CORE studio presented our process and work at The Technology Committee of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter’s bi-monthly lecture on December 8. Check out the video here!
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.
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.
Missed our symposium or want to share talks with a friend? Videos of our presentations are now available at our YouTube playlist!
R&D in AEC Part I
Measurement Moxie, Christopher Connock, KieranTimberlake
Grow Up, Grasshopper!, Andrew Heumann, NBBJ
Evolving Modes of R+D in Practice, Scott Crawford and Stephen Van Dyck, LMN Architects / LMN Tech Studio
Collaboration and Open Source – How the Software Industry’s Approach to Open Sourcing Non-Core Technology has Created Innovation, Gareth Price, Ready Set Rocket
How Open Source Enables Innovation, Mostapha Roudsari and Ana Garcia Puyol, CORE studio Thornton Tomasetti
Matt Jezyk, Autodesk
Holly Whyte Meets Big Data: The Quantified Community as Computational Urban Design, Constantine Kontokosta, NYU Center for Urban Science + Progress (CUSP)
Data-Driven Design and the Mainstream, Nathan Miller, Proving Ground
The Biggest IoT Opportunity In Buildings Is Closer Than You Think, Josh Wentz, Lucid
R&D in AEC Part II
Capturing Building Data – From 3D Scanning to Performance Prediction, Dan Reynolds and Justin Nardone, CORE studio Thornton Tomasetti
Data-Driven Design, Luc Wilson, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC
Cellular Fabrication of Building Scale Assemblies Using Freeform Additive Manufacturing, Platt Boyd, Branch Technology
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.
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.
Stay tuned for more VRX!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thornton Tomasetti is delighted to announce our third annual AEC Technology Symposium and Hackathon, to be held September 25-27 2015 at Baruch College!
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.
At CORE studio we have been working intensely for the past few months developing our second plugin for Autodesk’s visual programming tool Dynamo. DynamoSAP is a parametric interface for SAP2000, which we built on top of Dynamo. The project enables designers and engineers to generatively author and analyze structural systems in SAP, using Dynamo to drive the SAP model.
DynamoSAP is an open-source project and is currently available on Dynamo’s package manager. We developed the project in C# using Visual Studio, and tested it with Dynamo 0.7.5 and SAP2000 version 16. The package prescribes a few common workflows, which are outlined in the package’s sample files.
The library provides a wide range of opportunities for automation of typical tasks in SAP, such as:
Creating a structural model. The package allows users to generate structural members by using the standard geometries provided in Dynamo. For instance, lines define structural frames and meshes are translated into structural shell elements. All of these elements are aggregated into a structural model that can then be exported to SAP. Section properties, loads, load patterns, load combinations, restraints, releases and groups can be added as definitions either in Dynamo or in SAP. Changes in both geometrical and structural parameters in Dynamo are updated in SAP when Dynamo runs.
Reading and editing an existing SAP model. A model created in the structural software can be read by DynamoSAP to get the member geometry and the assigned properties and definitions. The plugin also allows users to edit the imported model in Dynamo. For example, loads can be assigned to elements or elements in the existing project can be grouped.
Running analysis and visualizing results. The package can trigger the structural analysis of a SAP model and retrieve the results in Dynamo. DynamoSAP includes nodes for intuitive visualization of these results, allowing the designer to review the model more efficiently than by using SAP by itself. Additionally, designers can compare results for different load cases and load combinations, enabling a seamless comparative analysis review process. Releases and loads can also be displayed in Dynamo.
Reading SAP analysis results (left) using DynamoSAP (right)
Installation and further development
To install the package, search for DynamoSAP in the Dynamo package manager – Dynamo > Packages > Search for a package – and install the package. Once the package is installed, you’ll likely want to check out our sample files in the package’s samples folder.
We will be actively developing these tools in the next few weeks and are happy to support you in using them in the coming months. We encourage you to send us your feedback and submit your comments (or bugs, if you find any) on the project’s github repository’s issues page.
Happy structural optimization, folks!
Since the rise of building information modeling, engineers have been working on projects in a growing number of software programs that are designed to facilitate ever more specialized tasks. Platforms such as Revit, Grasshopper, Tekla, Ram Structural Systems, ETABS, and SAP 2000 have given the field increased capabilities and efficiencies in all stages of the project engineering process, whether it be defining geometry, analyzing loads, documentation or fabrication. However, when multiple team members, often in geographically distant locations, are working on a single project across multiple platforms there can be breakdowns in coordination and communication. Work can accidentally be done on out-of-date models. Simultaneous and contrasting changes can be made unbeknownst to the team until it’s too late. And then there is simply the hassle of going back and forth between platforms to ensure that the models are consistent with one another.
It was to solve these inefficiencies in communication and collaboration while working across multiple BIM platforms that we at CORE studio began developing TTX, our in-house interoperability software. Starting in 2011, CORE studio sought to create a means for making two-way changes to models during all three stages of the project engineering process: defining geometry, analyzing loads, and documentation. To do this, TTX establishes a database that stores every update made to a BIM model in any platform, maintaining an up-to-date record of the condition of a project. It automatically translates the updates to other software platforms when they are used to open the model. So if a Revit model is updated in Tekla, it can be brought back into Revit, where TTX will update the Tekla changes automatically from the information stored in the database. This sort of automatic back and forth translation can be carried out as many times as necessary, in as many software platforms as are needed to complete the project.
The next series of blog posts will introduce a number of apps developed at the CORE studio that help engineers at Thornton Tomasetti to collaborate better.