It Takes a Village
Implementing Autodesk® Revit® Structure 2020 in your own office can be a difficult task, especially if you try to do it alone. Can you ask for help from your Local Revit User Group of Revit Structure experts? Would you like to learn and share Revit Structural experiences and knowledge with others? Come explore some findings with us, Rick and Adam, as we share ideas to help you implement a local knowledge-sharing user group in your office, hometown, suburb, or city.
We All Have Questions
You can implement a new workflow and if you’re lucky, implement new software, but if you want to really understand how Revit Structure is utilized in the big picture, you may have to implement a new local user group. The more you learn about other disciplines, the better your understanding of Revit, BIM, and VD&C, and the more you realize what you don’t know. To find the answers, you must look outside your comfort zone. Do not be afraid to ask questions. That may just be the greatest lesson in BIM.
To help better your greater understanding, you may want to consider trying to kickstart a local knowledge base user group, based on BIM and VD&C in general. A Revit Structure Focus Group within your new or existing user group will help you bridge the gap.
1 + 1 = A Group
We could learn by ourselves, or we could share that knowledge and learn together. Find someone local who is also interested in learning and sharing together, then you two can work as a team. As you two share stories and visions for the group over lunch, write your ideas down to help bring your dreams to fruition. You can both ask around and check for other people who may be interested. The next thing you know a group is formed. It’s helpful to learn the basics of what others are doing with all the many aspects of BIM and VD&C. You don’t have to fully understand all these new workflows and technologies, but at least make note of them for future investigation and possible implementation.
Check Out the AUGI Website
If you get connected with the AUGI Website, you can read up on all there is to know about Local User Groups (https://tinyurl.com/AUGI-LUG) and download PDFs to help you such as the User Group Handbook (see Figure 2) and a User Group System Leader Guide. (see Figure 3). If you’re not an AUGI Member, join today. It’s free!
Figure 2: User Group Handbook (https://tinyurl.com/AUGI-UGH)
Figure 3: User Group System Leader Guide (https://tinyurl.com/AUGI-LUGLDR).
The AUGI User Group Handbook contains multiple ideas and suggestions and is the most in-depth resource we’ve been able to find to help you with your user group. Take the time to read this and utilize tried-and-true methods from the experts at AUGI.
A Flyer for your First Meeting & the 5 “W”s
Your first meeting flyer is very exciting to create and should answer: who, what, when, where, and why. RSVP information is also important, as is a thorough review for misspellings and to ensure correct RSVP addresses. A flyer that can be printed in color should also print well in black and white as not everyone has access to a color printer. Refreshments and games are nice, but not mandatory when it comes to putting that information on the flyer. Here are more ideas and questions to ask.
What Exactly Is This?
Our first meeting goals for a local knowledge sharing user group were to help introduce group ideas, share our vision of group collaboration, and a call for participation! Our first meeting flyer went something like this:
“This group is for those who want to learn and share BIM and VD&C knowledge and ideas with the Local AEC industry. Whether you're a Drafter, Architect or Engineer, young or old, Student or Teacher, Expert or Novice, in the office or in the field, we want to learn, share and collaborate with you!”
This can help you find other folks who are learning and utilizing BIM, VD&C, and, hopefully, Revit Structure. You can also learn from other disciplines, workflows that can help you interact with other trades and software. This will help build stronger relationships between the models and the field. You can also research what the GCs and various trades within your construction community are looking for in your model. Are they able to utilize any of the BIM, if at all? Often, they may still need exports in DWG format for documentation and/or fabrication purposes, etc. Go find out!
Who should join? Who do we want to present? Do you even want to have presenters? Who wants to sponsor, or do you even want sponsors? We chose to hold off on allowing sponsors for the first meeting so we could ask the group if we should allow sponsors. Sponsors often can host, provide food and/or drink, present software, lead discussions, teach groups, and offer various services.
Who is going to help organize these events? Who wants to help/volunteer? Who wants to be collaborative and who will show up? Some experts may live too far away and not be able to arrive on time due to traffic and job requirements. Maybe they can eventually attend online. Sometimes folks will also want to attend from other parts of the state, country, or even around the world! Streaming video of the meeting online brings its own challenges, but also the reward of input from worldwide experts.
Figure 4: Let’s learn the Ubuntu philosophy “I am because we are” “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”
Which day of the week is best for the group to meet? Many people are not super motivated on Monday or may have important meetings that day. Fridays are not good either as most people want to start the weekend. Take note of those current and future team members who are willing to meet on the weekend—they are serious movers and shakers, possibly a little more passionate than the average Joe. So while the weekend may not be good for a first meeting, it should not be ruled out for future meetings. Think of a
“hacker style” or multiday meeting that will produce game-changing ideas.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are probably your safest bet, but should still be cross checked with other local group meetings and events to ensure everyone will be available. Also check the various sporting events, championships, and so on. Even the NFL Draft could be your competition.
The first meeting location should be big enough to accommodate a collaborative environment. One option may be placing chairs in a circle as opposed to a classroom-style environment. You do not want to be the only one talking and you want everyone to be heard well, so a roundtable setup might be best.
If you ask, you may be surprised to find that many group members will be willing to host the event at their facility, which is great! Be sure you also make note of that, then follow up and help set that in motion. You can also look into renting small spaces around your city or town—look at IHOP or maybe a sushi place. We’ve always thought it would be cool to rent out a small movie theater for one of the meetings!
Having enough space, enough chairs, enough drinks, enough food and/or snacks can all be a little stressful, so RSVP should be requested while advertising the event. Again, on the day of the event, be sure to ask the attendees if anyone is willing to host future meetings. One idea is to move the event around to encourage experts who live farther from the big city to join in and share their expertise.
Why not? Learning Revit Structure can be both frustrating and exciting—wouldn’t you much rather have others to bounce ideas off of and learn with? Your typical local Revit user group may not have many folks interested in the structural aspects, so search for them! You can still learn from architecture-dominated LUGs, but eventually you hit roadblocks. Does your LUG invite all trades and associated software?
You can Google and YouTube to your heart’s desire, but eventually you’re going to need to talk to other Revit Structure experts. Intricate details of construction and documentation in Revit, or working with ArchiCAD, Tekla, or those fun IFCs can pose challenges. Suggest to your current or future user group to have or allow you to run a subgroup or “focus” group for Revit Structure, Dynamo, or any other topic you desire!
Figure 6: Here are some ideas Carol and the group came up with on our first group meeting
How, you ask?
*in your best Rob Schneider voice* “You can do it!” Grab a friend, buy a lunch or two, start the discussion in your town or smaller city. See who you can find, reach out on LinkedIn, but definitely utilize word-of-mouth. One thing we must stress is: DON’T HESITATE! We delayed doing this for years for various reasons, but all are just excuses.
Also, don’t let nerves or the unknown scare you away from wanting to learn with local experts. Make a checklist of items you will need. Have a few of your most important talking points to bring up during the meeting. You’re going to be fine!
Create a Questionnaire
Some people do not like to talk or stand up in front of a crowd and would rather write down their ideas. Some, including us, come up with their best ideas once they’ve had a chance to mull things over. We created a hard-copy questionnaire to help group attendees with ideas and can be utilized as talking points during the event. Ask things such as: Do you have any software or field experience? If you had one wish for the group, what would it be? Do you have anything you would like to contribute, share, or discuss with the group? The latter can include hosting, sponsorship, presenting and/or leading a discussion, providing food or drinks, etc.). Finally, any concerns or ideas?
Handouts are also a great way to get feedback later from those who could not make it to the meeting. Encourage the group to take the questionnaire home and send in their ideas later.
Continued Education is the Key
User groups have been a dying breed, especially since the advent of the Internet, but the beauty of a LUG is members helping other members with “real life” solutions to solve difficult/challenging new workflows and technologies. In other words, it takes a community of “users” to make a successful knowledge group! By not joining or starting a group, you’re denying and delaying the knowledge and inspiration for yourself and others.
Figure 7: Ain't nuthin to it but to do it!
Rick Gauthier is the Training Manager for Borges Architectural Group. He is a BIM advocate and coach. His interests are focused in blending his talents in architecture with his skills in technology to advance the AECO industry. He is an instructor at Sierra College and a certified Revit Architecture Associate and Professional. Rick is also past president of the Sacramento Chapter of Construction Specification Institute (CSI) receiving a 2012 Institute Award for his work in BIM.
Adam Munoz is the BIM/CADD Studio Manager for PZSE in Roseville, California. He is AGC CM-BIM certified, AutoCAD and Revit Structure Certified Professional. He is a Professional AUGI Member and AUGI Volunteer. Adam enjoys collaborating with others who share his passion for research and development, knowledge sharing, and brainstorming.