Thursday, February 16, 2017

TOILET TANTRUMS

The need for better quality sanitary ware families has been a recurring theme on this blog.
For example, early last year I reviewed recently released families for Roca

ROCA POST

Back in 2014 I spent quite a lot of time trying to demonstrate the quality of Duravit content that might be made available to those who want to design stylish modern bathrooms using Revit.

DURAVIT POST

Well the good news is that last month BIMobject published more than a hundred Duravit families.  I was keen to take a closer look, so I downloaded most of them and carried out an analysis that I will share here.



First of all I want to give due credit to BIMobject for making this possible.  I have a pathological aversion to terms like "game-changing" but the truth is that they have had a huge impact on the world of BIM content.  Their major contribution in my view has been to bring so many major manufacturers to the party.  BIM is a journey, and without the manufacturers we will never reach our goal.  I can hardly imagine how much determination and persistence it took.  Certainly it's not the kind of thing that I'm good at. 

But what I can do is to review and comment from the point of view of an experienced Revit user and practising architect.  So what follows should be taken as constructive criticism of a job well done, but a "work in progress", which can surely benefit from end-user input on a regular basis.



I have placed the families I downloaded into a collection file and arranged them according to product family.  The first thing to say is that these are all based on CAD imports.  I know that many of you detest the thought, but quite frankly I don't see any other way to successfully represent the compound curves that so many plumbing fittings exhibit.  You only have to look at some of the native geometry used in some product ranges with their sharp edges and unsightly seams.  Yes you can get fairly close using conceptual massing, but who wants all their plumbing families to be adaptive components? 

So CAD imports have their down side, but now that we have learned to supress the polygon mesh edges, they do a pretty good job.  BUT you have to apply materials via object styles, which means that consisten naming of layers is important.



In most of these families, a porcelain material has been applied to the appropriate layer,  but in some the geometry is on layer 0, which resulted in no material being applied.  I have highlighted this by applying an orange material to layer 0 in the collection file.  This is easy enough to fix, but it turns out to be a little more complicated.  When I open the original families, there IS a material applied to layer 0.  The problem occurred because my collection file already had a layer 0 under "Imports in Families" (but with no material assignment).  So of course the project settings take precedence over the settings in the family being imported.



Another look at Object Styles reveals a deeper problem. Almost all the families use different layer names.  To correct this you have to open them one by one, and to decide on a standard naming convention.  I like to use "_Porcelian", "_Chrome", "_Plastic" etc.  If this is done consistenly, and the families are placed in a collection file, you can rename those layers for all the families at a stroke, from the master collection.



This brings me to another small quible.  I had to download these families one-by-one, and it takes about 9 clicks for each one, to download them and return to the source page. (select, download, download, save as, save, cancel, close, back, remove)   The best way seems to be to favourite a number of families to the "BIM Board" then download them from here, and remove them one-by-one as you download them.  I wish there was a button to download your current BIM board as a zipped package.  The NBS library has this facility, and it works well.  They also have a little symbol that shows you at a glance which families you have already downloaded.  BIMobject stores this information, which you can see as a list under your profile, but it's much more user-friendly to see it displayed on the product images.



You may not often want to download a hundred families as I did in this case, but sanitary ware for a hotel would usually mean a dozen or so items.  If you add accessories, it could easily be 30 or 40.  You really don't want to be downloading these one-by-one.

The families all have masking regions and symbolic lines in the 3 major orthographic views, which is an improvement on the last collection I reviewed.  Again, I know that some people argue against this, but if you need internal elevations details to normal Interior Design standards it's essential.
 


Coarse, medium, and fine detail levels are represented in a logical manner.  I personally don't favour the use of cuboids at coarse scale, but it is common practice so I'll let that pass this time around.


Next quibble.  Many of the families are hosted: face-based or wall-hosted.  They've done this with a nested component, which is good practice in my view, but the components are Generic Model category.  This means that any graphic settings you apply will not behave as expected.  You might be puzzled as to why some toilets have a heavier pen weight than others for example. It's easy to fix: open up the nested component, change the category to Plumbing Fixtures (Family Category & Parameters), load it back in.  Hopefully this will be fixed on the next release. 



Having made my collection, I ran a schedule.  This immediately showed up another small issue.  These families have not all been made using the same shared parameters file.  This has resulted in 3 sets of parameters with the same names, but different GUIDs.  It means that you can't get these items to line up in a single column.  This is unfortunate because the families come embedded with lots of useful data.  Also I couldn't easily tag these files because I didn't have the Shared Parameters file.  I could go through the process of making one, but this is quite laborious and doesn't solve the issue of merging the triplicate sets.  I'm sure BIMobject have the software skills to create an app that will process these families as a batch to correct this "triplication".


Another tiny grumble.  Do we really need 5 different render appearances to represent white porcelain?  I think it's just carelessness in naming actually, someone typed a space where someone else didn't.  It's a very common problem actually.  Very difficult to control with multiple users working long hours under pressure.  But once again it's easy to correct this from a central collection file.  Oh yes, and the white plastic shows up as grey in shaded views. 


Before I close, I want to give another plug for collection files.  They are so useful for giving an overview of the product range, for easily adjusting naming standards, for picking up errors and inconsistencies, for copy-pasting a group of objects into your project in a single action.  It's probably too much to ask for manufacturers to package up their products in this way (although one or two do) but I do like to dream sometimes :)


So all in all, this is a great set of content, that could be even better with a just a little more attention to detail.  Hopefully this can be picked up in the next round of revisions.  So at the risk of repeating myself, I think BIMobject have their priorities right:
  1. get the manufacturers on board,
  2. build up a substantial library of content with a strong user base,
  3. gradually improve standards and quality based on industry feedback. 
They've come an awfully long way over the past 5 years or so.  Imagine how far they can go in the next five. 



So thankyou Stefan, and please take these comments in the spirit intended: one of appreciation and positive encouragement. Oh, and by the way, here's a shot of me and Stefan sitting side-by-side at BCS in Porto last October.  The guy with the mike is Aaron Maller of course, and Stefan has an emoji over his face to indicate the passionate nature of the discussions taking place ... not my emoji by the way, I snipped this from someone else's tweet.



3 comments:

  1. Hi Andy,

    a very in-depth question but this seems to be an interest of yours.
    (I consulted several of your blog posts looking for an answer!)

    I've been modelling bathrooms as nested families within Revit. I've modelled them all as Generic Components because of their graphical cutting behaviour in section being being better than if they were Plumbing Fixtures.

    Several of the families (my own content) display masking regions and detail lines when shown in section or plan views, rather than the user seeing projections lines coming off live model geometry.

    The problem arises when the nested bathroom family is cut. It seems regardless of where the section line falls, the masking regions in the nested family will appear. This is pretty tricky to work around with resorting to a few cheap tricks I've come up with. Do you know any way of handling this sensibly? I'd like to hear what your thoughts are on this.

    Glad to find someone else who finds Revit bathroom modelling interesting :)

    Cheers

    Ollie

    ReplyDelete
  2. The way to handle the pesky Masking Region issue is... to not have Masking Regions or Symbolic Linework. I do all of my ID Interior Elevations with the real 3D geometry, and it works like a champ. Even when everything is nested in a Master Component. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffyY8cTaNK0&t=90s

    -Aaron Maller
    @twiceroadsfool
    www.ParallaxTeam.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting take on plumbing and toilets! That is very strange that there are five different ways to render white porcelain. I guess that's the problem with free-to-use BIM object libraries that are open to the public is the same as their main advantage...namely that they're free-to-use and they're open to the public!

    ReplyDelete

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