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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San Francisco, CA, 04/29/2014-Ideate, Inc., a multi-decade veteran Autodesk Developer Network member and Autodesk Gold Value Added Reseller today announced the delivery of Ideate BIMLink 2015.0 and Ideate Explorer for Revit 2015.0. The release of these Ideate Software  solutions is concurrent with the Autodesk Revit 2015 product launch.

The solutions have been ported to the 2015 Autodesk Revit platform in support of Revit users' software migration and testing processes. Both solutions support any changes to the data structures within the Revit file format.

Ideate Software is a set of far-reaching BIM data management tools that help the Revit community clean up models, delete problem items, analyze files quickly, improve speed and accuracy in data flow, increase collaboration and overcome repeated workflow interruptions.

Ideate Director of Software Development Glynnis Patterson says, "As we do traditionally, we have shipped congruently with Revit 2015 in support of our customers' operational reality. Certainly, many Revit-users continue to work in and maintain projects in earlier versions. At the same time, our customers may undertake migration and testing processes for 2015. Having congruent versions of Revit and Ideate Software helps our customers move projects forward."

Bob Palioca, President, Ideate Inc. says of the 2015 Ideate Software release, "Providing BIM data management solutions that answer tough challenges is our great delight. We want the Revit community to know, when you are ready to migrate and test your migration environment, we are ready with the tools you need."

Both Ideate BIMLink and Ideate Explorer for Revit carry five star ratings on the Autodesk Exchange Apps Store, and both are available with a 30 day non-commercial trial. For more information, call 888.662.7238, contact [email protected], and for support, contact [email protected].

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, 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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Ideate BIMLink can help expedite and ease the creation of Space Analysis Diagrams. Programming has to convey data in a way that is clearly understandable in tabular format and diagrammatic plans. Programming diagrams developed under this phase are typically divorced from the data source. Transposing this data into Revit objects typically involves the tedious task of manually retyping the information into Revit Schedules. Now, this can be streamlined by importing the program data directly from Excel into Revit, using Ideate BIMLink, the Revit add-on that imports Excel generated data into Revit.

To demonstrate this workflow, I will use as an example the overall program data of two fictional institutional buildings. I will show how you can connect the information of Revit Area objects with the Program spreadsheets. Then, we will build Space Diagrams with Areas and Area Boundary lines.

Step 1: Build the Area Parameters in Revit:  A solid understanding of the programming data will help you decide how to build the parameters. Area parameters are typically Instance parameters because each area displays different property values. Decide what fields need to be tagged and build those as shared parameters. In the example below, I created five custom parameters, including two Shared Parameters called 'Programmable Area' and 'Neighborhood' that will be used as labels in tags.

Step 2: Build New Area Plan Schemes for Programming Options:  Customize your Area Plan views by adding them under the Area and Volume Computations. You are not limited to the Gross and Rentable Schemes that come out of the box in Revit. You can use Area Schemes to manage your Area Plan options, Zoning Requirements, Buildings, Occupancies, etc.

Step 3: Build an Area Schedule in Revit and Add Area Placeholders:  Add into the Schedule of Areas as many rows as needed to develop your space analysis diagram.  The idea is to create placeholders for each of the required spaces. There is no need to spend time filling out the parameter values because we will do this more efficiently in Excel.

Step 4: Export the Data to Excel:  Using Ideate BIMlink, export the parameters to Excel. BIMLink ships with a 'Link' definition with a preloaded set of parameters of the Area Category. Unlike Revit Schedules, the link is inclusive of all the systems and user created Area Schemes, enabling users to manipulate the data of multiple Area Plans in a single database. Add any additional custom parameters in the Area link as needed, and/or exclude the ones you don't need.

Step 5: Fill the Area Information in Excel:  Populate the Area parameters using the extended capabilities of Excel. There are many different ways in Excel to do this, to name a few:

  • Create external references between the cells of the Link and the Programming report (=[FileName.xls]Worksheet!Range). In this scenario, the two database files will be linked, and the BIMLink link would remain updated.
  • 'Nest' the programming data into a new tab and connect the cells between tabs (=Worksheet!Range).
  • Copy/Paste the data.

The choices you have to edit, sort, and modify the parameter values in Excel are far superior than the out of the box Revit ones.

 Revit, BIMLink, Excel, Parameters, Shared Parameters, Programming

Step 6: Use Pivot Tables and Charts in Custom Tabs:  The beauty of having the data in Excel is that you can use all the available Excel tools to present the data in a way that is meaningful to the client, like Pivot Tables. Build Pivot Tables in Excel to automatically sort, count and summarize the program in the same BIMLink worksheet as long as they are placed in a different tab. Data in the custom tabs will be preserved even if the link is re-exported. Keep the original 'link' tab away from format modifications; this will ensure a seamless import/export process. Another feature in Excel you can use is to assign background colors to different cell values using the Rules under Excel Conditional Formatting

Format Cell Fill Color Using Rules in the Excel Conditional Formatting

Here are few other examples of how the programming data can be displayed using different Pivot Tables, in the same BIMLink file:

Pivot Table 1 Built into the BIMLink Link.

Parameters, Shared Parameters, Programming, Excel, Revit, Ideate BIMLink, BIMLink, Ideate Software, Space Needs Analysis, Pivot Table
Pivot Table 2 Built into the BIMLink link.

Pivot Table Sample 3 Built into the BIMLink link

Parameters, Column Chart, Shared Parameters, Programming, Excel, Revit, Ideate BIMLink, BIMLink, Ideate Software, Space Needs Analysis, Pivot Table
Pivot Table Column Chart Sample

Step 7: Re-Import the Link Data Into Revit Using Ideate BIMLink:  All the Area parameter values will be updated. Again, BIMLink will only read the data in the original tab when re-importing.

Step 8: Build the Space Needs Diagram Using Area Boundary Lines and the Area Placeholders:  Since all the areas live in the project as placeholders in the schedule, pick the appropriate Area from the Options Bar. I applied Color Schemes to the view, based on the Name value, but we can also build others based on the information contained by the Area objects, like Zone Type, or Area Ranges. These color Schemes can also be pre-built into your View Templates.

Parameters, Shared Parameters, Programming, Pivot Table, Chart, Area, Boundary Lines, Revit, Revit Parameters, Revit Space Needs, Space Needs Diagram, Ideate Software, Ideate BIMLink, BIMLink, BIM, Excel to Revit
Space Need Diagram Sample

The BIMLink 'link' may need to be re-exported and re-imported to reflect changes in the space program. By managing the data in Excel and importing into Revit, Ideate BIMLink expedites the process of creating space planning deliverables. The same process is useful in producing other kinds of deliverables such as: Mixed Use Code Analysis, Fireproofing Diagrams, Landscape plans, Master Plans, etc. If you are interested in receiving a copy of these Pivot Table excel samples, drop us a note to [email protected].

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.


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Register here!

Ideate Software Presents - We are pleased to announce that Ideate Software will be holding a half-day seminar event in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 7th. This seminar will highlight Ideate BIMLink and Ideate Explorer for Revit, as well as dive into the subject of Revit Parameters. This seminar is suitable for any Revit user. Please read on for the presentation description and schedule. May 7th 2014

830 Traction Ave, Suite 3A
Los Angeles, CA 90013

8:30am : Light Breakfast, Networking, and Introductions

9:15am : Auditing Your Revit Project with Ideate Explorer for Revit

If you are not yet providing weekly auditing on your Revit models, then your project is at-risk. Learn our top 10 ways to audit the Revit model.

10:15am : A Parameter by Any Other Name

Project parameters, key parameters, family parameters, shared parameters, parameter groups, and GUIDs - it can be overwhelming to dive into the world of Revit data. A well-organized data structure will bring about a higher quality handover document and reduce scheduling headaches down the road. You can't create custom content without first understanding the Revit data structure for each kind of parameter.

11:15am : Mastering Your Revit Data With Ideate BIMLink

With Ideate BIMLink, you can pull a variety of information from your Revit model into Microsoft Excel, and push edited BIM data from Excel back into Revit with speed, ease, and accuracy, saving you a lot of time and money. We will be showing you several ways to quickly edit your sheets and views using BIMLink. For more information:  View the invitation and register here.


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