What's new in Autodesk Revit 2013?
year is 2012 & the Autodesk fanfare announces the arrival of Revit
2013. The Revit technology has now been under Autodesk ownership for
just over 10 years. Wow! How the world has changed in that time,
politically & economically. 10 years ago I would have never believed
that Revit would have had such an impact on my career. Back then the
original Revit vision was a one stop shop solution for all AEC
disciplines. Whilst the tools for structure were less developed than
those for architecture, certainly I was aware of engineers who were
using Revit. I once heard a blasphemous rumour that a MEP tool set was
being developed for Revit, but to this day, can’t confirm or deny that
was the case. Either way, Revit was seen as a holistic solution that
would serve the AEC industry. Nether the less Autodesk saw things
differently & divided the product up into the 3 flavours that we
know as Architecture, Structure & MEP. But Autodesk have been under
pressure from the industry to look at the way Revit is served up. BIM by
its nature is a collaborative effort & many multi dis firms are
using all flavours of the product. Also, other firms want to use
architectural tools in say an MEP workflow. The industry has spoken,
there should be no BIM silos, so Mr Autodesk, give us the Revit product
which includes all the disciplines!
Revit 2013 will come in its
now well established traditional flavours of Architecture, Structure
& MEP. But it will also come as a complete AEC solution, code named
“OneBox” during development, this will be all three disciplines
installed as one. The official name will just be Revit 2013
In Revit 2013 you have access to all of the platform tools and if you
need to, you can customize the ribbon interface to turn off the
discipline tools you don’t require. This can be done via the options
dialogue box under User Interface.
changes have been made to some tools to allow consistency across the
different disciplines. For instance, the ability to save & load
selection selects is now available in Architecture & MEP, not just
structure. Site tools are made available to the MEP user. The naming
& locations of commands now provides a level of consistency. You
will also discover that this extends to the filtering of categories. In
all products the “show categories from all disciplines” checkbox has
been replaced with industry specific list of disciplines. This ensures
you have more control over the disciplines you are working on.
what else does Revit 2013 have to offer? This review will focus on the
Revit platform enhancements as well are main architectural
functionality; I will leave structure & MEP toolsets to others who
are far more capable in providing an in-depth review than me! So as well
as Onebox we have specific improvements to:-
- View & view templates
- DGN v8 import & export
- DWF & DWG tweaks
- Further Construction modelling enhancements
- General usability improvements
- Massing – repeating & dividing
- Visualisation & Graphics
- Stairs & railings
Get a view
have always been a big aficionado of view templates; to be honest I am
probably guilty for not using them enough. But for view consistency they
are great. However, they had a minor flaw & it seems to catch users
out all the time. If you applied a view template to a view, one assumed
if you made a change to that template it got automatically applied
& updated. Wrong; you had manually reapply the view template.
Fortunately the improvements in 2013 ensure that if a view template is
updated it does indeed automatically update the view. If a view is
controlled by a view template, then it is locked to the template, so
then only way to make changes is via the properties embedded within the
view templates management dialogue. The old school functionality of
applying template properties to a view is still possible, so you have
the best of both worlds.
view template improvements also extend to the ability to associate a
view template with view types. This means every time you create a view
or duplicate a view it can automatically have a view template associated
VT tweaks included allow you to explicitly control which discipline
your views are on during creation; plumbing is now an option for a view
discipline in its own right; the underlay orientation parameter can be
configured in a VT; colour schemes parameters can be assigned to views
templates where applicable and when you create a reflected ceiling plan
if the underlay orientation is not defined then it will be set to
“reflected ceiling by default”.
Whilst not exactly a view
template related improvement, more so a work around, but within the
worksets dialogue box there is now a project standards workset for
workset global visibility settings. It’s a really a hack & is not an
answer to proper access & standards control, but in essence, if
this workset is owned by one person, others will be unable to change the
global visibility setting for any workset. I still believe this is area
where Revit falls short, some sort of wider management of standards
really does need to be implemented going forward. But for the short
term, beggars can’t be choosers & this does provide a fix to an
Collaborating with Microstation
has always been good at collaborating with other “CAD” packages. It has
the ability to import & export various versions of DWG & DXF.
It is also able to import & export Microstaion files. However,
during the 10 years of ownership, plenty of effort has gone into
improvement of DWG & DXF capability but the Microstation export
& import capabilities have remained stagnant during that time. So it
is pleasing to see that Revit 2013 finally gets V8 Microstation
support. A new user interface has been provided; mapping functionality
for Levels, Lines, Line Weights, Patterns and Text & Fonts has been
added to the export DGN workflow; the DGN export settings are retained
& saved in the project file. Therefore, if you need to pass these
between projects, this can be achieved by using Transfer Project
Standards. With regards to importing Microstation files, there is full
support for V8 files; minor tweaks have been made to the V7 algorithm
& there is added support for importing of design model.
Collaborating with AutoCAD
release of Revit wouldn’t be complete without some work on the DWG
Export & Import capabilities! Minor tweaks have been made to the
Export CAD formats user interface for DWG/DXF/ SAT/DWF, also views &
sheets are now displayed in alphabetical order when the dialog box is
launched. There is a wealth of improvements with regards to Export &
Import, some which are long overdue. Let’s start with Exporting:-
Revit Text elements are now assigned to a text style when exported.
This will make it easier to edit multiple text objects at the same time
- Images in DWG files exported from Revit no longer report an unreferenced error for the image path in AutoCAD.
export of custom hatch patterns has been improved. E.g. export of
custom hatch patterns inside walls (e.g. fire lines) will now be
exported with the correct hatch pattern scale.
- Export of underlined text elements from Revit has been improved.
- Improved DWG export of filled regions.
- Transparency value set on a Revit element is exported as an AutoCAD property on the object.
- Options for hiding scope boxes, reference planes, and unreferenced view tags have been added to the General tab.
With regards to Importing:
- Improved DWG import of inserted blocks.
- DWG files using “Center to Center” positioning will now be imported center to center of the view on the X, Y plane.
I am going to leave best improvement on importing to last. So how many
times have you imported a CAD file into Revit & seen the message
“lines slightly off axis”? It is such a pain, as these errors almost
propagate like virus & often end up as embedded errors in your
model. They can be time consuming to chase down & rectify. In Revit
2013 we can fix this when importing CAD files. A new tick box option is
provided on the import dialog called “Correct lines that are slightly
off axis”. So during importing of a CAD file, if the option is ticked,
Revit will automatically correct lines that are slightly off axis (less
than 0.1 degree).
DWF Export Improvements
am genuinely sold on DWF! Its light weight, quick & retains the
embedded model data. With Design Review mobile now appearing on the Ipad
as well as Android devices, I hope DWF has a healthy future. But I do
wonder, as it seems to continue to have a head to head battle with
Navisworks. Although they do compliment themselves well, with Navis
being able to link DWF files into its environment. Improvements to DWF
in Revit 2013 mean that phasing information is exported in the DWF
format & you can manually name multiple views / sheets when you
export as a single DWF file.
short for Industry Foundation Classes, the answer to interoperability
or just a pipe dream? So I have to be honest with you, I have a love
hate relationship with IFC! It’s a great idea, but in the case of
Autodesk, I’m going to kick them hard, their implementation of IFC has
been poor. Even round tripping from Revit to IFC back to Revit produces
total nonsense! But in Revit 2013 I am encouraged by the amount of work
which has taken place to improve IFC import & export. My
understanding is that there were some limitations within the code &
these have been remedied & over time will allow Autodesk to adopt
IFC4 compatibility. Listed below are “some” of obvious the IFC export
enhancements in 2013 if you are interested & these are straight from
Autodesk development team:-
- 2D Plan view export no longer offset from 3D Geometry
- True North will always be exported to the IFC file, even if True North is the same as Project North.
- Beams never extruded upwards
- Better Geometry splitting for elements allows for fewer surface models
- Floors, Railings, and Room geometry exported as solids or surfaces (not extrusions) will have a coarser geometry than default.
- Doors with nested openings export opening
- Assemblies will now export as IfcElementAssembly,
- IFC export will no longer silently fail when a filename with multi-byte characters (e.g. Chinese characters) is used.
any of the PSet_BuildingCommon parameters are in the Project
Information, we will export the standard IFC property set
- Export Parts - If "Current View Only"
export is chosen, and the view has Parts visibility on, then parts will
be exported instead of the original element geometry.
- Export Uniformat information as IfcClassification and IfcClassificationReference
- General optimizations to reduce IFC export file size
- Better GSA support
- Light Source no longer exported for lighting fixtures
- MEP Plumbing Fixtures exported as IfcFlowTerminal
- Slab base quantities are only exported for COBIE or QTO
On the Import front, some the of the improvements include:-
- Better wall joins
- Different representations have their own elements and sub-categories
- IFC import now properly handles faces that are almost planar.
- More materials imported
- IFC import now does more checks to ensure that illegal faces do not get created on import.
- Space geometry not imported as in-place family solid
- Text Font now set correctly
the last couple of releases of Revit we have seen materials dialogue
box continually change. Much under the bonnet work has been taking place
& last year you saw some of these results in 2012. Revit 2013 moves
this forward. A new Materials data model has been incorporated which
includes extended asset data within the material definition. So as well
as the appearance, you are able to include structural and thermal
performance properties. This extends the capabilities of material for
more than just rendering; the thermal performance properties will open
up opportunities to performance building energy analysis based on
material definitions. The Structural properties data will mean this can
be utilized for faster structural analysis calculations. I have to say
that I personally found the general UI improvements rather confusing, a
lot of picking & clicking & opening of windows which makes the
workflow baffling. I guess I will work it out over time.
Construction Modelling “the next step”
2012 introduced us to the notion of Parts & Assembles for
construction modelling. The tools represented the process of being able
to take a consultants model, then being able to slice & dice it up
as a model which is useful for construction. 2013 builds on that initial
functionality. You are now able to merge Parts, so if you break two or
more Parts, you can merge them into a single element.
can now specifically exclude Parts from a project. The exclude Part is
not visible & will not be scheduled in Parts schedules or component
lists. These excluded Parts can be restored at any time by
pre-highlighting the Part & using the restore controls from the
shape handle functionality has been expanded. If a Part is selected,
you now get shape handle controls on all faces of the element; just
select the reset shape from the Ribbon if you need to reset the Part
back to its original form.
views have also undergone some changes. When creating an Assembly view,
you will find additional views available, enabling you to create detail
section assembly views from around the Assembly.
restrictions in 2012 that related to Assembly views & sheets have
been lifted. You can now place Assembly views on non-assembly sheets;
also Assembly sheets are able to host non-assembly views. This opens up
the opportunity for Parts & Assembly to play a significant role
where you need to do IPD related construction information or where a
designer might need to generate fabrication detailing during CD stage.
Assemblies how have an origin which is visible in the Edit Assembly
Mode. The origin displays as a “point” similar to that available within
the conceptual massing tools. This origin points defines the default
orientation of the assembly views & also is the centroid that is
used if you decide to swap assembly types.
If you divide Parts
by drawing sketch line or using intersecting reference planes, in the
properties you now choose to add a divider gap value. This allows you to
generate parametric gaps on the parts you have created. I can see this
being really useful for creating quick & dirty concrete paneling on
facades, where you don’t necessarily want to use face based families.
the feature I have had most fun with is the ability to add a custom
profile to divided Parts. A new type of family profile called Division
Profile has been introduced that is comprised of a single curve chain
that works with the previously mentioned Divider gap parameter. This
allows you to generate complex joint conditions; for instance the types
you might typically get on pre-cast concrete panels. Previously I was
hacking Curtain Panels to achieve this, but I like this new
functionality much more.
profile can be configured using the properties dialog. The Edge Match
parameter defines how to relate the profile relative to the gap
distance. There are three possible options; complementary keeps the
profiles parallel to one another, mirrored will mirror the division
& rotated creates a mirrored & rotated condition.
year we saw a major overhaul to worksharing, certainly these
improvements have helped with the “large team” workflows but there were a
few features which didn’t make the shipping version, however they are
now included in 2013. When an Edit Request Notification appears, if you
move your cursor over the request, this highlights the corresponding
elements. A nice touch is the ability to click in an Editing Request
Notification as this now enables the Editing Request Dialog. The Editing
Request Notifications now provide Grant & Deny buttons for granting
or denying an editing request, so you no longer have to bring up the
Edit Request dialog to act on a notification request. Additionally,
deleted & new elements in the central file are now shown in the
Editing Request Notification.
General productivity improvements
release of Revit wouldn’t be complete without general productivity
improvements. These enhancements can make all the difference to day to
day productivity, there are numerous, but I will pick up the ones which I
feel are most compelling. If you have a multi-segment dimension &
you decide that you want to remove a particular dimension in the string,
you can now tab to the dimension & hit the delete key & the
dimension is removed from the string.
funny, but for a heavy weight package such as Revit, there was no
diameter dimension tool! 2013 now includes that functionality.
you equalize a dimension string, you can now to set up dimension
parameter to display the dimension in a number of ways, so as well as
having value & text you cans also Equality Formula String.
you do a lot of panning & zooming, then you are genuinely going to
appreciate the ability to double click the middle wheel mouse button to
invoke a zoom to fit! Another really splendid feature is the ability to
search the project browser! About “bloody time”, I have wasted endless
hours scrolling up & down the PB on complex mega projects looking
for a particular view which I know exist, but I can’t find. The search
function works similar to the find function in Microsoft Word, you enter
the text for the view you are looking for, and there is a next &
previous button to allow you to search through the matches. Your match
is highlighted in the PB & the PB will even scroll if required to
display the match.
Divide & Conquer
think most Revit users are now comfortable with the conceptual massing
tools & the in-place mass functionality in Revit’s project
environment. However, whilst it opens up opportunities to build complex
forms & surfaces it still lacks certain functions. Have you ever
noticed you cannot array in the massing environment? Revit 2013 breaks
that limitation by including a divide path tool. This allows the users
to divide a range of curves such as lines, arc, ellipses, partial
ellipses, Bezier splines, Hermite splines as well as chain curves &
edges of forms. All you need to do to divide a path, is select the
curve, edge or form you want to divide, invoke the Divide Path tool from
the Ribbon & the path is divided, placing a series of node points
along the path. The path can be divided by Distance between divisions,
Number of divisions, Max or Min distance or you can divide by
intersects. Once a path is divided, a number is position by the path,
which defines the number of divisions. This number can be clicked in
canvas & edited so that you can alter the number of divisions. As
you would expect you can assign the division number to a parameter to
drive the number of divisions.
dividing with a series points/nodes is all well & good, but can you
place families or elements at each node location? Well the answer to
that is to use an Adaptive Component. If you divide your line, then
create a Simple Generic model Adaptive Component family. Next load the
AC into the divided line family & you can then place the AC on a
node of the divided line. There is a new Repeat button; this allows you
repeat the AC on all the nodes along the divided path. It couldn’t be
are various ways you can place the AC’s so you can miss or even mix up
different AC’s types to create different configurations for AC’s on the
nodes. As well as using single point AC’s, you can also use multi point
AC’s on multiple hosted curves, edges & even divided surfaces.
the principles is as before, but this time draw two lines & divide
these. Create a 2 point AC, load this into the divided line family &
place the AC onto the nodes in the two divided lines. Hit Repeat &
voila! I have played extensively with this feature, looking at all sorts
of weird & wonderful options, even ones which I thought it might
fail on, but it works a treat. What is not yet possible is to have a
scale parameter, so as the AC is repeated along a line it can reduce or
increased in size by a known value.
Architectural big ticket items - visualization
far if you have managed to wade your way through this review of new
Revit 2013 functionality, hopeful you found some useful improvements
which will assist when using Revit. However, what about some real barn
storming functionality? Ok, let’s start with visualization graphics.
Whilst visualization graphics may be low hanging fruit to some BIM
purists, to architects & designers a like, it is visualization
functionality & the way you present your scheme that helps sell it. I
know plenty of people who seemed to enjoy the class that Jason Grant
& I gave at AU2011 on presentation graphics, so presentation
graphics must be important to some people. In 2013 the Ghost Surfaces
& Transparent Override options have been replaced with a single
Surface Transparency slider. The Transparency slider allows you to
control surfaces between 0 & 100%, so you can control individual
elements with different levels of transparency.
can be applied to all views, not just 3d views. If you use RPC content,
these will preview correctly in Realistic Visual Style Views. The
Graphic Display Option dialog has been further enhanced. You can now
choose to between a new Sky background style, Images as background as
well as the now famed Gradients backgrounds. You can choose a custom
ground colour for the new Sky background, but the Sky colour itself is
fixed, also it should be noted that the Sky background can is a little
heavy for real-time use but ideal for presentation graphics. Finally we
can also use Sky, images, and gradients in elevations, sections,
isometrics & perspectives, so no more having to import bitmaps into
these views to create sky backgrounds!
you use Realistic Visual Styles in 3d isometric or perspectives views,
you can now specify artificial lights & Photographic Exposure
lighting schemes, exactly the same way you do in the mental ray
renderer. Performance is slow, but for presentation graphics where you
don’t want to render the image using mental ray, it’s a praiseworthy
new progressive real-time ray trace render style has been introduced.
You enable this new style from the view control bar. As soon as you
enable it, the Revit caches the model; the view then starts to render
immediately as a photorealistic style. You are able still able to pan
& zoom around the Revit model, allowing you to create interactive
walk through, but be aware that this renderer is using the processor
& not the GPU of the graphics card, so the better your processor,
the quicker the viewport will render. The rendering quality starts at
low quality, but the longer you leave it the better the quality of the
image. You are able to set the lighting, exposure & background from
the graphic options dialogue. Once you have reach the quality image you
require, you can stop the rendering by either clicking in the view or
stopping render from the interactive Ray trace panel. You are able to
save views that have been rendered, but be aware that these are only at
screen resolution. I am confused why Autodesk thought we needed Ray
trace viewport rendering when we have Mental Ray & cloud rendering.
Seems rather over kill to me; I would have preferred the effort to have
been focused on giving us sketchy graphic styles similar to that product
that sounds like a well-known red source product.
Architectural big ticket items – stairs & railings
Stairs & Railings…..where do you start! On the whole they are
great, but those that are new to Revit soon realize there are some
obvious shortcomings when using Stairs & Railings. Not that they are
a complete failure, the sketch based process works well & is more
aligned with how you typically draft a stair, but granular control is
not easy & the way stairs displayed on screen does not always match
with local graphic conventions. However, if you have ever read or
watched Phil Reads AU class on stairs & railings you realize once
mastered, you could hack your way through to create even the most
complex stair design using the standard tools available. But for the
rest of us, we just want a stair component which just works as we expect
to see it. Therefore, to help the “modelling” challenged, Revit 2013
introduces a new stair tool which is component-based rather than sketch
new stairs allows you to assemble a stair using run, landing &
support components. Each of these components can be individually
modified using grab handles, so the changes can be made in canvas. The
improved tools allow you to configure component based stairs in multiply
process seems very reminiscent of how you develop stairs in AutoCAD
Architecture, the move away from a sketch based approached is certainly
alien to me. But the more you play with the functionality the more you
recognize that this is genuine move in the right direction. For instance
I am most pleased to see that I can now create a 3 run stair or switch
back stair. In the past you had to either wrap the sketch on itself,
which causes genuine downstream editing issues or you had to create two
separate stairs. As the stair is a proper 3d component, this opens up
far more flexibility in its configuration, so the new stairs also allow
you to customize the end to suit different concrete stair conditions.
other challenge with stairs has been how they graphically appear as
well as how you dimension & annotate them. I have lost count how
many hours I have wasted arguing / discussing with architects &
project managers why Revit displays stairs how they do. But it’s
difficult to defend the in defensible. So these new stairs are far more
customizable from a graphics perspective, although the number of
sub-categories used to define a stair is confusing. I know that Autodesk
has done a lot of user research in this area, as I have provided
feedback on the way we like to see stair cases displayed here in the UK.
Annotation improvements mean we can annotate individual stair run,
landing, and support components. We can now tag the tread depth; treads
& risers can be numbered using a Stair Tread / Riser Number tag
& we can now properly dimension stairs.
stairs have moved to component based approach Revit 2013, so are
railings. This is not yet complete, there is still much work to do, but
the direction is promising. In Revit 2013 there are new handrail and top
rail sub-category elements, improved railing transitions, and the
ability to include system generated extensions to top rails and
handrails. Getting access to the hand rail is very confusing; you need
to tab select to get access to the handrail before you edit it. It
certainly isn’t very discoverable.
stair & railing is an on-going multi-year project, so what you see
in Revit 2013 is the first incarnation. So if you still yearn for the
sketch based stair tools, they are still included. Also, you can convert
a component based stair to a sketch based stair for more finite
editing, but be aware once you do this; you are not able to convert the
sketch back to a component. This is annoying, but as long as you are
aware its fine.
So there you are,
the major improvements for Revit 2013. Am I happy? I think so, but
sometimes my expectations are greater than what is delivered. Nether the
less Revit 2013 does deliver genuine user productivity benefits. Slowly
but surely each release of Revit sees improvements in primary
If I am truthful, there are aspects of Revit
development which have managed to keep up with the pace of industry BIM
developments. The Assembly & Parts tools are a case in point, but
there are others tools for whatever reason are lagging behind & are
starting to show their age. My hope is Autodesk recognise this &
address these short comings. The lack of development in the site tools
is unbelievably irritating.
One other major concern I have is
that often functionality is released which on the face of it seems only
partially complete. The staircase improvements are a good example of
this. Whilst the new stair tool addresses some specific requirements,
which is pleasing to see, in others areas it falls short. Why is this a
concern? It relates to training. You now have to train two methods for
creating a stair. This can be confusing to the new user & equally
frustrating to the Revit expert. The number of hidden dialogue boxed
& parameter settings you need to fight your way to customise a stair
is truly amazing. It’s certainly not discoverable & goes against
everything I believe Revit should be. It may not be a big deal for some,
but as I have said many times, moving people to a BIM centric workflow
is about changing hearts & minds. I don’t see why the experts have
to continually justify why some tools are not finished or why there are
two different ways to create the same element. I understand things take
time to develop & there are only so many man hours during a yearly
development cycle, but a maybe a modular approach could be the answer to
ensure things get to a better completed state? It’s a careful balancing
act between providing value to the existing client base and ensuring
continued dominance and further growth of the Revit platform.
is no longer a pipe dream or something for the earlier adopters or
technologists; therefore we need a suite of tools that can deliver at
all levels. I do feel that after 10 years, Revit 2013 is going back to
its original roots as a solution for the AEC industry.