BIM and In-Process Design Visualization (1-2-3 Revit Tutorial)

31 Mar, 2008 By: AIA ,Rick Rundell

Seeing a design as it emerges can guide architects and designers to make better design decisions.

Ancient Roman architect Vitruvius wrote that there are three fundamental qualities to architecture: "firmitas, utilitas, and venustas." Early English translations listed these qualities as "commodity, firmness, and delight." Over the centuries they have been updated to "function, structure, and beauty." Translations aside, the word "delight" is particularly apt when describing architecture. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but delight denotes our response to a building. Does it please those who see it and use it? Does it delight?

Aesthetics are an integral part of architectural design, as is the ability to see an emerging design -- and judge how it will delight. This month's tutorial examines how building information modeling (BIM) improves the designer's ability to effortlessly visualize an emerging design.

Design Visualization
Previously I explored the use of a Revit building information model to investigate, validate, and convey architectural designs through the use of visualization tools such as Autodesk 3ds Max. These applications are purpose-built to deliver stunning photo-realistic renderings and animations. The output from these visualization tools is usually not created by architects or designers, but by specialists with titles like architectural illustrator, renderer, or graphic artist.

Tools like Autodesk 3ds Max provide an amazing amount of functionality and control during the visualization process, which leads to equally amazing results. But the tremendous functionality of the visualization application also adds to its complexity and affects its usability by a casual user. For architects and designers who need easy in-process feedback on their own designs, these purpose-built visualization applications can be complex and time consuming. Fortunately, many architectural design tools -- including Revit Architecture -- have built-in rendering capabilities that allow architects and designers to produce their own visualizations to get quick, real-time feedback during the design process.

This previous column also highlighted interoperability improvements between authoring tools like Revit and visualization tools like 3ds Max, specifically the use of DWG files to transfer building model data -- geometry and other information critical for visualization such as materials and camera locations -- between applications. There is an increased emphasis in Revit Architecture 2009 on the user friendliness of the in-process visualization functionality within Revit itself.

New In-Process Design Visualization Environment for Revit
The Revit 2009 platform includes a new rendering capability that combines rendering software with a new user interface. Based on the mental ray rendering engine (which also powers Autodesk 3ds Max), the Revit rendering capabilities let architects and designers generate their own visualizations as a part of their own design process. The addition of the mental ray rendering engine optimizes the computing-intensive rendering process, reducing in-process render times and increasing the photorealistic quality of the resulting visualization.

In addition, Revit Architecture 2009 includes a new library of materials that work in tandem with the mental ray engine. This library is predefined and organized into material classes (for example, carpet, glass, paint, metal, liquid, and fabric) that can be browsed by thumbnails or searched using keywords. Material libraries combine with other mental ray capabilities such as physically accurate lighting, photometric light capabilities, and real sun and sky solutions for architectural scenes.

The images below demonstrate the simple, step-by-step procedure to create an architectural rendering with Revit Architecture.

Click for larger image To create a rendering in Revit Architecture 2009, begin by finding, selecting, and applying materials to the model elements. (Click image for larger version)

Using standard Revit view creation techniques, define a camera perspective that will be used for the rendering.

Click for larger image Open the Rendering dialog, box and choose settings for Quality, Type of Output, Lighting, and Background. (Click image for larger version)

Click Render to generate the rendered image.

The success of an in-process design visualization environment hinges on its ease-of-use, the quality of the underlying rendering engine, and the veracity of the design model itself. The new rendering functionality in Revit Architecture gives architects and designers a better view of their emerging design to guide their design decisions -- helping them to create a design that will truly delight.

About the Author: AIA

About the Author: Rick Rundell

Rick Rundell

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