AEC

BIM and Searching for Product Content (1-2-3 Revit Tutorial)

1 May, 2008 By: AIA ,Rick Rundell

New search technology improves Revit users' ability to find product content for their building designs.


The ever-rising use of building information modeling (BIM) is fueling the demand for BIM-friendly building product content. My January tutorial focused on how building product manufacturers are providing tools and libraries to integrate their products with BIM and BIM solutions such as Revit. In a similar vein, this month's tutorial focuses on new Autodesk search technology within Revit itself — technology that enables Revit users to more easily find products to include in their projects from within their native design environment.

BIM Content
There's a growing trend toward incorporating more detailed data in a building design earlier in the overall design process. This allows designers to better convey their design ideas and supports related design activities such as visualization, energy analysis, and more.

The product data and content comes from a variety of sources: libraries shipped with BIM solutions; user-generated content or files shared with colleagues; community sites like RevitCity; content aggregators like BIMWorld or McGraw-Hill Construction Sweets Network; or directly from product manufacturers such as USG.

This abundance of BIM content is good news for Revit users, but designers now need an efficient way to search that distributed content to find the exact design data and files they're looking for (think of the Internet without Google and other search engines). This requires advanced search technology that can present all of this BIM content in a unified, useful way and in the fewest possible clicks.

Autodesk Seek
Autodesk Seek is a recently released Web service developed by Autodesk for Revit and other Autodesk platforms that allows designers to search for building products regardless of the source of the data, thereby facilitating the free flow of data from product manufacturers to designers. This service is an open, nonproprietary platform that Revit users (and anyone else) can quickly search for product information — and design files associated with those products — using product-specific search parameters like "casement window" or "French door."

Autodesk Seek is a dynamic system that indexes and categorizes distributed content from a variety of sources, including data from content aggregator partners, product manufacturers, and existing Revit and AutoCAD building product libraries. The product content found by Autodesk Seek includes 2D drawings, specifications, descriptions for that product or component, and native design files that can be used directly in the authoring solution (such as Revit RFA files).

The parametric search technology of Autodesk Seek is well suited for finding products that contain precise descriptions and attributes. For example, it enables designers to find and specify green products based on the highly descriptive nature of green products such as performance ratings, LEED scores, materials usage, and so on. This differentiates its results from the search results of mainstream search technologies that search based on unstructured text strings versus structured product criteria.

Autodesk Seek is designed to make published building product information more accessible to designers and therefore make it easier for them to include the products in their design. It also allows product manufacturers to increase the specification of their products by enabling designers to more easily incorporate the manufacturers' products in their building designs.

Content Search Capabilities
The Autodesk Seek toolbar and search window is included in Revit user interface, enabling Revit users to search for product content from within their design environment. Note: Although the toolbar has been specifically added to the user interfaces for Revit and other products, the Autodesk Seek Web site is an open platform and available to anyone from a standard Web browser.

table
An Autodesk Seek search window is included in the Revit user interface.

Revit users can search for a product by typing in any keyword associated with the product ("windows," for example) in the search box and hitting the Enter key. A Web browser is launched and the initial set of results is displayed in an Autodesk Seek browser window.

table
A standard Web browser window displays the results of the product search.

Filters can then be used to refine the search results — similar to how familiar retail Web sites allow shoppers to browse for products and narrow their product searches. For example, the results of the window search above can be filtered by manufacturer or by product attributes (applicable for a window) such as window type, material, or type of glazing.

Click for larger image Search filters allow users to quickly narrow their product choices and get access to relevant part files or data based on their specified parameters. (Click image for larger version)

There are also filters for design file types (file formats such as RFA, DXF, DWG, DGN, SKP, and more) as well as content type (such as 2D or 3D design files, product brochures, or product specifications). The detailed product attributes allows users to filter their results in a more granular way (for instance being able to filter based on the height and width of desired window).

Each result is sorted and presented to the user based on the completeness of the content, thus higher quality content with richer descriptions about a product are presented first. The user can click on any item in the list of results to get more detail regarding that specific product, including a product description, a reference link back to the source of the content, a table listing the manufacturer's key product specifications, and the design files and product documentation that are available for downloading.

Click for larger image The user clicks on a product from the list of results to see detailed product information, including the source of the content and the files that are available for downloading. (Click image for larger version)

To download the content, a user just drags and drops the RFA design file from the search results directly into the Revit project browser and then inserts an instance of the component into the Revit model.

Click for larger image Drag and drop the Revit design file from the Autodesk Seek browser directly into the Revit project browser and then insert that component into a Revit model. (Click image for larger version)

Click for larger image The manufacturer-specific design files typically contain more detailed product data than the generic counterparts, supporting related design tasks such as visualization or energy analysis. (Click image for larger version)

Summary
Autodesk Seek gives designers a seamless content search experience by combining a powerful search service integrated with their native design environment. Design productivity is improved, enabling designers to quickly find sourcing information for a desired component across a wide variety of manufacturers and product categories. And it's good for building product manufacturers as well, by allowing detailed information about their products to be more easily found by designers.


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About the Author: Rick Rundell

Rick Rundell

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