All posts by Arthur McGoey

Visualization Consultant @ UNM School of Architecture and Planning Associate + Intern Architect II @ SMPC Architects

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.

Comments on Frances Anderton: “Excess” Versus “Relevance” Is an Irrelevant Debate

Frances Anderton: “Excess” Versus “Relevance” Is an Irrelevant Debate – I can not agree with Frances Anderton more when she says that by framing a dichotomy of excess versus relevance in architecture, those mourning the loss of grand projects and those cheering that loss due to the current economic circumstances, are failing to appreciate the full scope of architecture. Certainly, architectural journalism favors the spectacular projects of excess but even still most architecture fails to meet either standards.

Architecture encompasses all of the built environment, from the ordinary to the singular, and both aspects are important. By framing the debate not in a dichotomy but instead as qualities of the larger field we call our culture and environment,, an architecture for the here and now can be more easily balanced between social responsibility and artistic ambitions. Both are needed and in different mixes for different projects.


ART TO ARCHITECTURE « LEBBEUS WOODS – Lebbeus Woods asks the question about the relationship of Art to Architecture.  He points out that as the arts like painting and sculpture became less integrated with Architecture, they actually gained a more direct influence on architecture.  Suddenly Art could be used as a direct inspiration for Architecture.  It is certainly an interesting observation.

For my part, I hold with Deleuze and Guttari’s opinion that Art is concerned with precepts and affects and their ability.  This means that Architecture is not necessarily Art, though it certainly can be and certainly the value of Art in Architecture is important.  I am not one to hold that Architecture is only an Art, for Architecture includes much more than Art, both in constraints and in scope, Architecture addresses more than the limited, but very intense, subjects of Art.

Comments on Inapal Metal / Menos é mais | Arch Daily

Inapal Metal / Menos é mais | Arch Daily – Inapal Metal is manufacturer of automotive parts.  The designed by Menos e Mais architects is a simple study in corrugated metal.  Rather than a banal metal building though, the Inapal Metal building has a subtle refinement that makes it something so much more.  The curving radius of the corners and the change in direction between the two main masses of the building break the building up and create a dynamic difference that energizes the form.  The large cantilevered loading dock canopy, while very functional also gives the otherwise heavy building a lighter feel.  Finally the perforated metal screens that partially hide the mechanical systems and large circular holes for exhaust along one side of the building is almost shocking when compared to the closed feel of the corrugated metal elsewhere.  The interiors further extend the precision and neutrality of the exterior.  The building is one with few expressive moves, yet it holds a spatial movement that is farm from static.

Comments on Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy / Amoretti + Calvi + Ranalli | Arch Daily

Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy / Amoretti + Calvi + Ranalli | Arch Daily – The expansion of the Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy is set between the old cemetery and a waterfront way.  It consists of a series of cubic crypts each freestanding and set in two rows along a curving line with a path set between.  The project’s success comes from its use of such a simple object as the cubic crypt which is then subverted by arraying it into a field, breaking down the idea that architecture is about a singular object, continuous or discrete.  The crypts themselves are proportioned to meet the requirements of an interned human body giving an empathic quality to the crypts.  Each crypt like the body of the people inside.  Though it is a long standing tradition in Architecture for funeral monuments to be an expression of some idea of the person life, it is modern take to make the crypt emphatically relate to the human experience rather than express or represent it.

Comments on Richard Box | Interactive Architecture dot Org

Richard Box | Interactive Architecture dot Org – An installation of 1301 fluorescent light bulbs powered by the electric field of a high voltage power line that crosses over the site is impressive in its ability to reveal the hidden world of the electromagnetic radiation that permeates the world around us.  While visually reminding me of Walter De Maria’s lightning field at sunset/sunrise, this installation takes the place making abilities of De Maria’s piece one step further.

Comments on 290 Mulberry Fabrication Update – Prototyping | CASE Design, Inc.

290 Mulberry Fabrication Update – Prototyping | CASE Design, Inc. – Case discusses the collaborative approach that was taken during their time at SHOP in the development of the innovative brick panels at 290 Mulberry.  The use of parametric modeling and a 3D printer allowed the production of quick prototypes and models that were then presented to potential fabricators, allowing a more directed and specific discussions to happen and the selection of fabricators that were interested in proceeding.  The 290 Mulberry project is an excellent example of how to work with fabricators to get unexpected results.  Well done.

Comments on Plants Can Twitter for Water with New Device – PC Magazine

Plants Can Twitter for Water with New Device – PC Magazine – Researchers have designed a system that combines a soil moisture sensor, a micro-controller and custom software to allow a plant to send out tweets on its status.  Messages can be customized by the user to make them more unique.  In fact one of the researcher’s plant ‘Pothos’ has more than 2,300 followers on Twitter.

This is an interesting example of how everyday objects are beginning to communicate with us in a more direct manner.  I hate the term ‘Smart’ technology but along those lines, what happens when all the potted plants in everyone’s houses can ask for water and tell us how they are doing?