Schematic Daylighting Analysis with 3DS Max

Simulating daylighting can be complex, though rewarding process.  However it’s complexity can be a barrier for using it in design, especially early in the design process where complexity can slow the iterative nature of creative thinking.

The following tutorial shows you how to quickly and easily create a schematic level daylighting analysis.  This analysis isn’t appropriate for validation of the design or for calculating exact lighting performance.  While based on validated methods, the tutorial takes a very general approach to favor speed over accuracy.  The results will get one a good impression of how daylighting is performing the a building, but more concentrated study later in the design process would be needed.

  1. Download Daylighting-Tutorial zip file
  2. Unzip to find the following files:
    1. Daylight Analysis Schematic.max
    2. Daylighting Material Library.mat
  3. Open the template file “Daylight Analysis Schematic.max” in 3DS Max
  4. Click the 3DS Max icon in the upper left -> “Save As” -> “Save As”
  5. Note that a light meter, daylight system and conceptual materials are already included in the template file.  In addition, the  render and environment settings have been calibrated for conceptual daylighting analysis.
  6. Verify Units
    1. “Customize” menu -> “Units” -> Verify lighting at the bottom is set to “American”
    2. This sets the lighting units to foot candles.
    3. 1 foot candle = 10.764 lux
  7. Import Geometry
    1. Import geometry by clicking on the 3DS Max icon in the upper left -> “Import” -> Select the appropriate option listed below:
      1. If linking a DWG file
        1. Select “Link AutoCAD”  -> Navigate to the DWG file -> Click “Open”
        2. In the “Manage Links” dialog box, accept defaults for “Presets” -> Click “Attach this file”
      2. If linking an FBX file exported from Revit, Maya or other software
        1. Select “Link FBX” -> Navigate to the file -> Click “Open”
        2. In the “Manage Links” dialog box, change the “Preset:” to “Autodesk Revit – Combine by Revit Material” -> Click “Attach this file”
      3. If importing rather than linking
        1. Select “Import” -> Navigate to file (DWG, SAT, OBJ, FBX are all good choices) -> Click “Open”
    2. Verify that the geometry imported to the correct scale by creating a tape measure -> In the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Create” tab -> “Helpers” sub-tab -> Click “Tape” -> Click and drag between two points to measure their distance -> The distance is displayed at the bottom of the “Command Panel” on the right.
    3. If you are having scale issues with linked files, try importing instead. (Sometimes importing -> deleting the imported geometry -> linking the geometry fixes scale issues)
    4. Delete any extra Daylight systems that were imported into the file
  8. Assign Materials
    1. Open material editor by clicking on the checkered sphere in the upper right
    2. There are a number of materials already created that are calibrated for different real-word reflectance and transmittance.  Both opaque and glazing materials are available.  Please note the relevant reflectance and transmittance noted in the material names.
    3. To see the properties of a material, double click on its title.
    4. Assign a material to geometry by selecting the geometry -> Select a material in the material editor -> [Right-click -> Select “Assign Material to Selection”] or [just press “a” to assign the material]
    5. Assign materials to all your geometry.  If in doubt use the 50% reflectance material, it provides a good baseline.
  9. Setting up the Daylighting System
    1. Select the “Daylight System” it may be hiding inside your geometry so you may need to look around or you may have accidentally deleted it.
    2. Change the location
      1. With the Daylight System selected -> in the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Motion” tab ->  Enter Latitude and Longitude of the site or click “Get Location” and select a city.
    3. Changing the time and date Manually
      1. Set the time slider at the bottom of the viewport to frame “0” (Critical, don’t change the time and date on any other frame)
      2.  With the Daylight System selected -> in the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Motion” tab -> Change the time and date as needed.
    4. Using the animated sun positions
      1. Starting at frame 1, the sun has been animated across three days of the year, the summer solstice, the fall equinox and the winter solstice.
      2. With the Daylight System selected -> in the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Motion” tab -> To change the time and date, one drags the time slider at the bottom of the viewports frame by frame.  Each frame will advance the time by 30 minutes as shown in the “Motion” tab on the right.
      3. Using the time slider, set the sun to the desired time and date.
  10. Environment & Exposure Control
    1. In the “Rendering” menu, select “Environment” or press “8”
    2. Scroll down to exposure control
    3. If rendering an Illumiance study, verify Exposure control is set as follows
      1.  Exposure Control = “Pseudo Color Exposure Control”
      2. “Active” is checked
      3. “Process Background and Environment Maps” is checked
      4. “Quantity” = “Illuminance”
      5. “Style” = “Colored”
      6. “Scale” = “Logarithmic”
      7. “Min” = 0.0 fc
      8. “Max” = 11000.0 fc
      9. “Physical Scale” = 1500.0 cd
    4. If rendering a pretty picture set exposure control as follows
      1. Exposure Control = “mr Photographic Exposure Control”
      2. “Active” is checked
      3. “Process Background and Environment Maps” is unchecked
      4. Click “Render Preview” (This will render a small image with the current render settings)
      5. Change the “Exposure Value (EV):” up or down till the preview displays as you wish.
  11. Rendering
    1. In the main toolbar, click on “Render Setup” on the right side of the toolbar (icon of a teapot with a little box in the lower right).  Or in the “Rendering” menu -> Select “Render Setup”.  Or press “F10”
    2. Set the “Renderer” to “NVIDIA metal ray”
    3. Change the output size as desired
    4. Click render

Additional Resources
Daylight Simulation in 3ds Max Design 2009 – Getting Started
Daylight Simulation in 3ds Max Design 2009 – Advanced Concepts

Revit: Hiding the Edges of Meshes

By default, Revit will display every edge of any imported meshes, however one can hide the edges in 3DS Max using the following procedure.

Hiding a Meshes Edges in Revit

  1. Import mesh/polygon/subdivision into 3DS Max
  2. Select the object
  3. On the palette on the right go the “Modify” tab
  4. Looking at the modifier stack, if the object isn’t an “Editable Mesh” -> go to the “Modifier List” pulldown -> Select “Edit Mesh
  5. In the tools below the modifier stack, in the “Selection” group, pick the “Edge” icon to select edge subobjects
  6. Select all the edges
  7. In the tools below the modifier stack, scroll down to the bottom group “Surface Properties -> Select “Invisible”
  8. Because Revit prefers to select objects using edges (rather than faces), a few edges still need to be visible.  Newer versions of Revit allow you to select by face, but it can still be an issue if you don’t have a couple of edges to select.
  9. Select a few edges on the bottom of the object -> Select “Visible”
  10. Turn off the “Edge” subobject select in the “Select” group
  11. With the object selected click on the 3DS Max icon in the upper left -> “Export” -> “Export Selected”
  12. Pick a location and file name
  13. Change “Save as type:” => “AutoCAD (*.DXF)
  14. Click “Save”
  15. In the “Export to AutoCAD File” dialog change “Export Version” => “AutoCAD 2007 DXF” or “AutoCAD 2004 DXF”.  The other setting don’t matter in this instance, but exporting as 2004 or 2007 does matter.  For whatever reason, other DXF versions do not work.
  16. Click “OK”
  17. Open the exported DXF file in AutoCAD
  18. If it worked, only the edges that you left visible will be visible.
  19. Click on the “Layer Properties” button
  20. Click on the “New Layer” button
  21. Give the layer an appropriate name for the object.  This will allow you to assign materials and change the lineweights for the mesh in Revit.
  22. Change the layers color to white
  23. Select the object -> using the layer pull down, change the object layer to the new layer
  24. Verify that under the properites group on the Ribbon, the object color, line weight and linetype are all set to “By Layer”
  25. Save (either as a DXF or DWG)
  26. In Revit -> create a new family or in your project under the “Architecture” tab -> “Component” button -> “Model In-Place”.  The type of family should match what the object is.  Generic Models or Masses are typically good choices.
  27. In the family -> “Insert” tab -> “Link CAD” or “Import CAD” (Link CAD will only be available in “Model In-Place” families.
  28. Select your DXF or DWG file and place it (don’t forget to check the “Import Units” and the “Positioning”)
  29. The mesh object will come in as an outline, with only the edges you left visible still there.
  30. By default you can only select the object by the visible edges and the outline, you may consider toggling the “Select Elements by Face” selection filter in the lower right.
Mesh Geometry into Revit without Triangulated Edges via 3ds Max
Also check out the Revit Shades of Grey blog by Andy Milburn for excellent examples of this technique put to use.

Cellular Automata – The Force of Color

Colors form a space, seemingly continuous and varying, much like the space of our reality.  Such a space might seem easy to picture, much like a rainbow, colors seeping into each other, becoming something new and different.  Yet what is the structure of such a space?  Certainly there must be more than just an endless blending of colors.  The questions isn’t an easy one to answer because it turns out that there are already a number of structures for giving color spatial form.  In these experiments, the space of colors is explored by thinking of that space much like gravity or as a force that shapes and curves the space around it.

Continue reading Cellular Automata – The Force of Color

An Ethics of Complexity for Architecture

How does one make decisions and judgments within the practice of architecture?  There are no answers to this question, only problems.  How one formulates the problem, that is constructs the problem of architecture, effects the nature of the possible solutions, the performance of the designed and constructed buildings.  Problems are as much a construction of architectural practice as the actual built building is.  As Kojin Karatani describes in his book Architecture as Metaphor, there is a tendency in western philosophy to architecturalize itself.  He goes on to say that this “will to architecture” is not limited to philosophy but is latent in much of western thought, from science to the humanities.1 The will to architecture is the act of to constructing thought.  It is an act of making.  For any conception of architecture must include an idea of making or construction. Continue reading An Ethics of Complexity for Architecture

Fields and Intensities

System fields, intense fields and virtual fields are three interlocked concepts of the field. In his essay From Object to Field, Stan Allen primarily discusses the concept of a system field. I am using this term to describe a large group of objects that relate to each other in a systematic way and might produce emergent behaviors. An example of such a field is an ant colony as discussed by Steven Johnson in his book Emergence. In fact, a field is really just a set of relationships between objects. It can be hierarchal, unlike what Steve Allen implies, but does tend to be more of an intertwined mesh of objects, homogeneous or heterogeneous. Still a set of relationships between objects is hardly a clear way to describe a field. To be a field those relationships must be specified in a more exact manner. In fact, those relationships can not be a static “pattern” but are behavioral. The key to understanding a field is that each object inputs its behaviors, or its capacities and potentials to affect and be affected, into relation with other capacities and potentials. In a systems field the capacities are extensive properties of the objects. Examples of extensive properties are length, mass and energy. Continue reading Fields and Intensities

The Machinic Phylum and Non-Organic Life Engines

Life, organic or otherwise, comes from the intensive processes of a space Manuel DeLanda refers to as the machinic phylum in his essay Non-Organic Life. His use of this term comes from the philosophy of Gilles Delueze, including Delueze’s collaborations with Felix Guattari. Delueze and Guattari tend to not use any one term when referring to their concepts, instead, like the concepts they are talking about, they fluidly interchange several different words depending on the circumstances. In the case of the machinic phylum, Delueze and Guattari also use terms such as the Body without Organs (BwO), Plane of Immanence and Plane of Consistency. DeLanda in turn, also uses the term Intensive Spatium in his book Intensive Science, Virtual Philosophy. Each of these words is like a different gateway to the same concept, thus by virtue of each term we can gain a better understanding of the concept. Continue reading The Machinic Phylum and Non-Organic Life Engines