Friday, July 25, 2008

Revit Curiosity - Revit Civil

A frequent request among Revit users is more site tools. In fact it was the number one AUGI Revit Wishlist item last year, which was submitted to Jay Bhatt (Senior Vice President, Architecture, Engineering and Construction Solutions) at Autodesk University 2007 during the AUGI Annual General Meeting.

The site tools we do have work pretty well at their given task. This begs for the next level. Simple equation, with each improvement in work flow a new greater expectation is created because, "This works so easily...why doesn't it do xxx too?"

So I wonder what we mean by more site tools?

I believe that we want tools that allow us to prepare and "finish" planning exercises as well as fully articulate our design for both documentation and presentation purposes. I don't believe that we (architecture)(okay maybe some do) want tools for hydrology or that we truly intend to compete with the technical expertise of our civil design consultants. We ARE looking for a way to "democratize" the design of these elements so that we can better inform our discussions with our consultants.

I'd like these (at least):

Define road profiles and then describe where they will go relative to our project and at what elevations they will do so.
Curb/kerb tools to describe how these relate to the design of our roads.
Drain representation that alters the site or road/curbs.
Retaining walls and site topography alteration accordingly.
Contour definition by more means than points, such as sketching lines.
Bi-Directional relationship between civil data file and toposurface (if civil data is updated the surface updates)
Solid vs. Surface Topography to support subterranean work such as tunnels.

Ideally the effort applied to drafting such items in a conventional 2D drawing would create a 3D version of same. Autodesk would like us to consider the Civil 3D product as the tool for this work. For a Civil design firm perhaps it is. I respectfully submit that it might be similar to using a scientific calculator to figure your grocery bill. A bit more power than I need.

If we accept or agree that architects usually start projects and the other trades get involved later (hopefully this will change too) then we must recognize that it is therefore necessary for architects to make many decisions (to express ideas) early on and document those decisions/ideas effectively.

Site tools are an important part of this process and for Revit to exclude them diminishes its effectiveness as a complete solution. Revit needs to provide tools to allow architects to get their designs approved in as efficient manner as possible. Adding site tools to the Revit toolbox would be big help!

P.S. We could include parking lot design tools and landscape design in this equation as well. There is existing content (not comprehensive though) for these tasks but it can be argued that there is not a discipline oriented process for them however. We'd be much better off if there was.


Bruce said...

Hear hear! Thanks, Steve, for articulating a common complaint and a wish of mine for a while.

I have often propagated the rumour of Revit Civil or Revit Landscape and seen a somewhat uneasy reaction from Autodesk staff.

I'm sure you'll find lots of support for this post!

Jake Boen said...

Steve, Don't tease us! I think my heart skiped a beat when you said Revit Civil. Not only because I want and need site tools, but because I hate to see another Revit package that we would have to pay more money for. You nailed it on the head. 99.9% of the buildings that architects work on touch the earth. We need the tools! Should I put this service request in each year?

Unknown said...


I think it only a matter of time that there will be a Revit Civil.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, personally I think you've made it sound a lot more complicated than it is, and that we're walking this fine line between what architects do and what civil engineers do. We're not. I believe most architectural users are simply requesting site tools to help model site features - what exists and what it will look like in the future. That has been a part of what architects do since there were architects. If Autodesk can't understand that, no amount of explanation will change their minds. I'd suggest that the more convoluted the explanations get for why we need site tools, the more convoluted the issue gets in the mind of Autodesk, and the less likely it will be acted upon. Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

Is it for industry or technical reasons that they've settled on the AutoCAD rather than a Revit base for Civil?

Can the Revit engine do Civil scale projects?

Anonymous said...

Very well stated, Steve. Hopefully, your considerable voice will have the desired impact, and finally jolt Adsk into alignment with our reality.

I remember when we had no Site tools, at all. If we wanted a "quasi site model", we had to extrude overlapping slabs, by tracing an imported topo plan, to achieve a stepped model similar to a foam-core or cardboard model.

I particularly like your, and others', idea of switching from a TIN-based surface to solids. This would make a lot of operations possible, like "true" vertical cuts, phased excavation with backfill, overlapping pads, etc.

Thanks again.

Steve said...

Thanks for the comments!

Robin - No it isn't really intended for city planning scale projects. It's really meant to document a building. I assume Civil 3D is Autodesk's focus because they have invested in it and it already exists. I also assume that Revit will eventually include more site tools but don't assume that we will have another Revit called "Civil".

Anonymous - It has been my experience that Autodesk has little trouble making something complicated without help from me or anyone else. I think it is important to keep telling with them about what we want. I hope my post wasn't convoluted. Sometimes it takes saying the "same" thing differently, repeatedly, for something to "stick".

Again, thanks for the comments!

Adam said...

With respect to city planning... Revit can be really useful. I recently dodged up a very large urban renewal project.

30m wide walls (for roads) and rooms for lots. By adding custom parameters to the rooms we calculated yields and scheduled these off against land use, present and future ownership and a number of other divisions. Works really well and with the color fills we generated a huge number of maps very quickly. Admit it was not really 3D but gave us some effective massing.

Anonymous said...

As a Civil Engineer we get the question asked us all the time..."is there a Revit Civil coming?" My answer is always no. I have been in search of the best way to coordinate between Civil 3D and Revit, alas there isn't a smooth way to transfer surface related information to Revit. For all the architects looking for site tools, I don't blame you...but don't look for a "Revit Civil" anytime soon. The power and size of Civil 3D is much greater than you might think. I am impressed by Revit and what it can produce, but as Autodesk has proven to us time and time again is that by adding more complexity (or features) the software will only slow down. Be careful of what you wish for, you may just get it and realize it wasn't worth it. Autodesk is heavily invested in Civil 3D and is still waiting to see the fruits of that investment as the industry has yet to widely accept it, though it is growing rapidly. I could see them expanding the site tools, just be wary to ask for too much.

Anonymous said...

I may be late to this conversation, and I've may have skipped a few comments...But if anyone want to expand Site Tools...just make the families. And as for Autodesk actually create a Civil spin off... I think its already going in that direction whether they realize it or not...I too had a conversation with Autodesk directly and received the same comments as to a Revit Civil. But as stated to them, they'll end up making it because of the demand. Civil 3D or not, where theres a niche, why pass it up...REVIT CIVIL is only a matter of time...As for the already have to power to do what ever you need with Revit...just do what you need.