MassMotion from an architect’s point of view

MassMotion from an architect’s point of view

MassMotion has been making a lot of headlines over the past month and, after a day’s training and a bit of dabbling with the software, I have to say it’s very easy to get to grips with. The real advantage of the program lies in the analysis of the simulation – a lot of time and effort has gone into programming the agents to make them act and react virtually as you would expect in real life situations.

One of the major features I’ve discovered is how easy it is to import 3D models from Revit and Microstation. Clients that I’ve spoken to already love the fact that they don’t have to do a lot of extra work to pass their model data into the simulation environment. MassMotion accepts incoming .FBX models and picks up building components as separate items, allowing you to clean up the model, remove unwanted items and tag the relevant items for the simulation in a very short time frame. Pretty soon you can be running simulations on your virtual model.

I did anticipate a program where we could model actors and create crowd scenes with realistic virtual actors. This is possible but it seems the time and effort applied to producing human realistic scenes is an expense few people will bear. The practical approach is to use the analysis features to understand the traffic flow and feed back into the virtual design for changes and enhancement where required.

There are other programs which are directed at photorealistic crowd scenes that may look good, but leave you questioning the accuracy of the simulation created. Oasys are very pleased with accuracy test comparisons for building evacuations and the program simulations do provide accurate results against real life tests. They have also said they plan to produce further data on live projects over the next few months to support the technical quality of MassMotion for simulation.

For more information on Oasys MassMotion, please get in touch with the CAD team by calling 03332 409 306 or emailing If you’d prefer, you can leave us a comment below and one of us will get back to you soon.

Stopping Wall End Cap errors in Vectorworks

Stopping Wall End Cap errors in Vectorworks

Another expert tip from the Vectorworks KnowledgeBase. To prevent getting a ‘WallEndCap’ error when using the Wall End Cap tool in Vectorworks, follow their advice below:

“If you receive this error message when trying to use the Wall End Cap tool:

Wallendcap 01
“Download and run the attached .txt VectorScript.

“To do this, first save the attachment to your desktop or downloads folder, then go to Tools > Scripts > Run VectorScript and select the “Wall End Cap Error Fix.txt” file and click Open.”

To talk to one of our CAD team about any problems you’ve encountered inVectorworks, call 03332 409 204 or email You can also leave us a comment in the box below and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Adding cells in a Vectorworks worksheet

Adding cells in a Vectorworks worksheet

Trying to add value cells together in a Vectorworks worksheet? Find out exactly how in these instructions from the Vectorworks KnowledgeBase.

“Start with a blank worksheet and duplicate the worksheet by typing the information in the corresponding worksheet cells.


“Select the cell where the result of the addition is going to be displayed and type the “=” equals sign. Now, click on the Worksheet Menu button and select Paste Function. From the Select Function dialog box, select the SUM function. Now, select the cells range and click on the green check mark. You can specify the range of the cells by clicking on a cell and then dragging the mouse. You can also specify the range of the cells by typing the range (Example: B2..B5). The double periods designate the range of the cells.”

Content taken from the Vectorworks KnowledgeBase.

For more advice on tools and functions in Vectorworks, give our CAD team a call on 03332 409 306, email or leave us a comment in the box below and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

A new addition to the Autodesk portfolio

A new addition to the Autodesk portfolio

If you’re designing urban drainage, the snappily titled Autodesk Storm and Sanitary Analysis Extension will have you creating pipes and sewers with great results. Formerly known as StormNET, the software is now available to all Civil 3D and Map 3D users who maintain a current subscription for their software.

Autodesk Storm and Sanitary Analysis Extension is a hydrology and hydraulic analysis application, letting you plan and design urban drainage systems, highway drainage systems, storm sewers and sanitary sewers. Storm is a standalone programme and, to enjoy its benefits, you’ll need a current Map or Civil 3D licence to be installed on the same machine.

This comprehensive bit of software boasts:

– File compatibility with AutoCAD Civil 3D and AutoCAD Map 3D

– Hydrology analysis methods, including NRCS (SCS) TR-55/TR-20, Rational Method, Modified Rational, HEC-1, and EPA SWMM

– Support for networks of unlimited size

– Hydraulic analysis of pipes, open channels, streams, culverts and gutters

– Routing methods such as kinematic wave and hydrodynamic routing

– Breakdown of retention and detention ponds

– Analysis of Stormwater best management practices (BMPs)

– Stormwater quality modelling based on NPDES requirements

– Customisable report generation for regulatory review

– GIS compatibility

– Ability to work in either US or metric (SI) units

Scenario Modelling

Inverted siphons and tidal boundary conditions can be modelled – there are various models  for this included with the software’s sample projects.

Hydrodynamic routing makes it possible to model interconnected detention ponds with backwater effects and other complex situations.

Curb and gutter storm drain inlets can be modelled, and you can also plan for pump stations and wastewater force mains, simple and complex outlet structures (including multiport riser structures) and pressurised storage vaults.

Autodesk are giving this software away as a subscription benefit and, considering that competing software solutions can cost thousands, it’s well worth a closer look.

To pick an expert’s brain on Autodesk, call 03332 409 204 or email You can also browse our range of Autodesk products.

“To BIM or not to BIM?”

“To BIM or not to BIM?”

The term “BIM” has been used within the architectural and construction industries for a few years now but seems to have become bigger news recently. Largely, that’s because the pressures of the current economic climate have forced us all to take stock of the industry and find new ways to help it grow and develop.

After some of the industry’s leading lights came out in favour of BIM at Autodesk’s BIM Conference 2010, it seems pretty obvious that the revolution is inevitable, and the question isn’t whether to move to BIM, but when to do it.

What is BIM?.

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling, that much is certain. That doesn’t mean everyone’s agreed on a definition, though. If you ask a room full of 100 people to explain it to you, I can guarantee that no two answers will be the same. The British Standards Institute (BSI) define Building Information Modelling as ‘the process of generating and managing information about a building during its entire life cycle’, and in the eyes of professional bodies such as the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Government, BIM will enable collaborative workflows across all aspects of the construction process, making life cheaper and easier for all involved.

How does BIM work?

The big preconception about BIM is that it’s purely about one piece of software. It’s more accurate to say that the software which enables BIM-style work is designed to be fully interoperable with software used at other stages of construction, allowing for the seamless transition of data and ensuring no information is lost. In a BIM workflow, different sectors still use software that is designed for them, they just use it in conjunction with everyone else’s software, so it becomes far easier to collaborate.

It’s no secret that for years there has been segmentation between the different sectors of the construction industry whilst working on projects. At each level parts of the information are lost, and sometimes information that one person doesn’t think needs passing on turns out to be invaluable, so everything has to be redrawn. Currently, most people accept that this is the way the industry works, even though it can be hugely inconvenient for them. Within a BIM workflow, the information would be much more centralised and far less information would be lost or need repeating. However, it does rely on a high level of co-operation between sectors, and one of the main reasons I headed over to Autodesk’s BIM Conference was to find out how feasible existing users found working as closely as BIM requires.

The Autodesk BIM Conference 2010

Normally at vendor-hosted events like Autodesk’s BIM Conference, the speakers come from the company and have a fairly obvious agenda. However, Autodesk took the potentially risky strategy of not having anyone from the company speak. Instead, they allowed representatives from professional bodies to talk about where they see BIM going, and got existing users of BIM-capable software to talk about how it had changed their workflow (although admittedly they were all Autodesk customers). The result was a compelling picture of how BIM could reshape the construction industry.

What the professional bodies are saying…

RIBA logo


Richard Saxon CBE, RIBA’s  VP from 2002 to 2008, explained that their view was that BIM allows the architectural industry to regain design leadership, collaborate and reduce risks on complex projects. He feels that a BIM strategy will help RIBA members regain control of their projects, giving them more time to design and teaching them to see beyond 3D visualisation to deliver more complete, integrated information about a project to potential clients.

RIBA are currently working on producing CPI and BS guidance documents for BIM work. They want to create a community built around integrated working, and to that end are planning CPD schemes based on BIM workflows.

CIBSE logo


Rob Manning, CISBE President and AECOM Chief Engineer, explained that the key principle of BIM was its ability to create integrated, technical models, which paved the way for a better, more collaborative business model. However, he did pick up on one major shortfall: at the moment, MEP designers are using BIM software, but the MEP contractors they work with don’t trust the models and tend to reproduce them. In an attempt to spread the good word and combat stumbling blocks like this, CIBSE are holding their own conference in December, ‘FM11 – BIM: Who Benefits?’



ICE’s approach to BIM, as outlined by ICE Policy Panel Chair and Halcrow Technology Director Tim Broyd, is to place less emphasis on CAD and more on overall project delivery, as BIM covers everything from initial development and day-to-day operations to the management of assets. They plan to hold a series of workshops to promote greater understanding of BIM working.

rics logo


Simon Rawlinson, RICS BIM Chair, had a very frank approach to BIM and members of RICS. He said that the profession doesn’t understand BIM. Surveyors protect client assets and are dependent upon information, but don’t create BIM assets. RICS are now working with the CPIC (a committee made up of RIBA, RICS, ICE, CIAT and CIBSE members that provides best practice guidance throughout the UK construction industry) to promote collaboration across all areas of construction.

The appearance of an organisation like the CPIC proves the professional bodies’ commitment to making BIM working feasible and, more importantly, to working together to create the integrated, collaborative workflow environment which BIM strives for.

What users are saying…

Of course, none of this means anything unless working within a BIM system actually helps end users. Luckily, the news so far has been good, and Autodesk’s existing BIM customers turned out in force to show their support for the new workflow.

Revit Architecture

Richard Wise, the director of UK-based architectural firm Ryder Architects, explained that a BIM workflow required no more effort than their previous one, but enabled them to get the design and  detailing (and by extension the whole project) right from day one. The firm had found Revit Architecture more than capable of handling complicated renovation projects, and was particularly keen on the fact that it let them create prototype models directly from the initial model, without any added effort.

John Tocci, CEO of the American contractors Tocci Building Companies, was also impressed by Revit Architecture’s efficiency.  Since starting on a BIM workflow, Tocci have seen a 30% reduction in waste and rework, the near-elimination of design co-ordination issues, reduced risk and a related 3% cost reduction. They’ve been able to create more precise costings before beginning construction, and have compressed their overall schedule by up to 15%. Tocci said his business’ DNA relied on “BIM, sustainability, interoperability, design and collaboration, with the belief that if it’s not in the model it isn’t real,” adding that  “BIM allows you to deliver what you promised,” which sounds like a ringing endorsement to me.

What the government are saying…

So with the professional bodies, architects and contractors getting fully on board with BIM, it was left to Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Adviser to UK Government, to explain how the Government perceives BIM.

The Government’s final strategy report is due in March 2011, and follow-up pilot schemes have already been proposed, showing that they too are embracing the BIM revolution. Morrell wants to see standardisation across the construction industry, emphasising that BIM is going to change the way the construction industry previously approached projects.

Universities are going to be key to the implementation of BIM, with many already gearing up for the change. Nottingham Trent University, for example, are already producing graduates who are comfortable with software such as Revit Architecture, and can understand the concept of BIM. Not only that, but they participate in ‘Project Week’, which challenges students from all disciplines within the built environment to come together to produce a scheme which could be without complications. The hope is that grass roots schemes like this will help smooth the transition to BIM by ensuring future construction professionals are prepared for the challenges they’ll face within their professional lifetime.

So what do we do now?

Okay, it’s confession time: when I was first introduced to the BIM concept, I was very sceptical. My initial reaction, like many in the industry,  was that it would never happen without the backing of professional bodies and the Government, that people wouldn’t embrace it as it changed the way everyone had to work, and is a massive investment for all people concerned at a time of recession.

Now, a year after my BIM introduction (and after doing a bit of research into its true potential) I am genuinely excited by the changes that the BIM revolution brings, not as a reseller of BIM-enabled software, but as an Architectural Technologist who wants the industry to stand strong once more and prove that change is good.

With the Government, professional bodies and early adopters all giving the BIM workflow a big thumbs up, it’s not a case of if BIM is going to happen, it’s more a case of when. The big question now is how it will happen. Achieving a collaborative construction environment needs everyone to embrace the change and break down existing barriers between different sectors of the industry.

Professional bodies will pay a key role in this: they need to provide guidance and structure to help smooth the transition and provide their members with a safety net while adopting  BIM. You could argue that it is a bad time for change, with the industry coming out of a severe recession, but it has to be remembered that this isn’t an immediate change. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, in a month’s time, and probably not even a year’s time. It has to be gradual, to ensure that everyone is ready for it, is trained, and understands BIM. We need to build trust between different sectors of the industry, so they’ll learn to trust the information they receive, but it will happen and the change is already in progress.

I’m not saying every architect, every civil engineer, every surveyor needs to go out and replace all your existing software with seats of Revit Architecture, Ecotect, Navisworks, Vectorworks Architect to get on the BIM train, but it’s time to start a system of gradual change that will lead to people seeing real benefits in the long term.

Want to get ready for the revolution? To find out more about the concepts behind BIM or to start implementing BIM-based workstations, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email

AutoCAD tips: Wall studs

AutoCAD tips: Wall studs

Through this short tutorial, you will learn how to create a partition stud wall by attaching separate studs to a wall. There are two main principles to this technique:

1.   Create a Layout Curve – this is alignment geometry that has nodes that are equally spaced, repeated over a length, or manually spaced.

2.   Anchor studs to the Layout Curve – the anchor is used to attach studs (defined as structural members) to the Layout Curve.

First off, if you can’t see it, you may need to enable the Design pull-down menu as this is not enabled by default. To do this, from the Windows pull-down, select Pulldowns, then choose Design Menu:


Let’s start by applying some studs to a basic 100mm wall. Draw a wall using the Standard wall style and set the width to 100. Use baseline justification:

Next up, we shall create a layout curve which will assign nodes to the wall that will  be used to position the studs. From the Design menu, choose “Layout Tools and Anchors”, then select “Add Layout Curve”, or simply type “layoutcurveadd” at the Command line and you will see the following prompts:

Select a curve: Pick the wall

Select node layout mode [Manual/Repeat/Space evenly] : R for Repeat
Start offset <0.0>: 25
End offset <0.0>:
Spacing <304.8>: 400


A number of magenta circles have been added to the wall – each circle represents a node of the layout curve and they are spaced at 400mm intervals. Note: by default, these circles will not plot and we can also adjust the radius they are drawn with (more on that later).
To define the studs, we shall create a new structural member style. From the Format menu, choose “Structural Members”, then select “Wizard”:


Select “Cut Lumber” in the “Wood” folder, then press “Next”.

For “Section Width” enter 50, and for “Section Depth”, enter 100. Then press “Next”.


Finally, enter the name of the style (e.g. “Wall Stud”) and then press “Finish”.

Once the structural member style has been created, use the “ColumnAdd” command to insert one in an arbitrary position near the wall. This command can simply be typed at the command line or you can select it from either the “Design” tool palette, or from the “Design” menu (Structural Members -> Add Column). Which ever way you choose, insert as illustrated below:

To add the stud to each of the nodes along the wall, we shall use the “Node Anchor”. From the Design menu, choose “Layout Tools and Anchor”, then choose “Node Anchor” (or simply type “NodeAnchor” at the command line).


Command: nodeanchor

Node anchor [Attach object/Set node/Copy to each node]: C (for copy)

Select object to be copied and anchored: select the stud

Select layout tool: select one of the circles of the layout curve

5 object(s) copied.

Your wall will now look like this:


These studs will now stick to the wall, so if the wall moves, the studs will remain attached. If the wall is stretched longer, additional nodes will be created, but you will need to use the AutoCAD.

Copy command to add new studs. To do this, copy one of the other anchored studs to one of the new nodes.

I mentioned earlier that we could reduce the size of the circles of the layout curve and doing so will help us see their centre positions. To do this, select one of the circles, right-click and choose “Edit Object Display” from the cursor menu. In the “Object Display” dialog, click on the “Edit Display Properties” button.


Switch to the “Other” tab in the dialog and enter a radius of 25, then OK both dialogs.


Your wall should now look like this:

Of course, studs will not always be so conveniently placed, but we do have control over individual stud positions. There are three types of layout curve and the one we used let us set an initial offset of 25mm which is why the first stud edge aligns with the start of the walls (e.g. half of 50mm, the width of the stud).

Now let’s say we want to add an extra stud at the end of the wall which isn’t going to be placed 400mm from the current last one. To do this, edit the properties of the layout curve and change its type from “Repeat” to “Manual”.


Select the layout curve now and you will see different grip points:


Select the “+” grip on the right and an additional node will be added:


Select the node, and then select the triangular grip to adjust its position.

The distance is set from the start of the wall. In this example, the wall is 1844mm long, therefore to align the stud 25mm in from the wall end, I’ll enter a dimension of 1819, and the wall will now look like this:

As mentioned above, to add the additional stud to the wall, simply copy one of the other studs in the wall to the new node, and your wall will now look like this:


Now we’ve just got one more concept to learn. The layout curve is based upon the baseline of the wall and in this example, the baseline is along the wall centre and hence our studs align conveniently within the wall. Let’s try the same with a wall style where the baseline is along the outside edge of the studs, as in the example below:


In order to position the studs in the middle of the wall, you can set an offset to their anchor properties. To do this, select all the studs, right-click and choose “Properties”, then pick the “Anchor” button in the Properties palette:

Then in the Anchor dialog, enter a “Y Offset” of -50mm (if they go the wrong way try 50mm next!).


To re-cap:

• Use a Repeat Layout Curve to create nodes.

• Use Node Anchor to attach studs defined as structural members to each node.

• Convert layout curve to Manual to position individual studs.

• Use standard AutoCAD copy to add new studs.

• Adjust Y offset of the stud anchor property to adjust the position of the stud across the wall. Note: you can use the X offset to adjust the stud position along the wall too.

• Using the default UK template, the layout curve nodes are placed on the layer “G-Anno- Nplt” that can be turned off, but as the name implies, this layer is set not to plot.

For additional AutoCAD Architecture information refer to the product webpages

If you have any CAD-related queries, don’t hesitate to call the CAD team on 03332 409 204 or email!