others offices.

We've also created a link within Revit that allows us to open slack from within Revit allowing our users to not have to leave their Revit application. This increases productivity ten fold for new users in the office to not worry about asking questions.

Please go check it out!


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Harvey's Evaluation of Processes: Fabrication Parts vs. SysQue

The most important part of this post is to share our workflow behind the entire Autodesk MEP Fabrication Suite released in April 2017, and why we have come to the conclusion to adopt this software for our future processes and success of our fabrication processes as a plumbing and mechanical contractor.


This process initially began relying heavily on SysQue (http://sysque.com/) and Building Data (https://www.building-data.net/) because Autodesk had not implemented all the right steps for our firm to be able to adopt fabrication parts, nor a method for creating efficient content. Some of the problems have been fixed with the most recent release of the Autodesk MEP Fabrication Suite (http://www.autodesk.com/products/fabrication-products/buy). I am going to initially state that we wouldn't have been able to get as far as we have today as a company without SysQue's Building Data Content. When we began using Sysque's tool in 2016, we had quite a few problems with it. Certain things were effective, but others were lacking or non existent. Building Data's content was our main reason for purchasing the license, as it offered most of the pieces we needed to work on 3D design. Sysque has been working to improve their tool to continue to compete in the MEP software economy. The software competing with Sysque and Building Data is coming directly from Autodesk. This software is called Autodesk MEP Fabrication Suite, which focuses on the use of CID patterns which guide the user to creating effective content, as well as some out of the box content which starts the user with fabrication level parts. The MEP Fab Suite is fairly new, but has been developing quite efficiently since its creation. Due to its
infancy as a software, there are also a few issues that come with the benefit of standardizing fabrication pieces. Both hold positive and negative aspects, and the main purpose of this post is to discuss those pros and cons, and how that led to our decision in software.

Before I go any further in depth with this I would like to state that when the MEP Fab Suite first came out, Sysque created a comparision video. The video link is here, and I highly advise people to note while watching this video that a lot of corrections have been made more than likely thanks to the concerns of this video in the MEP Fabrication Suite that launched in April this year and that this video holds a bias for the company who created it.

SysQue's Fabrication Video for Revit 2016's initial launch of fabrication parts versus their use of the tool.

Harvey's Evaluation of SysQue vs. Autodesk's MEP Fabrication Suite

Now that you've watched the video and that you understand this is prior to the release of Revit 2017 and the new enhancements to fabrication parts we can continue our discussion of our process using fabrication parts in our workflow. First we will list the Pro's and Con's of each. These pro's and con's have been compiled from a year and a half of use of SysQue leading up to Autodesk's improving updates implemented to it's initial failed integration of fabrication parts in Revit 2016 through the release of the MEP Fabrication Suite in April 2017.

The Pros and Cons (SysQue)
Pros and Cons of SysQue


  • Building Data has done an exceptional job creating accurate content. This content has led to our ultimate success of rapid production through the utilization of Revit Families.
  • Native Revit Workflow
  • One software and one tool workflow (all integrated inside of Revit)
  • Due to its nativity to Revit, when Revit updates system families related to Sysque's software assist the add-in
  • When content created by Building Data has errors, response has been fairly quick to correct the problem.


  • Content creation (requesting content) often yielding no results or takes a very long time.
  • Several pieces of content contain errors.
  • The process to submit content is time consuming.
  • The tool consistently throws application errors. However it is constantly undergoing updates to mitigate these updates (which can often being annoying and slow production)
  • The content is not easily accessible, and is a process in itself to download and install due to regulations and fear on Building Data's side of a security breach. (understandable)
  • The tool is a third party addin that is not updated with Revit; therefore, your office becomes dependent on when they want to release the updates (typically three months out of the initial release of the new Revit software sometimes longer), and this could easily set a firm back in terms of collaborators they are working with.
  • Very difficult to successfully tie to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System. i.e. Product ID's and Aliases.
  • Tool requires extensive training that is influenced by SysQue to be done on-site which is an additional fee to the cost of the software.
  • Almost all content is created initially as an ITM; therefore, impeding on the Revit family creation time.
  • The price (comparatively) is incredibly high.
  • The Sysque workflow must be adopted and followed to a tee.
  • Licensing issues (sometimes the license is dropped, and a representative must be called to assist in confusing computer work arounds)

The Pros and Cons (MEP Fabrication Suite)

Image result for Revit MEP Fabrication Suite

Pros and Cons of ITM Content and the MEP Fabrication Suite


  • Issues with families being "broken" is mitigated by a rigid part with rigid connectors.
  • Very good response to customer support and suggestions.
  • The price (comparatively) is incredibly good.
  • Allows for a slightly more customizable workflow for companies.
  • The company who purchased the software is in control of product lists and content
  • CIDs for parts that allow for accurate and consistent content across the boards.
  • Ability to centralize a database and control access.
  • Ability to tie an ERP system to Revit elements.
  • Autodesk Software. First year of their seven year plan; therefore, many years and the financial backing to be upgraded, and between their first failed integration (as pointed out by SysQue) to their second release demonstrates a dedication to the software.


  • The initial launch of fabrication parts was broken and didn't prove to be useful until the latest release of the Revit 2017 platform.
  • Updating content on a shared file is difficult and often creates disconnects in multiple systems.
  • Colors and materials cannot be applied. Only projection line color can be changed, limiting system diagramming abilities.
  • Absolutely no tutorials even after receiving the software, and parts of the software is not very intuitive.
  • No training available online. Similarly to Sysque you must hire someone to come train an office.
  • A lack of content compared Building Data
  • Lack of methods to suggest content / CID patterns (a clean, easy way to suggest new patterns would be nice)
  • An inability to edit systems (through system families) often creates the need to duplicate content exactly in order to have two different systems (ie Hot and Cold Pex Pipe)
  • Geometry is a referenced CAD File; therefore, there are currently some filtering restrictions with Revit view filters. 
  • Three - Four Step Process with multiple pieces of software. Need to learn the workflow and invest times in understanding each tool, and how they communicate with one another.
  • Some of the pieces to the Three to Four Step process seem as though they could be integrated to create less steps.

    After evaluating both of these softwares, we have chosen to move forward with Autodesk's MEP Fabrication Suite. As a small company, some of these factors effect us more than others, while some larger companies hold different levels of concern on each of these matters (as well as other concerns). The main concerns for our company are the large cost difference between softwares and ability to tie our E.R.P. system into the MEP Fab Suite. The most important goal for our company is to trust the software we have implemented and to ensure the software is going to benefit our overall long-term goals. Autodesk has given us this trust by continually listening to our interests on their idea station forums (I will post these at the bottom of the article).

Harvey's Workflow with the MEP Fabrication Suite

Where to start in your learning process:

Step One: CAMduct Database

Step Two: ESTmep Integration

Step Three: Revit MEP Fabrication and Production

Suggestions for improvement on both tools and the ultimate goal of this post.

The primary intention of this article is to stimulate a discussion on the future of each product to benefit the industry, and to effectively communicate our concerns with each so that these concerns are addressed in future releases. This is not intended to insult one company over another or to form a bias, but to effectively communicate why our company is relying on one over another, and listing out reasons or ways that each could benefit their customers through a software upgrade through future releases. All feedback is accepted. This is encouraged to create a professional discussion that is intended towards a positive direction in our industry.

It's also important to note that having both tools in our industry will ultimately push the direction of our industry in the right direction by creating professional competition and development.

Link to Autodesk Idea Station Forums List:


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Content Library Management Best Practices

Library Best Practices Webinar Recording

With your organization’s ever-expanding BIM content, it is critical to find the right library strategy to effectively organize your firm’s content to support efficiency and usability. Listen to this webinar which was recorded on Wednesday, July 27th, and learn how BIM thought leaders have designed and implemented library strategies that enable their teams to spend more time designing and less time searching for files.
The roundtable discussion will be moderated by Steve Germano, UNIFI’s Director of Strategic Intelligence, and include Nancy McClure, Digital Design Application Specialist at Interior Architects and Brian D. Nickel – Mechanical Designer at Harvey’s Heating and Plumbing, who authors the popular blog, The Revit Saver.
They explore what library management best practices these organizations are employing, focusing on the following discussion topics:
• How did you identify which library management strategy was right for your organization? What unique requirements were most influential in creating that strategy?
• How did you implement and test the library management strategy and what approaches did you follow to successfully introduce it to users?
• How do you maintain and (continuously) optimize your library management strategy to ensure your are delivering maximum value to your users?
• What was a strategy that didn’t work? How long did it take to find out?
• How do you ensure that all content gets into your library? Are their creative ways to make sure people don’t secret away content on their desktop?
*Credit to Unifi for sharing this post! Here http://unifilabs.com/library-best-practices-webinar-recording/ *
Thank you again InviewLabs for giving me the opportunity to share our success with your product. It's an honor to be a part of your leading product.
Brian D. Nickel
The Revit Saver

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Harvey's Spool O' Matic 9000 - The Instruction Manual

Harvey's Spool O' Matic 9000
The Creation Process:

Throughout the past year and a half at Harvey's Plumbing and Heating. My colleague Tyler Graff, and I, have been developing a set of tools to increase productivity and efficiency at our company through developing a fabrication process utilizing a Revit Toolbar generated from macros. This tool-set primarily benefits our workflow and allows us to create assembly spool sheets in a fraction of the time it would take with conventional Revit tools. It also has created a standard for our companies spool drawings to maintain consistency in the field so that each spool sheet is as similar as possible as the one before that, and in turn increasing the legibility of the drawings for the foreman using them.

Our first goal when creating this process, and tool-set, was to evaluate our process. The process in which we went from point A - Z. This allowed for us to simplify, iterate and redesign the process to increase not only the process, but the effectiveness of the overall process. After coming up with a plan and iterating the plan over and over again we were able to refine the process into a series of steps, in this case, Revit buttons, that would allow for expedient spools without having to purchase a tool-set that didn't align to our standards.

After creating a series of assemblies of plumbing components, utilizing Building Data Content, we were able to compile accurate assemblies of what are built out in the field. These assemblies are consistently updated on a by job basis. This allows for the assemblies to evolve, and for missing assemblies to be added to the library for a "draw once and save for future use" approach.

Image of Harvey's Plumbing Assembly Library in Unifi
After having a solid library of components saved to our cloud database utilizing Unifi we began compiling a list, in order of importance, of which buttons we wanted created. These buttons were mapped out and thought out individually to allow for flexibility in the overall process.

The next process in creating these tools was to map out some of the tools with DynamoBIM and to receive some help from the community to get some of these tools created. This was accomplished through utilizing the DynamoBIM forum and asking valid questions and having experts in the community either generate code for us for Dynamo, or just explaining the process to get what what functionality we were looking for accomplished. This process alone took a few months of collaboration with experts and learning how to automate Revit through visual programming.

Some great resources that helped us along the DynamoBIM journey.


The forum proved to be the most important resource along the way because the community actually cared for the success of it's users.

After learning the fundamentals of dynamo, and how dynamo can potentially work for you. You can migrate into learning a more specific language. Since DynamoBIM is strictly a visual programmer it could be more beneficial to write some raw code. This raw code could be a gambit of different coding languages; however, Revit narrows it down to four:

C# (Pronounced C Sharp)

The majority of the examples online are either in C# or VB.NET. The other two are less easy to find examples for, so to start I chose C#. Some resources I highly recommend, that helped me get started were:

https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/c-fundamentals-for-absolute-beginners-16169?l=p90QdGQIC_7106218949 - Bob Tabor's Microsoft Virtual Academy Videos

https://www.lynda.com/C-tutorials/Up-Running-C/164452-2.html - Gerry O' Brien

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/67ef8sbd.aspx - MSDN Resource

http://stackoverflow.com/ - Great resource for help and questions

http://www.dotnetperls.com/ - Another great reference

https://boostyourbim.wordpress.com/ - Boost Your BIM Macros and Help (There is a fee for his lectures through Udemy)

After running through some basic training videos you can start writing your own macros using the Sharp Develop I.D.E. Sharp Develop is a great place from within Revit to try your macros, and to get started experimenting with your code. This environment allows you to troubleshoot and code from within Revit, and then once your macro is working you can convert your new macro to a button through an application on Microsoft Visual Studio.

https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/visual-studio-homepage-vs.aspx - Download Visual Studio Community 2015 (Free)

Another great reference, thanks to Konrad Sobon with arch laboratory (http://archi-lab.net/) he's gone over the initial process of how to create an appropriate button with resources for a Revit application.
You can follow his tutorials in the following order for best results, and be sure to thank him for his hard work he's put into sharing the right way of making a Revit toolbar.

This compilation of resources is probably one of the best set of resources for compilation of a Revit Application from External Commands to an Application toolbar.


After all of this time learning and researching the syntax of c#, to the proper execution of macros through sharp develop, and understanding our workflow we were able to start compiling some of the code into buttons that helped form the final toolbar. Below is a list of each button, the code associated with the button, and a process behind it. We're not expert code writers quite yet, but with time and persistence we will get there!

The Buttons behind the Spool O' Matic 9000:

The following is a description of each button and what they do. The procedure of when to use each button is something that will be covered through employee training.

1. Ungroup Assemble
The ungroup assemble tool is utilized to ungroup and assemble any group placed from Unifi. All groups that exist in Unifi are initially placed and then ungrouped and then assembled with this button. The button will sequentially number each ungrouped and then assembled group until finished.

2. Renumber MEP Tool
The renumber mep tool will allow the user to select a series of items, and then click finish, to begin renumbering all the items in a container from the selection. This allows for consistency in what you've chosen to renumber, and will not execute until all items initially selected have been clicked on in the sequence wanted.
3. Renumber Tag Left
The renumber tag left will repeat the renumbering mep tool process; however, it will place a tag after each selection to the left of the items being renumbered.

4. Renumber Tag Right
The renumber tag left will repeat the renumbering mep tool process; however, it will place a tag after each selection to the right of the items being renumbered.

5. Create Initial Assemblies
This tool will create the appropriate views, sheets, and schedules based on each assembly, in the order selected, that you select. This tool will also renumber the ungroup assembled assemblies in sequential order. It is important to use this tool in order from beginning to end to ensure accuracy and consistency in your spool drawings.

6. Create Post Assemblies
This tool will create assemblies after you have completed the assembly process. If something has been forgotten or changed this tool will find the numbering problem and make the appropriate changes necessary and sequentially number appropriately.

7. Renumber Assemblies
This tool will renumber all the assemblies in a project appropriately from "AS1" on. This tool allows for the numbers to be modified or changed should project changes occur.

8. QR Code Generator
This tool will generate a QR Code Associated to the assembly name. This allows for field technicians to scan the item in the field and send an order in to the shop for the corresponding assembly. This allows for assembly management and coordination with the shop and foreman.

9. Harvey's View Templates
This is an efficient tool to apply specific view templates to new views created in the document. The names of common view templates are in a drop down format that will allow for the users to modify and make changes to the views as necessary.

10. Remove View Template
This button removes the view template from any associated view you are in.

11. Harvey's Section Box Tools
These tools add and remove a section box from the 3D view you are in. This eliminates the need to consistently scroll through your properties browser to make changes to the document and expedites the users productivity.

12. Pipe Order Form
The pipe order form button exports the pipe schedule from Revit to Excel.

13. Pipe Fitting Order Form
The pipe fitting order form button exports the pipe fitting schedule from Revit to Excel.

14. Manual Pipe Calculator
This button allows the user to select a series of pipe and adds the value to a task dialog window that shows the user a total length of pipe calculation in the drawing.

15. Email Order Forms
This button opens up an email form to send to the shop manager.

16. Email with Attachments
After generating the Pipe Order and Pipe Fitting Order Forms. The user can click this button to email instantly to the shop manager. This ensures consistency and quality control of all documentation sent to the warehouse manager.

17. Calculator
This opens the windows calculator from within Revit.

18. Harvey's Resources
The Harvey's Resources tool contains a series of webpage links that are associated to everyday working tasks at Harvey's Plumbing and Heating. This expedites the need to find a particular web browser and page and allows the user to select a list of favorites.

How to effectively utilize Harvey's Spool O' Matic 9000 at Harvey's Plumbing and Heating:

1.) Always initialize a project from the HPH Template 2016. This ensures the tool will work appropriately. The tool-set is aligned to the template file, so that should something change in the template it will be mandatory to evaluate and re-release those changes in the toolbar. This ensures accuracy and quality in our toolbar.

2.) Read the descriptions of the buttons above, and ensure you have a full understanding of the process for each button. These buttons will ensure consistency and success in Harvey's Plumbing and Heating's spool drawing success.

3.) Be trained by Brian or Tyler in the efficiency of the toolbar, and understand when the tool bar is necessary in the spool drawing creation process.

Creating the installer:

The installer is compiled utilizing inno setup. Inno Setup makes the releases of the source code and overall application much easier for deployment on all systems. There are some great instructions on how to effectively use this application for compilation on their website.


Anytime the code has been modified and updated/released in the 2015 Visual Studio folder. You will want to run the inno setup file. The inno setup file once pointed to the compiled .bin and .addin files for the Revit application will remain; therefore anytime the files are updated for a mass release you can click build in Visual Studio, and then Build in inno setup. This will compile the installer quickly. The harveysph.exe file is pointed to be saved in the same project folder as the Visual Studio project to ensure a quick 1... 2... 3... export and upload to slack for releases. This ensures that if a quick modification to the code needs to be made that it can be built released and installed quickly.

It's important to note that all people reinstalling the application should uninstall and then reinstall the new version. I have experimented with just installing over the old, but it's good practice to just uninstall, and then reinstall. Maintains consistency and reduces potential errors.

Initializing the installer across multiple computers in a firm setting:

Simply release the executable file to the #harveys_design channel for all employees to install at the beginning of their shifts.

Inno Setup Launcher Interface. (Run the wizard for an easy step by step process)
Slack Communication Tool:


Here's where to download Slack. I mean, if NASA uses it, why shouldn't you be able to, right?

Thanks Fausto Mendez for being an amazing mentor and friend, and thank you to everyone else mentioned in this post who have contributed their time and knowledge to help people find answers to their questions!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Application of the Month - Adobe - My Portfolio - May 2016

This weekend I spent a small amount of time configuring a domain for my portfolio, and setting up a place to showcase my work as it is developed professionally and throughout my future studies at Montana State University. I figured I would share the application to anyone else that was interested in a quick and easy way to showcase their work. This also was a way for me to stay productive this summer leading up to my graduate studies at Montana State University.

The process:

I created a simple .com domain through Hover. Hover charges me $13.00 bucks annually to maintain my domain, and it was incredibly easy to configure.

I then proceeded to use Adobe - My Portfolio. 

My portfolio is tied to my Adobe Creative Cloud account. The beauty of this is that any item that I add from Photoshop, In-Design, Muse, etc. (Any Adobe Product or image downloaded from online) will be synced across all platforms and accessible for use later. This is incredibly efficient for my efficiency as a designer! 

The Result (~ one hour of time.):

Nickel Architecture:

This quick process allowed for me to create an active/evolving portfolio that I can go to in the future to quickly add projects that I've worked on to showcase my work professionally and as it's completed efficiently.

Google Analytics Integration is a breeze as well. Simply register for a tracking id here:


You can also setup data analytic dashboards for viewing location maps of data and whole plethora of other bits of information.


Set up your account. Get your tracking ID and simply paste it into your finished portfolio here:

Located Under "Edit your settings" on the left side of the edit portfolio window pane.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Autodesk CAMduct - Import a Flat Pattern DXF to your Database for Future Use!

The following steps are taken to import a .dxf file that was drawn in rhinoceros (or AutoCAD) into your CAMduct database library. These steps are very useful for shapes that you may want to reuse in the future.

1.) Draw your flat pattern in rhinoceros or AutoCAD.

Drawn part that's been manually unrolled into a flatpattern.

2.) Export the flat pattern to a .dxf file using the Imperial CAM setting on export. (This helps if you're going to be exporting the CAMduct file to another third party CAM software for CNCing.)

Export Selected

3.) Insert the flat pattern into CAMduct by clicking File -> Import -> Items. Point the file path to where you saved your flat pattern .dxf. I generally temporarily place them on my desktop to delete after this process to ease file management. Especially since it is being archived to my CAMduct database.

Select .DXF that you exported in last step.

Accept the Item to add to your job list.

4.) Once the item has been added to your job list you will want to go to your job contents folder. Right click the item in your job contents folder that relates to the imported .dxf file, and then select in the dropdown list "Save as Catalogue" This will open a folder location and you will point to the folder to where you want it to be retrievable in the future from your database.

Image of flat patterns in a database location mixed with CID patterns and other .ITM file types.