Rooms to BCF

I am a huge fan of Tekla BIMSight. It’s powerfull, it’s free and very user-friendly. But like with many other project review solutions, I have difficulties to locate myself in the building while spinning around the 3D model.

It become even more tedious when you have to find a specific room in the model. There is no convenient way to retrieve its by a name or its number or zoom on it quickly.

A solution is to sort the Tekla BIMSight objects browser by Level and by Name to display every room in the model. You can then select a room and start create your clipping planes around it. This is not user-friendly. Furthermore, I haven’t always the luxury of working with IFC.

Object Browser

This is why I create a small application for creating a BCF note for every room of a building. This Revit plug-in save the location, the dimension and the name of all rooms to a BCF file.

Process

When opening this file in Tekla BIMSight, we see every room neatly sorted by level in the Notes tab.

Notes

As you select one of these notes, Tekla BIMSight zoom on the selected room, and create nice clipping planes around it.

In Tekla

To do so, I am using XbimBCF, a great library for reading and writing BCF files. I just have to adapt it a bit since Tekla BIMSight does not support yet the second version of the BCF format.

This application is now more a proof a concept than an actual solution, but I will try to find the time to clean and share the code.

The BCF concept appears more and more appealing as I work with it. This format allow to develop small utilities like this one very quickly, and will be very useful for many tasks involving project review.

BFC Reader

I was talking on my previous post about creating a report from a Open BIM Collaboration Format. This format can be exported from Tekla BIMSight.

I am using the Open BIM Collaboration Format on a daily basis for taking notes during coordination meetings. I am using Tekla BIMSight to create these notes, but any model review solution could do the trick, as long as you can export BCF files from it.

These notes are quite useful for addressing coordination problems, but cannot be seen outside a model.

After the proof of concept I presented to you on my last post, I finally took the time to build a packaged application in order to create a Microsoft Word document from a BCF report.

BCF Reader

Aside from minor technical problems, I was most concerned by the possibilities to edit the style of the report before creating it, and avoid the tedious task to clean it up in Word after.

I finally selected a solution mixing Word template and styles. All you have to do after selecting you BCF report is to load a Word template. The application will automatically retrieve all styles in it, and you will be able to select them for each part of your report.
These parts are described in the picture below, where every information embedded in the BCF note is written down on the report.

Report

You can then save your report in a new word document.

The application can be downloaded here, under the MIT licence.

The entire source code is also available on Bitbucket, feel free to use it for your own project.

Creating a report from a BCF file

I was talking on a previous post about BIMsight and the possibility to export its notes in the BCF format.

This BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) is a common development by Tekla and Solibri to create a standard for exchanging comments between building models. This format can accelerate dataflow during project review by exchanging only comments without having to rely upon the same format and large data exchange through Internet.

The BCF format is currently supported by Tekla Structures, Tekla BIMsight, ArchiCAD, Kubus BCF Manager, Solibri, Elvis, Kymdata’s CADS Planner softwares, DDS-CAD Viewer and DDS-CAD MEP. There is also plug-ins for Revit and Navisworks.

I am using Tekla BIMSight on a daily basis as an advanced BIM notebook. Every problem is addressed during the daily coordination meeting, and documented using notes in Tekla BIMSight.

Example

But for documentation purpose, I also need a paper-based report, quite old fashioned, but handy when you have to work with people without Tekla BIMSight.

I created a little standalone program for converting BCF files to Word reports. These BCF files are created from my notes in Tekla BIMSight.

A BCF file is actually a compressed file, where every note is stored in its own folder, named with the note GUID:

Folder

In each of these folder, there is three files:

markup.bcf
snapshot.png
viewpoint.bcfv

The markup.bcf file stores all metadata about the note: Its date, its title, its author, its various comment along with their dates, and so on. This is the main source of information for my daily coordination report.

snapshot.png is the first image associated with the note, and an essential part of my report too.

Finally, the viewpoint.bcfv store information about the position of the camera used to capture the snapshot. Since the very point of my report is to work outside the model, I won’t use it here.

I use the XSD Schema provided by Building Smart to create my C# classes and serialize the markup.bcf file.

To write down this report, I use the great DocX library to create a Word 2010 file.

With this little program, I create automatically a nice Word report from my coordination notes, and can share my comments with everyone who does not have Tekla BIMSight.

Presentation1

My version of the Living Cube

Designed by Till Ewert Koenneker, The Living Cube is an assembly of shelves, storage space and a bed. Tightly integrated in an ergonomic cube, its timeless design allows it to be used in any space and situation.
After encountering the work of Till Koenneker, I decided to use it as an inspiration to draw the same one for myself.
The main idea is to design a piece of furniture, producing drawings with a software usually used for steel detailing. My goal is to automatically produce shop drawings of every parts of the finished product, directly from the model. These drawings are then to be send to a joiner’s workshop for the production of parts that I can assemble myself, just like any ready-to-assemble Ikea-like funiture.
I’m not using Tekla Structure on a regular basis, but I know its power for producing shop drawing for timber or steel structure, and its caracteristics fit my needs for this project. It will be a good occasion to hone my Tekla skills.
I started with a first sketch on Tekla Structure, trying to find the best proportion for my needs. I came up with a first version, and used 3D Max to render it.

RenderingI then used the Tekla model to produce general drawings of my project, and submitted this first version to someone who is used to design and build pieces of wooden furniture to get some feedback. His very precious advice helped me to draw a second, more constructible version of my loft bed. These drawings are also available here.

VersionI was then able to create a detailed shop drawing for each part of my assembly.

PartSadly, this project is still in its development phase, mostly due to my lack of knowledge in furniture design and joinery work. I hope to be able to restart it someday, when I will have time to draw some new version.

Tekla BIMsight

As a regular user of Autodesk product, I am using Navisworks as my main coordination and project review software.

But recently, one of my client ask for BIMSight, a solution developed by Tekla for the project coordination. If I have already try it, I have never had the opportunity to implement it on project scale. I can now share my first impression on this solution.

Tekla_BIMsight

One of the main advantage of Tekla BIMSight is its price. Since it can be downloaded freely on the Tekla website, it can be given to anyone working on the project without bothering about licence fee. Furthermore, it is largely user-friendly, and can be used by anyone, even without a training phase.

It provide all main functionalities of a good project review software, like models compilation, project review and annotation, clash detection…

Possibilities for input format are pretty limited, since it can only import DWG and IFC files, but these formats are enough for most situations.

Tekla BIMSIght provide pretty good clash detection features, with most of the usual fonctionnalites : clash statuses, tagging, sorting and grouping, and so on.

The presentation of the clash result are also pretty good, but there is no function to export a clash report in PDF or HTML as we have in Navisworks, for example.

There is set of tools for creating notes that save a viewpoint in the model. Once done, you can add comments and markups on this view or link objects to this viewpoint. BIMsight provide also the ability for different users to respond to comments and keep an history of these responses.

Notes

One of the most interesting part of these notes is the possibility to export them in the BCF format, in order to be able to import them in another software. This functionnality can be really powerfull, and I will describe it more precisely in a future post.

Finally, I am quite impress by BIMSight. Tekla manage to provide a fully functional model review solution without even make us pay for it, which is pretty remarkable is this market.

From Revit to Tekla Structure

After a long absence, I am back wishing you all the best for 2013, a year full of opportunities and crazy BIM projects.

During a meeting dedicated to a BIM process, I realized how convenient a direct link between Revit and Tekla could be. Most architects draw with Revit (for average buildings), but it is not enough for producing shop drawing for the construction site.

Being able to retrieve Revit structural elements and integrate them as native Tekla elements could really speed up the production of structural drawings.

Tekla comes with two plug-ins, one for exporting Revit models to Tekla, the other to import Tekla-generated .ifcZip files.

I  quickly drew a few walls in Revit and exported them using the associated command.

RevitWalls

It created an .IFCZip file tailored for the Tekla IFC Import function.

I inserted it as a Reference Model in Tekla. The resulting geometry looks pretty, but wall openings and walls with an edited profile are missing.

In order to use this Tekla model for the production of structural drawings, native Tekla elements are needed, so I used the Tekla Macro Convert IFC element to generate them from this Reference Model.

TeklaNativeElements

As you can see, some dimension were lost during the conversion process.

These limitations made me think of another kind of link between these two software, and I started a few months ago to write my own Revit plug-in in order to recreate structural beams and walls in Tekla.

Here is a first overview of this plug-in with an interface for mapping Revit families to Tekla profiles.

PlugInUI

I was able to import a few beams and some walls with my plug-in. The whole thing is in a very early stage, and still incredibly buggy, but I hope to be able to fix it and create something both stable and useful. By now I am trying to recreate walls with an edited profile or hosted openings.

I will keep you updated on my research.

From Grasshopper to Tekla

I keep on trying the Grasshopper Plugin Geometry Gym, and one of our current projects made me search more extensively in the Tekla export module.

It presents itself as a set of tools to create beams, plates, bolts and welds. There is also a TeklaBakeStructure component to send our Grasshopper geometry to Tekla.

Creating beams is pretty easy, all you need is a BeamProfileProperty before, where you set all Tekla parameters of your expected beam. Then you just link your wireframe lines to the beam component.

I struggled for a while to set the Insertion Point property in order to set the position of the beam axis before realizing that I only had to right-click on the parameter to set it. I finally extracted it to keep it visible.

The plate component is also quite simple, with a polyline as input and more or less the same set of property as for beams.

To link two parts together, and so create a Tekla assembly, you have to create a group of bolts (or a weld), then assign it to the main part with the specific input, and add to the assembly all secondary parts you need. I am not sure if it is realistic to create assembly for a whole project directly in Grasshopper, but maybe I am missing some point here. My current project involves a lot of connexions, so I will keep on exploring these features.

 

To exploit a model imported in Rhino, Jon Mirchtin has developed two specific components call Reverse Engineer. You can use it to retrieve beams or plates properties from geometry. Here is an example of a plate recreated from a standard Rhino Closed PolySurface.

Once all you profiles and other parts are created into Grasshopper, you can export them. Just run Tekla, start a new project, and click on the TeklaBakeStructure component on your Grasshopper canvas.

Your model is now export in your Tekla project.

This plug in fill one of the most lack in the Tekla functionalities, the ability to create complex shape quickly. With this module, it became pretty easy to adapt a lot of beam on a double-curved roof, and create them in Tekla.

Geometry Gym

I was talking on a previous article about the Grasshopper plugin develop by Jon Mirtschin called Geometry Gym.

This set of tool for building modeling firstly came as a plugin for Rhino, implementing commands for designing structures and linking these models to structural analysis software.

These tools where integrated as commands in Grasshopper, allowing generating building elements parametrically, a very interesting feature at an early stage of the project.

But for me, the most interesting part of this plugin is its ability to generate IFC files into Grasshopper. A large part of the IFC classes are implemented directly as Grasshopper functions.

By combining these functions, we generate the structure of our IFC file exactly as we want it, and if our favorite BIM software is known for missing some IFC classes, we can still use a workaround by designing yourself your IFC data structure.

Using this plugin requires a little understanding of the IFC data structure, but examples can be found on the Geometry Gym blog, and are quite self-explaining.

Combined with the building modeling tools described above, it provides a powerful way of designing building, especially at the early stage of the project.

Geometry Gym came also with various plugins used as bridges for other BIM software

The plugin for Revit implement a new IFC Import module, especially design to import files generated in Grasshopper. This allows integrating native Revit element from an IFC file.

There is also a direct link with Tekla, use to generate native Tekla elements directly from the Grasshopper model.

If this software need some time to get used to it, and a little knowledge about the IFC Data structure, once taken in hand, it become powerful enough for replace any conventional BIM software, at least at the beginning of a project, and especially for complex shapes and structures.

About Tekla Structure


I just came out of a week of training on Tekla, and I feel like talking about it. As you might expect, Tekla Structure is a BIM application mainly oriented toward structural modeling and detailing. Originally design for modeling steel structures, it’s now also covers concrete structures, execution drawings extraction, and model reviewing features.

Far away from code-driven geometry and other parametrical modeling stuff, Tekla is practical. Ok, you cannot generate thousands of roof panels with a nice piece of .NET, but a least, you don’t spend fifteen minutes to draw a wall. This pragmatic approach combined with powerful drawings generation features, made Tekla a real construction-oriented BIM software.

Since its acquisition by Trimble, a company mostly knows for its GPS, lasers and other positioning hardware, Tekla had developed a great deal of applications for the construction site. Fully integrated with the Trimble hardware, it allows adding topographic points to a model, generate new coordinates for the layout, and export them in a Trimble tablet to implant them directly on site.

But what impresses me most is the execution drawing generation. Once you have drawn the few beams of your future greenhouse (for example), liked them together with the automatic assembly tools, you are just a click away from generating all the drawings you need. Basic templates include general arrangement drawings, single-part drawing or assembly drawings, but you can also fully customize your production regarding the needs of your design office.

But being pragmatic does not in any way prevent Tekla from being smart, and it comes with a large set of parametric components allowing designing quickly every details of our structure. And if these components are not enough, you can also design your own, with an interface looking like the family editor of Revit.

Nowadays, Tekla is broadly integrated into design offices for steel detailing (even in France …), and since its acquisition by Trimble, it seems to becoming the most site-oriented of BIM software.