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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Inside the Factory: Railings High Level

Please be sure to visit Inside The Factory and give them your comments.

Repost: http://insidethefactory.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/04/railings-high-level.html

From my previous post its clear it will be difficult to hone in on any single aspect of a complex feature before hitting some high level items. In comments on the previous post I listed some high level issues with the current railing feature:

  • Indirect UI - Designers do not want to work in a spreadsheet. Choosing a rail, clicking "edit", then seeing all the geometry reduce to a single pink line is almost funny but I will refrain from laughing. The baluster and rail dialogs need serious work or should be replaced by direct editing and simple properties. Making a railing from scratch is the most difficult thing in Revit to do. I think I am comfortable saying this.
  • Missing objects - While generalized can be good the current tool is too general. Handrails may take many forms but most railings have 0-2 and they have a relationship to the railing or host plane (grab distance). Panels have been described as a "nightmare" or "a living nightmare" mainly because there is no concept of panel! Rails end with hardware such as a rosette or even a simple radius cap. Others are supported by brackets. You might want to specify this or even count them.
  • Too rigid - 13 types are often required to model a rail where one or two should do. Making small tweaks needs to be supported once a general pattern is established.
  • Bad geometry - rails are usually continuous so there is a need to get it right or provide a means to shape the rail path. It also needs to consider the path is made of components. Yikes it keep getting more complicated.
  • Inputs - railings have codes and we need to ensure all the proper distances can be referenced and dimensioned and critical spacing can be input without too much math. This means dimensioning baluster spacing in plan, extensions, height ect...
  • Hosts - not enough of them. Rails can not just go on stairs but tops of walls, topo surface, roofs, between columns ect...

Any more?

Next: Scenarios are extremely valuable. (See this post for more background) Scenarios provide the goals which can help inform system behavior. I got a nice one yesterday:

When laying out a handrail you may start with support brackets at the ends and then every n'. Now you realize there is an obstruction or support in the wall that requires relocating a bracket. So you move the offending bracket 1' to the left. What of the remaining brackets? A design goal is usually to distribute the remaining brackets so they look considered and harmonious.

The nearest precedent in Revit are the soft division snaps you get when placing curtain-wall grids. The system tells you where the 1/2 and 1/3 divisions are in each segment. Thank you Revit - pat pat.

The key is understanding the interplay between the reality of varied building conditions and the designer who likes to impose pattern, symmetry and organization.

Please share any real stories if they come to mind. A past project, a specific condition you solved. The story will contain a wealth of information that will make predicting deficiencies in the existing tools easy and communicating them unnecessary.

BTW this blog gets a lot of long comments. I'm always impressed by the time people contribute. Thank you.


Inside the Factory: Railings High Level


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