Monday, 25 January 2016

Cobie Spreadsheet use

Cobie Use
I have started to take a serious look at Cobie use as an Architectural Technologist, so I started first with who will want to use it, and came up with a sort of sketch of a projects time line, from design through to construction, through to client hand over.

Todays sketch is my first attempt to understand the flow of spreadsheet information, and some of the links that may arise, and what information may flow, from simple room areas, to door and window lists, through to zones and sub zones.

It was the last point I started to wonder about, my own experience in that zones created by us, so often get changed, ok fire zones, maybe not, but it got me thinking, about easting and northing zones, which would not be changed or renamed.

My view on Cobie files is that they are so ridged, but perhaps thats ok, at the end of the day, deep learning does not care, so I can see them being used by the contractor to link say purchase orders. And certainly clients will use the zones,. as will any computer program organising the building, for say room use.

It's plainly obvious that some programs are better than others at producing Cobie files, Revit has to be the easiest, as they are just part of every day life, constantly being produced & updated, automatically, and they are two way, instant change when a drawing is updated, and can also be updated in the produced spreadsheet, with instant updates on the drawing, Vectorworks, Archicad and so many others don't come near to this.

As always I did some online research, with the basics on Cobie and a couple of other informative sites on the use of Cobie files.

Yes I know the photo today is a little basic, but it's a thought, a way of taking links and trying to understand them.

My article on using spreadsheet, and linking them 

Cobie presentation

BS 1192-4:2014

Monday, 18 January 2016

Book index saved to Evernote

Scan to PDF
One of the things I am doing at present, is cataloging my construction books in Evernote, so I can include them in any search I do.
This I do by scanning the front page for the title, and then as part of the scan, which I save as a pdf, is to include the index pages.

The picture today is a screen grab of PDFpen, the program I use to operate my scanner, where you can see the title page followed by two index pages.

I also tag the pdf with several tags like construction, Book, and the title, I also will be placing them into a separate folder within Evernote so I can share as required, with my students.

Making use of CAD file exports as spreadsheets

Perhaps one of the biggest things happening to CAD is the way BIM, is adding such richness to the drawings we produce, and so much of this is being exported as Cobie files, a posh way of saying structured spreadsheets. Its here I want to take a look, and I have added a specific section to my CPD to look after this subject.

I often teach this to students, and I look at spreadsheets as Four distinct areas of learning, I will briefly list these, but they will take separate blogs to expand on them.

  • Drawing aid
  • Detailing with a view to export
  • Exporting as Cobie files and it use
  • Data Manipulation

So first off as a drawing Aid

This is were I started, so long ago, playing with spreadsheets on a very old mac, the spreadsheet was basic, and did not have many commands, but it allowed the usual multiply div and subtract, enough to work out petrol us and millage, this I added to over the years to allow area calc, and working out ventilation rates for area or volume, it served me well for simple lists, and some minor accounting.

In Vectorworks this is taken a little further, as its so easy to embed the sheet in the file and use it to take information from the drawing, which I suppose is taking us onto the next level. I will expand on this, but Jon Pickup has some very useful lectures within his archive, his free stuff is located on YouTube under Archoncad, but his paid for membership, which I can recommend, is via his web site at

Detailing with a view to exporting

Most of my specs in my 2D drawing, are text blocks, placed near to the detail, and are ones I have used over the years to describe a product, material, or a way of construction, simple instructions to the contractor. This is, or will stop as I move into drawings that need to be exported with a view to 3D ifc, or Cobie files, I need to attach information so that it can easily be picked up, and used in the right context. The simple move to 3D does not mean its full BIM, yo have to work at it and add a lot of data and BIM compatible objects to draw with that will have the correct information, properly set out and formatted.

Exporting as a Cobie file

This is the main way data will be exported, and I as I stated earlier, we need to understand how and why, and make sure we add data in the correct way. On big jobs the cobie file may well be large, well over 2000 rows, and might be part of a complex set of spreadsheet files. We need to understand the way they are used so that we can ensure the correct data is applied, as we will see later, spreadsheets to be used effectively need consistent data, when they are used with a big data format such as Hadoop, or Hana, its a different matter, but spreadsheet to spreadsheet, it needs to be correct.
But the trick we as Technologist must now learn is how to make the best of these files and bring to life a lot of data that may be hidden away from just scanning the endless lines of data.

Data Manipulation

To do this we need to start learning how to link and use this data with commands like Vlookup,  Fusion tables and most of all Pivot Tables

Now depending on what you use, Excell, Google spreadsheets, there is a slight difference in the way you might approach this problem, so I think I am going to concentrate on Google Sheets, I use it more than Excel, which I might add, has the more functions, but Google Sheets is what I use.

I have a couple of videos embedded below, they are just a taster, the bulk of this I will handle later in a more detailed blog, here all I want to do is introduce the problem and a route of CPD. They are, as usual off subject, but I will take the time to produce videos that as on subject and will look at the use within an Architects /  contractors office. We may not used these commands, but we should know what is being used and why, so we produce the correct information. You may be wondering why I have listed Fussion tables, they don't realy fit, but the way they are used in interesting, and again I will expand later.

As a suggestion think about the way materials are purchased and delivered to site, the delivery note should have on it the product number, this can easily be linked to the cobie spreadsheet and compared, perhaps even a location added. sand added to a mortar mix or screed.

Related articles

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Data, Data & more Data

As Technologists, we are being inundated with data, lots of it from almost everything we do. The easy route is to just delete, or make a folder on your hard drive, and dump it in there thinking you'll sort it later.

But there are a few simple tricks that will solve you problem and make it easy to retrieve.

First is Email, I use gmail its still the leading service, despite its age,  I get so much, some important and these get tagged and put into a correct folder, the rest just get marked as read, I never ever delete emails. Important ones that I want to keep out side of Gmail, I send to my Evernote account, via the secret email address they give, more on this later.

Never ever rely on your hard drive to store important things, I have, like so many done this and lost it all when the disk failed, and it will. With the cloud now so easy to access, I store all items in one of two places, first Google Drive, this has to be a no brainer, its easy to set up, easy to use, and you get so much free space, and is so well integrated with gmail, next comes DropBox, a paid for service, well there is a free service and its quite large, but my needs have gone beyond this, and it's here I store almost every working file, most are cad files and project documents we use daily, the beauty of DropBox is the sharing, I share all my business files with my partner, and he sees the updates almost instantly.

Now lets get back to Evernote, a product with a difference, here I store any document, scanned or otherwise, my new printer has such a sweet scanning facility, and used with PDFpen, if I get paper in the post, I scan it, and use the builtin "send to Evernote" function and dump the paper. Evernote has the best search ever, the OCR scans the pdf ready for me to search, I pay for the premier account, so its almost instant, free accounts wait for a while, but its done. Don't forget to add the app to your browser, searching for anything from say Chrome will show whats on the web, but also whats in you private archive in Evernote. Your private archive of data will be the subject of a more detailed blog later.

Books I have a problem with, I buy so many, I am a sucker for a good book, my collection, and I will not pass on any book, sorry, is growing, my construction books in particular I scan, not all of them, but the index, and important pages, these I send to Evernote, ready for search, I'll write a new blog on this very soon as there is more to this than just scanning, Kindle and ebooks spring to mind and my highlights.

Photos and my video's used to be a problem, but now I have four different safeguards, Google Drive, Flickr, dropbox, and iPhoto on my mac, all store any electronic photo I take, its automatic and I just don't ever have to think about it, most of my photos are taken with my mobile, the quality is just fine for most things, it auto syncs with all the above, and best of all, it has lat long embedded so search is so easy, which brings me onto my favourite, which is Google Photo, is was with no question iPhoto, but the service google offers is so much better. so all nicely backed up. In many practices, I used to get stinging emails from the IT department, saying I had yet again filled up the server with photos, not any more.

I still have to keep paper, its a pain, and defies the new search and find I am so used to in computer land, and is hosted in an old filing cupboard in my garage. Most are scanned, but the law seems to say keep, so I do.

With all the above, its hard to say no to data, now its more the better, OCR has opened up search to all the content, learning how to use this now becomes the next holly grail, tagging and to some extent, adding files to folders, although I do this simply to allow sharing specific sets of data.

I write profusely, with this blog and the others I looks after, a service I find invaluable is ifTTT look for it or follow the link, its an automated service thats free, which has rules, if I write a new blog it will copy the blog to Evernote, same goes for a lot of other services like diary events.

Todays photo is a vey old detail I like, neat and so full of design.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Feedburner Email Link

To day I have added an Email link which will let you know if I post any new articles, please sign up, and you'l get an email to let you know.
I thought when I discontinued the Wordpress site, thst the export I got of all my past blogs would be easy to import into Blogger, but it seems after due trial and a lot of research, that its not going to be. Seems I have to break it down into very small lunps to import, so rather than waste time doing that, I will repost some of the more interesting posts, with obvious updates.

So signing up might just be a good idea.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Evernote as part of your research

A few days ago I posted a new blog, talked about an alternative way to recognise the value of CPD using proper research instead of sitting for an hour listening to a CPD lecture.

Well today I want to extend that article, by describing a way to add notes to your CPD list. I keep mine in a google Spreadsheet, and have all sorts of formula to add up and show the time I have spent on a subject, I also have a cell thats a link to an Evernote Folder thats got the research I made for that subject, its an easy way to organise notes, web links and articles you find. Not only is it easy to create, a folder link, but in your notes on the spreadsheet an individual link can be made to a specific article.

This is so easy to do, just right click on the folder in Evernote, choose publish and follow the "create link" for adding to your spreadsheet. I have tried this in Google Keep, but the links just don't work well, and as for saving web pages it only saves the URL, where Evernote saves the page complete.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Is CPD just attending trade lectures

I have for a while, in fact I may well have written about this on my old site, But I am a little frustrated with the current thinking on CPD, most seem to think its just a matter of attending some free trade shows, and racking up a few hours listening to sometimes very biast lectures from a trade manufacturer. Don't get me wrong, I have learned a lot from one or two very good manufacturers, Marley Roofing for one, and Leaderflush as another, but so often you leave with no involvement whats so ever, and I question if you have even listened, any learning taken from sparse notes or hand outs.

My thoughts on this are not to test your memory after the lecture, this does nothing for you, but drive the attendees away, my thinking on this is going in the direction of perhaps the research, of proper subject lists and research gathered about that subject, rather like a university, PhD research student, producing a reading list, and pulling together thoughts on the current materials that might fall into that material. This makes you think, and explore, the mind is now active and learning.

Currently I am researching brickwork, now you might say, I should know all there is to brickwork detailing, but sadly I don't, take for instance why we started to use a cavity, brick sizes and how they evolved, the effects of insulation in that cavity, weep holes and how lead flashing has evolved. I also want to add here, life span of brickwork. weathering, now you can see why learning this way opens the mind and makes knowledge so much more useful.

I would then like to see the research published online and the time taken awarded as CPD, not only is it going to enhance the knowledge base but change our attitude to learning, and make it more usable.

My own CPD list is already geared up for this, I add subjects I need to know about for current projects, or I want to know about, and I add notes or information to this in the way of research,  reading, talking and actual site visits. The only difference is I award myself time I have spent of learning. Perhaps publishing the work in a research journal or site, is a next step, and peer review to gain or verify the hours spent. I experimented with this recently within a small private group using a Wordpress theme, and it worked well. Perhaps it's time to open it out.

I can easily see Universities, gaining much needed revenue by offering to peer review, charging a small fee, say £25 a paper, but it would be well worth it. verified CPD perhaps adding to some sort of qualification not just time.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Ways to lay a Brick

I am currently researching Brickwork, for a new construction chapter on the subject, and as I was making notes, I suddenly wondered how many ways can I lay a brick, well the obvious way is stretcher, either long or as a header, we see is all the time in every bond, but there are other ways to see the brick face.
As a simple count, I listed 6 ways, thats the two main sides and oriented, see todays photo, but I think I can add two more thats a cut brick, King Closer and Queen Closer.

All are used in general brickwork, some as cills, or arch's, some as just plain decorative, some are there to correct the bond at corners or openings.

I can add two more thats as a herringbone, laid at an angle, face and end, and if I add colour and texture then the list becomes endless, so I thing 6 is the correct answer. But structurally the answer has to be 2.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

VR & AR set to change the world 2016

If there is to be a major change in the way Architectural Schemes are prepared and used, and AR & VR, Augmented and Virtual Reality products are set to be at the heart of it all.

Who ever says that VR is just gaming has not used a Ocular Rift device, to view a scheme, or just play a game, the realtiy is so good you do actually feel immersed into the reality. An article posted by  Huda Salman on Linkedin "The 10 Most Important VR/AR Developments of 2015", is an excellent read and well worth an hours CPD, just reading the article and following up on the many links to understand VR and AR.

But its the next life of both AR & VR that I see as the real game changer for Architecture. Remember the video World Builder by BranitFX and Lucamax Pictures, I showed a long while ago, well given the
way we I see the current level of Technology, I just don't see how it will be that long before we get a CAD package that allows just this and more. I have loaded the video below. Its not the astory, although thats a weepy, but the way he designs,

I can also see clearly that Virtual, the complete digital world, and Augmented, the digital overlay on photo or Video, will merge to allow us to use this technology to the fullest.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Pitched roof Eaves Detail

This is an article I made some time back and it was saved to my Evernote account via ifTTT, I thought I might reblog it.

I went through some of my saved details this morning, well I have been doing it for about a week now, looking through saved scraps I have made, from Skirting’s, to Screws, to plasterboard details, to this detailpitched eaves-1, I found of a pitched roof eaves detail, I can’t remember where I found it, but its not bad, the ventilation is there, the insulation in the right place, the cold bridging has been almost removed, I might not use the small batten at the ceiling edge, but as a detail it works.

So often I have saved details and come back to then years later, wondering whats so special about this, well from now on I save things like this into Evernote, with a small detailed description, perhaps if I can remember where I got it, or if I was the creator, pertinent notes on construction, and may be where I used it. Perhaps I might change it, with a little more support for the soffit, and a note on ventilation holes, the gutter I might make a little larger, and show the swan neck down pipe, and fixing, plus maybe a wall ties, again it’s partial fill, and you know how I dislike full fill cavity’s. The ceiling rafter from the truss is not shown, and the ties to the wall plate are not there, but as a detail it has some good points, so I have kept it.
I have made a note as to the file name, but there is enough from this picture for me to re create it from scratch, plus my notes to improve. Little by little my blue book is slowly moving to Evernote. Plus I have restricted my Categories to just the bare minimum, one, and filled out the tags to the limit.

CPD is obvious, this took me about 30 mins to find, check, make notes and load into Evernote, a good use of time and will assist in the future.

Vectorworks 2D

Some time back I wrote a book on the easy use of Vectorworks as a2D drawing CAD package, I now have it for sale @ £1.99 on my web personal Web Site as a downloadable pdf.

It was written as a guide to a series of lectures I was doing to teach Vectorworks to Gardeners and other surveyors. It's very basic but it has all the information I used to teach the Simple use of Vectorworks, and add a few of the specialist sides such as Classing, Viewports, and Printing.

I will be issuing an updated version in the near furture, with more Videos and links, plus some rewriting of parts for Vectorworks 2016.

Friday, 1 January 2016