Do Revit and Interior Design go together?

QUIET ROOM & ENTRY VIEW.2It has always surprised me how low the number of interior design teams using Revit has been – often even not used by interiors teams in large firms where the majority of the architecture projects are being delivered using Revit. For me, Revit has always offered significant benefits to my projects, ever since I made the decision my team would move away from 2D CAD packages and into Revit for all projects back in 2007. That’s right -all projects. I doesn’t matter how big or how small a project, or if there are existing drawings in a 2D CAD format, or even if my new design team doesn’t yet know Revit – all the projects I have lead and worked on for the last 7 years have been primarily designed and documented in Revit. Recently, I’ve been pleased to find more interest in using Revit for interior design with a number of people mentioning to me both in person and on twitter that they want to know more about the benefits of Revit for interiors. So I thought it might be time to write a blog post (which has turned into 2 parts) on the main benefits of using Revit, as well as tips for optimising Revit for interior design teams. Today’s post is focussed more on the information benefits and setup of Revit whilst the next part will discuss Revit as a design and visulisation tool.

The Power of Scheduling
When asked recently on twitter for my number one tip for using Revit for interiors, it was to make use of scheduling. From the very beginning of using Revit it was the scheduling and tagging abilities of Revit that have paid off for my projects. At its most basic, the use of schedules for room areas or workstation numbers saves time every time. Scheduling furniture, fixtures and signage is also a breeze – and even better visually now that Revit 2015 allows us to incorporate images – finally! I am sure this change will play a big part in convincing interior designers to use Revit. Door schedules are great too – although come with their own challenges, as do finishes schedules (material take off in Revit terminology).

Anything you used to schedule in word or excel, you can schedule in Revit, so why type everything twice and risk making mistakes? There are a couple of key issues to be aware of when using Revit for schedules. Firstly you have to remember that your schedule is based on your model – if there is garbage in your model (eg two chairs on top of one another, or chairs off in space), there will be garbage in your schedule. The other is the visibility filters set in the schedule, what is not visible is not counted. If the schedule name is Level 23 Workstation Schedule, but the schedule filter is set to Level 22 then its not of much use (just as if someone accidentally counted off the wrong plan!). Schedules always need to be manually checked when first set up, and then some ongoing common sense checking as the project progresses.

Schedules themselves are also great to help you with checking. I use various kinds of schedules for BCA and GreenStar calculations and checking and even expanded schedules to check filtered or totaled schedules. Taken further schedules can become the basis for Room Data sheets created in excel, word (or other 3d party softwares). For an example using excel you can see my previous post What’s in a Room?

If you are interested in more on Revit Scheduling I have presentation on slide share called Informedesign which is primarily about using Revit and its information (often conveyed via schedules) to support your design process.

At the end of the day, the value of scheduling lies in its ability to free up time to spend more time doing what we love – designing. But before we get to the benefits of Revit in the design process, I will touch on the other key aspect of freeing up your time in Revit – leveraging repaatative content.

Revit loves repetition
Its true, Revit loves repetition. Many people believe that means its not valuable for the one off – but it is and I am going to talk more about that next post. However, as with scheduling you use Revit’s power of repetition to free up your time to focus on the one off items and area, because that is where we should focus our efforts as designers.

Two areas of Revit are key for repetition, families and groups. Families are discussed further below as part of your libraries but groups should also form part of your strategy for repetition. I’ve written extensively before about groups – so once you have got the basics of this post, you can go read more about groups here.

Building your generic library
Interior designers and BIM managers alike are often dismayed by the thought of modeling everything in an interior design project (or even worse – by starting to think about what could go into a every project), every piece of furniture  and every material known to man. The answer to this dilemma – is that you don’t necessarily have to. If its your first Revit project and your aim isn’t to deliver a full BIM project then don’t try to – you will overwhelm yourself and struggle to deliver. Start off with a little and build up over time. Focus initially on two areas, one is the more generic content and the other is the areas where Revit assists your design thinking.

By generic content, I mean the components you use most frequently in projects. This will differ depending upon your firm, the types of projects you do and the types of 3d imagery you need to output. For me, primarily I am designing workplace and educational projects. My basic set of generic content therefore includes task seating, a few different lounge, meeting and cafe seating styles and a couple of shapes and styles of tables with easy to modify sizes and bases. At its most basic joinery and equipment may start out as a family that just contains a box.

Focus on your outputs.  If all you are producing is 1:100 test fit planning – you are wasting time modeling every cupboard and agonising over what each chair looks like. As long as you have your plan objects looking right, you can produce your deliverables (and schedule too). Over time you can start to develop your 3D detail or information for different areas over time depending upon your design stages and outputs. For example, while we will end up modeling the casework in a store room eventually (in order to document it), we probably won’t look at it in anything other than plan until quite late in the project (or you might never even need to). By contrast, the 3D development of key spaces such as reception will begin much earlier and may include more specific furniture, joinery and finishes even from the very first presentations. Workstation areas would be likely to be in between. We model almost everything in 3D, so we can create massing type images and flythroughs, it is then the level of detail that differs across the objects in different areas. This also helps to contribute to a more sketchy feel earlier in the design process (as do the new 2015 sketchy lines).

I would also say, don’t rule out using supplier content but don’t rely on it exclusively. For anything you are going to use over and over again, you can start from a supplier family but make sure you do some sort of QA to determine if its suitable for your ways of using it – for me key things are that it is the right way around (all Hermans Millers chairs are backwards) and that is has a 3d plan component to it so it will represent as white in views with colour schedules applied. Beyond that I may also go further with replacing parameters and materials if my uses for it require this. (eg for scheduling) Its great to see the range of furniture and fixtures available as Revit families are growing – examples currently available include Haworth, Steelcase, Caroma and Britex (you can find a good starting list here at IGS website).

The other key part of your generic content is materials. It much more efficient to have a library and templates that already contain basic finishes such as white powedercoat, black laminate or stainless steel complete with information and keynotes that then doesn’t need to be recreated in every project. Again supplier sources such as Dulux free Colour Atlas for Revit app or RTV’s Revit Paint (which includes Dulux, Resene and more) can also help build up your material options quickly.

Next post I will talk more about Revit materials and finishes as well as how to use Revit to power your interior design process, but also about some of the limitations of Revit for interiors (Autodesk hope you will be reading!). In the meantime, are you using Revit for interior design? What are your tips? Or is your firm starting to think about it? What makes you hesitate? Are you just starting out with Revit for interiors? What’s driving you batty? (because Revit does do that too, even to me some days!)

Ceilidh Higgins

Image Credits:  DJRD current project image, rendering straight from Revit.

Specifying Door Hardware – Tips for Interior Designers & Architects

Handle by adrazahl, on FlickrI am often surprised by how difficult interior designers and architects find the process of specifying door hardware. I have seen even relatively experienced interior designers or architects have a look of fear (or perhaps I’m mixing up the glazed eyes of boredom?) when I’ve asked them to prepare the door hardware schedule for a project. Door hardware specifications are also something that frequently go wrong on a project, and on a larger project such as a hospital or in a specialised secure environment, these mistakes can have much more significant cost consequences than we imagine ($40K worth of door hardware can be a bit of a shock, but I’ve heard of that happen, thankfully that wasn’t my own project!) One of the project managers that I used to work with regularly asked why we could not just specify the same door hardware on every project?

So why can’t we have the same door hardware on every project? It’s not just the capricious will of the interior designers or architects as perhaps some project managers sometimes think.  It is the fact that there are different performance requirements for doors on each project which often are based on differing client requirements for specific security, acoustics and even aesthetics (I had one client who had a fetish for sliding doors). I will admit is also true that there are also different aesthetic requirements on the part of the interior designer or architect as well.

In my opinion there are several difficulties we encounter when specifying door hardware:

  1. There are many objects that make up ‘door hardware’ and its not something that seems to be taught to students of architecture or interior design. If all goes smoothly on site, door hardware is not something that is examined in detail.
  2. The way that door hardware is often demonstrated in supplier images is frequently mystifying to the uninitiated – the lock or handle might be shown individually rather than any images of how it fits onto the door or with another piece of hardware. Often component parts are not clearly identified. I always found it quite hard to learn from supplier catalogues without any other explanations or understanding.
  3. There is then the challenge of getting all of the parts of the door and its hardware to coordinate together – in particular the door frames, the door handles and locks and the door seals – which come from different suppliers. Again the product information is often not clear enough to enable specifiers to be sure if their selections fit together, and because we are all trying to keep documentation costs down, hardware & seals are infrequently detailed.
  4. Finally the door hardware schedule itself tends to be quite detailed and often number or code heavy document which makes reviewing items against product information time consuming and checking onerous.

For these reasons interior designers and architects often rely on the door hardware representative to prepare the schedules for them. Whilst this is a very useful service, the interior designer or architect still needs to have some knowledge of door hardware. They have to be able to brief the door hardware specifier on the client requirements and communicate with the security consultants. If the interior designer doesn’t understand the details of door hardware it may be difficult for them to communicate these requirements. Someone also needs to check the schedule – just the same as you would have someone review something that was prepared in your own office.

My tips for specifying door hardware

  1. When you are learning – Work with an experienced door hardware specifier, this could either be someone in your office or a supplier. But don’t just expect them to prepare the schedule. Ask questions so that you start to understand what the hardware is actually being specified. Look up the information, diagrams or images in the catalogue to see if you can actually understand what it is being illustrated and ask questions if you don’t.  Look at door hardware on site too.
  2. Personally when briefing the door hardware consultant I like to use a door by door Revit schedule identifying the hardware requirements for each door and my selected hardware models. I ask the door hardware specifier to let me know if they disagree with any of my selections or have alternatives to offer. Here is an example.
  3. If you have specific situations where clearances are key, for example clearances between door handles and door frames on sliding door, prepare a fully detailed drawing to illustrate how the sliding door is supposed operate. Whilst it takes a bit more time, that way you won’t end up with a situation with people jamming fingers or handles installed on the glass when they were supposed to be on the stile. If there is a drawing and it doesn’t work the builder should come back to you with an RFI. This has saved me more than once. Once you have set up the details once, they don’t take too long to modify for slightly differing hardware configurations.  Here is an example.
  4. If you have electronic security or specific client security needs such as requirements for dual locking systems you may have to spend more time working through with the door hardware and coordinating with the security consultant on the details. The interiors/architectural hardware schedule needs to identify which doors have electronic security as well as include any physical security the security consultant requires.
  5. If RFIs come up in relation to the door hardware and you know the builder has substituted items ask the builder for the code numbers of the substituted items and make a record of this for the next time you specify. This is good practice with any RFI. I keep a list of all documentation errors, omissions or misunderstandings discovered on each project after tender stage (regardless of if our team found them, the builder queried issues or something just didn’t look right in the final product).
  6. If you have come up with a set of hardware that all works together, can you use it again? If it meets the project requirements there is no reason why not!

Do you have any tips for door hardware specifications and schedules? Do you have any questions on door hardware? Does anyone actually like specifying door hardware?

Image credits:

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  adrazahl