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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Autodesk Revit Database Management and Ideate BIMLink

Is BIMLink COBie's best friend?  it's not about the 3D, it's all about the information exchange.  My company has BIMLink and I finally have some time to incorporate it into our workflow and I'll be reporting here on all of the ways we will benefit from it. If I can get it to bidirectional.y link to a Google Spreadsheet for live data exchange, then I'll be really happy. 

Ideate Solutions
A customer recently asked us for information about using Ideate BIMLink in conjunction with MS Access. Before I share information about how this can be done, I'll outline some important information about how Revit can connect, out-of-the-box, with an Access database. Revit is a database of building information and this information, or at least a portion of it, can be exported to ODBC which can in turn be opened within Access. You can learn more about this process in the Wiki.

This process is one-way, meaning that the data can leave Revit via Export, but there is no corresponding import. This is most useful as a way to manage data that can logically remain separate from the building objects, such as construction cost data or for managing HR data relative to spatial data.

For people who are interested in a more fluid, two-way data exchange, Autodesk also provides a free tool for subscription owners, called Revit DB Link. This tool permits both an import and an export and can be used for a wider variety of tasks. A common usage might include editing volumes of Room- or Space-based parameters within Access and then importing the changes back to Revit. I should clarify that this tool does not permit a "live link" between Revit and Access, meaning that both the import and the export processes within Revit are manual. It should also be noted that for 64-bit users, the setup for the MS Access will require a 64-bit ODBC driver which wasn't provided by Microsoft until the release of Office 2010. You can learn more about the setup on this 2010 Typepad Blog (recent Autodesk posts imply that this information is still valid).

Ideate BIMLink also provides and import/export capability but is aimed at the average user who does not want to setup an Access database or who has found that the Revit DB Link tool cannot manage the volume or type of data needed for a specific task. Excel provides a simple and elegant way to manage the large volumes of data within the Revit project. This chart explains some of the differences between Revit DB Link and Ideate BIMLink.

Now, back to the question at hand… can you use Ideate BIMLink with MS Access? You can, here's how: http://www.screencast.com/t/ayYInfVSg. I think the primary reason you might consider this workflow is that Ideate BIMLink lets you deal with smaller chunks of data and, again, does not require Access knowledge. The Revit user or consultant can manage a small chunk of the database within Excel. For example, they could fill out important COBie-related fields for specialty equipment items then handover that chunk of Excel-based data for incorporation into the larger, Access database. Ideate BIMLink uses the Type and Instance IDs as the database "key" to help coordinate the information between the Building Model and the database model. It's the right tool for keeping it simple and fast.

Glynnis Patterson is a registered architect and the Director of Software Development at Ideate, Inc. In a previous life Glynnis spent many hours looking at blueprints with a scale, highlighters, and a scratch pad to develop detailed cost estimates.

Content copyright 2012 Ideate, Inc. www.ideateinc.com
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