In 2011, I was doing some consulting work for Siemens Energy. They had a Natural Gas Turbine that needed a new exhaust manifold. Normally, a construction professional like me would have nothing of value for them, but the exhaust manifold was 20-foot wide with lots of moving parts and in a cramped building. I had vast 4D experience (3D + time = 4D) so they hired me to help figure out how they would do it.
They gave me a cubicle to work in for the few weeks I was there. In the cube next to mine was an engineer who was responsible for the design of some of their systems. As an avid Revit user, I wanted to know what tools he used for design, and learned that he had used an application called Solidworks.
Solidworks is a 3d modelling program for industries like Energy and Manufacturing. It's a very powerful program that uses math to model objects. Solidworks, along with Catia and even Fusion 360, are all parametric modeling software. In these tools, every 3d element is constrained by parameters, where each dimension or property is a live link; change the parameter and the model changes accordingly.
A 1-minute intro to Parametric Modeling
Other software like Sketchup or AutoCAD are quite the opposite. You can simply draw lines, 3 or more lines on the same plane makes a surface and that’s it. It's great for quickly creating 3D models, it's not so great when you need to change your design, or when your design is complex (like a building).
Here's the thing: even Revit isn't fully parametric, most details are actually just sketches. Is it possible for Revit to be fully parametric? Sure, but for building construction the point of diminishing returns is relatively low.
Sketchup and AutoCAD are great for quickly creating drawings and 3D models, they’re not so great for complex or flexible designs.
If you go on YouTube and look up any carpentry (wood-working) videos, the carpenter’s tool of choice is almost always SketchUp. Why? The learning curve. Simply put, you can be up and running with SketchUp in just an hour. That’s perfect if your main job is to be a carpenter.
Most users of parametric modeling software (including Revit) do so for most of their day. These tools often take several years before users become proficient. Don’t believe me? Do a quick job search for Catia modelers, and you won’t find a job opening for less than a $75,000 salary, most open positions are offering double that. If Catia or Revit could be learned in a couple hours or even a couple of days and it still paid that well, the starting salary would be much lower.
The same is true for Construction Schedulers. You can’t find an open position for less than a $75k salary, and most open positions are in the 6-figure range. CPM software isn’t really that complex, but putting together and managing a schedule with thousands of activities is, and you still need to know construction.
Microsoft Project tried to this with “manual tasks” but it just led to a bunch of frustrated users (novice and expert). . . We need something completely different. Something a carpenter can pickup and start using.
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