In General

How to reality check your project

Buildings are getting more complex as we continue to implement new materials, methods and technologies. Of course, this means our construction documentation and BIMs are getting more complex as well. To help keep things in order during the design process, many firms will use a clash detection tool such as Autodesk Navisworks or Bentley Navigator. However, those tools, as great as they are, do not find all problems with a proposed design.

This post will look at ways we can use Enscape to review a project before it goes out for bids (aka tender), or at any project milestone, to find problems. This saves time and money during construction for both the client and the design team.

This “real-time” review may be accomplished by a single person at their computer, or with a group in a conference room, even via a web-based meeting. Another option is to review the project in VR. Each of these options offer several opportunities to discover problems with the design, which can be easy to overlook from within the primary design software or via printed drawings and static renderings.

DOORS

A while back I was showing a project manager his project in VR and at one point he said, “Why don’t the top of those doors align?” Doors that are placed in plan-view and on adjacent walls can sometimes get out of sync when it comes to height and materiality.

Using Enscape, we can visualize a project more naturally in real-time and discover potential design issues while moving around the virtual project. Notice in the next image that the door on the left is taller and has a different frame than the door on the right. Plus, the overhead (OH) garage door in the center appears to be too low. While reviewing the issue, it is also evident that the duct in the upper left could easily be moved closer to the wall to allow the OH door to be taller.

Three adjacent doors with different heights and finishes

Three adjacent doors modified for height and finishes

RESTROOMS

There are many failed restroom designs, in terms of sightlines; don’t let your project be one of them. This first image is from my Interior Design Using Autodesk Revit 2019.Here we see how the space can be designed to passively avoid uncomfortable sightlines, even at the expense of a plumbing fixture (i.e. fewer total fixtures).

Restroom sightline analysis

Restroom sightline analysis

Navigating a project in Enscape we may find a similar situation. In this next image we see the project’s typical all-glass door had been copied around in Revit. In this case, we are just looking into the handwashing station and the toilets are separate compartments with full walls and doors (a common European design). Thus, this may just be a quick discussion with the design team or client to see if anyone is concerned about this. Given this space is adjacent to a lobby, it may be decided to use frosted glass as shown in the second image.

Visual analysis of sightlines into restroom; clear and frosted glass, respectively.

Visual analysis of sightlines into restroom; clear and frosted glass, respectively.

A worse case would be the glass door opens into a unisex restroom for one person, where the toilet is fully visible. I have seen some great examples on Twitter of people using Enscape to discover this very issue. In this case, frosted glass may not be the answer (unless nearly opaque). Thus, a solid door panel may be more appropriate as shown here.

Frosted glass poses unforeseen issues

Solid door panel as a solution

NON-CLASH ISSUES

There are many design issues that cannot be discovered with clash detection software because items in question do not touch anything, or, as in this first example below, they simply do not exist. Notice here that the ceiling is missing. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to delete an element unintentionally. Navigating the model with Enscape can quickly reveal these omissions.

It could also be that the structure, ducts and pipes are meant to be exposed. In this case, the light fixture type and supports should be reviewed. It would not hurt to make sure the drawings and specifications call for all of this to be painted (if that is desired).

Missing ceiling discovered

Ceiling element restored in the BIM

The corridor looks better with the ceiling restored. Ceilings like this are designed to be highly reflective so light bounces around more, and this ACT system improves the acoustic performance of a space.

Here is an example of power and data outlets on the wall not aligned with the copier. Perhaps the architects moved the copier as the design evolved or they were placed before the copier family existed in the model. In any case, if this is not resolved there will end up being a design compromise; the copier has to move, or the cords/cables will be visible.

Power and data outlets for copier in the wrong location

In this next example, it jumps out to me, as it does in real life, that the tops of the hollow metal door frames do not align. I know why; the door into the stairwell is in a fire rated concrete block wall and the other two doors are in a metal stud framed walls. In the USA, most commercial doors are 7’-0” tall. A masonry opening is 7’-4” so the door frame head is usually 4” to make up the different. But, doors in metal stud walls typically only have a 2” head, which matches the jambs.

Door heads do not align

Door heads adjusted to align

However, with todays improved production methods, it is easy to order 7’-2” tall doors, which used to be cost prohibitive, and make all the frame heads 2”. The problem is solved, as shown in the second image.

Like the copier example above, we want to visually verify that adequate power/data devices are provided where needed. In this case, we can temporarily delete the refrigerator and vending machine in Revit to get a look at the wall behind in Enscape.

Visually verify FFE size and layout

Hide or delete FEE to visually verify power/data outlets

With those items out of the way, we can see the required outlets. I personally do this often when reviewing a project. If the electrical team is modeling things properly, the devices should appear where you would expect them once the project is built. This includes at reception desks, above countertops and in microwave cabinets.

LIGHTING VIEWS

Another way to visually review the model is to use Enscape’s Light View mode, which renders a pseudocolor image of the illumination intensity, to look for potential glare or hot-spot issues. Notice how this feature was used to visualize the benefit of employing exterior sun shades in the below design.

No sun shade on the left results in hotspot (red area); right is with sun shade

No sun shade on the left results in hotspot (red area); right is with sun shade

Graphically compare the same cutaway view with and without light view enabled

Graphically compare the same cutaway view with and without light view enabled

Besides informing design, presenting accurate information to a client or public should be a standard-of-care all design professionals strive for (even if not called for in an LOD document). Not doing so can be misleading if not qualified and even lead to litigation. Read about best practices for Revit project setup here .

MEP AND STRUCTURAL

Another way to visually review the model is by hiding all the architectural elements to expose the MEP and structural portion of the design. While the next image shows things that can easily be discovered using clash detection, looking at the problem areas in Enscape can aid in developing a solution to the conflict. Being able to quickly see the problem from all angles is very helpful.

Revit MEP and structural elements with conflicts

Revit MEP and Structural elements for a complex project

The second image is not highlighting any problems, but rather pointing out another way in which the model can be presented to the client to help them understand that the project is fully coordinated and ready to be approved and built!

CONCLUSION

I end many of these posts by pointing out that it is easy to see how Enscape can assist, not only in the visualization efforts of a project, but also in the design and validation process. I use this technique often myself. While working, I will use SnagIt, by TechSmith, to quickly screen-capture areas in need of attention and use its tools to mark up the image (like the MEP view above with red arrows). The great thing about SnagIt is it keeps the entire history of all your screen captures, so you can keep moving and save or print the images later.

And, finally, for a little out-of-the-box thinking on tracking comments in this context, check out Phil Read’s LinkedIn article Context, Comments and QR Codes .

How have you ‘reality checked’ your project lately?

Dan Stine

Dan Stine
He is an Author, Blogger, Educator,
BIM Administrator and Wisconsin registered architect.
He works full-time at LHB - a 250 person full-service design firm.

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