Please join CORE studio at Thornton Tomasetti, Inc. for our fourth annual AEC Technology Symposium and Hackathon. See the latest in digital technologies, BIM, and advanced workflows that will enable better designs, collaboration, and built projects.
Friday December 9 – Saturday December 10, 2016
The Symposium will be held at Baruch College:
Engelman Recital Hall
55 Lexington Avenue (between 24th & 25th Street)
New York, NY 10010
Following, the Hackathon at Thornton Tomasetti’s New York Office:
51 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Further information will be posted in the coming weeks regarding schedule, registration, travel, and speakers. Continue to stay informed by following us on twitter and checking our website.
FootPrint is the result of collaboration between CORE studio and our Corporate Sustainability department, who worked together to find out and illustrate how our office operations and building projects impact the environment. The Corporate Sustainability department collects carbon footprint data from all Thornton Tomasetti offices on a number of sustainability indicators, such as how much energy an office uses for heating and cooling, how much waste it produces and how far employees are commuting and by what means. This data collection happens in two-year cycles (with the exception of offices that have relocated, for which we make sure there is a full year of data before including the metrics). We’ve also incorporated Thornton Tomasetti’s Green Champions into the map, who help lead sustainably initiatives within their offices to help put some smiling faces behind all of this hard work.
In parallel to this effort of data colleciton, Thornton Tomasetti has joined the AIA 2030 commitment toward lowering the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the building structures that we design. The Corporate Sustainability department organizes our effort to measure embodied carbon in our projects for reporting to the AIA. As part of the initiative, CORE studio developed a Revit Plugin in 2012 that pulls material quantities from our Revit models and enters this information into a database. To date, we have over 200 buildings in the database and are continually adding more. This dataset is now being used to set benchmarks and to help us get a better understanding of the correlation between our structures and the impact they have on the environment.
A screenshot of the Carbon Calculator Revit Plugin for extracting material quantities to be added into the building carbon database
The embodied carbon of structural projects from 2011 – 2013 by market sector
The FootPrint map wasn’t created just to help make the results of this data collection more transparent within Thornton Tomasetti, but to also make the information available to the public. The map itself is built on a variety of CORE studio’s favorite web libraries, including google maps, google charts, and dat.gui.
From a hackathon idea to a Thornton Tomasetti R&D project, VRX is a new tool that links Building Information Modeling and virtual reality on the Web using your phone and a very inexpensive piece of hardware.
Members of CORE studio attend various AEC hackathon events year-round to collaborate with other professionals in the industry and apply computational design to different areas of the building process. Earlier this year, as the result of a weekend-long project at the NYC AEC Hackathon, we developed VRX, which allows users to experience and interact with BIM models in virtual reality. This was possible thanks to Google Cardboard, an affordable gadget that transforms your mobile phone into a VR device.
The first prototype of VRX, with which one can select a building element by looking at it.
We were thrilled when the hackathon jury, led by Minerva Tantoco, chief technology officer for New York City, gave VRX the best overall project award. We decided to continue the development of this virtual reality initiative as a research and development project at Thornton Tomasetti.While the first prototype was built using Unity, we wrote a new version of VRX that is Web browser-based, allowing anyone to access this VR environment without the need of downloading an OS-specific application. This approach also allowed us to make use of Spectacles, CORE studio’s open-source BIM exporter and Web viewer. With Spectacles we are able to use the same tool for Web viewing and for the VRX environment. We also used an open-source wrapper to create the stereoscopic effect required for the Cardboard.
VRX as a Tool for Collaboration
In addition to creating a solution that is accessible across many devices, we approached the tool as a platform that could be used for sharing and collaboration between various people involved in the design and construction of a building. In order to create a truly collaborative virtual reality experience, we needed to build a platform that allowed for many different users to interact with one another. To structure this interaction, we created the roles of a guide and a series of guests. The guide would be represented by an AEC professional leading the latter through the virtual space, wherever in the world they are located.
Diagram of how VRX works as a collaboration platform
The guide is responsible for setting up views and guiding guests through the 3D space using a Web page on a laptop or tablet that consists of a Spectacles viewer in the center and various controls for guiding the guests. In this scene (below), the guide can see where the guests are positioned and in which direction they are looking thanks to the colored cones that locate each guest within the scene. This site also features zoom and selection controls along with layer visibility and camera options on the left side. A series of panels on the right preview in real time what the guests see in virtual reality.
The guide page of VRX
Visibility and control changes made in the main page by the guide are sent and populated to the guests’ phones using a server.
VRX as seen on the guest side
Just like in the original VRX prototype built during the hackathon, the guide and the guests can select building elements by looking at them to display their BIM properties. This allows the participants to go over the details of that particular object. Additionally, the guide can allow the guests to wander through the virtual project and define the pace of their movement.
VRX at ACADIA
As part of the initial testing and improvement process of the platform, we brought VRX to the the world-renowned Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) in mid-October 2015. The three-day session focused on prototyping experiential futures using virtual reality technologies. In the workshop, co-taught by Shane Burger from Woods Bagot and Ana Garcia Puyol from CORE studio, VRX was presented and tested by participants from several architectural offices and academic institutions.
A workshop participant looks at a design by NBBJ on VRX
What’s next for VRX?
VRX is currently in the alpha stage and we have plans to improve this platform in the next few months. A second phase for research and development has been approved with the goal of better supporting architects, engineers and contractors in the way they share, collaborate and visualize their BIM models by means of an immersive VR experience.
You can check out some standalone demos here and the collaboration environment here.
CORE studio is very pleased to announce the release of Spectacles, a hackable BIM viewer for the web. Spectacles allows authors in the AEC industry to view their 3D design work on the web for free, and is designed to be hacked, extended and modified. We’ve been working on the project on and off for the past year, and are quite excited for more hackers in the industry to get their hands on it!
Spectacles currently consists of a hackable HTML5 web viewer that runs natively in modern browsers (no plugin required), and a pair of exporters for popular authoring applications in the AEC industry—Grasshopper and Revit. BIM data can be exported from these desktop applications, and viewed on the web using Spectacles.
The web viewer, Revit Exporter and Grasshopper Exporter are all open source projects. You can find (and fork!) the source code here: [ Viewer, Grasshopper, Revit ].
Spectacles is a hackable BIM viewer for the web
Rumblings of this project began around 2013. We were involved in some structural and forensics projects in the New York office, and the need for a web-based 3D viewer kept arising. A couple of potential solutions existed at the time and we gave them a try, but none allowed for the sort of flexibility we were looking for. We wanted to provide project-specific 3D user experiences, and needed the UI of the viewer to be able to change—in some cases quite drastically—based on a project’s specific needs. Nothing like that existed, and the idea of building our own platform felt like a daunting task.
A handful of us attended the first AEC hackathon in November of 2013, and walked away armed with the fact that we had a lot to learn about programming on the web. We began experimenting with a couple of open source projects while we were there, including THREE.js, and although the idea of building our own viewer still felt overwhelming, we were starting to feel like it was at least possible.
The next experiment we tried was Platypus, which mashed up the web’s ability to shuffle a bunch of data around in real time with a parametric 3D modeller—Grasshopper for Rhino. It works like a chatroom for parametric geometry, and was a hugely important developmental step for our group. We could do 3D on the web! It is a very specific research project with a very narrow scope, but it got us up and running.
The next big step was vA3C, which emerged at the beginning of last summer at our first AEC Hackathon in New York. Benjamin Howes first outlined the idea here, and he, Jonatan Schumacher, Jeremy Tammik, Theo Armour, Matt Mason, Josh Wentz and a handful of other dedicated hackers built out the first prototypes over the course of about 27 hours. It was a truly awesome experience—we built out the viewer we wanted overnight! It wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but it worked, and it was open source. Spectacles is a fork of the vA3C project, and would not have been possible without this amazing team.
The vA3C team, after a long night of hacking.
Over the course of the next year, we used vA3C in practice on a few projects to do exactly what we set out to do in the first place—project-specific UX. Practical necessity drove code development, and along with help from the other vA3C team members, we were able to expand the feature set of the viewer and improve the stability of the exporters. We developed a custom daylighting analysis results viewer, a project-specific FIM (Forensic Information Model) viewer, and a prototype TTX model query engine. We also started maintaining our own forks of the vA3C projects, including a complete rewrite of the viewer.
Daylighting analysis results viewer prototype. Click the image check it out!
Earlier this year, CORE studio agreed to formally support the project’s development—one of our first company-funded open source projects—and Spectacles was born. Since then, we’ve been refining the codebase and sprucing up the work a bit in preparation for this public release. The project has been used to support a number of other research initiatives at Thornton Tomasetti, including VRX, our Photogrammetry research, and Design Explorer, and we are super excited to see more ideas that utilize Spectacles popping up within Thornton Tomasetti’s various practices.
VRX web viewer
Photogrammetry + BIM model
Green Space/Design Explorer
So what’s next? We’ve certainly got some more plans for Spectacles, and we are looking for collaborators to help us build some of this stuff out. First off, we’d like to build out more exporters! And in order to do so in an organized and efficient manner, we’d like to develop a shared Spectacles.Net library to standardize how AEC geometry is serialized into Spectacles.json files. The Web Viewer certainly needs some more love too—at some point we’d like to leave dat.gui in the dust, for example, and we’d like to make embedding viewers easier and more flexible. We are also developing a hosted web application for in-house project support—something like a Google Drive for Spectacles models: comments, 4D history, live uploads from Desktop Apps—and are considering our options in terms of opening this up to outside users. Finally, we are hoping to see a number of projects in the AEC industry that want to utilize Spectacles as a platform to build on. If you are interested in contributing to the project, or are interested in a project-specific 3D UX for one of your jobs, please do get in touch!
CORE Studio’s third open source Dynamo package – Dynamo for Rebar – has been released this week. It provides a parametric interface for Revit’s 2016 Rebar API, which allows for the creation of single reinforcing bar elements and rebar container elements in Revit. Dynamo for Rebar enables iterative, parametric rebar design inside of Dynamo 0.8.2 and Revit 2016.
Dynamo for Rebar is an Open-Source project available on github and Dynamo’s package manager. The library contains a set of nodes helping you to create bars and containers in Revit, and provides a set of nodes for creating the base curvature of single bars or entire rebar containers.
The nodes in this group are specific to the Revit 2016 Rebar API. They are the core nodes in the package that allow for parametric rebar design in Dynamo. The utility nodes and nodes for curve generation (outlined below) are designed to work well with these rebar nodes.
Create Rebar Creates one single bar element in Revit from a curve and and a series of rebar properties.
Create Rebar Container Creates a rebar container element from a list of curves and a series of rebar properties. The use of containers is highly encouraged as Revit can get bogged down by thousands of rebar family instances in your model. Containers are like groups of rebars in a single family instance.
Rebar Property Dropdown Nodes Select Rebar Style – Select available Rebar Styles from the Revit document
Select Rebar Hook Type – Select available Rebar Hook Types from the Revit document
Select Rebar Hook Orientation – Select available Rebar Hook Orientations from the Revit document
Select Rebar Bar Type – Select available Rebar Bar Types from the Revit document
Nodes for Curve Generation
The nodes in this package for creating curves are powerful tools on their own; they allow the user to parameterize any surface in Dynamo, and create curves along it for any use downstream. Of course one good downstream use is the creation of rebar containers, but it’s up to you!
Curves following a surface This node creates a set of curves following the geometry of a selected surface (most polysurfaces will also work). It divides the surface in one dimension – either U or V – regularly. You can define the number of divisions (or optionally, a distance to divide the surface by), and the direction of the curves.
Curves morphing between two curves This node creates a set of morphed curves between two border curves. It requires two curves to blend between, and creates either a fixed number of curves between them or divides by a defined distance.
Curves perpendicular to one surface This node creates a set of linear curves normal to a surface. It requires the selection of a driving surface and a set of bounding faces to define the end of the projection. According to a selected height, the node will divide the surface along this height into a selected number points. It will then draw lines along the normals at this points, break the line at any obstacle and continue until the bounding surfaces.
These nodes in this group are mostly designed for use downstream of the rebar nodes.
Cut Rebar Container by Plane The cut rebar node cuts a selected rebar container at a selected surface. The result will be either the left or the right side of the division.
Shorten Curve from both ends This node shortens a selected curve from both ends by the same distance.
Tag (any) Revit Element The tag element node creates a tag of any taggable revit element in the current Revit view. It requires a revit element as an input and if the tag should be horizontal or vertical or having a leader or not.
Select Nodes This set of nodes also comes with a very generic one: A node to select multiple edges. This allows you to select any number of edges from your Revit model and use them in Dynamo to create bars or even place adaptive components along them (see Image).
We hope you find these tools useful in your rebar design workflows. If you have any feedback or find any bugs, please create an issue in our Github repo. Happy reinforcing!
Thornton Tomasetti, Inc. and Weidlinger Associates, Inc. two of the world’s most respected engineering firms, have merged. The deal creates a leader in engineering innovation covering a broad range of investigation, analysis and design services. The combined firm will have 1,200 employees operating in 34 cities internationally. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Find out more at the Thornton Tomasetti website here.
The Friday symposium will feature talks by CORE studio speakers such as Rob Otani and Justin Nardone, as well as talks by NBBJ, CUSP NYU, Kieran Timberlake, KPF, and more. Topics will include data-driven city planning, machine learning for building design, the benefits of open source development, and state of the art research and development initiatives at leading AEC firms.
The weekend-long hackathon will include the development of data-driven design and web-based applications, as well as technical workshops for those who want to learn more about topics such as Dynamo, Grasshopper, various APIs, and 3D printing.
Click here to learn more and see updated schedules and learn more about our speakers. Registration is now open; we invite you all to join us for this exciting event! Student discounts are available, please see our registration page for instructions.