collaboration wormholes, distance is no longer an obstacle

2014 & the global village is a real.  Distance is no longer an obstacle.


To ensure everyone is working toward a common goal, to save time and money, and to make business more efficient, modern society demands the ability to work together across distances.  Instantly, easily and effectively, collaborating with colleagues in other locations as if you were in the same room drives social & business goals. We easily share personal moments, information, concepts and plans or discuss and brainstorm ideas together. Everyone participates regardless of their geographical location.  The collaborative document is distributed instantly, ensuring that all participants have a record of the meeting’s outcome.


Autodesk Research has two collaboration rooms setup, one at their offices at One Market in San Francisco, Pier 9 and a mated one located in Toronto. Their intent is to create a “wormhole” between Toronto and San Francisco that will be “always on” during business hours. The idea is to have both locations work together on research projects.  (see the article in It’s Alive in the Lab)

Who uses Revit??

Companies that use Revit fall into two groups a) those that promote their use of the software and their subsequent BIM capabilities and b) those that feel Revit is a competitive advantage and who do not advertise the fact that they use it.  Due to the large number of those that fall into the ‘b’ group many firms new to BIM have a tendency to feel like they are the only ones who are thinking about making the switch and are therefore worried about being an isolated entity with no collaborative partners.  I can assure you that this is not the case!

I took a few minutes and started a quick search for users in the Toronto area.  I found that the Ontario Revit Users Group has a listing of a few of their contributing members, Revit users in Toronto are in pretty impressive company:

  • IBI Group
  • Stephenson Engineering
  • Halsall Associates Limited
  • Yolles, A CH2M HILL Company
  • KPMB Architects
  • Diamond Schmitt Architects
  • Entuitive
  • BIM Solutions
  • Turner Fleischer Architects
  • Northstar Engineering and Technologies Ltd.

Then I realized it would be easier to search for those companies looking to hire new Revit users, check this out…

Revit Server

Many users and firms who have deployed Revit are using worksharing,this is the ability to allow multiply users to work on the same model. By enabling worksharing and sub-dividing the central model into worksets, users can take a copy of the central file, this becomes there local copy. Any changes that they make to the local copy can be published to the central model. At the same time changes made by others can also be sync’d between the central file and their local file. Whilst the initial concept is daunting, once you have the appropriate standards and protocols in place, you have your staff trained, worksharing works well.

Now over the last couple of years, how firms do business has changed and this is largely due to the internet. So rather than working in the same office, these days it’s come place for designs team to be disbursed between two offices in the same geographical location or even across different geographical locations. Lots of different solutions have been employed to try and solve this headache, such as using remote desktop, blade servers, high speed WAN connections, Riverbed, model exchanging etc.

Therefore, with the ever increasing requirement it was only a matter of time before we saw Autodesk extend Revits worksharing functionality from a LAN setup to WAN based. Revit 2011 subscription extension finally makes this concept possible, with the introduction of Revit Server.

So what is Revit server and how does it actually work? Revit Server is basically an extension of the typical worksharing setup. In a server setup the central model resides on a central server which then communicates with a local server across a WAN. Users still take locally copies of the central model which exist on the local server. The big difference is that the local server copy is silently requesting updates from the central server. Updates are stored on the local server so that they are immediately available when the user requires them. When a Reload Latest is performed, the local model is automatically updated with the data stored on the local server. At the same time the local server connects with the central server and requests any additional updates. As updates reside on the local server, the transparent movement of data in the background means that updates are quicker. It is certainly not the case that users have to wait for updates, as data is transferred across the WAN.

If a user decides to Sync with Central; first a Reload Latest updates the local model with changes made by other team members; the central model is also updated to reflect changes made to the local copy. Once the changes and updates have been made to the central file residing on the local server, the local server then sends the updates to the central server.

WAN configuration

You can also make the local server and central server reside in one location, as in the example below, it is not the case that you would need a separate Central Server.


  • You connect to your server via the Connect to Revit Server icon.


  • This opens this dialogue and allows you to connect to the server.


  • On the open dialogue, you will see your servers listed.



To administer the Server setup, the Revit Server Administration tool provides model management and review capabilities. The server configuration should be setup by an IT administrator or BIM manager, certainly careful planning is required before embarking on a server setup. Once again, ensuring robust standards and processes are in place, is essential. The Server Administrator tool is a browser-based tool and this allows the BIM manager to manage a server based projects. Projects can be renamed, deleted, folders and central models moved on the central server. Revit server comprises of two main components, your regular copy of Revit and the server component. The server component can act as a local server or a central server. Server component must be installed on a Windows server with the following specifications.

  • Microsoft Windows Server® 2008, 64 bit (not 2008 R2)
  • Microsoft Internet Information Server 7.0
  • Web Services
  • Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1
  • Prefer a project server doesn’t have office email exchange and other web heavy applications

Revit Server Administrator tool requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or newer. The Silverlight plug-in will also be installed as a by product of using this application.It should also be noted that the connection needs to be behind the firewall so if you want remote firms to connect, they would need to do this via a VPN access or remote desktop.

A couple of points to note, users can’t delete, rename or move central files. Editing request feature has been disabled. You can’t rollback, as this feature has been disabled. It is also no longer possible to work at “risk”. Finally, the Work sharing Monitor does not function with a Revit Server, but this will be replaced by a BlueStreak add-in monitoring tool, but this is due out in the next few months. Also, if you do have Riverbed enabled you will see some benefits from your investment, because you will see some acceleration.


So will this finally start to connect dispersed teams together and bring together true multi-collaboration? For sure, this is what many firms have been striving to achieve and for version 1, this is a great step forward. I am well aware that this project has been a number of years in development. I remember speaking with an Autodesk guy ( under NDA obviously! ) at AU over 3 years ago about the vision and finally this subscription release turns vision into reality.


I found this article on:


BIM is a Tool

“Building Information Modeling has hit the shores of the AECO industry as a tsunami wave quiet and unexpected. Owners, architects, engineers and contractors are feeling the devastation of restructuring work flows and business models to adapt to new tools and a flood of new information. However, a tsunami of information is useless unless communication methods and styles improve to handle the volume…

…If our communication skills were poor before BIM, then BIM only serves to enhance our disability. If BIM cannot be hailed as the solution to our ailing industry and our flagging productivity, what is to be done? We must utilize BIM as an improved tool of communication and increase attention to the methodologies of communication. We must focus on quality and timing not quantity. The quantity of information will never be a solution if it is presented poorly.

It is the age old paradox of communication and human nature. I naturally communicate my ideas in ways that make sense to me, my needs and my environment. Almost everyone communicates egocentrically. Unfortunately most communication blunders and problems originate from this ego bias. As Stephen Covey said, “We need to first seek understanding before we seek to be understood.”

Here is an example to illustrate my point. A design engineer constructing a five-story concrete building will almost always draw the building columns from the foundations to level five. This is not the way the building will be constructed. The engineer designs and engineers the building from his own perspectives with a set of engineering parameters fitting the silo approach. His purpose is to provide a safe, durable, cost effective and perhaps environmentally sound building that hopefully coordinates with the architects design intent. The issue is the engineer considers his audience to be city inspectors and architects, not the field fabricator and construction foreman. The engineer believes how the concrete and steel are assembled is constructability means and methods but in reality those means and method will often cause him more cost and grief that the city review. Ultimately a sizable portion of cost budgets depend upon how well he can communicate the construction of the building to the contractor”…[more]

Autodesk 360 Structural Analysis for Autodesk Revit

Structural Analysis for Revit enables structural engineers to conduct analysis in the cloud as a part of the BIM process. With Structural Analysis, engineers and designers can extend design models from Revit Structure directly to the cloud helping to minimize disruptions to workflow and allowing users to continue to design as analysis is completed. Once the analysis is conducted, results can then be visualized and explored within Revit Structure.

  • Extend models from within Revit Structure to the cloud for static analysis.
  • Reduce disruption to workflow by performing analysis in the cloud.
  • Visualize and explore analytical results from directly within Revit Structure.
  • Streamline workflow by using analysis results to inform decision making early on.

Click here to watch the demo and download the plug-in for Revit.

But what is this cloud all about?  The following is directly form Autodesk:

What is the cloud?
Think of cloud computing as essentially just renting processing power and storage space on a virtual server that is managed in a remote datacenter, accessible over the internet. Information in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere at any time and from any location. The cloud is infinitely scalable, meaning you only use and pay for what you need.

Why would I want to use the cloud?
Imagine that you are working on intensive design tasks, such as rendering or energy analysis, on your desktop computer. Often, conducting these tasks can result in tying up your computer for several hours as the data is crunched and rigorous jobs are completed. With the cloud, the data moves from the desktop into virtual space. The data can then be crunched on a virtual machine, and once the rendering or simulation is complete, results return to the desktop.

What is Autodesk BIM 360?
Autodesk® BIM 360TM is the next generation of BIM, for anyone, anywhere, at any time. Building, infrastructure design, and construction professionals can access intelligent model–based workflows through a broad range of cloud-based services within the Autodesk® 360 platform, which provides mobility and accessibility through infinite computing power. Autodesk BIM 360 helps multidiscipline design and construction teams improve project outcomes by moving computational-intensive tasks to the cloud, enabling more rapid visualization and simulation and optimized collaboration with access to intelligent data–rich models.

Autodesk BIM 360 services:

Energy analysis can help designers, architects, engineers, and building energy analysts perform faster, more accurate energy analysis of multiple building design iterations, optimize energy efficiency, and work toward carbon neutrality earlier in the design process.

Structural analysis provides cloud-based structural analysis to structural engineers as a part of the BIM process. Design models can be extended to the cloud for analysis and once analysis is complete, results can be visualized and explored.

Rendering helps designers, architects, engineers, and contractors reduce time and project costs and produce compelling, near-photorealistic visualizations—without tying up the desktop or requiring specialized rendering hardware.

Clash detection, coordination and collaboration brings BIM to the cloud with technology that supports multi-discipline model coordination and intelligent object data exchange for the building and infrastructure industries. This approach enables architects, engineers, owners and builders across the globe to collaborate in real time in over 50 different 3D formats, while providing a solution to distribute BIM data into external business systems.

Conceptual design and feasibility evaluation enables users to publish, store, and manage large models in the cloud. Users can invite authorized team members to access, download, and edit shared models and scenarios simultaneously and review multiple project proposals using the same data—more securely, without sending files via email or external hard drives.

Field management, commissioning and handover services enable construction industry professionals to combine mobile technologies and BIM at the point of construction. Automation of field processes such as quality, safety and commissioning checklists, distribution of plans and drawings, and mobile model access helps to provide measurable time and cost savings for AEC projects.

How is Autodesk BIM 360 different from what was announced last year?
Last year, Autodesk launched BIM 360 as a collection of solutions that help design professionals solve their data management and collaboration challenges. Since then, the needs of the marketplace have evolved and greater demands have arisen for access to information from anywhere at any time. To better support the needs of building and infrastructure professionals, Autodesk BIM 360 has therefore evolved more broadly into the next generation of BIM, providing cloud-based services that support design, visualization, simulation, and collaboration.

How does Autodesk BIM 360 relate to Autodesk 360 and Autodesk PLM 360?
Autodesk 360 is the Autodesk platform for accessing the infinite computing power of the cloud, enabling design professionals to more rapidly design, visualize, simulate, and collaborate from anywhere, at any time. Autodesk® PLM 360 and Autodesk BIM 360 are groups of cloud-enabled offerings that utilize the Autodesk 360 platform. Together, the 360 offerings provide:

  • Next generation of BIM with cloud-based services that support design, visualization, simulation, and collaboration—with BIM 360.
  • Optimized business process interaction through cloud-based services—with PLM 360.

Can I buy Autodesk BIM 360?
Autodesk BIM 360 is a set of cloud-based services, not an individual software offering. The services that comprise Autodesk BIM 360 are available as new term license purchases or as Subscription entitlements. Learn more about how these services are offered at the
Autodesk BIM 360 center.

What pricing and availability applies for the Autodesk BIM 360 services?
Learn more about pricing and availability at the
Autodesk BIM 360 center.

Is Autodesk BIM 360 secure?
Autodesk invests heavily in the security and reliability of the Autodesk 360 platform to help provide you with better security and data protection. Find detailed information about Autodesk 360 security.

Where can I find out more information about Autodesk BIM 360?
For more information about Autodesk BIM 360, visit the Autodesk BIM 360 center.

What are the key benefits of the conceptual design and feasibility evaluation service?
• Help collaborate and share conceptual design ideas in the cloud with teams located anywhere, minimizing the need to buy expensive storage hardware
• More reliably manage and share large infrastructure models with remote teams

What are the key benefits of the clash detection, coordination, and collaboration service?
 Provide the entire project team with one-click access to BIM project data – anytime, anywhere.
 Make better decisions earlier by communicating in the context of the coordinated project model.
 Help identify, communicate and resolve conflicts before construction begins.
 Simplify multi-discipline BIM coordination workflows by helping to reduce file format complexity and compatibility issues
 Improve team productivity with round-trip coordination workflows from Autodesk® Revit® software products, AutoCAD® software, and AutoCAD® Civil 3D® software.
 Reduce time spent in coordination meetings with help from real-time clash detection and coordination.
 Support team communication with notifications and activity tracking
 Better leverage the value of the model by connecting the live BIM data to project control systems.

What are the key benefits of the structural analysis service?
• Perform static analysis from the cloud so as to minimize any disruption to their workflow or performance
• Simultaneously perform static analysis for various buildings models or parts of a project
• Calculate different variants of the same model simultaneously (for example, using differing materials at the same time)

What are the key benefits of the energy analysis service?
• Improve project quality by incorporating energy and performance analysis into design decision making
• Easily compare energy consumption, loads, and lifecycle costs of multiple design options using side-by-side views of reports
• Communicate analysis results to project stakeholders using easy-to-interpret, graphical reports
• Design processionals access a cloud-based global climate data set that contains more than 1.5 million weather data sets from within Autodesk® Revit®*, Autodesk® Revit® Architecture or Autodesk® Revit® MEP software
• Conduct building performance analysis rapidly, while minimizing any disruption to the design workflow

What are the key benefits of the rendering service?
Rendering helps to reduce time and project costs by enabling visualizations to be produced in the cloud. Compelling, near-photorealistic visualizations can be more easily produced without tying up the desktop or requiring specialized rendering hardware.

*Autodesk Revit software is an application that combines the capabilities of Autodesk® Revit® Architecture, Autodesk® Revit® MEP and Autodesk® Revit® Structure software, and which is only available as part of the Autodesk® Building Design Suite 2013 Premium Edition and the Autodesk® Building Design Suite 2013 Ultimate Edition.

**Autodesk 360 Energy Analysis is web-based energy analysis that is only available to Autodesk Subscription customers of Autodesk Revit software, Autodesk Revit Architecture software, and/or Autodesk Revit MEP software, or an Autodesk suite containing Autodesk Revit software, Autodesk Revit Architecture software, and/or Autodesk Revit MEP software, during the term of their Subscription.

Autodesk, AutoCAD, BIM 360, Buzzsaw, Constructware, Green Building Studio, Revit, and Robot are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. All other brand names, product names or trademarks belong to their respective holders. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product and services offerings, and specifications and pricing at any time without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document.

© 2012 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved.

Project Collaboration

March 03

Project Collaboration

I don’t know how many saw the latest issue of AUGIWorld but it included a great article on collaboration by Jamie Richardson.  This article should be required reading for anyone (not just structural) using revit.  I have, with Jamie’s permission copied the article here…


Redefine your Collaboration Workflow

by: Jamie Richardson


By now I am guessing that most of you are already using Revit® Structure to produce your design documentation, and, if you aren’t using it, more than likely you are at least considering it. If you aren’t looking at it, what are you waiting for? The use of Revit for any discipline definitely changes the workflow for you. If the workflow is not changing, then you were doing it way different than the way I was doing it! How different this workflow becomes depends a little bit on how much you are willing to change how you have been doing things in the past with other 2D CAD applications. Let’s take a second and reminisce about what I now call the “Old School” 2D days of CAD.

Old school CAD

As structural professionals, we would always receive what everybody said was this perfectly good CAD file from the architect. This file contained everything we needed to produce our structural documentation, we were told. The thinking went something like this: “They already have the grids laid out. Let’s just trace over them, or better yet, let’s just copy/paste them into our file, or much better yet, let’s just save their file as a new file, delete information that is not needed, and make it our structural file.” In return, the CAD manager would say, “Absolutely Not! We are going to verify every single line, dimension, text, and draw our own information in our file.” Why was this done? Because over time we began to lose faith in the accuracy of the drawings we were receiving. Structurally, we wanted precision set to 1/256″ and “they” wanted it set to 1/16″ or sometimes even 1/8″. Other programs were used to produce napkin sketches of the building during schematic design and those sketches were being pulled into CAD. Sometimes the sketches were turned into nice numbers that were easy to work with and other times it looked like they were just left as sketches. The bottom line is we could not trust the CAD files to enable us to produce an accurate set of drawings that would allow other parties, such as fabricators, to use downstream. Using Revit on a project changes all of that; at least it needs to in order for the whole process to work.

The workflow needs to change

What needs to change? First, everybody needs to start producing accurate models that we all can trust. This means that those working on the project are going to have to step up their game a bit and go that extra mile to make things correct. Without this accuracy in the Revit models you are sharing, you will have little chance of relying on someone else’s model. Second, we need to start communicating again. No more of the architect moving an elevator shaft over 6″ so he or she can maintain a certain corridor width and not tell structural it was done. Drawings get issued, it gets built from the structural drawings, and the elevator shaft is constructed in the wrong location. There can be no more of the engineer changing a beam depth size and not telling mechanical. The field guy is installing some duct work and finds out that his duct work does not clear the bottom of the beam. Dropping it would lower the ceiling height. Who wins? I could go on and on with scenarios from all sides of the design team, but right now I would like to talk about how Revit can eliminate this. Using Revit to model your projects and to produce construction documents is a chance to regroup with everyone and change the way you have been doing things in the past. I know that some of you who have been doing this correctly, but I also know that there are others using the undesirable methods described above. So let’s discuss the workflow that can get you started in a new direction.

Using a dependent collaboration workflow

What do I mean by dependent collaboration? Well, this means that each discipline models only the elements for which it is responsible. Architectural should not be modeling footings, foundation walls, columns, framing, and structural slabs. Structural shouldn’t be modeling exterior finishes and door/windows to show how they relate to a lintel or a foundation wall. And I have to believe that Mechanical does not want to model any of that, preferring to model its own discipline specific elements. Can all of this happen 100 percent of the time for every project? No. You will face challenges that might discourage you from thinking that any of this makes sense, but hopefully as you are reading this, you are thinking about what part of this workflow might allow you to take advantage of the same benefits we see when we work on projects in this manner. Some project schedules might not allow for this workflow and certain structural systems may accommodate this more easily than others. There will always be scenarios that will prevent some of these efforts from being carried out to the fullest degree. But over time, I see this slowly decreasing as the workflow is further defined. At my company, this method of collaboration is what we try to use on the majority of our projects. The goal for all team members is to avoid modeling anything twice. If this can be done, then your model has to be coordinated or your drawings will not be correct. Figure 1 shows a structural section that clearly is not coordinated.

image figure 1

image figure 2

The red indicates that the architectural model is linked into the structural file. This information is not modeled by structural; structural can’t change it because it is linked into our model. We could lower the trench footing down, but whose model is right? Well, I’m going to say that structural’s model is right because structural is always right! Of course, the architects will say they are always right. Seriously, we could both change our models to be correct, but the next time we exchange our models the section would be wrong again. In the past, we would each change our drawings and when the drawings were issued we would not be coordinated.

With Revit, you can be dependent on each other’s work, so as long as you are communicating about whose model is correct and you are using the most up-to date models prior to printing, you will be coordinated. At least if your section is wrong, it will be wrong in the same way throughout everyone’s documents.

What does the structural engineer use from the architectural model?

  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Walls
  • Curtain Panels
  • Curtain Systems
  • Curtain Wall Mullions
  • Architectural Columns
  • Stairs and Railings

What does the architect use from the structural model?

  • Footings (wall, isolated, slab)
  • Foundation Walls
  • Piers
  • Columns/Post/Hangers
  • Framing
  • Slab on Grades
  • Structural Slabs
  • Roof Deck

Now don’t get the idea that Revit is going to do all of this for you. It will, for the most part, after you determine your settings, but first you need to get yourself familiar with working with the Visibility/Graphic Override dialog box and the RVT Link Display settings shown below. Getting deep into this is another topic for discussion. So for now, if you are unfamiliar with it, check it out.

image figure 3

image figure 4

image figure 5

Also take note that getting started with all of this is going to take a bit more time than you are accustomed to, mostly because it is new method of working and thinking and you need to get past the learning curve. What I see is the time you may have spent on the phone after your documents were issued is now shifted to more time on the phone before you issue. The kick is that your time on the phone is going to be much more enjoyable and beneficial for everyone because you are fixing problems

before they are costing everybody more money. If you are just starting out, it will take more time because everyone is learning the new workflow as well as trying to understand and learn what everyone expects to happen on the project. So with that said, the most important thing for you to take from all of this is to communicate before a project is even started. Get everybody’s expectations out on the table and come up with a plan to achieve your goals.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more

During this communication process you need to be communicating internally to your own people, externally to other team members, and continue to communicate on a daily basis throughout the duration of the project. Currently, I find that users of all levels from all disciplines are still learning the software as well as the new work flows involved, so the level of communication required to pull this off is key. The biggest thing is to get everybody on the same page prior to starting a project. Decide what is expected and discuss the best way to work within those expectations. To do this, we push to have a Revit kickoff meeting prior to any new project. This means that the minute someone catches wind of a project starting up, someone needs to be picking up the phone to get a meeting scheduled. In this meeting we bring with us an agenda that walks the team through everything that should be discussed prior to starting the project.

What things should you talk about in a Revit kickoff meeting?

  • Identify team members and their roles
  • Set the expectations and goals for the project
  • Identify the workflow process each team will use
  • Determine who will be modeling what
  • Review how each team will be using Revit
  • Discuss limitations each team might have with the software
  • Discuss how models will be transferred and how often
  • Decide when Revit will be used (some might still use 2D CAD for SD and DD)
  • Define the deliverables (Revit model, DWF, DWG, hardcopy, model presentation)

You might also consider creating a separate document that is more specific to your company regarding your own list of expectations in terms of what will be in your model as well as what will be in someone else’s model. Be prepared to manage expectations that are not met. You may be dealing with someone who is new to Revit or a client with whom you haven’t worked before. Either way you need to be ready to deal with the consequences of a changed workflow and you must relay that workflow back to your own team. At least with the BIM/Revit kickoff meeting, you are dealing with these problems up front rather than waiting until the day of a deadline or after an issue arises. The use of Revit gives you the perfect excuse to embrace change and redefine your collaboration workflow. Revisit the accuracy of your drawings, duplication of effort, and how you communicate. Over time I think you will find that it was the right thing to do. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, call your client or your consultant. Set up a meeting to see how you can use Revit to collaborate on your projects and maybe even change things up a bit with regard to how you work on a project. Who knows, with your next project, you might just be able to leave work on time!

image Jamie D. Richardson is an Associate and CAD\BIM Manager at Ericksen Roed & Associates, a Structural Engineering firm based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA. Throughout his 14 years of experience with Autodesk products, Jamie has been instrumental in the rollout of several versions of AutoCAD as well as the implementation of Revit Structure. He has been an avid speaker on Revit Structure at Autodesk University and recently co-authored the book Mastering Revit Structure 2009. He can be reached at