When I started at Gehry Partners in 2005, one of my first tasks was updating a drawing index. The project I was working on was a big mixed-use project. When I say big, I mean REALLY big. This project included a subway station, some retail, a basketball arena, and lots of housing. Suffice to say, there were a lot of sheets in the drawing index.
The drawing index was in an Excel file. When I opened the file, I let out a loud “What the. . . .”
The person sitting next to me, no doubt perturbed to be babysitting the new guy, raised an eyebrow and asked “Everything OK?”
“Um. . . what’s going on with this drawing index?”
“What do you mean?” he asked with a knowing grin.
“I mean, there are all these circles and dots. . .”
“Oh, that.” He turned toward me and put on his best professorial face. “It’s a matrix schedule. The rows represent the sheets. There’s a column for each time we issued the drawings. If the sheet has a filled dot, it was officially issued. If it has an open circle, it’s issued for reference only.”
“Let me guess”, I offered tentatively. “No dot means the sheet wasn’t issued.”
“You got it!” he replied. I couldn’t help but notice a slight note of relief that I wasn’t a total idiot.
This was my first exposure to the matrix schedule. Once I figured out how they work, I became a huge fan of this efficient way to convey information.
What is a Matrix Schedule?
A matrix schedule is similar in format to a traditional schedule. However, matrix schedules use use graphic symbols, like dots or check marks rather than text, to identify an item’s properties. For example, a matrix schedule showing room finishes would have a column for each floor type, wall finish type, and ceiling type.
As you can see, the schedule doesn’t rely on abbreviations to identify the finish materials. It’s all just dots. Matrix schedules require some additional setup, as we’ll discuss shortly, but they’re very clear and easy to understand. There’s not a lot of ambiguity.
Why You Should Use a Matrix Schedule
Matrix schedules are an efficient way to present information. When creating the schedule, you simply mark in the column for the appropriate option. You don’t need to refer to a set of abbreviations nor worry about creating a legend for the abbreviations you use. It’s all just dots.
Another benefit to matrix schedules is that they’re very easy to read. Just follow the row and look for the dots or check boxes in the appropriate columns. No advanced degree required!
How to Create a Matrix Schedule
I used Excel to create my first matrix schedules. Create the appropriate rows and columns to structure your information then add the marks in the columns as required. If you want to use a special symbol, like a open or closed dot, you can use the Windows Character Map. Not sure how to use it? It’s real easy.
Go to the Start button, click in the Search window then type “character map”. In the Character Map dialog, select a font then choose the symbol you want to use in your matrix schedule. Click the “Select” button then click “Copy” to copy it to the clip board. Switch back to Excel and paste it into your cell.
You can also create matrix schedules in Revit. The trick is to create two schedules, one for recording the data and the another for presenting the data on a sheet.
First, create two new parameters for each column you want to display, one for data and the other for presentation. I usually name presentation parameters with a “show” prefix so it’s clear where it’s going to be used. The data parameter should be either Yes/No or an integer type parameter. The data fields must be included in the presentation schedule but they should hidden.
For the “show” parameters, use an IF statement in a calculated value to display a symbol if the value equal “Yes” or a specific number.
Like I said before, it takes a bit of setup to create the schedule but you’ll save time in the long run and your schedule will be much clearer to understand.
Want to learn more?
Want to learn how to create your own matrix schedules in Revit? I’m hosting a mini-course next week on Advanced Revit Schedules. In addition to covering formulas and calculated values, I’ll also walk you step-by-step through the process of creating your own Revit matrix schedules. Click the link below to learn more about the class and to register.
How about you?
What do you think about matrix schedule? Have you used them before? What did you use to create them? Excel, Revit, or some other method? Leave a comment below!