The last place I worked at was at one time a thriving design New York architects build firm. On a few occasions the brain trust from the Architecture department and the Construction department would gather their donuts and coffee and meet in the conference room to discuss the quality of our construction drawings and how to improve them.
Our drawings had the normal problems due to the usual pressures of a busy architectural work environment; missing information, conflicts, coordination issues, CAD anomalies, etc.
Remember the days when firms had drawing checkers? It seems that nobody checks drawings anymore; there is just no time in the schedule or budget. Now we call that process bidding. It sure makes the construction guys angry. We get sensitive about our design work, but they get sensitive when money is involved. Some people are just so materialistic.
As the CAD manager, I would sit and take notes in these meetings, while trying to balance a coffee, diet coke and two donuts in my lap. After about an hour and a half, everybody had their say. Although I had a ton of notes, they were just details pointing to the issue. The problem was surprisingly simple, the drawings were not coordinated.
As the CAD manager, I was greatly grieved by this. We were using Architectural Desktop for all of our work. We were using it as a BIM tool, building a 3D model and extracting all the 2D drawings. Very cool but it was hard to do, required years of training on my part, years of setup and the breaking in and training of new people. Some of the new people were very resistant to working in 3D and with tools they were not familiar with. Some were actually subversive. I called these people flat-landers because they wanted to experience architecture in 2D. I suppose it was better than calling them what I really wanted to.
As difficult as it was, we were getting good results. We could create live renderings on the fly, we knew what the building was really going to look like and we knew where the design problems were developing. We even made money on our architectural fees occasionally. So how did this problem occur?
As the project got closer to finishing and the resolution of the detail became finer, Architectural Desktop became more difficult and finicky. When crunch time came, the subversive flat-landers would explode the project. Once exploded into lines, the less experienced would deconstruct the coordination in an effort to create the illusion that the project was actually finished. When the inevitable changes came along, the project CAD data degenerated even further.
Then along came Revit. This program fulfilled the promise of what Architectural Desktop was supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was a big pain to implement but I knew that if I could make Architectural Desktop work for us, then I could implement Revit. Management was certainly not always supportive, providing no training and no setup time to make it work, but they did provide doubt and criticism. At least they paid for the required hardware and software.
In Architectural Desktop you had to invent complex systems to manage a project. In Revit this was already taken care of. In Architectural Desktop you had to invent complex CAD standards and program them in to your system, and then train users and enforce the standards. With Revit, the standards out of the box worked for us. This was absolutely amazing. I can walk into any office with Revit on a computer and just start working. Imagine that? I can’t even begin to tell you how much CAD customization I have done in the last 20 years. I don’t do anything to Revit except to create families, (their term for parametric block styles) shared parameters and project templates.
Architectural desktop is rough, Revit is smooth. Architectural Desktop is fragile and breaks, Revit is strong and solid. Upgrading Architectural Desktop is a multi-week process involving breaking all the tons of current customization and rebuilding it after you purchase a few books, email some gurus, and find the hidden cache of secret inside information on what is really going on inside the stupid program. It takes not one but at least three programming languages to make this thing work right. Then of course you have to retrain the users.