Revit for Interiors – its not perfect

receptionThis post is a follow up to my last post – Do Revit and Interior Design go together? Whilst I totally believe the answer is a resounding yes, and I am a big fan of using Revit for Interior design, there are certainly a few areas where it could be improved.  In my last post I wrote about the benefits you can gain understanding your outputs and from setting up your standards and libraries – both families and materials.  Whilst these will help you make the most of Revit, there is one particular area we can’t completely fix by setup, standards or processes.  This is the way that Revit understands  materials and finishes, and in my view is one of the most significant of Revit’s limitations. I think this is what has hampered its uptake by interior designers.  However, if you understand how Revit ‘thinks’ and you organise your office documentation – you can work around this.  (Autodesk I hope you are reading…improvements for Revit 2017?)

Revit is pretty crude in its understanding of material versus finish. When I talk about material versus finish, I mean a wall is made of plasterboard, but it’s finish is a certain type and colour paint. A material is a piece of stainless steel, it’s finish could be brushed or linished.  Most of the time Revit can’t differentiate between these two concepts. In the materials library, each ‘material’ is both material and finish (or can be). This lack of differentiation is one of the reasons why implementing Revit for interiors can be a challenge – because it simply makes no sense! (And so does not align with how most firms would document)

Why would you have a wall type for every paint colour – well of course you wouldn’t! Revit sort of gets it, this is why the paint tool exists – however it’s a slow and only partial solution.  One of the key things to understand about the paint tool is that it only works for system families – that is walls, floors, ceilings (and I think roofs). Which us a bit crazy really – because I’d more often paint a door than I would a floor.  ***this applies only when you are within a project environment, thanks to Aaron Maller, check the comments section to see how to use the paint tool within families***

So when it comes to doors, casework (joinery) or any family we build – we have to make a decision – are we documenting our door as MDF or are we documenting it as a specific colour MDF? What do we need to show in a rendering and what do we need to schedule? This could be different for different offices, but in terms of managing your materials library, it’s best to agree an office wide standard. In our office, the door material would usually include both the core material and the paint finish, because we have a range of core materials that differ from door to door, and they may not be otherwise detailed. However generally casework either has all the same core material, or we detail the core construction, so we would often just specify the surface material eg laminate or stone facings.

For walls, we generally have a rule that if the wall has an applied finish with thickness it would usually be modeled separately.   So for example wall panels or tiles are modeled as a secondary wall, whereas paint is applied using the paint bucket.  This rule (mostly) works well for interiors, although I know of a few situations where it doesn’t work so well for exterior wall constructions – for example different colours of aluminium panels or different colours of brickwork.  However, we do change the rules for large projects where there are limited wall types and all the tiles are floor to ceiling – then we usually build the tiles as part of the wall types – for these project types and the way we model and document, it is the most efficient way of working for us.   As I said, its really up to you and your office standards as to if you use paint, a new wall type or a separate wall layer – they will have slightly different behaviours when modeling and scheduling, so it depends on what you want as outputs.

***The other important tool to know about is the split face tool.  This allows you to separate sections of wall faces using sketch lines and apply different finishes to each.***

If you are going to use the paint tool, it is quite limiting. You can only apply it in elevation and with out of the box Revit you can also only tag it in elevation.  ARUtils includes a tool which allows you to tag painted items in plan.  I have also had people query how to find the items they have applied paint to – it is annoying but possible by using a materials take off schedule which gives you the option to schedule ‘material as paint’.

Which brings us to creating materials and finishes schedules. Now maybe many of you have got this one figured out by now – but it had me completely baffled for a couple of hours the first time I went to make one – there is no option for a materials schedule? Then someone kindly informed me I needed to use a material take off – even if you don’t want to take off the quantities! (you just don’t include this parameter) The other important difference in setting up a materials schedule is that you use the parameters that start “Material:Keynote” or “Material:Name”. The other parameters in the list are the parameters of the objects themselves and not the materials.

A couple of important last tips on materials schedules – manage your library well and don’t have duplicate items with similar names and the same keynotes – this will save you a lot of time when you are scheduling. Also be aware that there are 2 parts to the materials dialogue box – and one part, the ‘appearance’ tab relates only to rendering – none of the information stored there appears in your Revit schedule (maybe there is an add in to do this? If anyone knows of one, I’d love to know). The data that appears in your schedule is the data under the ‘Identity’ tab – and that’s it. You can’t add extra parameters to materials (again if there is a way, this is something I would really find useful). For this reason, I don’t recommend including your company name in the material name, because then you essentially lose another parameter for scheduling.  ***Again my readers have helped me out on this – you can add extra parameters to materials, you just can’t do it within the materials editor, you have to go to manage->project parameters to add them.  I still wouldn’t recommend including your company name in the material name though***

Finally remember that in order for a material to schedule – it must exist in the project. Be particularly cautious of this if you have a habit of painting one wall to force a colour into the schedule and then you delete it…One solution to this is to use a phase before the demolition phase to create objects with all your materials on them and schedule from here (demolish the objects in the same phase). I find this particularly useful on projects where I need to generate finishes schedules for the client or contractor before the design is fully resolved (and therefore not yet modeled). It can also provide the base place for all of the project users to find the correct materials.

Originally this post was going to be about a few more things…but I have recently been teaching some classes on materials and found I had a lot to say!  So you can look out for another post on Revit and interiors sometime next year.  In the meantime, what are your tips and tricks for best using Revit materials? Do you have those odd door schedules where your doors are made of yourcompanyname_Glass_Clear? Have problems with materials and scheduling them made you give up on Revit? Share your thoughts whilst I take some summer holidays!

Ceilidh Higgins

Image Credits: DJRD project image

PS. Sorry if you have commented on the last post and it has taken a while for it to appear. I have had some problems with the comments management section of the website.

12 thoughts on “Revit for Interiors – its not perfect

  1. Just as an FYI… the paint tool *does* work on Components… it just has to be done in the Family Editor. You can tie the “Paint” command to a Material Parameter as well, meaning that you dont have to assign any actual Material to the Paint command in the Family Editor. So the doors, for example: Ours have 5 possible “Revit Materials:”

    1. Material 1
    2. Material 2
    3. Material 3
    4. Finish 1
    5. Finish 2

    The first three materials are applied to the geometry of the door panels themselves (Material 1 is always there, 2 and 3 only exist on multi material doors, obviously). The Material parameter Finish 1 and Finish 2, are “painted” on the panel in the family editor, and they work exactly as the Paint tool does, in the project. You can select the door, and apply a *Material* and a *Finish* (I concede, it is a revit material, haha). The door panel gets the cut patter of Material 1, but renders and shows in elevation as Finish 1. =)

    • Aaron – Thanks so much for posting this tip! You are a Revit God. This is definitely a great thing to know about, that I would imagine many people have never found.

  2. Hi Ceilidh,

    I’m interested to know if you find Parts and Divisions useful as a middle ground option between using the Paint Tool to manage for example multiple Wall materials (as finishes) versus the need to model additional Walls types ?

    Gary Page

  3. Thanks Ceilidh, i enjoyed your perspective once again (and thanks for the content wizardry Aaron)
    For walls with varying finish (paint/colour) like your colour brick example; I’ve achieve this using the split face tool. Its clunky, but can make for a rewarding render. For more consistent finish/material layers you can use stacked walls, although I’ll admit there’s little to be gained from a complex set of stacked wall types over a tile/stone/finish wall layer drawn over te core wall type. (Assuming you arnt constrained to a linked design model imported from some other software)
    Further to your point on losing practical use of the material:name parameter; I don’t recommend using company name, initials or any other identifier in the name of anything in your revit library or template apart from its identifying attributes. (“Glass_Clear” to reuse your example)
    I’ve yet to hear a good reason to include an Id prefix/suffix as part of a naming convention which wasn’t centred on preventing loss of IP (there are better ways). While this is far less relevant with materials, adding a prefix/suffix is just enforcing clutter.

    Once again, looking forward to the next instalment.

    Enjoy your holidays!

    • Thanks Andrew – I’ve added reference to split face also. I do use stacked walls from time to time, but generally not for finishes. I think this would get hard to manage.

  4. Hi Ceilidh,
    Good Stuff. Just wondering what is your workflow while documenting Joinery/bathrooms in big project environment ? For example iam working in a multistorey resi project having 35 floors. We have wonderful 3d library for joinery. Build a kitchen with nested modules are not very time consuming. But when come to project when you put kitchen in groups and copied across 35 floors, its blowing up the file size. Am thinking of this way , iam not sure whether is it recommendable (not very BIM manner) ,create blocks having only cooktop and sink just represent the kitchen and for scheduling purpose and do the documentation using 2d detail components. definitely it will reduce the file size and help the people those are not comfortable with 3d elements but not sure is there any better way doing the documenting joinery.

    • Hi Ela – Unfortunately I think there is no ideal way to avoid the problems of large file sizes if everything is modeled in 3d. We work in a similar manner with groups replicated throughout the project so that everything is in 3d and can be counted and scheduled. The only advice I can offer is to keep a close eye on the family sizes and don’t model unnecessary detail into a family. Some things to look out for are any autoCAD junk in your families and too many arrays. Sometimes it is better to create more or simpler families rather than one big super family that does everything if it is going to be repeated many times. I created a super wardrobe once, it automatically calcuated the number of doors based upon the length as well as filling the inside with shelves and cupboards. But multipy that by a couple of hundred instances and it bogged the model down.
      It is also worth considering if your project could be split into multiple linked models – although of course the downside to this could be having to load groups and families into multiple files.
      The way groups and families work for large scale repetitive projects is something that autodesk could really help us out by addressing further.

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