July 5, 2016


In the last few posts, we’ve discussed view ranges and visibility graphics. It only makes sense that we expand on one of the most useful and often overlooked visibility options: filters. If used correctly, filters can help you easily identify certain elements in a sea of walls, floors, beams, etc.

You already know from a previous post where to access the filters dialogue. If you don’t, you should review our visibility graphics blog post or look in the visibility graphics dialogue box.

Let’s start with the simple steps to create a new filter.Copy Button (3)

  1. Open the filters dialogue.
  2. Click add
  3. Select new/edit on the right side of the box.
  4. Select the new option (the first icon under the list of current filters).
  5. Name it and then click OK.
  6. Once you’ve named your filter, you’ll choose the categories that will help define your filter.
    1. If you’d like to find all the CMU walls in your view, select walls.
    2. If you’d like to find all the concrete walls and floors, you would select floors and walls.
    3. The categories you select will determine the options you see in the Filter Rules section of the dialogue.
  7. Now you have a named filter and categories selected. Time to set the filter rules.
    1. The first drop-down menu allows you to select which parameter you’d like to filter.
      1. If you’re trying to filter CMU walls, you’d select Type Name.
    2. The second drop-down menu is where you pick the filter operator.
      1. If you’re trying to filter CMU walls, you’d select equals.
    3. The third option is where you pick the filter value.
      1. Since our current example is about filtering a type of wall, you can choose from a drop-down menu. Some filter parameters will mean that you need to put in a value instead of choosing from a drop-down menu.
    4. Click “OK” and celebrate! You’ve just created a filter.

You didn’t think you were done, did you? Now you have to apply your filter to your view.

When you click OK, you’ll go back a dialogue box and be able to select the filter you just created and then click OK again. You have a few more options to adjust your filter before exiting the main filter dialogue. The visibility option is first. Say you want to hide all of your CMU walls. Make sure the box is unchecked and they’ll all disappear from your view. If you’d like to color code them, adjust the Projection/Surface and/or Cut properties. You could make them all solid blue or pink dots. Lastly, you can just make the element(s) halftone if you’d like to subdue the visual appearance.

Filters are useful for so many reasons. Our CMU wall example is just one peek into how they can be used. Keep in mind that the first filter in the list is going to get the highest priority in Revit. For example, maybe you wanted to filter all beams that were 10’ long and then of the beams that were 10’ long, you wanted to know which were Wide Flanges. You could do this in one filter or if you’d prefer to keep them separate, you could make sure your 10’ beam filter is first in the list and then the Wide Flange filter is next.

You can also create filters based on selection sets. Selection sets can be managed from the Manage tab. Imagine that. You can save a set, name a set and then load the selected set of elements that you need to manipulate.  This tool is rarely used but can be incredibly useful.

Now, that’s a long but basic (and hopefully helpful) explanation of how to create filters. If you’ve never used a filter before, I highly suggest you pop into the visibility graphics dialogue and give it a go.

Other Resources:

3 Benefits of Using Revit view filters


May 13, 2016


Chad Boyea, P.E. was our man on the streets at the recent ACI Spring Conference held April 17-21 at the Hyatt Regency & Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.  While there Chad had the opportunity to swing by the Milwaukee Art Museum to see Santiago Calatrava’s  Burke Brise Soleil  as well enjoy some of the City’s great beer and brat culture.American Concrete Institute Logo

He also sat in on a variety of programs ranging from how revised energy codes will impact the continued use of concrete and masonry, how sustainable practices, such as the use of Fly Ash, are changing the market and a host of other topics.

We were intrigued by the knowledge Chad brought back to our team and in the interest of sharing that information, we present….

Eight Things Learned at the ACI Spring 2016 Conference

8. High Strength Steel in the Slab: Volume of Steel versus Placement or Number – Most slabs-on-ground are designed as unreinforced concrete but reinforcing is installed in the top third of the slab to control crack widths. High-strength, pre-tied reinforcing mats are gaining popularity with contractors for use in slabs-on-ground and tilt-up wall panels. The advantages over conventional mild reinforcing include reduced field labor in placing and tying the reinforcing and a reduction in the area of steel due to the increased yield strength of the steel.  The reduction in steel area may be acceptable if the reinforcing is used for strength only; however, it is not acceptable if the reinforcing is used for crack width control.  Why?  Because the modulus of elasticity of the steel, which is a ratio of the stress to strain (i.e. how much the steel stretches under a given load), is independent of the steel’s yield strength.  That is, the modulus of elasticity equals 29000 ksi for steel with a yield strength of 80 ksi and 60 ksi.  In simple terms, the higher strength steel can support more load by stretching further but this results in larger crack widths.  The bottom line is that the pre-tied mats can be substituted but the specified area of steel must be maintained when the reinforcing is used for crack-width control.

7. 2016 marks the Portland Cement Association Centennial Anniversary

6. ACI Committee 302.1R – Guide for Concrete Floor and Slab Construction published a new version of the document last fall and is now beginning a new cycle.  In this iteration, the committee is adding a chapter on aesthetic concrete.  Exposed slabs, such as polished slabs, are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in school and retail projects.   The first step in a successful aesthetic concrete project is coordination between the architect and the engineer.  The engineer has to understand the desired finishes so the slab can be properly designed and detailed and the necessary adjustments made to the concrete specifications. The next important step is for the contractor to hold a pre-construction meeting with all parties involved in placing and finishing the concrete, especially the concrete finishing subcontractor and the polishing subcontractor.   The finishing contractor must properly finish the slab to allow the polishing subcontractor to create the desired aesthetics.  The most common issue is a slab that is not finished with a uniform surface density and not finished with the proper flatness.  There is a common misconception that the polishing contractor will come in and cleanup any surface defects. This often requires deeper grinding than what the polishing contractor anticipated and requires cutting deeper into the aggregates which can change the desired appearance.  Look for more discussion on this topic in the next version of the guide.

5. Tolerances for the Depth of Sawcut Contraction Joints in slabs-on-ground is on the Horizon – The structural engineer is responsible for specifying the depth of the sawcut at slab contraction joints. A commonly specified depth is the slab thickness divided by 4 or 5.  The location of the reinforcement is then specified to be just below the depth of the saw-cut.  There is currently no specified tolerance on the depth of the sawcut.  Often times contractors end up cutting much deeper into the slab to ensure the contraction joint activates.  This results in a couple of issues mainly, cutting through the slab reinforcement  and the amount of joint filler required to fill the joints full depth.  Committee 302 is adding a +/- tolerance limit to the depth of the joint to ensure the reinforcement is not cut and the contractor responsible for filling the joints can accurately bid a project. 

4. The Milwaukee Museum of Art is closed on Mondays. Please make a note.

3. To tie the tilt-up panels to the slab-on-ground or not to tie the tilt-up panels to the slab-on-ground? –  It is common practice in the Southeast to tie the tilt-up concrete wall panels to the slab-on-ground with reinforcing bars to resist out-of-plane lateral loads.  In other parts of the country, tying the panels to the slab is not so common.  It is well known that tying the panels into the slab will restrain the slab from undergoing its normal volume changes due to temperature and shrinkage.  This often results in restraint cracks in the slab which can have a significant impact on the function of the facility.  There are alternatives to tying the panels to the slab including designing the panels to span to the footings without any lateral support from the slab-on-ground, tying the panels to a waste slab below the slab-on-ground, or setting the panels on a cast-in-place concrete foundation wall that is poured up to the  slab level.  These alternatives often come at price, such as thicker tilt-up panels. The potential for restraint cracks in the slab should be discussed early on in the project and alternative options to tying the panels to the slab should be reviewed if shrinkage cracks will adversely affect the facilities usage.

2. The 2016 Version of ACI 301Specifications for Structural Concrete will be published within the next couple of weeks.  This is a reference specification that the engineer or architect can cite in the project specifications to make applicable to any project. One major revision to the document worth mentioning is the requirement to chair welded-wire reinforcement in concrete slabs. ACI 301 was previously silent on this topic and the typical construction method is to lay the reinforcement on the subbase and lift it up into place with hooks after concrete placement.  Often times, this results in the reinforcement ending up near the bottom of the slab instead of within the top third of the slab where it is most effective at controlling crack widths. ACI 301 now requires welded wire reinforcement smaller than size W4.0 (diameter < 0.226 inches) to be supported at the specified height with continuous chairs at 12 inches on-center.   This change will surely affect the cost of slabs reinforced with welded wire reinforcement and will require changes in the concrete placement methods that contractors can use.

1. ACI Committee 360 – Design of Slabs-on-Ground is continuing to make chapter revisions to the guide document.  One revision worth discussing is the inclusion of guidance for wide-panel slab design and construction. High dosages of macrosynthetic fiber reinforcement have been successfully used in industrial slabs to extend joint spacing’s to the column lines and beyond. The reduced amount of joints in the slab means less saw-cutting, less joint filler material, and fewer dowel baskets for the contractor, all of which can offset the costs of the fiber reinforcement. Another benefit with reduced joints in the slab is the reduction in long-term maintenance costs of refilling and repairing the joints.  The success of this type of slab is dependent on a number of factors including a properly prepared subbase, use of double slip sheets below the slab to reduce subbase friction, a low shrinkage concrete mix, and proper placement and finishing techniques.  I was able to observe a slab in a cold-storage facility in Wisconsin that utilized this type of design.  The slab joints were extended to every other column line – approximately 90 feet!  In a more conventionally designed slab without reinforcing or with a nominal amount of reinforcing for crack-width control, the joint spacing would have been approximately 15 feet in each direction.  I observed negligible slab curling at the joints and noticed a single hairline crack in the entire floor.

Did you attend the conference? If so, what were your take aways from the event?  Was your favorite session on Autogenous and Drying Shrinkage, Concrete’s Expansion Behavior or something else entirely?  Let us know what you learned at the ACI Spring Conference in the comments section.  And let Chad know if he should look for you at the Fall 2016 — Revolutionary Concrete conference in Philly slated for October 23-27.


May 6, 2016


Company culture at PES is awesome. It is undeniably unique and is a large part of why employees regularly come to PES and stay for decades. Our growing firm has deliberately maintained a small-company feel that encourages everyone to know each other and work together. From technical committees to philanthropy efforts and professional development, there are ways for each employee to grow as a dynamic, entrepreneurial engineer and play a bigger role in the overall success of PES.

Culture doesn't help

So why do we care so much about having an encouraging and social company culture? We believe that having happy, satisfied employees leads to increased productivity and better service for our clients. Adding an element of fun and collaboration can lead to less staff turn-over and better recruiting. Adding more qualified and excited employees to the team as we grow is an integral part of our development strategy.

Individual professional development leads to better (and more) output. PES has always encouraged professional development through seminars, lunch-n-learns and participation in professional organizations. Senior Associate Dave Aucoin in the New England office regularly attends BIM Council meetings through the Construction Institute. These opportunities are not only good for building business relationships but also learning about new industry trends. Lunch-n-learns hosted in-house at PES or by our partners are other wonderful development opportunities that our staff regularly attend.

In-house committees offer opportunities to get involved in the direction of the company. The Technical Committee, headed up by John O’Brien, handles the technical design aspects of structural engineering. The committee hosts monthly Tech Talks to relate information on basic design and industry challenges. PUG (Power User Group) updates the company on REVIT best practices and modeling tips and tricks. The Entertainment Committee plans foosball tournaments, Braves games and whirlyball outings. There is always something fun on the horizon for the team to do together. This is just a sampling of the committees and groups that give PES engineers and professionals an opportunity to develop.

PES is a growing firm with a small-company feel. The professional development, technical committees, and social outings have cultivated an environment where everyone knows each other by name and office doors are always open. This culture attracts a dynamic crop of engineers and professionals that can grow in their careers and better serve their clients.

We are proud of the company culture that we offer but we recognize that we can still improve. We voluntarily and regularly secure a third-party to survey the company, giving us insight into how we are moving forward, what is going well, and what could be better. Having a better understanding of what makes the team happy allows us to continue to offer a unique and awesome company culture.

If you are interested in learning how you can join PES and advance your career, while improving your foosball skills too, click here.


JANUARY 21, 2016


Have you ever been working in a project and realized the wall or other element you just drew isn’t showing? Or maybe it doesn’t look the same as it did in another view?

Did you go immediately to the Visibility Graphics dialog to make sure that the walls are checked or turned on? Did you then throw your hands up in despair because you didn’t know what to do next?

Yes? So have I.

While it is often confusing and making changes can seem terrifying out of fear of messing up your whole project, the view range is actually an incredibly useful tool to understand. Hopefully by the time you get to the end of this short explanation, you will be a pro and be able brag to your friends at the office happy hour.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What exactly is the view range?

Simply put, each view is just a horizontal slice through the model and the view range controls exactly what you see in a particular plan view. The view range controls the height and depth of the slice, along with how the items in the slice will be represented. It’s not just WHAT is visible but also HOW it is displayed.

  • The parameters within the view range are all instance parameters, meaning they are not (necessarily) the same for each plan view.
  • You can find the view range in the ‘Properties’ column under ‘Extents’.


The view range dialog box is deceptively simple. But what do these fields mean?


Top: Any element above this height will not be displayed. Any element below this but above the cut plane will be displayed according to the element’s projection object style.

RevitTipCut plane: Elements that intersect or pass through this height will be displayed according to the cut properties of the element’s object style. In other words, the height elements will be “cut.”

Bottom: The base of the primary view range. Any elements at or above this height but below the cut plane will be drawn according to the projection object style.

View Depth: Must be set below the bottom height. Any objects below the bottom height and above the view depth level will be displayed in the beyond line style.

There are some exceptions to the view depth. Some items that will still appear if they are beyond the view depth, exceptions to this are floors, ramps, stairs and any component that is hosted by a floor. These items ARE shown, even if they are slightly outside of the View Range boundaries.

Another representation is below thanks to our very own Chris Kane.

We hope this short explanation helped and that you won’t be throwing your hands up in despair anymore. At least when it comes to view ranges.


Still don’t get it? There may be hope for you yet. Check out these other resources for more explanations:

Revit Zone:




JANUARY 11, 2016


I use the keystrokes, “VV” or “VG,” almost more than any other shortcuts. The Visibility Graphics dialog is regularly used by most Revit Structure users to manipulate views. You may think you know everything there is to know about how to manipulate views in Revit but read on…you might surprise yourself.

Top 10 Things to Know About the Visibility and Graphic Display Dialog

  1. To access, use the keyboard shortcut “VV” or “VG.”



  1. You can turn off and on walls, columns, furniture or any other model categories. You can also adjust how you see those categories. If you need to see beams that might be hidden by walls, you can adjust the transparency of the walls. If you’d like all of your floors to stand out, make them blue. Remember you can work with your View Range to adjust the categories view as well.



  1. Analytical model categories can be useful but often make your view more confusing so we steer clear except when absolutely necessary.
  1. The next tab over is the imported categories If you need to import other plans that overlay on your model, you will likely find those detailed here. You can adjust how that link appears – make it pink, purple, orange or blue! You can’t get as detailed and turn off walls or floors but you can adjust how the whole overlay looks, which can be very handy.
  1. Next are the Filters can be one of the handiest tools in Revit if used correctly. I recently made all my shearwalls blue, turned my steel columns pink and added a filter so that I didn’t see any of the non-load bearing walls. This is often a much better practice than hiding an element category from view. Especially if you need that element to stay hidden for a while. If filters confuse you, never fear! Keep an eye out for an exhaustive blog post in the coming months.


  1. The next tab over is You are using worksets, right? You can adjust whether the worksets are hidden or visible. If you are looking to turn a workset off or make it non-editable, navigate to the bottom of your window and click the little wrenches.
  1. The last tab in the dialog box is where your linked models will sit. These will include the architect’s model and could include the mechanical, electrical or other structural models. You can see the link in halftone or underlay, which lightens the link and positions it under your model. The last column there allows you to truly customize how the link appears in your view, if you select custom you have the ability to control all of the things you can control in your view independently for the link, maybe you don’t want to see the architectural gridlines, you can turn those off in the link only this way.


  1. It’s easy to forget you have certain categories turned off or certain filters in place, making it incredibly frustrating when you can’t find that wall you know you placed. So always remember to check the VGs when your view looks a little
  1. Speaking of forgetting you have elements turned off, remember to be very careful about right-clicking and overriding or hiding in view. You can alter the view of just one wall or just one beam this way. While seemingly handy in some cases, it can cause quite the headache for anyone else getting in the model. If you alter a view, it is absolutely best practice to do it from the VG dialog box.

As with everything we discuss, knowing the basics is good but truly knowing the power of each tool will greatly improve the ease of your work in Revit. Changing the specifics in a view can be helpful but it can also be confusing if more than one person is working in the project. Try to be cognizant of the changes you are making and what view you are making them in and how they can affect the work that others are doing.

Have a tip or trick you want to share? Submit it in the comments section or shoot me an email at


JANUARY 1, 2016

PES Structural Engineers has placed a high priority on successful integrated BIM workflow. We strive not only to be a key partner and resource for our clients but to also be an effective partner and reliable resource. For that to happen, the works starts here at home.

After designating three full-time staff members as the “BIM Studio Leaders,” PES established a BIM mission statement to supplement the company’s mission statement. The statement (at right) focuses on collaboration and support. Innovative BIM processes and technologies are necessary but sometimes hard to navigate so we work jointly with clients to ensure smooth workflow.

The BIM team at PES has also established four guiding principles that govern all BIM efforts.

BIM Guiding Principles of PES

  1. Add value to the design team
  2. Model as it will be constructed
  3. Model to accommodate change swiftly
  4. Leverage data for better decision-making

The first and maybe most important principle is adding value to the design team. Modeling using BIM principles tends to reveal some issues that would otherwise not come up until on-site construction begins. These issues addressed ahead of time save time and money, adding immense value to the team. While inherent to the well-executed BIM process, adding value is very important to the PES team.

The second principle, modeling as it will be constructed, is truly what generates the value-add. Modeling as it will be constructed, in a 3D interface, can be much more detailed than most fees and construction schedules allow but the time and cost savings are invaluable and absolutely essential for efficient construction.

Accommodating change swiftly, our third guiding principle, is much easier in a 3D model than traditional 2D construction documents. As changes are adopted more quickly, the RFI process becomes much more manageable. If the model is designed as the project will be constructed, there should be many fewer RFIs as well. Fewer RFIs means less time. Less time means less money. Less money means a happier client.

A model designed with BIM principles allows a design team to select each individual element in the project and learn about its properties. All of this accurate and up-to-date digital information can be leveraged for better decision-making, which is the fourth guiding principle.

These guiding principles were established to help guide the entire PES staff as they work with all of our clients, particularly those modeling in 3D.

PES embraces innovative technologies and processes to help cultivate the dynamic, client-focused culture outlined in our guiding principles. We strive to be a key partner and resource for our clients when it comes to understanding the technical and communication requirements for successful integrated BIM workflow.