Monday, December 26, 2005

The Well Tempered Template

One of the key productivity drivers for power users with Revit is the Template file.

This is often an overlooked aspect of the program, since its easy to get excited with the bells and whistles aspects and undervalue the basics.

Revits set up is not difficult. Heres a suggested check list.

Based on one of the default templates, create and save a new template for your company.

Configure file locations: Settings >> Options >> File Locations. Tip __ Remember that you can add icons to your Revit dialogue boxes using the Library file locations.

Set up Units. Settings >> Project Units.

Configure Site Settings. Settings >> Site Settings. ( Contour intervals; Degrees; Poche Base. )
Set Detail Levels for Views.

Configure Line Styles and add any favorites. Delete one you don’t use. Settings >> Line Styles.

Configure Line Patterns and add any favorites. Delete one you don’t use. Settings >> Line Patterns.

Configure Fill Patterns ( Model & Drafting ) – Settings >> Fill Patterns. You may need to build or import your custom patterns.

Configure Materials. – Settings >> Materials.

Configure Object Styles ( Model & Annotation ) – Settings >> Object Styles.

Set up Wall Floor Roof and Ceiling types.

Load Model and Annotation Families. Review the existing families in the template ( if you based it an a default template ) and delete the ones you don’t need.

Configure Phasing. – Settings >> Phases. If you do a lot of renovation work, you could make a separate template , complete with views pre-set to display Existing, Demolished and New work.

Set up your default Levels. ( In elevation views )

Configure View Templates. ( View Templates can be a huge time saver ) View >> Save as View Template & View >> Apply View Templete.

Configure Dimension and Text Styles.

Set up View Tags. Settings >> View Tags.

Create your company titleblock sheets. – File >> New >> Titleblock. Import the titleblock and set up any sheets and sheet numbers that you need as a starter. File >> Load from Library >> Load Family.

On the drawing sheets, load any schedules that you wish to have pre-defined.

Configure Keyboard shortcuts. C:\Program Files\Autodesk Revit Building 8.1\Program\KeyboardShortcuts.txt. ( Print this out for your office reference )

The process of keeping your template file up to date is an important aspect of being really productive. You may have recently made a new material that you would use in many future projects, or a new family, or a new line style etc etc. Review your template regularly and keep it full of the good stuff that will save you lots of time hunting through old projects to find.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Last time we were up here on the roof, all our cares just seemed to drift right into space. Suddenly ,we get a reality check - what's wrong with this footprint roof - it's just not generating the roof shape we want or expect !

Well the problem stems from a feature that was introduced in Revit 7 that allowed adjoining sides of a footprint roof to have different eaves heights. A side effect of this new functionality was that roofs may not generate the shape you want.

Here's our floor plan.


Nothing particularly special there.

Here's the sketch of the proposed footprint roof.


And here's the roof generated from that sketch ( in Revit Building 8.1 )


The plan below shows the roof form , with clouds highlighting the junctions which don't conform to our required design.


This is what we were hoping to get.


Using this sketch as a base, we can generate the roof that we want.

First delete the old incorrect roof.

Now we need to analyze the geometry of the proposed roof. Looking at it, it would seem possible to create it as two pieces of roof.

We construct the first piece using pick walls and slope lines and then pick the sketch lines for the valleys, hips and ridges.

The first part of the roof now looks like this.


Now, we'll make the second part the same way.

Now we just need to use Join Geometry for the two parts, and here's the roof we wanted.


It's taken more effort than a " normal " footprint sketch, but in the end ...

On the roof, it's peaceful as can be

And there the world below can't bother me

Let me tell you now.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let's go up on the roof (up on the roof)

I really dont know why Revit keeps bringing up these old classics ! First it was Zeplin and now The Drifters are doing it !

In case you havent guessed, were going to be looking at Roofs in Revit.
Revits roofs can be wonderful things - fast and simple to model. They can also be a problem, if you dont know some of the trade secrets.

In this first article, were going to look at how roofs are created, or to be more precise, what rules does Revit apply. In a future article, well look at how to change the shape of a roof that doesnt match the geometry you expected.

One of the simplest and fastest ways to build a roof in Revit is Roof By Footprint.
Using this tool, Revit draws roofs based on the footprint of the outer edge and determines roof planes based on a slope parameter. The footprint sketch must contain a closed loop. Inner loops will define openings. All sounds simple and straightforward doesnt it ? Well, it is, but be aware of the process you use to create your roof.

Lets look at a roof with a 30° pitch drawn and a 500 mm overhang with different options.

Option 1 ( Fig 1 ) Roof drawn using Pick Wall, Truss and Extend to Core not checked.


Option 2 ( Fig 2 ) The same roof, same conditions , except that Extend to Core is selected. Note that the roof overhang is now measured from the core walls outer edge. The pitching point is located at the roof level and the outside face of the core wall.


Option 3 ( Fig 3 ) This time we changed the roof from truss to Rafter and unchecked extend to core. Note that the roof pitching point has moved to the intersection of the roof level with the inside face of the wall.


Option 4 ( Fig 4 ) Same as Option 3, except that Extend to Core has been selected. Note that the overhang is measured from the outer face of the core and the pitching point is on the outer face of the core.


So far we have seen the four possible combinations for constructing a Roof by Footprint using the Pick Wall method. The Pick Wall method is the one I recommend to use most of the time, for two reasons. First, the roof construction is what most users expect, since it uses a wall to define the roof pitching point. Second, if you move the wall in the design, the roof will move with it maintaining the same relationship to the wall. Hips and valleys will remain in place relative to the wall junctions if the walls are moved. If the roof sketch is modified, the hip will remain where it was and the roof eaves height will be changed.
Another thing, the Align eaves tool can be used to adjust the roof setout either by matching eaves heights or eaves overhangs if the roof was sketched by Pick walls.
This Align eaves tool can only use matching eaves heights if the roof was sketched by lines.

Lets have a look now at constructing the same roof using the Lines method.

Option 5 ( Fig 5 ) Same roof, same pitch, sketch using offset 500 mm. Note that you are no longer able to select Rafter or Truss, nor is there a choice for Extend to Core.


The most glaring difference is that the roof is now pitched from its outer edge, not from the wall.

So I hope that now Everything is all right up on the roo-oo-oof ).

Saturday, November 26, 2005


So here you are living and loving life in a small town called West Woop Woop.

You are of course an avid Revit user and youve just been commissioned to design a new high rise office building in the centre of your town. ( Its going to be the first one in fact ! )

You open Revit , knock your design out in next to no time and decide to add some realistic shadows to your presentation.
Youre going to use the Advanced Model Graphics shadow settings By Date Time and Place
Wait a second, what’s going on here... ? you say, ... there are settings for Antananarivio Madagascar, Dohar ( Ad Dawhah ) Qatar and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, but none for your beloved Woop Woop. What to do ?

We can help you there. Just move to Sydney!

No, sorry, there is another solution. You can Edit the Cities list ( yes, I know ... West Woop Woop isnt really a city,... its more a place you drive through, but bear with me here)

To add a city

1 Open a 3D View..

2 Select Settings, select SUN.

3 Right-click anywhere in the Cities list.

4 From the shortcut menu, click Add.

5 In the Edit City dialog box, enter the name, map, time zone, latitude, and longitude for the city.

To edit a city

4 On the Place tab, right-click on a city in the list, and from the shortcut menu, click Edit.

5 In the Edit City dialog box, enter the name, map, time zone, latitude, and longitude for the city.

To delete a city

4 On the Place tab, right-click on a city in the list, and from the shortcut menu, click Delete.

Of course, we are always saying that there is more than one way to do most things in revit, so for those of you who like to get their hands dirty, here’s another way.

Go to the folder containing your Revit program files and find the folder Ar3Redist\UnicodeENU.

In that folder find the file ar_city.uni . Rename it to something like ar_city.old , so that you have a backup if necessary.

File path example :-C:\Program Files / Autodesk Revit Building 8.1\Program\Ar3Redist\UnicodeENU\Ar_city.uni

The file looks like this.

You can add a row and enter the relevant latitude and longitude and time zone and map reference there if you wish.

So now youre on the Revit map !

Before we finish, I’d just like to send a warm hullo to all our Revit colleagues in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, who do not have to go this process, because their City is already on the map !

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


We all know that Revit is a database containing the information required to represent our building design and that each view we take, whether plan, elevation, section or even a schedule is just another way of looking at that data, or part of that data.

Of course, one of the great advantages of a program like Revit is that we can easily and quickly create as many different views as we like and we can show only the information we need in each view. That's a great way to communicate your design intent to any interested parties.

Lets have a look at some of the ways we could do that.

The Section Box:

The first and most common method to help describe aspects of a design would be to use a 3D view. We might refine that by using a 3D view to show just the plan arrangements of different levels.

We can do this very easily by using a Section Box.

Go to a 3D view of your project. Open the View Properties, Check the box for >Section Box <

A Box appears around your model in a 3D view.

Select the box and blue grips appear. Move the grips to create a cut view of your model. It can take some practice and some fiddling to get them exactly where you want them !
Adjust the orientation and turn on shadows.
Hide the crop region to turn off the section box.
You can add text to help name the areas if you wish.

Save the 3D image.
Turn the section box back on, using the grips, create another view of one of the lower level plans.

Note that you can set the view detail to coarse and then use one of the material definitions > poche <>

Orient to View:

Of course, you've realised by now that there is usually more than one way of doing something in Revit. A view >by section box < is no exception.

Go to a 3D view. Under the menu tab, View, Orient, select a floor plane view.
It will appear that you are looking at a plan view, but if you spin the image ( using shift and middle mouse button ) you will see its actually a 3D view of the plan.

Ah, but it doesn't stop there. Now select a section view to orient to. Viola.

This method can be used to create a 3D detail view also.

And, you can use the power of view templates to setup a view like this to just display the elements you need to see.
For instance, a view template could be used to save the settings to identify only those elements that your engineer may need to see.

Workplane Visibility:

Another handy visualisation tool is a workplane grid.

In a plan view, use the toolbar Tools select Workplane and the workplane visibility. A blue edged rectangle appears in the drawing area.
Select the edges of this rectangle and a grid spacing option appears in the options bar. You can set the spacing for x and y grids, but they must be the same.

Now you can draw elements that snap to those grids. So you could, for instance, draw walls that worked to masonry sizes.

Where this method really comes into itÂ?s own is when you use it for inclined planes.

Draw a reference plane in an elevation or section view.
Using Tools Workplane Set Workplane, select the reference plane by picking it and select a 3D view to work in.

You cannot see the selected plane of course in a 3D view, but you can turn on the workplane grid , as we did before, and now you have a snappable grid to work with and place your beams or whatever.

In future articles we may look at more ways to work with views in Revit.

Monday, November 21, 2005


If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen

Oops, sorry, wrong blog ! We're talking here about making customised stairs in Revit.
Something like the one pictured above.

Revit makes stairs very quickly and very easily as we all know, but how do we make a rather more complicated stair like this one ?

You would imagine that we could create a custom profile for the stringer maybe ? Well, no, unfortunately we can’t, but even if we could, it wouldn't help with the special tension members that support the glass treads in this example.

What we need in this case is actually to misuse the railing families.!

Within the Railings Type properties, is a setting to place balusters per tread for a stair. This is the secret to creating a custom stair. The baluster family actually defines the complex geometry of the tread support system system.

Lets run through the process :-

Select the 250 mm going 190 mm riser standard and create a new type called Glass Custom using Edit Duplicate.

Set the width to 1000 mm, In the Type properties, set Tread material to Glass, Tread thickness to 10 mm, Riser Type to none and Right and Left Stringers to none. Then set the Railings to None in the design Bar Sketch Properties.

Draw the stair as an arc with a radius of 1000 mm, Your stair looks something like this.

A promising start, but there's higher to climb yet.

Now we need to create the railing family that we will use for the central support stringer and the tension members for the glass treads.
The first step is to create a profile for the central support beam. This is a simple I beam profile set 300 mm below the insertion point. ( 300 mm works - trust me ! )

Next, we make the baluster that consists of a vertical rod with 2 fixing lugs for the side glass panels, We won't spend time describing the process, its just a vertical sweep with 2 horizontal extrusions.

Name the baluster and load it into your library.

Now, we’re ready to make the Tension Step family. Create an extrusion for the central support plate. Now add a vee shaped extrusion for the 2 tension rods on each side. Model 2 tension rods each side, using a sweep. The geometry of this design can vary to suit your custom design of course. The design isn’t the point of this exercise. Add 6 extruded cylinders – 3 each side, with the outer cylinders connected to the tension rod sweeps. Now import the baluster family and position a baluster at each side on the centre reference plane.

Your Tension Step is complete.

Load the Tension Step into your Stair Project.

In the Stair Project, select Railing from the design Bar tab and then select Railing Properties.. Select the type 900 mm and Edit- Duplicate - Rename to I_Beam. Under the Railing Properties, change the name to I Beam , offset 0 and select the I Beam profile we created in step 6. In the Baluster dialogue, set all baluster families to none for main patter and posts and check the box for placing a baluster at each tread – 1 per tread, selecting the Tension Step as the family for this. Close the railing dialogue.

Set the Host as the stair and sketch the railing ( I Beam ) at the centre of the stair.
Finish sketch.

You stair should now look like this. ( Note you may need to use the railing flip arrows to get the correct setup ) Almost there !

And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

Sorry, got carried away there...

We need some curved glass panels to attach to our balustrades. ( No expense spared for this stair ! )

Firstly, we need to make a glass infill panel profile. Open a Profile Family template and create a 300 mm high x 6 mm thick rectangular profile. Save as Glass Infill profile and load this into your project.

Select the railing tool again and Edit, Duplicate Rename as Glass Balustrade Panels. In the Rail structure properties, make the top rail profile Circular 40 mm diameter Height 850 mm Offset 0 – Material Stainless Steel. Now create a glass panel, Height 0 Offset –100 and profile Glass Infill Panel, Material Glass and set the baluster dialogue to None.. Repeat process for a second glass panel Height 450 mm. ( Tip – Duplicate the railing you just made, rename and change height )

Sketch the railing along the inner edge of your stair. Finish sketch. Check to see that all the locations and offsets are working the way you expect.
Your custom stair is finished.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How ev'rything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

All together now - " And we're building a Stairway to Heaven. "

Now, just be careful not to play it backwards.!


The inspiration for this article and the concept for "misusing " the stair railing tool to create the geometry belong to Autodesk Revit's Phi Read ( The Stair Meister ).

Oh and the lyrics belong to Robert Plant.