San Francisco, CA, 05/21/2014- Ideate, Inc., a leading Autodesk Authorized Developer and Autodesk solutions provider offering quality software, training, support and custom consulting services to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry with a special focus on Building Information Modeling (BIM), today announced the publication of the latest Ideate Software customer success profile, "Ideate Software Presents Spotlight on Sparling: How Sparling is Solving Large Project Challenges with Ideate BIMLink."

Sparling, a specialty consulting firm with offices in Washington, Oregon, and California, offers electrical engineering, technology design consulting, audio/visual consulting, and acoustical and lighting design services. The firm provides design excellence and market leadership to fuel smart decisions in a wide variety of markets, from healthcare to biotech, education to entertainment. With a 67-year legacy of leadership, the firm's 130 seasoned professionals work collaboratively to deliver design excellence in their own backyard and on a national stage.

The firm is maximizing its BIM advantage with Ideate BIMLink - an Autodesk Revit tool that improves information flow, facilitates collaboration and makes managing BIM data faster and easier. R. Robert Bell, Design Technology Manager, Sparling, Lynnwood, Washington says of Ideate Software, "We are using Ideate BIMLink with great success to simplify several tedious tasks. Ideate BIMLink lets us provide a far higher level of service than we would be able to achieve without it."

Large project challenges highlighted in the success profile include ways Sparling has been eliminating warnings in 10 minutes with Ideate BIMLink vs. "forever" without it. Also, see how the Sparling team is making asset tagging easy in a large datacenter project, and how they have been able to accommodate sudden and unexpected changes in mid-stream quickly, even for projects of enormous size and complexity.

Bob Palioca, President, Ideate Inc., says, "We are delighted to see how our Ideate Software customer Sparling is creatively using our robust, resilient Revit data management tool, Ideate BIMLink. We celebrate their success as they gain a competitive edge and fulfill the sophisticated needs of clients on the cutting edge of BIM design technology."

Ideate has published "Ideate Software Presents: Spotlight on Sparling" online. Read the Customer Spotlight Success Study Read the Customer Spotlight Success Study.

About Ideate, Inc.

Ideate, Inc. is a leading Autodesk Authorized Developer with 25+ years' experience in software development and specific focus on Building Information Modeling (BIM).  As an Autodesk solutions provider, Ideate has offered quality software, training, support and custom consulting services to the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industries since 1992. Headquartered in San Francisco, California and operating Autodesk Authorized Training Centers (ATCs) in California, Oregon and Washington, Ideate is recognized as an Autodesk Gold Partner for Architecture, Engineering and Construction, one of Autodesk's highest levels of authorization. Ideate Software is a comprehensive set of far-reaching BIM data management tools.

Ideate BIMLink powers the "I" in BIM, allowing users to pull data from an Autodesk Revit file into Microsoft Excel for fast and precise editing, and push the data back into Revit with equal ease.

Ideate Explorer for Revit lets users search, filter, quantify and select to easily manage the 100,000+ elements in a Revit model. Both solutions help Autodesk Revit users solve problems in AEC workflows and help the Revit community leverage BIM to its fullest advantage.

Autodesk, Revit and ATC are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. Microsoft Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries. All other brand names, product names or trademarks belong to their respective holders.



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General contractors and trade fabricators have historically used CSI MasterFormat as the primary way to classify cost estimation data in North America. In contrast, Building Information Modeling has favored the use of the UniFormat since the system is aligned with the digital creation of systems and assemblies, as opposed to materials and methods. In fact, Revit already provides UniFormat based Assembly Codes as type parameters in most system and out of the box component families. Even with the impetus of UniFormat, a large share of existing estimating practices still need the flexibility of mapping model elements with MasterFormat codes for estimating purposes. Whereas the adequacy of this 'mapping system' is largely debatable, and a topic beyond the purpose of this post, mapping existing system classification codes with new ones can be a daunting manual task using out-of-the-box Revit capabilities. However, using Ideate BIMLink, this task can be expedited significantly using Excel formulas. We will use the following 3-step workflow with Revit and Ideate BIMLink:

  1. Export our Revit data to Excel.
  2. Populate a custom Shared Parameter value with a MasterFormat code using an Excel formula that extracts the MasterFormat value from another database of mapped definitions.
  3. Reimport updated data into Revit

Export Revit Data to Excel We will start by exporting the UniFormat and MasterFormat parameter out of Revit using Ideate BIMLink.  We will use the Plumbing Fixture category for the purpose of this demonstration, but could easily export the data from multiple categories at once. The parameter exported includes the 'Family Type,' 'Assembly Code,' 'Assembly Description,' and a shared parameter 'Master Format Code.' 

Ideate BIMLink Fixture Type Link Parameter Definitions

The parameters are exported as an .xlsx file called 'Plumbing Fixture Codes' and opened in Excel. Here, we bring a database mapped identifiers we obtained from a source online. This database is a matrix of UniFormat codes mapped to its closest MasterFormat equivalent. You can build this matrix of mapped definitions yourself, or obtain them online. For a price, the Construction Specification Institute sells Excel definitions with UniFormat/MasterFormat titles and numbers. Populate a Custom Shared Parameter Value in Excel In Excel, use the 'Move or Copy' command to bring the Map of Definitions into the 'Plumbing Fixture Codes' spreadsheet.

Copy Mapped Definitions in Excel

Imported List of Mapped Definitions as a Separate Excel Tab

Then populate the 'MasterFormat Code' column using Excel Formulas using the VLOOKUP formula.  The VLOOKUP formula is a function that retrieves information from another database based on a supplied instance of a unique identifier. The goal is to retrieve the MasterFormat code from the Mapped Definition worksheet based on a common UniFormat identifier. The formula goes like this:

VLOOKUP Formula[/caption] The formula arguments are as follows:

  1. What unique identifier are you looking up in the database? (MasterFormat)
  2. Where is the database? ('Map' worksheet range of values)
  3. Which column of the database, associated with the unique identifier, do you wish to have retrieved for you? (Second Column from the left)

Excel VLOOKUP Formula Explanation

The Range_lookup is an optional argument and has to do with whether the column that contains the unique identifier is sorted on ascending or descending order; it requires to be either a TRUE or FALSE value, or be left blank like we just did. The formula is copied and pasted across in all the cells of the 'MasterFormat Code' column, and the values retrieved. If a value is missing on the map database, it will yield a #REF error. Reimport the Data Into Revit The last step is to save, close and reimport the Excel file into Revit using Ideate BIMLink.

Importing a Link With Ideate BIMLink 

The final result is shown here as a Plumbing Fixture Schedule:

Imported MasterFormat Codes

The workflow described here using Ideate BIMLink, expedites the task of associating new system classification codes to Revit families that otherwise would take hours to complete. The process is equally applicable to upgrade to new code classification releases, custom codes developed by specific estimating workflows, or any other code classifications applicable to regions outside the United States.

About the Author

César Escalante - AIA, CCCA AEC Application Specialist
César is a licensed Architect with more than 12 years of experience leveraging architecture, design, and construction technologies in the AEC industry. He has an extensive expertise managing, implementing, and supporting all facets of BIM, IPD, and VCD workflows that includes the use of mobile and cloud technology during design and construction. César has played an instrumental role deploying successful strategies for multidiscipline coordination of large, technically complex, multimillion dollar projects. An innovative thinker, he is recognized as a leader at the forefront of BIM technologies, and he is a passionate educator. César is a LEED accredited professional and a Certified Construction Contract Administrator. He is currently a member of the buildingSMART alliance and the National Institute of Building Sciences. @VCDwhiz


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When the BVN/Jasmax team reviewed the design of an inventive sunshade for a large New Zealand office building, the team response to Melanie Tristram, Jasmax Associate - Revit Manager was, "We have no idea how we are going to construct this in Revit. It is going to take so, so long."

Angular blades would make up the diamond-shaped panels. Blades of varying length and color were both perforated and non-perforated. Additionally, a rotation factor would be included as well. With dozens of individual possibilities for permutation with each single blade, the goal was to have "no double-ups." The tally of possible permutations devoid of any repetition: about 3.5 million.

BVN with Jasmax had already engaged in a much smaller scale project with some similar properties. In the firm's quest for a solution, they had made online queries with Ideate Software and, seeing the possibilities contained within Ideate BIMLink, they had downloaded the trial version.

After experiencing success with the limited Ideate BIMLink trial and further consultation with Ideate Director of Software Development, Glynnis Patterson, Jasmax became one of the early adopters of stand-alone Ideate BIMLink.

End result - It took minutes instead of days.

Tristram says of the use case, "The time savings represents more than the hours we did not have to spend. No one, certainly not our Revit users, wants their valuable time caught up in days of data entry. That process is unsatisfying and it is open to error. Ideate BIMLink improved our efficiency and accuracy." Ideate BIMLink allowed the team to harness the data on each individual blade and visualize how it would or could interact with every other one. On each and every occasion that they wanted to explore a potential set of interactions, without BIMLink, they would have spent a day and a half of tedium. With BIMLink, they achieved each exploration in about half an hour.

For the whole story: BVN with Jasmax Makes 3.5 Million Combinations Workable in Minutes with Ideate BIMLink for Revit

For a detailed workflow on a unique, randomized façade see this recent blog post on computational design with Ideate BIMLink. 

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Plamen Hristov, the Director of Design Technology at Capital Engineering Consultants, has aggressively pursued mastering the Revit MEP data model. Below is a transcript from a recent chat between Plamen and Director of Ideate Software, Glynnis Patterson on the topic of a solution for editing specified power and lighting loads in Revit using Ideate BIMLink.

GP: Plamen, you called Ideate Software technical support recently asking if it would be possible to edit the Specified Power and Specified Lighting properties via Ideate BIMLink. Can you give us some background on why these fields are important to your work?

PH: At Capital Engineering we are always looking for ways to automate tedious tasks and processes as well as push the boundaries of Building Information Modeling. In this case we wanted to extract as much data as possible from a large healthcare facility Revit model and use it as a starting point for our load calculations in Trane Trace. The project has over 1000 spaces and usually doing the takeoffs and recreating such model in Trane Trace can take several days. Once the data is extracted and processed in Trane Trace and Excel, we wanted to populate the Revit model with it.

GP: Is this kind of task unique to that project type?

PH: No, it is not. Load calculations are an essential part of designing the mechanical systems and they are performed for every project.

Editing Space with Ideate BIMLink

GP: Initially these values were displaying as read-only properties in Ideate BIMLink but as you pointed out to us, it's easy to globally select the spaces and allow these values to be specified. Once that step is taken Ideate BIMLink can easily edit these properties as shown in the image above. Thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with us Plamen!

About the Author

Glynnis Patterson, NCARB - Director of Software Development Glynnis is a Registered Architect and has worked with the BIM industry since 1998. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, she has worked as an architect, educator and construction site manager. Glynnis is currently the Director of Software Development Services at Ideate, Inc. and continues to work with AEC clients across the nation, developing, and implementing best practices solutions. In her spare time Glynnis does volunteer work and builds Lego projects. @GVPinNJ


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Long before I knew anything about Ideate BIMLink, I found myself spending a lot of time creating and managing Revit data, especially for custom building facades. While massing and adaptive components give you virtually limitless possibilities when it comes to design, using a simple curtain wall with custom panels can be just as effective. But what would happen if you have a lot of curtain wall panels that you want to randomize, such as their thicknesses and materials? Having to manage this data, panel by panel, could take you several days and leave you very frustrated, especially if you have hundreds of panels to edit.

Using Ideate BIMLink, I will show you how you can easily get started with Computational Design by exporting your curtain wall panel data to an Excel file and quickly apply random materials and thicknesses to several hundred curtain wall panels in a matter of seconds for a unique and fun building façade.

In this example, we will be using Ideate BIMlink to manipulate over 700 curtain wall
panels to create some colorful glass boxes with a variety of block depths.

Here's how you get it done. Step 1: Create a custom curtain wall panel starting with the Curtain Wall Panel.rft template file that ships with Revit.

Create a custom curtain wall panel, with custom parameters.

Step 2: Create a Material Parameter and set its properties to Instance.

Step 3: Create a Thickness Parameter and set its properties to Instance. Setting both the material and thickness parameters as instances will allow for greater flexibility of the family and will make the randomization of the panels thickness and materials a lot easier to control.

Step 4: Assign the custom material parameter to the default Material Parameter that is part of the Curtain Wall Panel template.

Assign the custom material parameter to the Default
Material parameter in the Curtain Wall family file.

Step 5: Save the Curtain Wall Panel and load it into your project. Once the curtain wall panel is loaded, it will be available so that you can create a custom curtain wall and apply this panel to that wall.

Step 6: Create your curtain walls using the custom Curtain Wall Panel family and a pattern of your choice.

Create a custom curtain wall using the custom curtain wall panel.

Step 7: Create a link file in BIMLink using the Curtain Wall Panels category. You can use a pre-defined .link file and edit the fields as necessary, or create your own from scratch.

Create an Ideate BIMLink link by adding the required fields for modification in Excel.

Step 8: If your project has multiple curtain wall panel types, it may be a good idea to filter out the ones that you are not interested in editing. In this example, I set my filter to only show my custom panel.

Filter out unwanted Curtain Wall Panels in your link definition by selecting the
custom Curtain Wall Panel that you created.

Step 9: Once your Excel file has been exported and opened, you will need to add a tab next to the Excel tab that was exported by Ideate BIMLink so that you can define the Material List that you want to apply to the custom curtain wall.

Create a new tab for your Materials, then create a Named List for those materials.

Step 10: Select all of the materials and then give the selection a name. In this example, I called this list MaterialList. We will use this list to create an index of materials so that Excel can randomize the materials on the Excel spreadsheet that was exported with BIMLink. Take note that we have a list with 7 materials. This number will be very important when we randomize the materials.

Step 11: In order to randomize the materials for the Curtain Wall Panels, you must use the INDEX formula. What the INDEX formula does is it returns a value or the reference to a value from within a table or range. In this example, we are indexing the MaterialsList and randomizing the list as well. Below is how the formula for the Material Parameter works:

  • INDEX(array,row_num,column_num), where the array is the MaterialList, the row_num is the row number from the MaterialList and the column_num is the column number from the MaterialList.
  • ROUND(Number, num_digits), where number is a specified number and num_digits is now many digits you want to round by. In this example, we are going to ROUND a random number.
  • RAND(), which will return a random number greater than or equal to 0 and less than 1.

Randomize your Material List by indexing the list and applying the randomization formula. 

For this example, we randomized the row_num by using the RAND() feature, then ROUND the randomly returned value (anything between 0 & 1), then multiplied by 6, with 0 decimal places, then adding 1 (which represents the 7 rows from the MaterialList), and finally, referring to Column 1 of the defined MaterialList. The final results is a completely randomized list of the 7 materials that we created.

Step 12: In order to randomize the Panel Thickness Parameter, you can use the RANDBETWEEN () formula. What this formula allows you to do is specify a lower and upper value and then a randomization will occur between the lower and upper values. Below is how the formula for the Panel Thickness works:

  • RANDBETWEEN(bottom, top), returns a random number between a bottom and top value specificed.
  • &(text1, text2, etc) [Also known as the CONCATENATE formula], allows you to join several pieces of text together.

Randomize the Curtain Wall Panel thickness by applying the RANDBETWEEN
formula and adding the inches symbol to the outputted number.

For this example, we randomized numbers between 1 & 48, then added the inch marks to those numbers using the & or CONCATENATE feature. This will return all of the randomized values in inches, which is easy for us to understand.

Step 13: Once you have completed the randomization of the Material column and the Panel Thickness column, you can either accept the current values and import the Excel back into BIMLink or you can re-randomize the values for both columns. To do so, simply hit the F9 button on your keyboard as many times as you like.

Step 14: Once you have saved your Excel file and imported it back in using Ideate BIMLink, be sure to review the dialogue box for errors and warnings, along with all of your changes. If everything looks good, click on the Import button to finalize your changes.

Review imported Excel file for errors, warnings & changes to original parameter settings.

Enjoy the results!

Perspective View 

South Elevation View

For some fun, real-world examples of Computational Design using Ideate BIMLink, be sure to check out this Studies in Success article, in which BIMlink was used to create a complex sun screen: BVN Jasmax Study in Success.

About the Author

Sash Kazeminejad - ACI, LEED AP AEC Senior Application Specialist Sash brings proficiency in Autodesk solutions including AutoCAD and Revit Architecture to Ideate customers. His industry experience includes project management, BIM Management, and design for Architectural firms in California, Montana and Oregon. He is LEED accredited professional and is on track to achieve California licensure with Oregon to follow. In his academic life, Sash was awarded a variety of college scholarships, earned a BA in Environmental Design, a MA in Architecture from Montana State University (MSU) and taught Building Information Modeling courses at MSU Gallatin College. As a Revit Architecture Autodesk Certified Instructor, Sash provides Revit Architecture training and support for AEC firms. @sashpdx


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