Our Journey to Excellence with Revit, Part I

January 14, 2021

By: Stephen Evans

 

tech·nol·o·gy

/tekˈnäləjē/

noun

the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.

  • machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge.
  • the branch of knowledge dealing with engineering or applied sciences.

(If you’re curious, that’s from Oxford Languages, a.k.a. the default for a Google search…)

 

Technology is vital to any company’s ability to thrive, and structural and civil engineering firms like LBYD are not exempt. I’m an engineer on the structural side of things, so I can’t speak as much to Hydrographs or Civil 3D, but I do know that within our firm there are countless programs and tools that are intricately woven into the fabric of how we operate as a company.

There is a culture of excellence that I have gotten to know well in my time as an engineer at LBYD. This culture can sometimes be difficult to explain to an outsider looking in because a lot of what I do is centered around complex (and at certain times frustrating) computer programs, spreadsheets, and hand calculations. I could talk about our unique culture in terms of people and leadership, but how do I explain that LBYD delivers an excellent product? There is one major part of my job that the outside world gets to see and that is our drawings. Our team puts these drawings together using a 3D modeling program called Revit.

Before Revit we used AutoCAD, a software program many of you are probably familiar with, that our team used to create the LBYD drawings in an entirely 2D environment. So what came before AutoCAD? It wasn’t manual drafting, as you might have guessed! We actually had CAD (Computer Aided Design) in the form of two Summagraphics digitizers. There were two “corvette” workstations (as the team called them because of their oversized fiberglass bodies) shared by the 12-person team. One of our current Senior Principals, Win Bishop, a drafter at the time, manned one of the workstations and the other was often used by engineers, like Jim Delahay, one of our firm’s founders,  to do their own work. Win said that they thought these workstations were the best thing since sliced bread, and LBYD was likely the only firm in Alabama of our size that had them.

Each corvette consisted of a fiberglass workstation about the size of an old drafting table, approximately four feet deep and five feet wide. The person would sit at a regular desk chair instead of a stool, and right in front of them were two things, a keyboard on the left and a digitizer on the right with two computer monitors behind that. One monitor was for the text commands, and the other had a digital version of the drawings on it. The digitizer went under the fiberglass tabletop. On top of the workstation was a pad-like surface that lined up with the digitizer below. On this pad was a puck (similar to a mouse) with crosshairs that moved the cursor on the CAD monitor.

There was not much wasted plotting. If you were close to the end of a project and needed to navigate to another place on the screen to edit something, you might as well get up and go get a coffee while it changed the window on the plotter and CAD monitor. The drafter/engineer had to strategically plan the order of the commands on the text command screen because even on a well-planned job, the corvette would take about 45 minutes to plot a page of the drawings.

I am one of two colorblind structural engineers in our office, so there is only one other person who knows the struggle of distinguishing between color-coded things in our programs. The other person is Win Bishop. When Win first sat down at a corvette, he couldn’t tell the difference between some of the default colors in the pen plotter due to his colorblindness. Jim Delahay had to sit down with him to get the plotter set up with colors that Win could easily distinguish.

When LBYD was ready to start the transition to AutoCAD, Win and Jim each had AutoCAD 1988 loaded onto their PC. They were off, drawing things entirely inside computers! We, as a firm, got exceptionally good at using AutoCAD to produce our drawings. Our team of drafters became familiar with its strengths (as well as its quirks) over the span of about 20 years. The team also meticulously programmed the LBYD standards into AutoCAD. When someone looked at LBYD drawings, they could tell who made them because of the attention to detail and the style in which those details were drawn.

The culture of striving for excellence didn’t allow us to stay there, even though we had a great thing going with AutoCAD. LBYD started its eventful and fruitful voyage with Revit in 2008, during the storm that was the Great Recession. Senior Principal and Federal Division Manager, Kevin Brown, who oversees the software at LBYD, has always wanted to be on the leading edge regarding the programs that we use. When he heard of Revit, he spoke with our firm’s President, Brad Christopher, about using this new software. He had recently come back from a stint working in Atlanta and spoke with Brad about using Revit on a project that Brad was in charge of called Corner High School. The BIM (Building Information Modeling) Manager at the time was learning Revit by teaching it to himself. This seemed like a good project to get it all started. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned…

Well, it looks like my word count is up for today, but tune in next time to hear more about LBYD’s journey to excellence in Revit!