August 18, 2008
Pre-BIM Tool Simplifies Conceptual Design Process
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Pre-BIM Tool Simplifies Conceptual Design Process

By Susan Smith

Affinity from Houston-based Trelligence is essentially a pre-building information modeling (BIM) tool that addresses that pre-design phase where all pertinent information is gathered and stored in a database. This product allows users to come up with scenarios to create a layout from the schematic perspective that appeals to stakeholders.

Affinity 5 was
released last year at AIA. Originally the product was used only with Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD as it was the only available BIM tool that offered an open interface (API) which could be used in the Affinity bi-directional integration. Since Affinity’s debut two years ago, Revit has come forward with an open interface.

The latest 5.5 release of Affinity sports enhancements in its integration with Revit and ArchiCAD. There are obviously some differences between the two integrations to accommodate the concepts of each BIM product, but they are equally robust, according to Carole Kernohan, vice president Business Development for Trelligence.

Enhancements that Trelligence has made in the integration with Revit, mostly apply to ArchiCAD as well. “The key message is we are mirroring the functionality to both as much as is technically possible,” assured Kernohan. “To give you an example, the concept of walls and rooms in Revit meet walls, zones in ArchiCAD do not, so there’s different functionality involved there.”

Functionality enhancements to the new release are focused on providing users a lot more capability for their work processes, as they’ve found that most firms want to be able to do work in sequences.

An example of a most traditional process for BIM is as follows: the firm would start off planning in Affinity, then do architectural programming and build the space program, then use Affinity once again for the early schematic design for layout. They would go through a number of scenarios to arrive at a layout that everyone is happy with.

At that point in time, they make the decision to load that schematic design from Affinity into BIM, then BIM becomes the master model. Designers then move forward with the detailed design using that model in BIM, while always checking back to Affinity in order to verify that it’s still meeting the requirements of the program, whether that’s area, quantities, types of places, adjacencies or other requirements.

Some customers come to Trelligence mid-project with a BIM project who want to check their model against the program. “We can we start from the BIM model and backload that into Affinity,” explained Kernohan. “Load the program into Affinity and then have Affinity do the checking and the analysis as we move forward.” Both of these processes have been provided for both Revit and ArchiCAD as bi-directional plug-ins since last year.

For the new release, Trelligence has added some options in the synchronization between Revit and Affinity. “So no matter what direction you’re going, you may want to have more control over which rooms, whether you want to incrementally add some rooms to a model or a design from one to the other or you want to delete some from one to other. You have multiple work teams working on projects. Some may being doing some additional schematic design in Affinity such as additional wings or buildings, etc. while others are doing the detailed design on the original building.”

“The improvements help people specify exactly what they want to synchronize, what they want to generate and what they don’t want to.”

An example might be a customer who wants to use Affinity for programming, who will also be using it for schematics. Currently their schematics are done in Revit by their designer. The firm would like to build their detailed space program in Affinity and load that into the BIM. Revit does allow you to do room schedules, which are basically a list of rooms that are unplaced. The new synchronization improvement allows the user to generate the room schedule in Revit from the Affinity space program. The user loads the space program from Affinity into the room schedule in Revit which gives a detailed list of all the rooms that need to be placed in the design. If the program in Affinity says
that three offices of one type are needed it will generate those three offices in that room schedule in Revit.

The Revit designers have a pull down list they can refer to and can place those rooms one by one in the model, so it gives them some information to work from. If they need more detailed information they can go and look at the information in the Affinity program, since they have it available from the Revit desktop. The user can run Affinity reports and check against the program’s requirements.

Another example illustrates the concept of room masses. “Building up rooms with walls in Revit, you can start a stage before that and build up room masses or building masses,” said Kernohan. A mass is a polygonal shape that doesn’t have walls, but it’s not a room. “People will often do room massing in Revit at a very early conceptual design stage. You may be ready to design an office tower or a series of buildings on a campus so you could make some polygonal shapes, each representing those buildings, just to give you a very easy and early conceptual design. That room mass can then be loaded into Affinity and Affinity could generate a building shape. If they
are room masses, Affinity could generate a room for each one of those room masses in Revit.”

Affinity provides all the reporting against programming requirements before you even get into designing detailed rooms and physical rooms within Revit. It is an early conceptual, visual, or schematic design using polygonal shapes, without getting down to the detail. “Building and creating a room in Revit is much more involved, a lot more pieces to it than building up a mass,” said Kernohan.

Once the masses have been decided upon, then Affinity can load those back into Revit and create rooms for the designer with walls and windows, etc.

The user can also specify what he or she wants to generate, synchronize and what they don’t want to, by turning off and on synchronization of room objects.

Trelligence has added more mapping and aligning spaces within 2D and 3D representations so that the user can drag and drop spaces out in 2D to do a floor plan. The way one space can be snapped or aligned to another space has also been improved. Usability continues to improve with each release, to make manipulation easier.

In release 5, a new 3D engine was added, and in 5.5 additional capabilities on how to view and look at and analyze something in 3D have been added. The new functionality allows a user to look at one story or one room, or look at all sub spaces.

Scenarios have also been added to 5.5 for schematic design, where the user can go in and find any number of different design scenarios and can assign each a name or number and view one by one. The architect can sit with the client and show them scenario 1 for the layout, see all of them, and let them choose. In each scenario resides all the data in real time so the user knows the area, the quantity of rooms, what components are in the rooms, and if they’re tracking costs, what are the estimated costs. Each scenario can be compared on a number of different data levels as well as just on the
visual representations

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