Friday, March 02, 2012

Design Review

I'm writing about both the process and the software. Autodesk has been shipping Design Review along with the rest of its products for many years now (though its name has varied some). Ask the average AutoCAD user or Revit user if they know what it is or if they've used it and the answer all too often is, "What's that?" This is the PC version's icon.

There is an iPad compatible version of Design Review too. Here's the sample house project file open on my iPad.

Awareness is one hurdle, not insurmountable, perhaps easier to resolve than a couple others, willingness to use it and the practical issues of reviewing full size paper versus on screen review. Obviously there is some reluctance to review drawings on screen, on the computer. It isn't limited to so-called Luddites who don't like computers either. I've encountered drawings coming off the plotter only to see some obvious typo or other problem that we clearly missed on screen for days, weeks or even months. The size of the typical monitor makes it hard to compete with a full size print in hand. Even with very large screens there is some perception of not seeing everything.

The Document review process with design review looks roughly like this:
  • Revit team exports sheets to DWF
  • Open each sheet DWF file in DR
  • Add markups and comments
  • Save the file
  • Revit team imports sheet markup files
  • Deal with markups and comments
  • Add responses if necessary
  • Save their work in Revit which updates the DWF file too.
  • Reviewer can open the DWF and see the action taken on their markups and comments.
The document reviewer can open the DWF sheet files and check progress on picking up changes.
The DWF files just need to stay in the same folder while the team is resolving the markups.
Once the markups are all resolved the links can be removed and the files archived and the process can repeat for the next review cycle.

To make the review process easier and more like paper we really need to use the largest screen that we can manage. I'd love to see something like the screens they show off in the renewed Hawaii Five-0! If you'd like to make something like that a reality in your office have a look at PEAU Productions (thanks to Scott at Clark Construction for the link). Check out this VIDEO from their You Tube postings. Based on what I've seen on the site you can have a pretty darn big multi-touch experience for under $2K.

While I'm encouraging you/us to reconsider how we go about reviewing projects and documents, I do have to temper this post a bit, the process isn't perfect. But then again what process is?

It is necessary to avoid opening and/or editing DWF files while they are linked into Revit for responding to the markups. We are supposed to be able to check on progress but in practice we often run into permission issues between Design Review and Revit's work sharing process.

Coincidentally, as I was working on this post I saw that David Baldacchino wrote a post yesterday that describes some flaws and frustrations that you may encounter if you choose to give this process a shot. I wish his comments weren't valid. I suspect if we saw more active use of Design Review we'd see greater emphasis placed on streamlining the workflow more.

You might also consider Bluebeam PDF Revu CAD as a more robust plot/markup/review tool. It (Bluebeam) does not permit the linking into Revit that Design Review does so that relationship is still stronger even if a bit quirky.

I encourage us to all move closer to the data, as close as possible to minimize the chance or missing things as well as reducing inefficiency. For people comfortable with Revit much can be done directly in the software to manage this. For those that are not, then Design Review offers a path than can help keep it digital and more closely connected to the model and data.


mgonzalez said...

Thanks for the reminder Steve, Design Review is one of those tools that I have told myself to look into for years. I can attest to the fact that Bluebeam Revu (CAD edition) is an extremely useful tool, we stopped buying Acrobat years ago and our engineers couldn't live without Revu nowadays. Their iOS version is coming out in the next month or two, very much looking forward to that.

Leigh W. said...


There must be something in the water... I decided after 12+ years of Revit use to try and see how Design Review would work on one of our large projects. Glad I found the posts you and david wrote (only a few days earlier!) - as it's clear it's not ready for game time. (I was specifically interested in how multiple reviewers / 'drafters/modeler's would collaborate and it just still seems like a big can of worms not worth saving the recycled paper.. ugh. Hopefully Autodesk will start to consider the fact that in the AEC industy, there are often multiple project managers / architects / designers / etc. making redlines / gathering unresolved questions etc. and will adjust this for a true multiuser environment!