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.

29 thoughts on “Do Revit and Interior Design go together?

  1. Great post Ceilidh. As an ID educator we are often pushed by traditional ID communication processes, of which 2-D CAD is now a “traditional” format, and we are pulled by the needs of the profession which obviously wants a trained Revit technician that, oh by the way, should also know how to use every state of the art digital 3-D parametric design and rendering program from Photoshop to SketchUp to 3DS Max and also know how to create a design that is physically feasible and finally that they can put together a reasonable set of ConDocs.
    Many of our graduates end up in smaller ID firms that simply cannot afford the expense to upgrade from 2-D to 3-D (in the US that means ACAD to Revit) so we still have to devote increasingly valuable time to teach the 2-D basics, from manual drafting to ACAD. The fundamentals are still 2-D based but I suspect that will change as VR and Holographic projection develops…I digress.

    It is helpful to hear perspectives such as yours so that we know when the paradigm actually shifts from a 2-D focus to a 3-D focus in the ID world. It sounds like that moment is getting closer.

    I also believe that ID’ers have been slow to adopt to Revit and 3-D modeling because it was developed as an engineering tool more than a design tool. Then the Contractors realized they had a stake in it and they got involved and even the architects seemed to loose their stake as the battle for the model ownership and how it was to be used ensued…and is still brewing.

    ID’ers were not even part of that equation until clients began demanding photorealistic renderings of their buildings and interiors. Yes the scheduling and 4-6D aspects of BIM are where ID’ers can have a lot of impact. We have a lot of catching up to do.
    Thanks again for a compelling post and look forward to the follow up.

    • Michael, I don’t know that Revit was designed as an engineering tool — I have been using it for over a decade and the Structure was developed then, and MEP was non-existant until much more recently and is still catching up to Architecture — the consequence of Revit’s shortcomings is that the Architecture teams are left to model everything themselves in smaller firms/projects with less resources available for the Architectural aspects (many smaller engineering firms are reluctant to make the jump until now).
      Fortunately, Interior Designers don’t need to grapple with the structure and services.
      As for the needs and expectations of graduates, you might tell they look to the recruiting ads in your city and see what is relevant for most positions to get a feel for the skills most in demand — no-one expects new staff to know everything, and a graduate with good working skills in a key program is vastly more valuable than a person with very basic skills in lots of different things (unfortunately, many Universities and Colleges fail to grasp that fact); for example, Revit & Max/Lumion, ArchiCAD & ArtLantis, AllPlan & CineRender, Vectorworks & Cinema4D are frequently paired together so getting skilled on one of these pairs (depending on local demand) would be a great step forward, versus learning AutoCAD/Rhino/Sketchup which are used less and less if at all in contemporary practices. Also, this guide to BIM design software may be useful:

  2. As a provider of Revit and AutoCAD training on a global basis we can see where different regions of the world are making the transition from 2D AutoCAD to 3D Revit. When given the choice between learning how to use a tool that requires 5 times the effort of another tool, our students typically choose Revit over AutoCAD. The only time students choose AutoCAD over Revit is if they are in a part of the world where Revit is simply not used at all.

    I’ve trained over 200 ID students on AutoCAD and Revit and it never ceases to amaze me the feedback that I receive when I have students that come to both classes. The students that take AutoCAD and then Revit rejoice in not having to manually update elevations, create schedules, color fill plans, perspectives, renderings or anything that a traditional 2D CAD system cannot handle. The students that learn Revit and then must learn AutoCAD in order to work at a firm that has not made the transition cry like children that have had their candy taken away. It is painful for me to teach these classes when every other minute someone is complaining about how much time they are wasting on updating something in AutoCAD that Revit takes care of automatically.

    Regarding Ceilidh’s writing on the use of Revit for scheduling, please note that Autodesk has created a free plug-in that is specifically made for ID. It is available for free to students and to people that are on Revit subscription. The application is called Roombook. There is also one called Areabook and another called Buildingbook. All three tools are built into one plug-in.

    A video demonstrating the incredible power of Roombook can be found on YouTube by clicking this link:

    Thank you Ceilidh for starting this post. I will be sharing it and you others with all of our students.

    Best regards,

    Rick Feineis, ACE, ACI
    Training Online

  3. I really do appreciate your write-up Ceilidh, it has helped in a way, with that in mind, my challenges in the use of Revit interior are the materials and the finess after renderin. Modelling is on my good side as i create in groups articulately… and even model components not too tiny to get. My question, is there a site to get materials and what rendering settings would you recommend?

    • Hi David – I don’t personally do a lot of rendering, so I can’t really help too much with this question. Many of our projects don’t have full photo real renderings produced, we often use ‘white card’ models with only one or two key materials highlighted. If we have a requirement for high end photo real renders from the client we would usually outsource these. I find with interior design we have to make most of materials to suit the particular products selected, or in the early project stages we might just use the default libraries (for things like timber floors etc).

  4. Revit for ID is potentially going to reap the same rewards as Architecture, but at present it is lacking in a few areas. Presentation-wise, interior renders in Revit are unusable without first learning all the ins and outs of lighting — ambient lighting in never enough, and while exterior renders can look awesome with only sunlight, interiors range from too-dark-to-pitch-black.
    Scheduling has made quantum leaps in the current version but still has a qay to go — explore all the options there thoroughly huge time savings.
    The standard family components in Revit are pretty unusable for all but the least discerning designer, but for most ID elements, you can start by creating a generic, resizable family for each form on large-scale views (floor plans\sections) and then do your small-scale views (interior elevations) using detail lines and filled regions, a la AutoCAD. Most offices start off with Revit this way, while it isn’t ideal it works well enough to get off the ground, and as your office staff skills develop you can create an in-house library of quality families that show fine detail for interiors and medium detail for large-scale plans.

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  6. good to hear that interior designers have started the move to 3D
    I myself prefer Archicad much for the same reasons you are using Revit
    Both have their pros and vons but in all they deliver a powerful tool to the user that will pay itself back many times in regards of time and profit
    Wiuld like to see more users in our profession and espessially yours move to 3d
    Take care

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  8. Thanks for the article i really enjoy it ,
    for some reason i find sketchup give the freedom to focus in design and specially when link with Layout , now this days have a lot of plugins can save time like schedules and dynamic modeling and when vray come to his place in sketchup , give less hassle to render and put in layout , in the same time i am using a nanocad is totaly same with autocad when u come to 2D only , my second choice is archicad somehow in interiors come with many flexible design

  9. To follow up on the comment by Dominicus’, we are beginning to offer bite-sized tutorials for professionals in this space in the hopes that they will move to 3d. We’ve chosen to provide videos that provide instruction on Revit instead of Archicad since this tool is more familiar to us and some of the clients we’ve helped.
    Everything isn’t quite ready yet, but we’re close! Hopefully others will find the materials useful in their own efforts to learn this program and understand the benefits it can provide for interior design.

  10. Hi Ceilidh,

    Please let me introduce my self. My name is Mª Luisa Cabrillo,and I am an architecte that works in Madrid, in international projets.
    First of all congratulations for our article.
    I am gwtting in contact with you since I am inverse doing a Master of BIM Manager, and for my tesis, whose the theme is how BIM can also be use in the interior design phase, I am searching people that has already used BIM in interior phase and how was the experience.
    I have read your article, which is very interesting and with a lot of information that had helped me a lot for my investigation. I would to ask some question, if you kindly could answer them, I would appreciated.

    If you could be so kind to get in contact with me, I would appreciated.

    Many thanks for your time.

  11. You have presented your beautiful blog in good way which is i really like it keep doing well and you have done good work on this post, nice post keep updating with new post.

  12. Thanks Ceilidh and Rick,

    Thank you very much for your post. It is big help !!
    I have been using AutoCAD for over 15 years. Revit version 2010 and 2011 courses I took at Community College. In year 2015, took REVIT 2015 again
    because most architecture / ID firms in job market require the proficiency in REVIT.

    Last year ( 2016), I worked on Interior Remodeling on a very large Corporate Offices with AutoCAD. Took very long time for producing construction documents in scheduling: Door Schedule, Room Finish Schedule, Wall Schedule, Lighting etc.. Now ( June/ July 2017 ), I have been practicing those schedules with REVIT. Found Revit saving a lot of time in scheduling than AutoCAD !

    Best Regards.

    • That’s great! Schedules are one of the best features of Revit for interior designers. It surprising how many people do not use them even if they are using Revit.

  13. This is a great post Ceilidh. As a residential Interior Designer, I can say that Revit does not necessarily work for me. What you said about the scheduling in Revit and the 3D capabilities of it are true. You can even have greater control over lighting, easily manipulate materials to a point and give clients walkthroughs of their new space. For commercial purposes I find Revit is becoming very popular even amongst Interior Designers. Where Revit really falls short is the ability to easily and quickly create a depiction of one off items (which for residential design can be every item in the design) while AutoCAD makes it easy to create one or two views for that unique or even fully customized piece our clients are looking for. For those of us in residential design, there just seem to be too many variables for Revit to be useful at this time. For the residential architectural and engineering components of a buil, Revit would be very useful and simplify the process but for the interior design components, more than likely we would have to create each faucet, couch, door handle, etc to give the clients a somewhat accurate depiction of the space. It is much harder for some residential clients to visualize even with a products general idea. Instead, I find most clients want to see the exact product, color, and lighting effects in the 3D models and often they even want near immediate production of it. Once the manufacturer library in Revit is bulit more extensively with plumbing, cabinets (especially this for me), and residential furniture then I feel that it will be able to be of much more use to residential designers. Until then, it will be a great tool for commercial design.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Out of interest – how would you do this with autocad? Do you find more products are available or do you use another software like 3D max anyway? With revit you also always have the option to use 3dmax or even photoshop to create your final presentation.

  14. I am an advanced user of both Revit, Sketchup & 3DS Max and I can definitely say that Revit is not suitable for Interior Design particularly at design & development phase. It lacks intuitiveness and lots of tools needed for 3D details modeling. Interior Design is different from Architectural Design and you have lots of custom and complex shapes and objects in it that Revit can not model. I never use Revit for presentation to the client. Only for documentation of big projects.

    • Hi Bijan. A key weakness of Revit versus many other products (like 3DS/Sketchup/FormZ) is that Revit’s conceptual modelling (ie. masses / family editor) is very limited — it seems the design intent of the program has been to only allow creating forms that are possible using traditional construction materials and techniques, which are ever-changing and evolving, while the software remains largely the same. FormZ for example, is extremely good at free-form modelling and then converting whatever form into a manufacturable part or parts, Sketchup/3DS share some of the same free-form modelling as FormZ and you can then insert that model into Revit for analysis, design development and documentation, however this workflow doesn’t suit most firms for various reasons.
      Autodesk recently took a first step to remedy this issue, with FormIt Pro, which allows fluid, easy, free-form modelling, which can then be linked into your Revit project and adjusted as needed during the design process. Hopefully, they add more functionality to the program and further integrate it with Revit, but for now it’s a very usable and useful tool for schematic design (and energy/solar analysis/etc), for architects, engineers and interior designers.

      • Hi Bijan and Rodriguez. Thanks for reading and commenting. I think perhaps it depends a bit on the kind of interiors you work on, and the workflows within your practice. Often I find that if it’s difficult to model in revit, it means it is also difficult to build. So that might not be the outcome we actually want. Of course it depends on the client and project budget.
        While sometimes it may take a bit longer to model, this can be balanced out by the speed and ease with which you can document, and in particular schedule.
        Since I write this post more and more practices are switching to Revit as an interior design software. It might not be right for every practice but Revit should not be discounted.

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  16. I’ve been using revit for about 6 years now and I’ve been practicing professionally in commercial interior design for 20years. Revit is the best thing since sliced bread, and the same has to be said for vectorworks, as the latter is just as capable as revit, but allows one to create those early 3d visuals without as much work. Although I have to say, revit does outperform everything else when it comes to simply churning out drawings and automating/facilitating monotonous tasks, tagging, scheduling, etc..

    • One of the things I find is some tasks take more time, but many take less. Sometimes it also is a matter of working out the best ways to do something efficiently.

  17. I have just started transitioning to Revit for my interior projects. For my first project, I have made a parametric Wardrobe Family with internal shelves but I have not gone further with parametric families for other areas because it consumes a lot of time.
    So what I’ve done, is that I have created just an extrusion for the other spaces like kitchen cabinets, etc. and finished it off with model & symbolic lines.
    I hope to create parametric families for all my casework & furniture units one day and add them all to my content library.

    I’m still getting used to scheduling too. Let’s see how that pans out.

    But yes! Revit is definitely the way forward!

    Manish (Host & Founder of the Archgyan Podcast)

    • Haha yes you can spend a lot of time with too much detail. I’ve done the same thing with wardrobes!
      It’s a matter of finding the right balance of what will work best for your projects and the outcomes you are trying to achieve.

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