Walter P Moore
Structural Engineering Services Group
201 E. Kennedy Blvd. Suite 300
City, state, ZIP Code
Tampa, Florida 33602
Web site address
Here is great interview with David Harrington at Walter P Moore. David is superstar when it comes to using Revit Structure and has provided a lot of great feedback on his experiences with it… Not to mention a bunch of really cool images as well. Enjoy!
- Culotta: Please tell us about your business, the markets you serve and the services that you provide.
Harrington: Walter P Moore provides structural, structural diagnostics, civil, traffic and transportation engineering and parking services. We help clients create convention centers and performance halls to airports, sports stadiums, corporate campuses, entertainment centers, healthcare and education facilities, and urban roadway systems and other infrastructure. Our firm is headquartered in Houston, Texas but our locations span coast to coast.
- Culotta: What is your role in the company? How long have you been with the company?
Harrington: I'm listed as a Senior Associate but as we all know what you do is never that simple. Generally I work to provide modeling/drafting efforts on our projects but additionally I help manage our Autodesk product line and associated customization. Recently I have also been traveling a bit conducting Revit Structure training as needed for our staff. I first started with Walter P Moore back in 1987, primarily drafting by hand but quickly jumped on the AutoCAD bandwagon with v2.6.
- Culotta: Please share with us a few projects you've created with Revit Structure? What was the situation and how did you deliver the solution?
Harrington: One of the densest models we have made to date is an arena project. No longer a simple bowl with exit ramps, now these sorts of facilities are entertainment driven so esthetics and functionality are very important. As part of this is now a desire in the industry to have the building itself be a driving force in the esthetic of the building. We are now designing more sloping columns, longer cantilevers, and exposed structural systems. With today's BIM solution, Revit Structure, we can not only meet the demands of the documentation process but also aid the engineering by fully visualizing the conditions that the structures must now meet. Our method of delivering these projects is customization. We evaluate the project at the outset and determine what specialty conditions exist. Then examine our Revit means and methods ability to handle the challenges and if required invest in R&D to aid in delivering the project.
- Culotta: Are there any images you can share with us of these projects?
When we began to do '3D' we wanted to convey what the possibilities were by showing how our work really isn't that simple. Here is a simple concrete column to beam with slab connection right?
Concrete Joint Spans
But once before you can pour your concrete, there is quite a lot of stuff that has to be placed!
Similarly, steel has moderately complicated connections. Again this was made as a sort of internal marketing effort to explain structural elements to new staff and modelers.
One of our more interesting modeling challenges was a canopy roof for a MLB stadium. The design for the roof over the upper seats changed numerous times and it was designed in AutoCAD by the client. We took that design, created a wireframe in AutoCAD and then used internally made programs to read the DWG and populate an Excel spreadsheet. Then we used the Revit Extensions to import that data into our Revit model.
A fairly typical building form, flat slab with dropped panels and concrete shearwalls.
A rather complicate arena architecturally, made for a nice Revit Structure challenge!
From the outside the project looks a little dense.
But once you get inside you get a sense of the openness of the space as well as the precast stadia used.
The very top of a large tower project as an interesting spire of steel structure supporting the architectural cladding system. From ground to roof… all in Revit Structure.
- Culotta: When did you and the company begin using Revit Structure?
Harrington: Personally I toyed with Revit before Autodesk purchased them but didn't do much with it. Once Autodesk got on board and issued Revit Structure 1 we bought a few licenses and began development. By October of 2005 we had a good crew trained and underway.
- Culotta: What were you using before? For how long were you using it?
Harrington: We used AutoCAD primarily and have since before I joined the firm in 1987. We also have used Architectural Desktop as a structural solution on select projects. Additionally we on occasion have utilized Tekla Structures for contractors who specialize in that platform – typically large span roof systems.
- Culotta: What made your company switch to Revit Structure and how did you do it?
Harrington: As a member of an A/E/C team it was a tough nut to sell. We saw the value of BIM but in many cases our fellow consultants were still 2d and not *needing* to change. Once Autodesk became involved and carved off a version for our specific discipline we no longer wanted to wait and went forward. Our first step was getting training for staff. Our full-time Revit Structure users each had a 4 day training session. Following that we created centralized locations for storage of our customization as well as created an internal support distribution list to allow people to help each other.
- Culotta: What is the biggest advantage or benefit to your company in using Revit Structure?
Harrington: Well it isn't creating drawings as one would think. AutoCAD is a great 2D drafting platform and is used by millions. So we have had to leverage Revit Structure technology to do what AutoCAD cannot. A very big benefit is the 'virtual construction' of our projects. Being able to put a building together before having to answer RFI's or giving grounds to contractor change orders is a huge positive. No one wants to do a poor job but 2D representation doesn't do a great job of a defining a 3D object like a building.
- Culotta: How does your company transfer the benefits gained in using Revit Structure onto your client?
Harrington: Surprisingly, very few clients to date understand what a BIM of their project can do for them downstream. We are prepared to give them much more than they traditionally ask for but in general they don't have a use for it. One area where it is leveraged is using the model during meetings both within Revit Structure as well as Autodesk NavisWorks. Having a model for them to review and study during the design phase is a great asset. Additionally, in cases where other team members are creating their own BIM files, we run clash detections so that coordination is more solid.
- Culotta: What kind of return on investment have you seen since using Revit Structure?
Harrington: This is a tough question to answer in monetary terms. Not because it isn't a positive but rather because we don't do BIM to save money. We do it because it is the way to provide a better product to the client. Ultimately you will work (and bill) for ever hour you can or have time for, so you won't see a net reduction in hours. You will probably move hours worked from later in the CD phase to earlier in the SD or CD perhaps. That is because it is more efficient to model properly the first time. So whereas in AutoCAD you would have gladly refined your project as you went along, you can save a lot of time by knowing your detail before you model.
An example of this is a given member size. In AutoCAD it is a line and then later in CD you add text indicating the size. Well in Revit Structure, if you can tell me the size earlier then I may not have to fix it later, for I have to pick a size to start with. That line in Revit Structure is a real beam after all and *needs* a size.
- Culotta: Anything else you'd like to share about your experience with Revit Structure?
Harrington: It was interesting to say the least. Certainly some aspects are painful and some are enlightening. But I think anyone who is in this business is here because of the work – not the software. Just as an artist will choose the best brush in which to paint, the best 'brush' to create structural projects is no longer AutoCAD. Getting ones hard head around that can be tough. But once you do and you embrace the change as a chance to improve the workflow, then you get to spend more time on the joy of the work, and fairly soon don't miss your old friend CAD that much.
- Culotta: If you could give one piece of advice to someone in the field of structural engineering who is NOT using Revit Structure today, what would it be?
Harrington: Well I'm sure that most everyone in the industry has heard about BIM and Revit Structure. So I don't think they need encouragement to move in that direction – the A/E/C world is making that decision. Whether you like it or not, if you want to be a competitor it will be something that must be adopted to at least some degree. Therein is the rub, if you adopt for the projects you must but hold onto your AutoCAD dearly, then you will probably never realize the benefits it can bring. It is similar as doing analysis by hand and by computer. Until you trust the computer enough you will always be second guessing your work and wasting time keeping two systems of delivery.