Your Move, Case: a holiday chess set


Dave Fano over at Case put together a nice workset checkers game for your holiday enjoyment.  Myself, I’m more of a chess guy, so here’s a chess set family: 6 types, 1 parametric spline, 2 voids.


Download Case’s gameboard with Buildz chess pieces.

Don’t wait for the end of the holidays.  Besides, you need a reason to get away from your relatives for a little while . . .



Buildz and Co. AU2011 Classes Available Online (mostly)

The Autodesk University folks have posted online versions of classes.  Here are the three I co-presented.


Twice Baked:  This is a lab class and so was not recorded.  However, the handout and datasets are very detailed and have perhaps even more information than what Robert and I presented.


Energetic Supermodels:  Also an unrecorded lab.  However, a good bit of what we covered can be watched at our New York Revit Users Group presentation, and you can download our handout here.


You Want to Model a What?:  Our whole presentation was recorded for your viewing pleasure.

You may need to make an AU account for yourself to read/view/download these.

Thanks again to my fabulous co-speakers, William Lopez Campo, Matt Jezyk, and Robert Manna!  And thanks to our many lab assistants, helpers, and contributers:  Arjun Ayyar, Scott Davis, David Light, Steve Stafford, Phil Lazarus, Dave Baldacchino, Vincent Poon, Nauman Mysorewala, Ian Keough, Mike Massey, Mark Green, Don Rudder, Bjorn Wittenberg, Emmanuel DiGiacomo, and I’m very sorry if I forgot anyone!


Parametric Patterns XII: Reporter



“Re-present (abstract or transform) information from a model.”

I haven’t dealt with Woodbury’s “Reporter” pattern yet, partly because the process of abstracting information in a complex model in tabular or graphic format is often quite trivial in Revit.  For many (if not most) things that architects, engineers, and designers need, simply hitting the “schedule” button will suffice.  This standard set of tools allows for quantities, many parameters, costs, etc, etc, etc, to be pulled out of the model into tabular form.  Data alterations made to this tabular information are driven back into the model.  Or, to put it more accurately, the tabular data is simply another “view” of the same data that is represented by model geometry.

Refinements of large amounts of data or additional information can also be drawn from the model using criteria based filters.  While basic filter behavior allows for limitation of views and selection based on category, criteria based filters allow users to specify aspects of their model that they want to identify based on ranges or relationships in the data.  For instance, you can limit a view to only display columns within a certain height range, or only show doors that have the word “Beelzabub” in the name.


Along with this out-of-the-box feature based functionality, one can also create family based geometry in such a way that it can add another layer of information to a model, drawing out more information than would otherwise be there. 




“Transform design data for fabrication”

Reporting for Fabrication

Download the file from here

Out of Plane


“Report the out-of-plane polygons of a surface by both color and text”

Please take a look at this post, which is a thorough examination of reporting panel deformation.


Form Finding by Creating Parametric Profiles with Joe K


Buildz is again honored and pleased to welcome Joe Kendsersky, Autodesk Customer Success Engineer. 

The purpose of this post is to introduce how to create parametric profiles and use them for form finding in the conceptual modeling environment in Revit.

In the conceptual modeling environment, there have been several occasion where I find myself recreating some basic profile shapes (be it a square, circle, octagon or something more complex) that can take time depending upon the profile shape, so why not make them once and have the ability to reuse as needed. The methods to do this are not new and have been available since we introduced the new modeling tools. I find these explorations interesting and by having a profile library “kit of parts” assists in ability to easily create lofts from repeated elements.

Image below shows basic samples of what can be created using this work flow.


Let’s get started and create a sample. First, in Revit start a new mass family: new > conceptual mass. Sketch a square using model lines on level one plane. Later in the post we’ll discuss the differences between using model vs. reference lines together.


Add two length instance parameters to control X,Y direction. Test the parameters to ensure constraints are satisfied. Save the family as square.rfa, this is the base profile that we’ll use.


The goal, we are going to load square.rfa into a new conceptual mass family and place it on a reference point. Before doing this, lets prepare: Start a new mass family: new > conceptual mass.

Select a reference point, in the properties dialogue set show reference plane to always and place it on level one plane.

Position the reference point to the origin / intersection of two default planes (front back, left/right) this will make it easier to align the origin of the family when loading into another template or project. This also will act as the spine of our form in the Z-axis.


Now, set the plane for the reference point to the Z-axis – highlighted below. Save the family as square mass profile.rfa


Load the parametric square.rfa into square mass profile.rfa family. Make sure the option place on work plane is selected and position the square profile at the origin / intersection – as shown below.



We’ll create a few levels and add a height instance parameter.


Crossing window select the square profile and reference point, copy to clipboard, paste and choose aligned to select levels and then select the levels – except for level one. Keep these steps in mind, as this can change depending upon how a profile is initially setup.


Now, let’s create a blended form by selecting the profiles and then create form:

Profiles selected:


Lofted Blend:


Given every profile placed on each level has its own X,Y instance parameters and additionally each reference point has an angle parameters, we can create parameters in family types and associate these to each instance.

In the family: square mass profile.rfa, I have added several length and angle instance parameters to control each instance of our profile – as shown below.


Parameter Association: tab select the square profile on level one, in the properties palette associate (X,Y) to the appropriate parameters that were just created, this is done by selecting the radio buttons - highlighted below.


Select the reference point on level one, and in the properties palette associate rotation angle to the appropriate parameter that was just created, this is done by selecting the radio button - highlighted below.


After all the initial setup, let’s test and edit some parameters to explore some different forms in the family types dialogue.


Sample Forms:

clip_image023[4] clip_image024[4]

Sample Forms:

clip_image025[4] clip_image026[4]

You can also explore the same idea by starting off with reference points to setup your profiles structure and stitch in model lines to create a closed loop form.



Additionally, when using this method, we have the ability to swap out one profile with another to explore various shapes, not having to remake the form. For this case below, a parametric octagon profile was created and loaded into the square family mass environment. These can be swapped by selecting on any profile instance and changing it to another profile type in the properties dialogue.


In the first example, we created a parametric square profile using model lines, this is relatively easy to setup and control. However, there are several profiles types that would be very difficult to make without adding additional references for the base structure – as shown below.


When a loaded family is selected to be used to create form, form creation act as though EVERYTHING in the loaded family is contributing to the form creation.  That means these extra pieces of reference geometry are going to spoil our form creation.

However, we can also just be a bit more careful in our selection and just use a portion of the loaded family.  To allow for this careful selection we need to create a surface. Select the four reference lines that make up the profile and create form, create a surface by selecting the surface and not the extrusion in the preview. Once this created, it can be loaded into a new mass family and hosted on reference points.


Profile loaded into a mass family and placed on reference points and parameters are associated.


Now, to create the blended form is the tricky part; you need to tab select the face of each profile instance that has been placed before creating form. Unfortunately, you cannot create a crossing window around all the profiles and then create form because we are selecting the family instance and not the faces, if you don’t select the faces, you’ll receive a message: “Unable to create form element” because Revit will be trying to create a form using all those invisible pieces of reference geometry.  Because your form is being created by sub elements of the loaded family, this also has a disadvantage that you will not be able to swap out the family for another family.

So depending on how the profile family is constructed; you’ll be able to either:

a. just select the whole family and use it for form creation – square profile.

b. need to tab select elements in the family for form creation – ellipse profile.

Profile faces selected:


Blended Form:


Sample Forms:

clip_image035[4] clip_image036[4]

In conclusion, these are some basic examples which only scratches the surface of what’s capable for profile creation in this environment. In the end, no matter what you are exploring: tower form, architectural column or any other element etc. having a kit of parts aides in the time for initial set up without having to recreate profiles. It also provides control of the form if the base profiles are setup up correctly with appropriate parameters.

Special thanks to Zach Kron for his comments and review.

Download a Sample File from here.

Joe Kendsersky is an Autodesk Green Beret who gets parachuted into customer offices to smooth over the bumps on their road to BIM victory.  This job is also referred to as “Customer Success Engineer for Revit Architecture”. One of his major roles is to insure the success of new and existing customers as they move from pilot to production and provide Autodesk with deep insight into product usage and customer experience. Joe is trained as an architect and joined Revit Technology in 2000, and subsequently Autodesk in 2002. Since switching into the software industry, he has continually worked to aide in the development of Revit and enjoys sharing new knowledge with all users.


Get Flat: Scale Translation Surface in Vasari


Scale Trans-What?

Ya, scale translation surface, ask for it by name.  It’s sure to provide you with nice planar panels and lots of flexibility in form making. 

I’m getting over my Autodesk University post partum depression by filling in a couple of the blanks I left in my presentations with my fabulous fabulous co-presenters William Lopez-Campo, Robert Manna, and Matt Jezyk (check here, here, and here).  This installment in particular pertains to AB4700: You want to model a What?

Scale Translation Surface in Vasari

More to come.  If you are impatient for more information on this kind of geometry, check out this paper by Jim Glymph, Dennis Shelden, Cristiano Ceccato, Judith Mussel, and Hans Shober.


Playing with Energetic Supermodels

Matt Jezyk and I are sneaking in a late arriving Lab class for AU 2011.  Check your schedules and head over Wednesday night at 5pm.

Autodesk® Project Vasari: Playing with Energetic Supermodels

Class ID: AB9660-L

  • Class Information
  • Class Type: Hands-On Lab
  • Primary Track: Architecture and Building Design
  • Other Tracks: Design Leadership
  • Primary Software: Autodesk Revit Architecture
  • Primary Speaker: Matt Jezyk
  • Co-Speaker: Zach Kron

Class Audience

Designers who are interesting in learning more about Revit, professionals who focus on creation of advanced parametric models and early design schemes, and parametric design enthusiasts who like to say "You can’t do that in Revit."

Class Description

In this hands-on lab, you will explore experimental tools and workflows using Autodesk Project Vasari. Project Vasari connects the parametric modeling capabilities of Autodesk Revit® with many of the analysis and simulation capabilities available in Autodesk Ecotect® Analysis and Autodesk Green Building Studio. You will also learn about and use new performance-based design tools available from Autodesk Labs. First, you will create a few parametric building models and simulations. Next, the class will cover more advanced topics, such as how to create automated feedback loops. You will explore workflows where changes you make to the model cause changes in the simulation results, which then drive changes back into the model. You will use both out-of-the-box tools and add-ons currently under development to create parametric building models that respond to environmental conditions through both automatic and semi-automatic feedback loops.

Key Learning
  • Use advanced adaptive components and curtain panel techniques
  • Combined parametric modeling with analysis to help drive decisions early in the design process
  • Describe new types of analysis and simulation that are now accessible to building designers
  • Create feedback loops to enable analysis results to make changes to the building model


Increment Sketch

I was having a conversation recently with someone about how “no one sketches anymore”.  I find that hard to believe . . . maybe people have different ideas of what sketching is.  There’s probably a range of “notes”, “drawing”, “doodle”,  “throw away model”, and “draft” that fits inside the idea of sketching.  While I don’t find my own sketches particularly beautiful,  they are usually essential to the process of making just about anything.  I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded in making any kind of reasonably complex parametric model without some amount of paper and pencil foundation work.

Here’s some stuff I was thinking about getting ready for this post on incrementing.



Happy Halloween, III!

3D View 2

It’s time to announce the winners for the 3rd Annual Parametric Pumpkin Carving Contest.  As always, we have the Baddest, the Goodest, and the Mostest Parametric;

Baddest: “Bad” in this case is regarded as high praise for an uncanny scariness, a serious and terrifying aspect.  Think of Shaft, Xena, Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, Spartacus, Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction, Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil, early Johnny Cash, Annie Oakley, Hannibal, etc . . . bad.

Goodest: The pumpkin that gets to the wholesome essence of both Jack O' Lanterns and the design platform on which it was built.  Free of workarounds and hacks, this winner is a model of both creativity and good citizenship.

Mostest Parametric: The pumpkin that is shaped by rules and variables, that is definite yet infinitely flexible.  It not only defines a particular look and feel, but conveys the possibility of endless variation.

A summary of this year’s entrants:  you people are just crazy.  We at Buildz realize that, in expertly providing practical notes on impractical things, we may attract the more fringe members of our already niche community.  But this is just BEYOND.  Frankly, I’m more than a bit awed by these submissions.  My descriptions here can only serve as a fanboy introduction, please take a look at the files and accompanying documentation links to get a real understanding of the imagination and analytic genius hinted at in the images.

The Goodest


Call me sentimental, but Andy Milburn’s 6 part epic examination of the formal and structural qualities of a pumpkin actually brought a tear to my eye. For me, this is really what it is all about. His conclusion, that “pumpkins and Doric columns can be treated as homologous structures” strikes me as profound, and funny, and deeply accurate.


As with previous Goodest recipients, Andy goes to the wholesome center of both the jack o’lantern and the platform in which he makes it. He has done the seemingly impossible and made the design of a vegetable and a classical architectural structure identical. It is BIMy, goofy, and exceedingly architectural.

Andy Milburn


While a close second for Mostest Parametric, what puts Andy’s stuff over the top for Goodest is there are no hacks or workarounds that I detect. This is a good old fashioned office friendly Revit pumpkin. Take it home to meet your BIM manager and she’ll ask it to stay for dinner.

If you have not visited Andy’s site, Grevity, please go there now.  There are 6 pumpkin related posts for October.

The Baddest


In the grand tradition of baddassery, that lineage of people, animals and objects that you DON’T want to piss off  (0r, alternately, you DO want to have on your side when you get trapped in the toolshed with zombies chewing on the doorknob) we find Marcello Sgambelluri.  His monster pumpkin will turn you into pie before you can say “trick or treEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Speaking of pie, it also operates with a Slider parameter that turns it into a can of pumpkin pie filling!  Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!

(and . . .  and  . . . AND it’s an animated .gif ! Kickin’ it old school badass!)

There are six nested profile families and a list of parameters as long as my arm to drive this beast.


As with previous Baddest recipients, Marcello does unspeakable, tortuous things to the platform (Revit).  Think of Marcello as Marsellus Wallace, pondering how to make this form: “I'm gonna call a couple of hard, pipe-hitting n****s to go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.”  Just thinking about what he had to do to Revit to make this work makes my fingers bleed.

Due to certain laws in the states of Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Yemin, I am not allowed to distribute the actual .rfa file for this model.  To find out how this was really done, you are going to have to attend his class at RTC.  Under 18 not admitted without an adult.  (There is a PG-13 version available in the downloadable zip.)





The Mostest Parametric


Ritchie Jackson takes us back to school with his Centrum Cucurbitum.  Along with images and models, he includes a document “Centrum Cucurbitum:  Investigating Pattern Flexibility”, a well considered study of the use of  end user programing in Revit to enhance BIM.

Ritchie employs C# programming on the component scale, using his code to generate element variations.  “All the buildings elements were created using a common parametric model driven by twenty-three input variables. The idea was to determine if this single pattern was flexible enough to provide a sufficient degree of articulation and variation for the components of the design at hand.”


These components are then manually assembled into a larger structure.


While there is no larger parametric control of the overall building form “the parametric commonalities of these parts lend themselves to be governed by a meta-Jig”.  There is a common parametric language that all the elements share, allowing them to be reassembled into harmonious relationships.  The systematic creation of unique parts allows for a systematic but flexible assembly.

Ritchie’s implementation in Revit is understood as only one possible way to realize a more generalizable parametric methodology.  “Whilst Autodesk Revit was used to create the parametric form and some of the issues raised are specific to that package the process could be implemented in any one of a number of other applications.”

This is an excellent case study of how to use “out of the box” parametric tools in conjunction with end-user programming.  Along with Ritchie’s document describing his process, there is a Macro enabled rfa file that includes some of the code for your own education and amusement.

Also Ran . . .

While the Goodest, Baddest, and Mostest Parametric are called out for their jaw dropping pumpkin acrobatics, there are a number of other submissions that I want to mention. 

Chad Smith: an anxious and doomed pumpkin


John Fout:   punk’ins


Kelvin Tam: a parametric face


Lilli Smith:  a slider driven, emotional pumpkin


Paul Munford: pumpkin furniture

Pumpkin 2011 - angled shot 01Pumpkin 2011 - angled shot 02Pumpkin 2011 - Smooth Shaded

Philip Chan: a doubly carved pumpkin

Pumpkin House_Camera View_02


Scott Davis: flexible profile pumpkin




William Lopez Campo: 3d printed and fully analog


To the Parametric Pumpkin Class of ‘11, my cup runneth over. Please please please, take some time to look at the files and documents for these projects, there are important lessons to be learned in each.   Thank you so much, we at Buildz are honored and humbled by your contributions.

Download the files from here.