SmartBIM Library 3.2 released, QTO product waiting in the wings

March 02, 2009 |

In the world of high-quality, parametric BIM content, the founders of SmartBIM (formerly Tectonic Partners) have been working on simplifying the use of building product objects in Revit since BIM itself was born. This month they’re releasing a new version of their flagship SmartBIM Library, with a drag-and-drop feature that makes it much easier to use with Revit, and a new quantity-take-off (QTO) application linked with the RSMeans product cost database that will allow users to estimate costs in Revit. Note: BD+C and SmartBIM are owned by the same parent corporation, Reed-Elsevier, Inc., although I have covered SmartBIM as a BIM content provider since before Reed acquired Tectonic Partners in 2007.


Architects and engineers are certainly capable of building their own content, but unless they have an in-house guru who’s willing to work weekends, AEC firms have a difficult time accumulating and categorizing an organized library of Revit objects. The key to good Revit objects is understanding the product and how it decomposes down to its piece parts, assigning good parametric constraints to those parts, and nesting them together into assembly models. You also want to make your objects to be flexible and re-usable, yet not so complicated that the files weigh a project model down in terms of processing speed.


All of SmartBIM’s content is created by architects and optimized for file size an performance. SmartBIM Library is a Revit object cataloging tool that provides a richer user interface than a local file system for browsing and filtering a firm or single architect’s Revit families. Its navigation tools easily categorize objects by family, type, and tag, and users can filter for Revit families across catalogs by family name and type, properties, user created tags, or CSI masterformat code. This helps users to understand and easily select high-quality, usable building products.


SmartBIM Library 3.2


SmartBIM Library 3.2 has more than 16,000 preloaded Revit family types , including 200 new generic families. The SmartBIM Library also publishes content on a continual basis from a list of manufacturers that includes such companies as Armstrong, GAF Materials Corp., Laticrete International, NanaWall Systems, Oldcastle Glass, PPG Industries, and more. The SmartBIM Library subscription program provides automatic updates for the software and content, as new objects become available.


Version 3.2, it will be released to the market this month, supports drag-n-drop content publishing, which allowsing customers for the first time to create catalogs by drag and drop from a file system folder or Revit project. It also supports drag and drop of individual Revit objects into an existing catalog from the file system or from Autodesk Seek. You can also create new empty catalogs and move or copy content from one catalog to another, allowing customers to effortlessly view, vet, and organize their content into an office standard catalog in SmartBIM Library. 


To create a catalog from a folder you simply drag-and-drop it over  the SmartBIM tool; it  extracts information from the Revit families in the folder and any nested sub-folder in the form of  DWF files, thumbnail images, family category, name, type, , and property data and uploads all this information into a catalog in SmartBIM Library. This rich information interface allows you to view and understand your content. Your source Revit families can be organized in any way and the SmartBIM tool will clean them up and save all the necessary views.


SmartBIM library 3.2 gives users easy options for product organization and creation.

Similarly you can drag-and-drop a Revit project over SmartBIM Library create a project-based catalog; it harvests families from the tproject, saving them to the file system, and then performs the same publish and load operations as creating a catalog from a folder. My BD+C demonstration automatically extracted more than 40 different Revit entities from a project into a catalog in a matter of seconds. With the ability to create project-based catalogs in SmartBIM Library, AEC firms are organizing families for projects in SmartBIM Library rather than inserting them into a Revit project template. This helps keep the project template from becoming too big.  


Last, you can incrementally add a family or update an existing one in a catalog also by drag-and-drop.


“Getting content into SmartBIM Library was a barrier, and I think we’ve addressed that with the drag-and-drop functionality,” said Dr. James (Andrew) Arnold, SmartBIM product manager.


The library is navigable by Revit category, thumbnail, and DWF views. All views are configurable for whichever way you want to work (1-screen, 2-screen, etc.) You can compare values in the properties view by dragging one against the other. SmartBIM Library also supports file attachments to objects in a catalog. Any project document or image can be associated with an object by drag-and-drop. An image file, photo from a jobsite, virtually any type of document can be opened in SmartBIM Library and edited, including objects from Autodesk Seek.




SmartBIM QTO is a quantity takeoff and cost estimating application that generates installation, material, and total costs at the click of a button. It will be available in early April. Revit already has multi-category scheduling but estimating quantities using Revit still takes several manual steps outside of Revit. SmartBIM QTO smoothes that out with a command called “SmartBIM QTO” in Revit that extracts the counts and quantities for all the objects from a projectto the SmartBIM QTO application with one click. SmartBIM QTO also automatically associates RS Means unit costs to each Revit object, providing a quick conceptual cost estimate. Developers who created the tool are the same ones who have created the online RS Means Costworks service.



No matter how little you know about a Revit object you wish to specify, SmartBIM can generate an average construction cost for it from the RSMeans database. If on day one you know that you need an interior door that’s made of wood with certain dimensions, an average cost (with high and low prices dropped) of all of SmartBIM’s wooden doors will be generated. If on day two you specify in Revit that it’s a hollow-core wooden door, then that information can be added to the query and a new average cost will be generated with improved precision. You always get a cost, but the better you model in Revit,  the generated cost will be more precise.


This conceptual cost-estimating tool enables you to iteratively get cost feedback and decide which objects are most important for costing. You can always override the cost, too, and add your own, or map to a specific RS Means line. You can save a cost estimate to a project file or export it to Microsoft Excel (xls) or PDF files for downstream use.


“QTO tools are generally tailored to the general contractor and tend to be feature-rich and require a lot of expertise,” Arnold said. SmartBIM provides a simple, fast, way to get a quick evaluation of design alternatives. The product serves the architect and engineer in the design phase in this way for comparative cost estimating.


More of BIM Boy on the web


Last August I wrote about the dramatic changes in Tekla Structures 14 that revolutionized the user interface and licensing process of one of the oldest BIM programs on the market. Late last year, Tekla released Structures version 14.1, which includes a specialized component for construction management. The software still contains comprehensive tools for detailers, fabricators, and manufacturers, but the big improvements come in tools for the actual construction process.


Autodesk 2010 software unveiled

San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk held two webcasts recently to launch its 2010 product line. The software giant is reorganizing its divisions, and entities, such as the geospatial and transportation divisions, are now a part of the AEC group. Tools such as 3Ds Max 2010 were shown being used with Autodesk’s AEC products much more extensively than before for AEC design. Autodesk has streamlined the UI of its programs and all of them have some version of the top-mounted, customizable, organizational “ribbon” that’s similar to Microsoft Office 2007’s navigating ribbon with this release. Autodesk also unveiled its most extensive use of the PDF format for document sharing and transfer ever.


Newforma introduces sixth edition

Last year, I wrote about the Fifth Edition of Newforma Project Center, the project information management enterprise solution that allows AEC firms to track e-mail and project information without changing their work processes. Since then, Newforma has taken off, with 28,000 seats under license. Newforma is now used by 61 of BD+C’s Giants 300. The company’s Sixth Edition adds LEED administration and BIM process tracking to its already impressive list of information management uses. BD+C

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