AEC

Cadalyst Labs Review: Autodesk Revit Building 9.1

1 Nov, 2006 By: Cyril Verley,RA

Display customization options improve with new release


It feels like only yesterday I was using Revit 3.0, crawling every step of the way to get Revit to perform as I thought an architectural software package should. It's funny how Revit's improvements always seem to give you about 90% of what you want—which is no different than any other software release. It's that remaining 10% that causes pain and provokes calls to your doctor for medication to treat manual hair removal. Five years have passed, and the pains seem to be subsiding. Revit Building 9.1, the latest release of Autodesk's BIM (building information modeling) application for 3D architectural design, once again refines, improves and brings closure to a handful of existing features we all know and enjoy (figure 1).



Revision Clouds and Tags

One feature I know many of my Revit clients will enjoy is the improved display control for revision bubbles and their tags. In the past, Revit's revision feature worked great. The clouds were smart and linked to the revision, which also linked to the bubble tag, which also linked to the revision schedule on the title sheet. However, one thing you couldn't do elegantly was turn off the display of the clouds while keeping the display of their associated revision tags.

 Autodesk Revit Building 9.1
Autodesk Revit Building 9.1

Autodesk has solved this issue by allowing a display control in Revit's Revision dialog box (figure 2). Users can control the display of the bubble and the tag separately. It's very cool and easy to use. The edits you make within that single dialog box ripple through the entire drawing set. Thus, you don't have to remember where you added the clouds for Revision 1. You simply change the display control graphics and Revit updates all the sheets.

Figure 1. Rendering of a proposed conference center was created in Revit Building 9.1.
Figure 1. Rendering of a proposed conference center was created in Revit Building 9.1.

Hiding Section Lines in Elevations

Another amazing feature that Revit introduced a few releases ago is a display setting for sections called Hide at Scales Coarser than. As a prelude to what this feature does, allow me to describe something that happened while working for one of my clients. Two years ago, this client was designing a $160-million aquarium in London and hired my company to build the Revit model. One of the first views created in the model was a 1:200 scale site plan. The view looked fine and was free of odd section lines. As the model progressed, each of the 75 exhibits required a couple of sections and interior elevations. After those views were built and it was time to print the drawing set, the 1:200 view was unexpectedly covered with the exhibit section lines and elevation markers. For some reason, the callouts for all those views appeared on all the other views. What a pain!

Figure 2. In Revit s Revision dialog box, users can control the display to show the bubble and the tag separately.
Figure 2. In Revit s Revision dialog box, users can control the display to show the bubble and the tag separately.

To clean up the 1:200 view, Revit (at that time) included a feature that allowed you to pick each section and elevation marker, one at a time, to hide the annotation in the view. This was an OK fix but not very elegant.

Then Autodesk created Hide at Scales Coarser than. In short, when you place a section into a ¼" = 1'0" view, that section displays only in other views at scales equal to or smaller than the original view. That is, the section line would appear in other views such as ¼" = 1'0", ½" = 1'0" or less, which is where you want to view them. And those same sections don't appear at scales higher or coarser than the section scale. With this feature, the 1:200 site plan is clear of any surprise sections.

Though Hide at Scales Coarser than was a great addition for sections, it didn't work for elevation callouts until now. With Revit Building 9.1, elevations include this same property parameter and allow the same view control as do sections, once again allowing more hair to remain on my head.

A warning about this feature: If you change the scale of your plan view from ¼" = 1' 0" to ⅛" = 1' 0", don't be surprised if your section and elevation markers disappear. To make those views reappear, simply reset this display property value for each section and elevation.

Snappy Section Points

In the past, sections placed in a plan view could be moved or rotated. However, these types of edits were limited and couldn't be done precisely using picked points on the section line. During the creation of a section line, section ends will snap to datums or be parallel and orthogonal to those datums. Additionally, users get new visual feedback when a section line snaps parallel or perpendicular to a wall in plan.

It's a good feature, but I've found a subtlety in its use. If you need to rotate a section, the head sectional graphic first needs to be temporarily changed to the tail sectional graphic. Otherwise, the head graphic displays a grip endpoint, but it doesn't work. Once the section is rotated, you can then cycle the sectional graphics to your desired setting (figure 3). Hey, as long as my section is coordinated, this is no big deal.

Figure 3. Sections placed in a plan view can be moved or rotated, but first you need to temporarily make the head into the tail.
Figure 3. Sections placed in a plan view can be moved or rotated, but first you need to temporarily make the head into the tail.

Cutting-Edge Columns

In the past, columns in Revit were sort of odd ducks. In fact, I would tell my clients to think of them more as column covers or pilasters and recommend they use structural columns as the Real McCoy. I do like the way columns work, especially when they absorb the characteristics of an intersecting wall. However, I was always peeved they were unable to affect the overall square footage area of the room in which they were placed—until now.

Columns, like walls, now can be included in the overall area of a room. As the Column command is launched, the options bar displays a switch that allows users to choose whether the column is to be room bounding or not.

By the way, long before the release of Revit Building 9.1, I've been telling my clients an additional nugget about columns. I always thought it odd that there is a need to create a new type for each desired column size. If I want column shapes that are 18" x 24", 16" x 20" or 12" x 24", I must create a unique column type for each size. It seems to me columns should be more fluid and stretch at will. So I recommend editing the column family by changing the column's depth and width type parameters to be instance parameters. To do so, pick one of the inserted columns and in the options bar, choose the button titled Edit Family and click Yes.

In the design bar, select Family Types, then choose Depth, Modify, Instance and finally click OK. Select Width, Modify, Instance, click OK and click OK again. You have just reset the values of the columns' depth and width from a type parameter to an instance parameter. To load these changes back into the project, go to the design bar, select Load into Projects and choose Yes (figure 4). Now you can pick the existing columns and freely stretch each edge to any length you desire.

Figure 4. By resetting the depth and width values of columns from a type parameter to an instance parameter, users can eliminate the need to create a new type for each desired column size.
Figure 4. By resetting the depth and width values of columns from a type parameter to an instance parameter, users can eliminate the need to create a new type for each desired column size.

Setting Units for DWG Exports

Another feature in past versions of Revit that always seemed odd was that even though your Revit model was set to units of feet and inches, the units of the exported DWG couldn't be controlled. Now, within the Export to CAD Formats (for a DWG export) dialog box, you can click the Options button and preset the One DWG Unit setting. You can also click the check box that exports rooms and areas as polylines.

Export Revit to HTML Room/Area Reports

One new feature in Revit Building 9.1 is subtle but useful. You now can export net room and area data from your Revit model to an HTML file. The exported data is calculated by triangulation method and can be set to calculate total area with or without exclusions. In this new calculation method, area for the entire room is calculated first. Next, the area of each exclusion is calculated. Finally, the area of each exclusion is subtracted from the total area of the room.

In the File menu, click Export and then choose Room/Area Report. You can choose from two types of reports. The Triangulation Report graphically displays each space (and exclusions such as columns) using single lines and dimensions, and the Numerical Report is more textual (figure 5).

Figure 5. Revit Building 9.1 can export net room and area data from your model to an HTML file in triangulation and numerical reports.
Figure 5. Revit Building 9.1 can export net room and area data from your model to an HTML file in triangulation and numerical reports.

Before you create the report, be sure to click the Settings button in the Room/Area Report dialog box and the two check boxes named Use Triangulation with Exclusions and Report Window Area as Percentage of Room Area.

Overall, Revit Building 9.1 includes a lot of great updates to existing commands and a few new features as well. I would recommend installing this release for your practice. I seem to be keeping more hair with it than I'd expected. Highly Recommended.

Cyril Verley, RA, has been a registered architect for 17 years and is the president of CDV Systems in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He has 13 years' experience consulting with and training AEC firms on Autodesk products.


About the Author: Cyril Verley


About the Author: RA


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