Farewell to 2011, and looking forward to 2012...

I started typing a "back from Autodesk University" post... that never got to publish.
On the last day of the year I am resolving to publish (even) shorter notes, to keep you all in the loop of what I am researching.
My reason for silence during 2011 was that I've been working on some top secret projects and some ongoing projects that can now be mentioned. This year I prepared 4 AU classes, which took also a lot of time. An I did my first lecture as co-speaker and with an invaluable help from Zach Kron (if you don't know his blog, it's a must: http://buildz.blogspot.com/). As I said in the opening statement of the class, I really wanted to attend HIS class, so I figured out that my best bet was to be standing at the front! The class is available online, if you want to find out more about it.
Another highlight of AU was a design challenge, to build "something" with a modular kit of 150 cardboard cutouts, the 123D Fab Challenge. I'll try to get back to this too, it was great fun! My attempt was to build a programmable clockwork puppet, to tell "The sad story of Mr James McFluffy"...

Back on the blogging front, despite not posting since May, according to the Stats for the blog I have received at least a visit a day, of which I am surprised and honoured! I will probably come back to the stats for the blog, I find it surprisingly detailed (in other words, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE - more or less!)

When it comes to projects, the main one was Gatwick. And still is. Here's a video explaining what we've been doing:

It was a presentation for an internal HOK award, and despite a soft tongue-in-cheek format the content sums up a lot of the BIM, Delivery and Collaboration development Ive been working on during the year.

So, as I posted in a tweet (as @UnderNDA) my New Year's Resolution for 2012 is to blog more, and describe what I'm investigating in the field of Architectural Design, with the toys (I meant tools) I've been buying and downloading this year, that include: Arduino, Kinect, Processing, Python, Vasari, Dynamo...
I'm looking forward to a year that will probably see BIM mature to Whole Life Cycle (I'm starting to see extremely interesting integration of data in this sense). Maybe we are about to redefine what an Intelligent Building is... more like the headquarters in the I Robot movie.

So, that's my promise to 2012, a few lines of what I'm up to and sharing the excitement about developing these little projects. See you all next year. If any reader wants me to focus on any specific area, feel free to leave a comment, I promise to pay attention to them!!!

CHAU 2011 y FELIZ 2012, SALUD!!


BIM 360 enabler - a primer

This post is a primer, all the info is UnderNDA, so excuse my lack of citations and images. I am sure we all will be using this procedures more and more in the near future, so there will be plenty of examples to illustrate this. For now, I am slowly unveiling a big "what if"... so big that I cannot wait to see it fully working...

Imagine for a second a world where the Design and Construction team hands over  a model (just like Phil said they would) to the Operations and Management team, that in turn share vital information with the Facility Management team and they all inform the need for a major update of the building, giving specific information of their requirements to the next go of the Design and Construction lads. Nice, isn't it? Are you doing it? Are you aware of someone doing it?... This 360 turn of the Information model is BIM 360.

So, BIM 360 is all about using data from different sources, and managing all sorts of information. The problem is that many times the people accessing that information is not fully Revit-enabled (and to be honest... who is?). Many times the data comes in all sorts of formats and shapes. So we don't want people accessing that information through Revit, or storing data in the Revit model.

In this project I was presented with a Revit model, an Excel spreadsheet with some 20-30 fields for each room (so far, nothing I had not seen before). The additional complication is that the info in the Excel spreadsheet is updated every month, and reviewed quarterly and annually. Automatically I decided that I was not going to push (even if I theoretically could) around 250 fields of data into each room, to then create 250 views and 250 filters to visualize that data...
Besides, the rooms are not visible in 3D!

The answer? Keeping the data in Excel, exporting the Revit model to Navisworks (worth another looong discussion) and hoping that the data will be pushed through. My thinking here is that it's better to get the graphical information "read only" in a (little bit) more user-friendly environment, and keeping the "juicy" data in its original format, one that can also be manipulated by the people that are interested in analyzing it.
The advantage? Spatial awareness of the information, permitting a deeper analysis of what-if scenarios.
Trust me, we are giving "flatland" people a 3rd dimension and they love it!

Now here's where my challenge begun. I exported the Revit data to Excel (including the element ID, that I used to tie data from different sources).
Navisworks Manage 2011 has this DataTools button, that has an "Excel" option to link a Spreadsheet through ODBC. I don't really know what "ODBC" stands for... but as far as I am concern it's an acronym interchangeable with "WTF"... considering how much I got out of it. It turns out 32-bit and 64-bit applications don't talk to each other, so I ended up needing IT to point to a specific workstation to have this working.
First hurdle out of the way, it needs quite a bit of juggling to get the Excel info into Navisworks. Thank God for this post on "Revit Today", that helped me understand the logic of the setup:

Last step was to juggle the Excel file, using some clever conditional formatting and IF statements, trying to dynamically change the colours of the objects in Navisworks. So far it's a bit clunky, but I am being able to choose one field from a drop-down menu in Excel, by selecting an object in Navisworks it will refresh the imported properties, and by running a "material to property" match I can change the colours in my view. I have high hopes on automating some of this, but it seems to be dong what I am asking it to do... which is a lot to say.

I look forward to get some feedback from the end user, hoping that they will like the 3D environment to work on their endless numbers.

Special thanks to Don, who is exploring the Navisworks API to get this working behind the scenes of a proper application, and David, who is supporting the effort and giving me endless advice. If you look for @UnderNDA on twitter you'll see the traffic on this very subject as it develops. Everything else is Under NDA...


On Energy

It's been some time since I started to think on this post.
Basically, every time I hear people talk about forms of energy, or saving energy, or Green Energy or the like, I wonder if those people have the same understanding of Energy I have. Also, when I read how many calories a chocolate bar has, again I think about a proper definition of Energy and its implications.

Without further introduction, here is my question: What is Energy?

From a pure physics definition, Energy is the ability of a physical system to perform work. Work in turn is intended as a force acting along a distance. All this was described by Sir Newton 324 years ago, in his Principia.

An object is capable of storing Energy because its particles are taken to a position (requiring Energy to do so) and will be able to release that Energy later. Imagine you raise an object, then let it go. That's your Force x Distance on the way up stored in the "Potential Energy" and transformed to kinematic Energy when the object gets in motion. Electricity  in particular (maybe what most people think of when talking about Energy) is a more complicated form of energy, because it's about electrons (particles floating around each atom) moving along conductors. The Voltage relates to the force of the electrons, and the Current is somehow related to the Distance. Heat as a form of energy is associated to the vibration of particles, and other forms of energy can be described in similar simplistic way.

The energy is embedded and associated to the mass of the system (as expressed 106 years ago in the famous E= m * c^2, where c is constant - of course).

Only making changes to the atomic composition of the matter (ie atomic fission or fusion) the consequent loss of mass is transformed in energy. In all other transformations the mass remains constant, therefore the energy cannot be created or destroyed, but transferred from a system to another. We are shifting energy from here to there all the time or from one form to another, but we never create or destroy energy.

Potentially all forms of energy can be transformed into one another, although some of them are more difficult to obtain - being heat a common form of "leaking" as a low-entropy form of energy. This means (and all physicist out there are laughing at my simplistic explanation by now) that when transforming electricity into light we loose some energy in the form of heat - so using electricity to produce heat purposely is actually very efficient but it means wasting a lot of energy that was lost when transforming something else in electricity.

Also, heat is also always "positive", so cooling down means actually extracting energy (remember it cannot be destroyed, so you have to find another way of pushing it out!). As this is not as easy as it sounds, we end up using even more energy to dissipate heat (in other words, Air Conditioning is probably the biggest waste of energy). The key to green architecture is to lower the heat production, by reducing the amount of transformations of energy that will create heat as a by-product, and find ways to assimilate heat and convert it to some other useful form of energy.

The implications of this are quite important, because if our facade is "greener" because it bounces off the solar radiation, you are just adding solar gainance to the building next door or contributing to the heat island around your building... but if you are adding a tree before your building or a green wall, you are transforming that energy into wood/mass instead, and getting rid of CO2 in the process. Even more, in winter that tree will let the heat through!

Lastly, about a month ago I went to a ski trip, and recorded my tracks using a GPS (showing off my android phone, of course). It gave me an interesting calorie count, and I started to think how was I spending my energy on the slopes. My conclusion is that when I was sliding down it was gravity and not breakfast calories that was pushing me, so all I was doing was dissipating the potential energy my body had stored getting higher up in the mountain on the chair-lift. My body heat, my muscles aching, were moving my body up and down as the instructor kept repeating, and my energy was moving the snow to turn or stop. At least in theory, the faster you go the less energy you use, but I doubt that's what Cardio Trainer was recording...
In any case, here's a link to one of the tracks... which is really cool!

Cardio Trainer Ski Track


A new point of view

New feature, I am getting my head around it and cannot really control it. You have been warned...
Blogger has recently launched a new feature for their blogs, that in "modern" browsers enables an exciting way to go through the posts and comments: dynamic views






More interesting, it's quite easy to jump from one to the other so it's quite easy to find what you want. The information is always the same, but if you remember WHEN it was posted, you go to timeslide, if you remember an image, you go to snapshot, if you want to see how different topics are related you use flipcard and for a general overview - or most popular posts you grab mosaic. Simple magic.

But the good news continue: this feature is available to most blogs hosted by Blogger (some of my favourites failed though), all you need to do is to add "/view" at the end of the address! This means you can use it, for instance, in these cool blogs:


Ñ in a blog-post

Diverting from any standard path (as if I had one!) I came accross this text regarding this typically Spanish letter (alt-165)... Translating it to English would make little sense, so here it goes in Spanish!
Thanks to Caro, Maia and Lele for forwarding emails :)

Con un texto que hizo historia, la fallecida compositora argentina María Elena Walsh había encabezado la lucha por la defensa del lugar de la letra insignia del idioma español en Internet. Aquí el texto:

No nos dejemos arrebatar la ñ
La culpa es de los gnomos que nunca quisieron ser ñomos. Culpa tienen la nieve, la niebla, los nietos, los atenienses, el unicornio.
Todos evasores de la eñe.
¡Señoras, señores, compañeros, amados niños! ¡No nos dejemos arrebatar la eñe!
Ya nos han birlado los signos de apertura de interrogación y admiración.
Ya nos redujeron hasta la apócope.
Ya nos han traducido el pochoclo.
Y como éramos pocos, la abuelita informática ha parido un monstruoso # en lugar de la eñe con su gracioso peluquín, el ~.
¿Quieren decirme qué haremos con nuestros sueños?
¿Entre la fauna en peligro de extinción figuran los ñandúes y los ñacurutuces?
¿En los pagos de Añatuya cómo cantarán Añoranzas?
¿A qué pobre barrigón fajaremos al ñudo?
¿Qué será del Año Nuevo, el tiempo de ñaupa , aquel tapado de armiño y la ñata contra el vidrio?
¿Y cómo graficaremos la más dulce consonante de la lengua guaraní?
"La ortografía también es gente", escribió Fernando Pessoa. Y, como la gente, sufre variadas discriminaciones.
Hay signos y signos, unos blancos, altos y de ojos azules, como la W o la K. Otros, pobres morochos de Hispanoamérica, como la letrita segunda, la eñe, jamás considerada por los monóculos británicos, que está en peligro de pasar al bando de los desocupados después de rendir tantos servicios y no ser precisamente una letra ñoqui.
A barrerla, a borrarla, a sustituirla, dicen los perezosos manipuladores de las maquinitas, sólo porque la ñ da un poco de trabajo. Pereza ideológica, hubiéramos dicho en la década del setenta.
Una letra española es un defecto más de los hispanos, esa raza impura formateada y escaneada también por pereza y comodidad.
Nada de hondureños, salvadoreños, caribeños, panameños. ¡Impronunciables nativos!
Sigamos siendo dueños de algo que nos pertenece, esa letra con caperuza, algo muy pequeño, pero menos ñoño de lo que parece.
Algo importante, algo gente, algo alma y lengua, algo no descartable, algo propio y compartido porque así nos canta.
No faltará quien ofrezca soluciones absurdas: escribir con nuestro inolvidable César Bruto, compinche del maestro Oski. Ninios, suenios, otonio.
Fantasía inexplicable que ya fue y preferimos no reanudar, salvo que la Madre Patria retroceda y vuelva a llamarse Hispania.
La supervivencia de esta letra nos atañe, sin distinción de sexos, credos ni programas de software.
Luchemos para no añadir más leña a la hoguera dónde se debate nuestro discriminado signo.
Letra es sinónimo de carácter. ¡Avisémoslo al mundo entero por Internet!
La eñe también es gente.



One thing at a time

I've been trying to write a long post with a recap of several interesting things I am working on at the moment... but I've been so busy at them that I am struggling to find time to put the pen to the paper...
So here I am, killing time while my wife does some shopping, and deciding that a series of short posts are better than the one and only recap.
This time I will refer to the mobile technology. Did I mention that I am sitting in a shop? This is in fact my first post using Blogger, a free app for my android. Sweet!
Now that around 80 people in the office are using the same phone model I have, we have been exchanging tips and recommendations... and occasional frustration when it 'goes pear shape' (very English expression I learnt only recently).
This reminds me a funny tv program I saw a while ago... (am I pushing the app beyond its capabilities? Will find out soon)

Yesterday I saw the swype text input on a HTC phone, apparently it's now available as a beta version.
Ok, here's my wife walking out of the shop. See you next stop.