Friday, 15 October 2010

Type versus Instance Parameters: Whats the Difference?

I'm often asked what the difference is between Instance and Type parameters including how and when they should be used in a family or project.  I recently found a very useful and informative article explaining the difference on the AEC Bytes website by Shawn C. Zirbes from CAD Technology Center, Integrated Content Solutions.

 Shawn says:
In this article, we will discuss a few topics.  First, we will look at the difference between type and instance parameters.  Second, I will describe why one should be chosen over the other.  Third, I will show some examples of each in use in families. Fourth, we will cover a few of the nuances between type and instance parameters.

The Difference between Type and Instance Parameters
All parameters of a Revit family work together to define the Element Properties of that family.  They can hold many data types from simple length and material properties, to HVAC air flow and structural load information.  None of this, however, describes when the parameter is used...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

SAME Level Identification for Revit Collaboration

Here's a new system I developed for coordinating levels across multiple linked Revit models and disciplines.  Typically, on a collaborative project with multiple disciplines working in Revit, the levels can often be duplicated in each model and its hard to tell which levels are yours and which are in linked files. For instance:

LEVEL 05-FFL could be used as finished floor level in the Architects model and also in the Mechanical Model.  They both sit at the same level in two separate models.  When linked together, its hard to see which levels belongs to who, or even if two exists?

The Level Head family I have created uses a small indicator under the level line to identify ownership of the level.  In the example below you can see all the Levels in a project.  Without customising the view, its hard to see which level lines are in my model and which ones exist in the linked files. Under each level head marker there is an indicator set up as a type parameter which displays;

S = Structural
A = Architectural
M = Mechanical
E = Electrical

The unique benefit of this indicator is that it never overlaps the other discipline's indicator.  Therefore you can see if the same level exists in multiple models. Confused yet?  In another example here, we can see that the Mechanical Engineer and Architect both have a Level called LEVEL 01-FFL both sharing the same height and location. The indicator below the level head marker shows M and A to highlight that there are two discipline levels here: One in the Architect's model and one in the Mechanical model. Underneath we can also see the lower level belongs to the Structural Engineer's linked model.

...and the worst case scenario is that all disciplines are adopting the SAME level for reference in their models.  In the example below you can see the level head indicates all 4 types are overlayed: S, A, M, E.

To download this component or sample project follow the link below.  The sample project has been developed in Revit 2010 for legacy users and you can download from here

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Virtual Resolution – Blending Max & BIM for Visualisation

I had an interesting meeting with Tim Power earlier today who runs ‘Virtual Resolution’, a 3D Visualisation firm the North of England.  They produce visuals for the likes of Asda, Willmott Dixon, Laing O’Rourke & RSP Architects.

It was great to see some of the teams recent work in 3ds Max which they are now converting directly from Revit models. Tim and I first looked at the Import/Export process from Revit to 3ds Max a few years ago and we have slowly refined the workflow over this period. He certainly has it down to a fine art now. His visuals are some of the best I have seen and demonstrate that the link between the two software packages is working well. I asked him what benefits he saw from the process and if it had an impact on the deliverables. He said, “The reduction in production timescale for getting Revit geometry into and then ready to use within 3ds Max is a big strength for us. This is especially down to how the materials come automatically setup, although they still require some work to be 3ds Max production ready”. I also asked if there were any parts of the conversion process he didn’t like and would like to see developed further by Autodesk. He said “When the project will inevitably require an animation, it is always at the top of our minds to keep the polygon count low...even with 64-bit. With curved buildings, importing via FBX tends to lead to high poly counts and I’d like to see a ‘cleaner’ option within the Revit export to help this process”.  This example image demonstrates the polygon brought into 3ds Max.

I’m glad to see some positive results coming from the fbx format. As Tim mentioned, there needs to be more flexibility to control the level of detail exported from the model with the ability to rationalise the geometry. Some of this can be done by carefully modelling families with suitable sub-categories. Quite often I see doors and windows that have the glass on the same sub-category as the frame. This proves very awkward when exporting to 3ds Max.

You can check out more work from Virtual Resolution by browsing the gallery on their home page.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Revit & DWF Mark ups Basic Functions

Everyone I know uses PDFs but why aren't people moving to DWF? I demonstrate DWF capabilities at almost every training event I do, but nine times out of ten when I return, the team are still using PDF.

Amongst many of the other very useful features of the DWF file format, the integration with Revit for use with mark-ups (red pen drawings) makes it a very useful tool indeed.   I'm finding them more and more useful but there is a learning curve involved so here is a video of the basics. 

If you want to get a grasp of the basics, this video runs through publishing, marking up, reviewing, re-issuing and even attaching other media formats such as PDF.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Broken Revit Planar Glazing Panel - Fixed (Download)

Has anyone else noticed that the Planar Glazing Curtain Wall Panel in the Autodesk Revit Metric Library has been broken since as long as I can remember? I’m sick of fixing it so finally decided to upload it to the library permanently.

Some of the crude spider connections were broken and didn’t move with the panel when its dimensions changed.

This is now fixed in my amended version.

I have uploaded a 2010 version to the library as a project so you can see how I have built the rubber gasket and glass to glass corner mullions. There are many different ways to achieve this and on large schemes it would be debatable whether you would even go to this much detail in the 3D model.
Remember this is a very crude planar curtain wall system and isn’t based on manufacturer’s details.

You can download the FREE Revit Planar Glazing System here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Revit 2009 keyboard shortcuts in Windows 7

If you are using Windows 7 but are still running some legacy projects in Revit 2009, you may have noticed that customisation of the KeyboardShortcuts.txt file does not work.

Normally this file is found under the C:\Program Files\Revit Architecture 2009\Program\... folder. One still exists here but it is not in use.

Instead the file is being read from this location:
C:\Users\..your profile user name...\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files (x86)\Revit Architecture 2009\Program

Be sure to close any sessions of Revit after replacing or amending the txt file. Reboot revit and the new shortcuts should work with Revit 2009.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Convert Revit Central Files Back to Single User Files

Here’s a crude technique you can use to convert your workset enabled central files back into a single user file. There is (to my knowledge) no official method of removing the worksets from a model but this method may be useful depending on what you want to do with the model.

Start by creating a completely new project. Don’t use a template, create a new project using the dropdown from the 'R' Icon and at the dialogue box choose No template. This means you will get a completely empty project.

Link the Central file into a new empty project using Insert > Link Revit. After loading, select the linked model and then choose Bind Link from the context tab on the ribbon.

When prompted, select Attached Details, Levels & Grids to bring across into the new model (if required).

When Revit binds the link it converts it into a Revit Group. Select the group and choose Ungroup from the Ribbon menu.

You now have a version of your model without worksets! This is also useful if you want to send your model without any drawing sheets etc. It keeps the file size down and allows you to share only the model data.

Note: Something a lot of people don’t realise is that you can also un-bind a bound model and convert it back into a link again.  Before Ungrouping, pick the grouped modeled you will notice an Un-bind icon on the ribbon.


This isn’t a fool proof method of converting back to a single user file but it is useful for sending models out to teams who don’t use or understand worksets and central files. One of the down sides to this is that all your views and sheets are not brought over in the process (although this could also be seen as a positive).

Friday, 13 August 2010

AEC (UK) BIM Standards First Release

The AEC (UK) BIM Standard has been running for several months now and I realised we aren’t really doing enough to promote its awareness in the UK so here is another plug to help spread the word.

Some large firms are adopting this standard which is great news and we hope more will follow suit. Its not ‘our idea’ of a standard but builds on existing industry principles laid down by CPIC, BS1192, Uniclass etc… Over the next 12 months the intention is to expand the document with comments and feedback from the early adopters. The content creation section of the document still needs expanding and the intention is to develop this as part of the next release.

BIM standards and workflows will always be evolving with the progression of the software, technology and collaboration techniques.  BIM is changing the way we work and it is doing so at an incredible pace. We hope the standard will 'evolve' with the developments in technology; so if you have a suggestion for how parts can be improved please contribute by leaving feedback on the AEC(UK) website!

I have also added the PDF to the Revit Factory downloads section for anyone wishing to get their hands on a copy. Alternatively you can download it from the AEC (UK) website.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Faking It: Curved Gridlines Appearing in Sections

Here is a free Revit Family I created to get around a problem with the display of curved or angular grid lines in a Section or Elevation view.  It is not a 100% foolproof solution but its the best I can come up with so far.

I think Autodesk really need their hands slapping for this one.  Since release 1, Revit has only been able to display grid lines in sections if they are 'exactly' perpendicular (which is a pretty fundamental floor for an industry leading software package). 

The example below shows three grid lines in plan with a section running through them.

If we take a look at the Section (below), you will notice that it only displays grid line 2.  This is because grid line 1 is curved and Revit cannot interpolate the intersection with the section line.  Yes, you guessed it, any curved buildings in Revit will not show grid lines in section!  The same goes for grid line 3 which is not perpendicular to the section line. (I'm sure you are as disappointed as I am).

So to get around this problem i have created a workaround using a line based 2D component comprising a grid head and a line style to match the grid line style.  Sounds simple? It took me quite a while to get it working correctly.

Before loading the family, draw two reference planes in plan where the grid lines intersect the section.

Now load the family which can be downloaded for free by clicking here.

Move to the section view where you will see the two reference planes.

Place the grid line family by going to Annotation > Detail Component

Draw the grid line using the detail component snapping to the reference plane.

If you hover over the head you will see there is some invisible text scribbled saying "Sim" (meaning similar).  This is so you can see which are the real grid lines and which ones are fake.  The "Sim" won't print.

Open the instance parameters and you will see a field to add a grid line Reference.  Place the value here.

Tip: I normally place a dot after the Grid Reference so that I can visually see on screen which grid lines are fake.  These are the ones I need to double check before sending out the drawings because they won't update position if the grid lines move in plan.
Finally you have your grid lines in section as well as plan!  Like I said before this is a workaround and is not a foolproof solution.  If anyone has any other suggestions to solve this puzzle I would love to hear your ideas.  Ultimately I think Autodesk should be making this one a priority for the next release as its not overly complex but it is a fundamental principle of design!

You can download the family for free by clicking here.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Keynote Manager for Revit

This one has been around for a long time but still very useful. Emc2 Architects have produced this standalone application which makes it MUCH easier to edit and manage your keynote text file. I'm surprised Autodesk havent added something like this into the product yet? or mabe they have and I have just missed it!

Keynoting is something which is becoming more and more popular, and with the recent release of the new NBS specwriter which allows export of clause headers, it is even more useful for the UK market.

The Keynote Editor can be downloaded from Emc2 website here:

Or download it direct from here:

Friday, 9 July 2010

David Light's Video: Helix using Adaptive Components Revit 2011

Here's another fantastic video from David Light showing us some more unique ways of using the new adaptive component tool in Revit 2011.  Ive just watched the video and had to have a go myself.  I managed to get it done in about 15 minutes.  Great instructional video David, thanks and keep up the good work!

Click here to check out his own blog discussion
or watch the video below...

Monday, 5 July 2010

New Revit Blog

Joe Stott from Aedas Architects dropped me an email over the weekend letting me know about a new blog he has started at

I've worked with Joe on some challenging projects in the past and he has certainly built up a vast knowledge about Revit and its use in practice. Look out for some interesting posts from Joe!

How to Create a Mass Revolve in Revit 2010 or 2011

If you have made the leap to Revit 2010 or 2011 you will notice that the method for creating solids in the conceptual mass area or in-place mass is different to 2009.  One of the questions which keeps popping up is; How do I create a Revolve?

In 2009 you had the use of the Axis tool to sketch the line of the desired axis of rotation. This has disappeared in 2010 onwards and is causing confusion (note this still exists for normal component families and in-place families).The answer is quite simple:

In this example I'm working in the Conceptual Mass template but this also applies to in-place mass elements as well.

Start by drawing a line or reference line (either option will work) to define the axis of rotation. Whats the difference? A line will disappear after the shape has been created. A reference line will remain in place.  Also, if you move the reference plane afterwards, the shape will move with it (its associated). In this example we are using a reference line.

Draw the shape you wish to revolve.

Select both elements by holding down CTRL on the keyboard to multiple select.

If you have done it correctly, an icon should appear on the ribbon called 'Create Form'.  Hit the drop down and choose 'Solid Form'.

The Revolve is created by default at 360 degrees rotation. The line or reference line used for the axis can be deleted if you no longer require it. 

Select any part of the solid and from the element properties, change the rotation angle to something other than 360. 

You can now select the profile of the revolve and move the orange grip by clicking and dragging.

Finally, try selecting the reference line and dragging one of the end grips to rotate axis. Notice the solid moves with it.  This is useful for applying parametric behaviour to the reference line.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

ReviTTools Plug-in

I came across the ReviTTools plug-in for Revit a few years back using Revit 2008 and found it quite useful but also full of bugs. It looks like it has now developed to be a very useful and stable tool! I have used it in Revit 2010 and found it very productive. The Revit 2011 version is soon to be released. 

My favourite feature is the excel import for room data and is very easy to use. The door handing (room to room) feature took me a while to get my head around but now I have it working successfully. There are lots of other features in this plug-in so download it and have a play with it yourself.

Here is what ReviTTools have to say about the plugin:

"With reviTTools you can expand the brilliant functionality possibilities of Revit Architecture, Revit Structure or Revit MEP software products. These new capabilities fitting to the integrated BIM philosophy will speed up your daily tedious tasks and will allow you to have less errors."

Overall this is a great plug-in which has now found it's feet firmly in the Revit market. The great thing about the licencing is that you can use it for free if you can tolerate the splash screens after every command... which means it's great for students! The corporate licencing is great value and well worth the money.

Visit the website and download it here:

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Blog Feeds Inside Revit with Communication Center

If you want to get my blog feeds and others directly inside your Revit 2011 application, here's how to do it!

Open Revit 2011 and look for the Communication Center Icon

Click the button to expand the dropdown and click the tiny InfoCenter Settings icon.

In the dialogue box, navigate to the RSS Feeds tab bottom left and then click the 'Add...' button top right.

To add my Revit Elemental feed to your list, copy and paste the text below into the url field.

If all goes well you should see a confirmation message.

To see my feeds, simply click on the Communication Centre icon again and you should see a list of recent blogs along with the Revit Elemental blogs listed in there somewhere. 

To view any of the blogs simply click the title and Revit will open the blog post in your default web browser.

Unfortunately it doesn't link to Google Feeds yet so its a case of adding all your feeds one-by-one to the list. Very handy all the same!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Improving Graphics Card Issues Revit 2011

If you're like me and were hoping that the first service pack would resolve the graphical display issues you are experiencing then you might want to check out the new list of supported graphics cards here:

Unfortunately my graphics card is still unsupported so I can just hope that the next release will be better for me.

If you are experiencing issues with graphical display, you should try disabling the Hardware Acceleration under the Revit > Options > Graphics Tab.

Other options include changing your Windows Visual Effects which you can do by right clicking on 'My Computer' and choosing properties.

I'm using Vista but the settings should be fairly similar on other platforms.  Next choose Advanced System Settings.
Next Choose Performance > Settings

Now chop and change the settings as much as you like to improve performance of your PC.

Revit 2011 Service Pack 1 Released

The first service pack has been released for Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011, Structure 2011 and MEP 2011.

Revit 2011 Service Pack 1 can be downloaded by visiting the downloads section here:

For Revit Architecture 2011
Dont forget to read the Update Enhancement List.pdf

For Revit Structure 2011
Dont forget to read the Update Enhancement List.pdf

For Revit MEP 2011
Dont forget to read the Update Enhancement List.pdf

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Linking CAD Files into Revit Projects: Key Considerations

I could go on for hours and hours talking about this subject as there are so many different scenarios which lead to different best practice methods for either linking or importing CAD Data. Instead, this post discusses the key considerations when linking CAD data into a Project.

Linked File Storage
  • Take a copy of your Original CAD Data and store it in a separate location (suggest a folder such as ...\BIM\Linked Data\). It’s important to do this as you will often need to clean up a sub-consultants drawing and remove unwanted links, blocks etc (and you don’t want to destroy the original file they sent you!). Its also good to be able to see and manage all linked information from one folder location.

Linked File Preparation
  • Clean up the copy to make sure you are only linking in ‘the information you need’ i.e. If you are using an OS Plan to trace the outline of a house, don’t load in half of London! Similarly, if you only need the building outline, dont load in all the spot levels, hatching etc which will really slow down the performance of your model.
  • Use the OVERKILL command in AutoCAD to remove duplicate lines (thanks for this tip J)
  • Purge, Delete, Bind any Xref information in the CAD file and Audit it.
  • Finally you need to consider the coordinates of the CAD Data. If you are importing Site Plan information, this is often located a large distance from the 0,0 origin. Revit used to have a limit of 2 miles. Anything over this limit would cause errors in graphical display. In 2011 this has been increased to 20 miles. You can read more about this here on the Autodesk Website 

So if your CAD data is a large distance from 0,0 you may have to move the geometry in AutoCAD nearer to 0,0 (by whatever method you decide – too many options to post here). This isn’t an issue once inside Revit as the coordinate system is set retrospectively inside the model (I will post a separate discussion about site coordinates, True North/Project North etc...)

Revit Model Preparation

  • Create a dedicated workset in Revit for the linked CAD file making sure you uncheck ‘visible by default in all views’. (if your not using central files ignore this part).

  • Make this it the ‘Active’ workset.
  • Decide which Level, Elevation, View, Reference Plane you would like to link the file into/onto and make it current (in my example this will be Level 0).
  • Under visibility graphics, make sure the link is visible in the required view (remember this is turned off in all views by default as noted above). Note the interface has changed slightly in2011 as shown below (now a drop down instead of a check box).

Link Procedure
  • From the Insert Tab choose Link CAD (Avoid using the Import CAD option)
  • Browse to locate your CAD file
  • Make sure ‘Current View Only’ is Unchecked (the workset takes care of this issue). Note: If your not using worksets you may want to consider using this to restrict the CAD data to one view only.
  • Colours & Layers are user specific but make sure you set the units to match the drawing (don’t rely on the ‘Auto’ option).
  • ‘Positioning’, ‘Place at’ and ‘Orient to View’ are user specific.
  • You can now link your CAD file into your project.
Remember, if you want to see your CAD file in other views, you will need to open the view and set the visibility graphics to show the CAD workset created earlier.