Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Duplicate! Duplicate! Duplicate!

This is by far the issue I encounter most with students. How to make custom components? The thing is, there is about 10,000 different ways to create/edit components in Revit. And by 10,000 I mean, like four, but there are a lot of options regardless. What any experienced Revit user will tell you, is you want to do everything you possibly can before you try and make something from scratch. Why? Because Revit does not have the most user-friendly component making capabilities. Of course, like anything, with practice you'll gain speed and skill and over time your components will become more complex. The learning curve is tough though and can be frustrating. Component building can also be very time consuming, even when you do have practice. So that's why it is advised you do everything you can before you get into making your own stuff.

In fact, this post isn't even going to cover creating components from scratch. This post is going to address the first strategy to making components: Duplicate!

Let's say I'm working on a project and I decide I want a desk. I go through the Revit component library and I find a desk, but it's just not quite what I want.

The first step to changing this component to be what I want is to click on the Element Properties button. If you're not already familiar with properties, be prepared to get very intimate with the Element Properties dialog. The backbone of Revit is in the properties. 95% of the time when you encounter a problem the solution is in the properties. So, really get to know your properties dialog boxes. You're going to become such great friends.

Okay, getting back to the point, I selected the component and then selected Element Properties. This opens a dialog box. The first thing I want to look through is the Type Selector. The Type Selector is a drop down menu that list the different family types for this component. I can look through the list and decide if one of the types suits my needs.

I decide this still isn't what I want. So, I move on the next step: Editing the component. I click the Edit/New button next to the Type Selector. This opens a new dialog box where I can begin making edits. However, it's important to realize that if I make edits now I will be editing the original file. This will become an issue if I want to use this file again. You can always download the original file from the web library if you do make edits now, but that's tedious and you'll probably forget to do it, so get in the habit of hitting Duplicate after hitting Edit/New.

This will create a new file that will remain within your project. You don't have to have any fears about the edits you make to this file. It won't affect the original file at all. After you hit duplicate, enter a new name for the file. Put in something you'll actually remember. When you get deep within a project and have a hundred components loaded it becomes quite a pain to search through the list.

Now that I have my New Desk started, I can make edits. In the Edit dialog box I have the option to change the Depth, Height, Width, and Leg Height of the desk. I can also change the materials. Just to make the change obvious, I decide my desk needs to be 10'-0' wide. I click on the text after width and change it to 10'. Hit Okay twice and now I've got a fantastically insane ten foot desk.

That's the general process for duplicating components. It's the easiest process and doesn't allow a whole lot of room for customization, but it's only the first step of many.

Next for this series: Turn a Table into a Couch

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Acting under the assumption that no one reads this, I'm going to admit my Revit dork crush. His name is Jeff and he runs a Revit blog called The Revit Kid. He offers lots of video tutorials and answers emails and knows stuff about computer programming that goes way over my head. His blog is also one of the only Revit blogs that posts regularly. I love his tutorials. They go really fast, which might be frustrating for beginners, but I prefer them that way.

Find him here:

SketchUp, my Dumb Friend, meet Revit

I remember being told it was possible to put SketchUp files into Revit when I first began using Revit. However, for the last two years I was never able to get this to work. I always got error messages. Miracle of miracles, the other day, I actually got it to work. I don't know if a bug has been worked out in SketchUp or Revit, or if I was just doing it incorrectly in the first place, but either way I got that SketchUp file into my Revit file!

Here's the method. Go to the 3D warehouse for SketchUp and download the file you want. Depending on the complexity of the file, it may or may not work, especially if the file is very large or if it was made in a way that Revit just doesn't like. I downloaded this couch.

There are two different ways to put it into your Revit file and it's the same process as making a component. You can either make it into a new Family file or you can do a "Create in Place." I'll start with making a new Family file.

Go to file, select new, select Family. I selected "Furniture" from the list of categories. Then, go to File, select "Import/Link", select "CAD Formats", change "Files of Type" from DWG files to SKP files (SketchUp files) and select the file you just downloaded.

Depending on the nature of the object, it could have a lot of lines. This is especially true in objects that are convex or curved. Look at the puffy pillows in the couch I downloaded. It ended up with a lot of lines. If you turn on only "Shading" it will get rid of the lines, visually at least. Also keep in mind that the items you download might be way out of scale. There isn't a scale command in Revit like the one in AutoCAD.

Next, you can hit save, hit "Load into Project" (or load from the components button) and it will appear in your project.

By doing the "Create in Place" instead of creating a new family, you can get the object into your project file, but it will not have it's own individual file. It is most common that these objects cannot be edited within Revit, so it makes some sense to just put them in the project file. You can do the same thing with AutoCAD 3D files and from my experience, those work out a little better. 

I used a SketchUp model to put this in my senior project. 

It's a bear! I really wanted a dinosaur, but I haven't found one that works yet. Either way, I could never make a bear in Revit. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Roof by Footprint

I had a question on how to put a gable roof on a house. Now I haven't seen the project so I can only offer a generic how-to. I'll demonstrate how to make the roof in this project (at least the big portion of the roof).

First, go to the "Roof" plan. Or just open one of the plans (you can always change the level). Click the Roof command and chose "Roof by Footprint". With the command open you can sketch the roof either by picking walls or drawing lines. In this case, my house is just a simple square so I'm going to use the "Pick Walls" command. 

Before I click on the walls I change the "Overhang" to 2'-0". "Overhang" can be found in the design bar above the drawing screen. Then, I click on the four walls of the house to select them.

Now I set the slope, or where the gables will be. I select the line of the front of the house, and next to where the "Overhang" option was, is the "Defines Slope" box. I check this box for the front of the house and the back. When this box is checked, a slope symbol will appear as well as the rise/run of the slope. In this case, it's 9:12. By clicking on the text you can change the slope. 

Hit "Finish Roof" and yes to the "Do you want highlighted walls to attach to roof?" question, and the roof is done. You may notice the walls do not extend to the peak of the roof like in this image:

To fix that, just select the wall. Two boxes will appear in the options bar "Attach" and "Detach". Select "Attach", select the roof, and the walls will snap to the roof. Do this for all walls that are connected to the roof. 

This is just one method to getting a roof on. As you saw in the Roof Command there are four options total. This one is the most common and easiest to use.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Life

Okay, so this is my first "I hate Revit/Interior Design/my life" entry. I ran into my first snag in my senior project. It's not a huge deal, but it is incredibly irritating. Within my project I wanted to create a fire-rated exit stairwell. The kind of thing you'll find in any big commercial project. Stacked stairs. A potentially standard construction type of thing. 

Guess what. Revit can't do that. 

Revit can't make closed loop stairs. Basically, Revit can't do this:

I know what you're going to say, it looks like you made that in Revit. Actually, I got it from the forums and haven't quite figured out how to incorporate it into my project. 

You will find when drawing stairs that Revit will not let you draw over the top of any lines or "form closed loop". Essentially, you can't draw stairs on top of other stairs (even though the third run of stairs is above the first run in reality). It will give you an error like this.

So far, I've only been able to find one forum thread about this. And basically it just reiterates the fact that this can't be done and how shocked and angry we dorks are about it.

This brings up an interesting point of comparison between using and learning Revit and AutoCAD. When you learn AutoCAD, you learn how to draw a line. You learn how to draw a dashed line. You learn how much you hate line type scale. The drawings you draw in CAD are purely 2D symbols. The same four lines that form a rectangle can represent a coffee table, a bookcase, a countertop, and a bed. If I were drawing this in CAD, I would draw the lines that represent the stairs and be done with it. I probably wouldn't make a 3D model of it either because we've all seen a stairwell. 

When you learn Revit, you have a completely different mode of thinking. Yes, rectangles represent all kinds of things in plan, but those lines are a coffee table, they are a countertop. Well, as much as a digital rendering can be anything. Revit users are also victim to a different set of problems. It's not, "I can't get my lines to be dashed." It's, "How do I attach a roof to a house." And because Revit creates the 3D for everything it can substantially slow down progress if you don't know how to fix problems quickly. 

Remember though, you can always put any elevation or plan in Revit into AutoCAD.

Friday, March 5, 2010

As Useful as the Nightlight on my HP

A huge difference between AutoCAD and Revit is the emphasis on learning keyboard shortcuts. When learning AutoCAD it is imperative to learn the shortcuts to speed up your work. In Revit, there is much less emphasis on learning them and I'm not sure why that is. There are a few I use constantly and they definitely speed things up. So at the risk of getting my AutoCAD and my Revit key commands further confused, I'm attempting to use use them more often in Revit. 

The few that I utilize all the time and recommend memorizing are:
  • VG Visibility/Graphics menu
  • VP Visual Properties menu
  • When in 3D View, hit F8 to enter the Rotate/Zoom/Pan command (also known as the Dynamic View box)
  • The arrow keys are nudge tools. The further you are zoomed in the smaller the increment will be that the object moves
  • Hitting the ESC key will generally get you out of any command
  • Using the scroll on the three-button mouse will allow you to zoom in and out. Hitting the scroll button will activate the Pan command
  • CTRL Select multiple elements
  • TAB Cycle through the prehighlighting of elements to select among ones that are close to one another
  • When box selecting, if you drag left to right it selects only those elements entirely within the rectangle; if you drag right to left it selects elements that cross the rectangle as well
  • When entering a number in feet and inches, type the feet then a space then the inches. No need to put ' and "
Some I've looked up and am trying to use more often:
  • CO copy (Cntrl-C)
  • RO rotate
  • AR array
  • MM mirror
  • PR properties
  • DI dimension
  • AL align
  • WA wall
  • WN window
  • DR door
  • CM component
  • RP ref plane
  • Alt+Enter to edit the Element properties of almost everything
Of course, there are more than this. Quite a few zoom commands like in AutoCAD, but in Revit if you have the three-button mouse I find those to be about as useful as the nightlight on my HP. Completely pointless. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Floor is a Good Place for That

Revit is weird. It has all the capabilities to make complex projects and 3D views that look amazing, but then there are the little things. The oddities that make it frustrating and fun to work with. One of which is components that after they are loaded, snap to the floor when traditionally, these are objects that are not supposed to be on the floor, yet that is where Revit has determined they belong. 

For example, if you load the flat screen plasma tv and place it in the floor plan, where would you expect it to be? I would expect it to hang in the air a few feet off the ground because that's usually where flat screen televisions go. However, if you go to the 3D view, you will see the tv is on the floor. That completely defeats the purpose of what flat screen tvs are for. 

So, how to get it off the floor. 

For the tv, and basically any component, there is two ways. First you can click on the Element Properties, under Constraits, change "Offset" from 0'-0" to whatever you want the bottom edge of the tv to sit at. I changed it to 4'-0".

Or, you can go to an Elevation View, Select the component, use the arrow keys to move it up, or use dimensions to set it exactly where you want it.


You will find that after the tv is moved off the floor it disappears from the floor plan! This is where people get confused and think the Revit monsters have eaten their components. What has actually happened, is the television has moved above the cut plane, which is usually set at 4'-0". The cut plane is where Revit cuts horizontally through the house to give the floor plan. If it's above 4'-0" it won't show, and it's not supposed to show in a floor plan either. I figure, this is the reason Revit puts those objects on the floor in the first place. If they snapped them directly above the cut plane people would never realize they put in the objects. 

Other objects like the hood and the stove top also snap to the floor when opened. So if you're stove top disappears when you try to put it on your countertop, it's because it's underneath the counter. That's a good place for it.

Go Look it Up

This semester I got a hold of some Revit instruction books from the library (I wasn't about to buy a $50 book without looking at it first). Here's my take on them.

Introducing Revit Architecture 2008: BIM for Beginners, by Krygiel, Demchak, & Dzambazova. I only got a hold of the 2008 version, but I figure the 2009 edition is comparable in quality. This one is definitely for beginners and equivalent to a Revit for Dummies. It explains things step-by-step with lots of excellent images, which as a beginner is exactly what you want. The only issue with this book is that it doesn't get into much detail. It has very little information on customizing families, but that is more of an advanced concept anyways. It's about half the size of the other two books I'm going to mention. Overall, a good option.


Mastering Revit Architecture 2009, by Krygiel, Demchak, & Dzambazova. Interesting that this book is written by the same authors as the BIM for Beginners book. Although it says in its intro that it can be used by beginners, I think this book would be tough for a beginner to get through. It just has a lot of...text. Many of the concepts are not written as step-by-step tutorials. This books assumes you have a background in Revit to start with. It is far more detailed and a much thicker book; however, I dislike the way it generally says Revit can do things, but it doesn't tell you how to do it. 

Mastering Revit Architecture 2009, by Aubin. Same title, different book. You'd think the authors would want to come up with different titles. This one is my favorite. It's a good combination of detail and step-by-step tutorials. It doesn't have quite enough images for my taste, but it explains things clearly. With bulleted lists even! That's what I want to see. This book also comes with a CD but it did scary things to my computer when I tried to use it, but that might be because it's an abused CD from the library. A new one might work better. This is a book I would recommend purchasing. 


Residential Design Using Revit Architecture 2009, by Stine.This is the book my Arch Graphics class used for their group projects. It's just a big long tutorial. You can buy it in the bookstore, but I'm not sure if you have to be enrolled in the class in order to purchase it. Either way, if you're very serious about teaching yourself Revit, I recommend buying this and going through the whole thing cover to cover. The best part about it, is at the end you have this file you can use for a reference. It's that semi-ugly house that's on the front cover. I still use it all the time.

I've got the first three books in my studio space. If you would like to look at them before you buy come see me during my tutoring hours.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How Do You Hide an Entire Library?

Where did the Revit online library go? It's funny, in Revit 2008 there was a link to it under the components menu, which was a perfectly sensible place to put it. In 2009, that link is gone. I guess that's not funny, that's just dumb. So, how to get to library. 

Select "Window", select "Recent Files". (You'll notice this is the menu that first pops up when you open Revit). On the right-hand side there is a link that says "Revit Web Content Library." 

Congratulations. You found it...well...almost. 

Now it will open your web browser. Click on "Archived Libraries," click "Revit 2009". This will open another window. Hit the top link, "Revit Architecture 2009 Library", Select US Library, Select "Families" and now you've found the Library. 

If you're looking for appliances, those are under "Specialty Equipment", "Domestic". 

There's an escalator in there, too. Someone should really use that in a project. 

And by the way, what happened to RevitCity today? It seems to have disappeared from the internet.

Holy Sh#$@t! I Mean, Sheet

Pardon my french. There's really no need for profanities because printing in Revit is phenomenally easy, sort of. At least setting up sheets is easy compared to AutoCAD. 

To set up a sheet, Right Click on "Sheets" in the Design Browser and select "New Sheet". A prompt will come up asking you to select a titleblock. There may only be one option here, depending on if you have loaded different titleblocks. If you have not loaded any, click "Load", go to the Imperial Library, Select File "Titleblocks", Select the sheets you need and hit open. It will go back to the original prompt, select the one you want, click open.

Now, a new sheet is open. To place a drawing on the sheet, simply click a view, drag, and drop the drawing onto the sheet. The scale will be whatever you set it at in the drawing view. No LTSCALE involved! Isn't that lovely? 

Printing from a sheet is an easy process as well, with a couple little rules. The process starts out simple enough. Click File, click Print, Select your printer. Under "Print Range" check "Selected Views/Sheets" and hit the "Select" button underneath. This will open a prompt that will let you select the Views/Sheets you would like to print. 

Finally, under "Settings" hit "Setup". Here's where some very important rules come in.

1) Make sure you select the select the correct sheet size. (If you choose an 11x17 titleblock, then you want to print on 11x17 paper). 

(Sorry to be in all caps, but I can't stress this enough)

Do not select "Fit to Page" when printing from a sheet. It will screw up your scale. Always double check because it often doesn't change the scale that much, and you don't want to realize this too late. 


Say you don't want to print from a sheet, well, you can follow basically the same process. In a View, select "File", Select "Print". If you check "Current View" under "Print Range" you'll print the view you have open. Also, checking Zoom 100% will print your drawing to scale, checking Fit to Page means it will not be to scale. 

Zoom 100% = Scale
Fit to Page = Not to Scale

March Sweeps

One problem encountered in tutoring today: how to make a handle for a cabinet? I can't get the darn thing open without one. Here's the answer: Solid Sweep. Solid sweeps create profiles and paths; Revit recommends using it for moldings, pipes, and railings. Here's a quick demo on putting a very simple rectangular handle on a file cabinet. 

Open the Family file for editing. In this case I opened a file cabinet file. 

Next, go to the Ref. Level view. Click on Solid Form, click on Solid Sweep, click Sketch 2D Path.

The path is going to decide the shape of the handle. Using the Line tool and the Fillet Line tool I drew a simple shape that will decide how the handle looks. It is centered to the cabinet and extends two inches from the front. This is going to allow for 3/4" profile (or a 3/4" thick handle). Make sure there is going to be enough space for the actual profile; if there isn't enough space the sweep won't work and Revit will give you an error. The path does not have to form closed loops. I also snapped it to the edge of the front of the file cabinet because this is where I want the path to start and stop (I want my handle connected to the cabinet!)

Click Finish Path when finished. Then click "Profile", in the options bar click "Edit". It will prompt you to enter a different work plane, choose the Front. 

Using the Rectangle tool I drew  3/4"x3/4" box. I also used the copy tool to create second box for the other drawer. This is the profile that is going to follow along the path I drew. This is the part that becomes 3D.

Then just click Finish Profile and Finish Sweep to complete the action.


The more complex the profile, the more complex the sweep will be!