Friday, 22 July 2011

Revit Standards - update & comments

OK, so we’ve had quite a few comments on this topic over the past week.  Most in favour, but some who are having a hard time believing that a ‘generic’ pool of material can have relevance to the way they work.  I accept both viewpoints, but ultimately my feeling is that it’s worth a try.

There are a number of firms who have agreed to pitch in and contribute a couple of questions, including, HASSELL, Opus, NBBJ, Capita, KEO, Cox, Woodhead, BDP, M+NLB, Jasmax, Zaha Hadid, HOK, Stantec, ARUP, Geyer, Levitt Bernstein, Pascall + Watson and FRCH.

If a handful of key people can find a spare couple of hours, over the next 5 or 6 weeks, we should have a sufficient volume of questions to comprise Revit Standards module one – Project start-up.

BTW, if anyone else wants to help, the proposition is pretty straightforward.  This is a FREE community resource.  (KS does not need to monetise this in any way.  If it works out, the association with a useful, helpful, relevant Revit community initiative will be worth the effort).  But there is a cost of entry, to join the club, if you like.  To use banking parlance, in order to make a 'withdrawal', a firm must first make a 'deposit'.  The cost of entry, to access the library of tools, is one new question, for each module in the Revit Standards series.

So we currently have 20+ firms writing a couple of questions apiece (either task based, or knowledge based), on any aspect of their choosing, on ‘good practice’ for project start-up, using Revit.

For each question, the required info is as follows:
- Question copy (i.e. name, summary, question wording, answer(s), training keywords) using a sample s/s template (which we can happily email across).
- Coaching notes, which either walk a user through the correct steps to successfully complete a task, or provide a line or two of background info, about the subject being covered in the question (and why it is important).
- Sample Revit file (if applicable, i.e. for task based questions).  If possible, we have requested that any sample data sets are created using Revit 2012.

We've suggested a 'deadline' for the first cut of material, of end August.  (I fully appreciate that everyone contributing to this experiment is super-busy, and doing this in their personal time, so we very much appreciate the willingness to participate).

We’ll then compile the questions into the KS system, present them in module format, and release the live content into the KS library.  I would anticipate that firms will then make the appropriate edits locally, to make it fit for purpose in their own environment.

It has been interesting to read the range of comments which have filtered through on this subject.  Here are a selection of (anonymised!) replies, both for and against.

Glass Half Full

"I think it would be a fantastic idea to have an assessment of someone’s understanding of either industry best practice or corporate standards. Essentially…’take this course to learn how we do things’…’now take a test to demonstrate you understand.’"

"This all sounds achievable - I'll programme in some time to complete.  Am excited to be a part of this. There is definitely common ground and (global) best practice for all of those core areas - I'd love to test our teams here on Project startup process....we have one in place but no one bothers to use it, which in turn leads to a higher support component..."

"I am a strong believer in model managers and have previously had a check list for model managers to go through on project start-up and throughout the project. I could see this module of KS acting as a tool to help analyse the best person to perform this role."

"Quite spookily we’re currently discussing (the need for) a Revit Project Setup KnowledgeSmart test to ensure Revit project team members understand the ‘absolute must do’s’ before being allowed to start work on a live Revit project."

"Yes, yes yes yes yes!! Count us in. I agree that it’s a great idea and is definitely worth a try."

"Love the idea – I’ll give you 2 items."

"You asked “is there sufficient common ground, to enable the creation of a 'generic' set of Revit standards questions” and I think that the crowdsourcing approach answers that question perfectly. I suppose you can assume that if your most KS friendly firms can’t develop a standard set of questions, it probably can’t be done. But I think it can be."

"Coincidentally, this is something that (firm name) have been discussing recently – a test or checklist of some sort for project standards (setup, etc…). There are generic fundamentals prior to the more firm-specific things that all projects have to account for. We would argue that the more industry standards we can set now, the better off the industry will be in the future. CAD standards developed completely out of control and I would hope that we all learned a good lesson from that. . I love this concept!"

"Anything with a standard is tough.  I think crowd sourcing assessment material is a great idea."

"I think this is a great idea, one of the main things being that once again this will be a collaborative effort, and bring the BIM community together to hopefully create a common best practice series of ideas that aren't company specific. I love the idea of open source approach."

"I really like the “crowdsourcing” idea for a Revit standards assessment. Our (leadership) group just finished up trying to create a “BIM assessment” – something that would tell us if people “get” how BIM is different from CAD. I think we’d all agree that it would’ve been great to have a pool of questions to start from and tweak, rather than start from scratch!"

"Your email is well timed, as we have just been discussing the very issue of standards, their implementation and assessment. I think the idea is a good one and with all new ideas, even if it isn’t perfect the first time, it very soon will become perfect as everyone chips in. I feel this will be invaluable and we are happy to participate."

"Anyone having spent time in Revit or in the Revit community knows that the attitude is a bit more open for sharing content and procedures than has previously been expected from other software packages.  My observation is that while every firm has a twist on a standard, there are indeed commonalities for those best practices.  The concept of sharing these should not be viewed with trepidation but embraced as a learning opportunity. I think testing on best practices is a good idea to ensure the data has been communicated well to the users.  At the very least it will make them think about those best practices again to remind them it is a concern and is important."

"I think this is a very workable idea."

On The Fence

"Personally I really like the idea however I am a little dubious as to whether or not it will work. It’s hard enough getting a consensus about anything BIM related with just a handful of people, never mind opening it up to all. I agree that it does seem pointless everyone going through the same process but I kind of think this is unfortunately engrained into the architectural world so deeply that I can’t see it changing. The jury is out as to if the open standards would work.. my gut feeling is not.. I would love to be proved wrong!"

"Pulling together content, be it families, libraries, best practise in the way you have suggested is a great idea  (assuming people are happy to participate)."

"I think there is something to be said for some well managed crowd sourcing. You have a massive task ahead trying to achieve this, so good luck!"

"This could have some legs, you just need to get the right people to submit questions... I will find some time to submit a couple to see where this goes."

"We use Revit standards internally based on the AEC (UK), Autodesk and other published standards and best practice guidelines and our BIM process methodology draws on the work of Penn State, Georgia Tech, the VA and buildingSMART.  BIM standards are emerging, but there is still nothing definitive, maybe the US NBIMS with fill that gap.  Like CAD standards of old, I believe that Revit standards will tend to be developed by companies internally, with reference to external standards. We have some very specific requirements which fit with our process and back office systems, so I couldn't imagine relying on external standards alone."

Glass Half Empty

"What makes a firm unique? Why you would hire one Architect over another is the unique way they design. Each firm comes to solving the problem of design in a different manner. To me the CAD/BIM world is just a set of tools we apply to the way we design. Those tools must be flexible enough to be applied to very different methods of design from conception to working drawings. The more we try to find standards the more we will restrict our different ways of designing."

"The idea is sound, but I suspect you won't find anyone who will actually put in the time. Crowdsourcing sounds great in theory, but the reality is that most people are too busy (or too selfish!) to share."

"Sorry, we don't have time to get involved in this.  But keep us posted, as it sounds like an interesting idea, in theory, at least."

"A universal standard is the paramount end goal, yes.  But do I think it's valuable for KS to get involved?  Not really."

So there you have it.  An interesting mix of reactions, but on the whole more positive than neutral or negative comments.  Of course the 'proof of the pudding', is in whether people can actually free up the time to write a question or two.  Any crowdsourcing initiative lives or dies by the momentum generated by a few key people.

I think back to last year's KA Connect, where Chris Parsons told the story of 'shirtless dancing guy', which provides an interesting view on the significance of momentum and the all-important, 'tipping point'.

So, here we are, in the field.  Anyone care to dance? :)


Friday, 15 July 2011

Revit Standards

There has been much discussion in recent months, surrounding the topic of common methods of 'good' working practices, in particular for firms using Revit.  Earlier this week, I attended the Leeds RUG and enjoyed listening to visiting speaker, Neil Munro, from Opus NZ, talking about Revit Standards & Protocols.

Just a few weeks ago, whilst attending RTC AU, I sat in on an interesting presentation from the committee responsible for the Australia & New Zealand Revit Standards document.  Here is a link to the ANZRS site, which is definitely worth a look:

And of course we have our own home-grown initiative, the AEC (UK) BIM Standard for Revit, which has been making impressive progress over the past couple of years, with a strong committee-led approach:

There is a useful discussion thread on standards to be found over on Revit

And this month, the Twittersphere has been ablaze with postings about the new Open Revit Standard, led by industry stalwarts, Sean Burke and David Fano, among others.  For those Twitterers among you, search for the hash-tag #OpenRevStds, to follow the ongoing dialogue.  And check out the new wiki-style site:  This promises to be a fascinating initiative.

So I got to thinking.. as Revit is already a hugely popular topic for skills assessment material, how useful/feasible would it be, to create a series of KS modules which cover 'good' practices for Revit standards?   

I'm thinking of modules covering the following core areas:  Creating a Revit template file, Installation & setup of Revit, Project start-up process, Work sharing, Creating & managing Revit Families, Collaborative working, Draughting standards, Model management.  Anything else?

And whilst I appreciate that such modules would naturally vary from firm to firm, is there sufficient common ground, to enable the creation of a 'generic' set of Revit standards questions, which could then be edited by individual firms, to wrap around their own in-house standards & protocols?  Would it be too much to suggest that anyone starting a new Revit project, must first demonstrate to the team Principal or Job Captain, that they have taken (and aced) the project start-up module?  That they do, in fact, understand key 'do's and don'ts' before being allowed to start work on a live Revit project.

Further, what if, instead of one individual author doing all the heavy lifting on this one, we employ the concept of 'crowdsourcing' the content, one module at a time?  For example, if we start with Revit project start-up process and deliver a module of 20 questions on this subject.  This makes more sense than 200+ firms all reinventing their own version of essentially the same wheel! In my experience, it is far easier to start with an existing set of data, than to write everything from scratch, each time.

So, to start the ball rolling - and to see if the concept has potential - what if we invite 10 KS-friendly firms, to write two questions each, on general Revit standards for project start-up?

My thinking is that this could be a 'free' resource, for any firms using Revit, who want to assess their users' understanding of in-house standards.  The 'cost' of entry to the club, however, could be to submit two (or more) questions to the overall Revit Standards 'pool'.

We have a number of Revit specialists whom we can call on, to sanity check the content and generally ensure that it is fit for purpose, prior to release into the Revit Standards library.

We'll be speaking to the team behind the Open Revit Standard, in more detail over the coming weeks.  It will be interesting to see if we can align any assessment content for Revit Standards, with the community-led initiatives currently taking place.

More to follow on this topic..