Sunday, February 15, 2015

Big Project Commandments

Last year I was working on a large, multi-phase, multi-discipline project at an architectural firm. These are some notes I took. Please consider this advice:

  1. Everybody, including people sending in RVTs from other disciplines, must have the same update release of Revit. The "Application Manager" that installs with Revit 2015 may falsely indicate that the software is all up to date. This post gives directions on how to get to R2:

    When everyone is using the same software version, we can seek other explanations when strange bugs are encountered. 
  2. Decide early what Phases will be used and what they will be called.
  3. Location: Everyone must know what the origin of the project should be so we can link our RVTs together without having to move them. If using laser scans, ideally they will use the same origin.
  4. Levels and Grids: Do not add unnecessary ones willy-nilly. Decide who controls them. Use Scope Boxes on large projects to control Level and Grid extents.
  5. Model things in 3D where possible if they will be seen in more than one view.
  6. Worksets: Use them for performance only. They are not layers. They are not phases.
  7. Model things rectilinearly when at all possible. Capturing reality has its limitations in Revit. Modelling walls not rectilinearly has a big overhead. Using a point cloud can help us average out the position of things and still keep them square. If you have to skew things, think about the implications.
  8. To keep maximum performance, when sharing RVTs in a large project between the architects and subs, the files need to have the views & sheets deleted and purge-unused. This is somewhat laborious. Decide who will do it. It's nice to have it done before the RVTs are transmitted.
  9. Press & Drag: It's on by default when Revit is installed. Having it turned off is safest in most cases while modelling in Revit. This will avoid inadvertent dragging of elements.
  10. Move with Disjoin. Be careful. Sometimes it's needed but it can cause major problems. See
  11. Forget using Wall Sweeps. Model in-place with sketched profiles or profile families. This gives us more control, plus we can copy them around.
  12. Last one leaving for the evening does a save-as with compress Central.
  13. Everyone makes a new Local in the morning when starting work. Keep your old Locals if you have space. If something gets deleted accidently, it may be able to be copy-pasted in from an old Local.
  14. Purging-unused can help performance. It can also erase things we need. Use prudently.
  15. Worksharing Monitor is a good thing. It lets us see when others are synchronizing, etc. 
  16. Laser Scans: If existing conditions are important, having an in-context point cloud allows us to have a mostly objective knowledge of where things are in 3D space. If you've ever worked with scan data, going back to projects that don't have it and guessing where everything is is tough.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Turning artwork to mesh for import to Revit

This is a tutorial on making meshes for the Mesh Import app, which lets us bring meshes into Revit's project environment. This is one way of making a mesh.

The free online app, Tinkercad, lets one import an SVG and turn it into a solid.


Find or make an image and turn it into SVG format is an easy way to do it.

In Tinkercad, select your SVG:

Give it some parameters and click "Import":

You get this:

Download the OBJ:

Using the Revit add-in Mesh Import, import the new OBJ file:

 You get this:
Same thing in Revit with edge lines turned off

Use the art as you wish in your project:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Getting Revit to start while debugging API apps with Visual Studio 2013

To debug Revit API apps with Visual Studio 2013, one has to start Revit 2015 and then run the DLL created.

Out of the box, one will get this crash of Revit before Revit even gets open:

As indicated in Jeremy Tammik's blog, the answer is to switch to managed compatibility mode.

Thence, Revit will start as expected under Visual Studio's debugger.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Photogrammetry Mesh into Revit as Point Cloud

I made a photogrammetry mesh of a building facade in the free version of Recap 360 from about 50 images. It came out really well, even though all of the photos were taken from ground level.

From there, I downloaded the files as a ZIP, which contains the mesh as OBJ. Its "materials" are also included, but using them is another issue.

I opened the mesh in the open-source MeshLab. It looks very good. 

The big challenge is to get it to the proper scale. A known distance on the building is required. I assumed that the double doors are 6 feet wide.

From the mesh, using the Measuring Tool in MeshLab, it read 4.493.

6 feet equals 1.83 meters 

I calculated 1.83 ÷ 4.493 = 0.407 (remembering that number).

I export from MeshLab as format XYZ. I believe that MeshLab writes a line in the file for each vertex point in mesh.

Thence, I started a new project in ReCap and chose the XYZ file.

How did I get the points scaled correctly?

ReCap's units are meters. Under the scan settings, I changed "Unit: 1 Meter" to 0.407.

I also reduced the decimation to 1mm.

The points came into ReCap.

I saved the RCP file to bring into Revit.

I imported the RCP into Revit, center-to-center.

Using Measure Between Two References in Revit, I found the point cloud's size to be correct. 

I then had to rotate, and move, the point cloud. Now, it's ready to trace.

PS: An alternative method would be to scale the mesh in MeshLab to meters before exporting the XYZ file. The concept is explained in this video: . That way, the scale would not have to be altered in ReCap.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Autodesk Revit 2015 Update -- R2

In September, 2015, Autodesk published their latest update release "R2". It is actually the fifth update release to Revit 2015. Its name, getting it, and installing it, are all rather confusing. When it's all installed, if you look at Revit's "About" dialog...

it should look like this:

Yes, they're calling it "Update Release 4" in that dialog.

You can get the update from the Autodesk's Subscription Center at

You need to have a valid log-in to get it.

The installer for full Revit is named "Autodesk_Revit_2015_R2.sfx.exe". Be particular about which one you download, and match the flavor of Revit you are updating. For example, if one has full Revit installed, the Architecture one won't do anything.

The update will only work on the initial release of Autodesk Revit 2015 (build: 20140223_1515) or Autodesk Revit 2015 Update Release 3 (build: 20140606_1530), according to its release notes (and my limited experience). If you have an update release installed besides 3, you can uninstall and install Revit 2015, then run the EXE.

Application Manager

If you have Autodesk's app, "Application Manager" installed but don't have admin rights in Windows, it may tell you it's already installed the update. However, it doesn't actually do anything (in my experience). Even if you have an administrator account, the notices of "Application Manager" may be wrong. You really have to check Revit's "About" dialog to see what version of 2015 you are actually running. "Application Manager" is a good idea but it installs without asking the user, runs on startup, and doesn't seem to work right. It can be uninstalled after the initial Suite install.

R2 Thoughts

Everyone knows that it's best for people working on the same Revit project all to run the same version (update release) of Revit. There is no sure way to know what the side effects of not doing that are.

Autodesk claims that a productivity enhancement of R2 is "Work in perspective views, making quick adjustments without having to change views with some modeling capabilities now available in perspective views." If anyone can find that enhancement in reality, please let me know. Update: Autodesk has documented the features, including a video at

An interesting feature of R2 is that it comes with Dynamo installed. That's a whole new world of programmatically controlling Revit. See

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sketchy Lines In Revit 2015

This is an improvement, especially when one is trying to imply that one's design is still in the conceptual stage. People often see things produced on computers and take them for the literal outcome.

I have observed that sketchy lines do not affect arcs in views, which limits the usefulness of the feature. Text is also not affected, so fonts need to be changed appropriately to add to the sketchy effect

You can go from this:
To this:

First, "Enable Sketchy Lines" in the view's Graphics Display Options:
Set the parameters: 
You may like to set the Course Scale Fill Pattern to a solid grey color for your Course detail level for each wall type:
In all of your tags, you will want a sketchy font like "Buxton Sketch"
The only workaround for arcs not being sketchy that I know of is to replace them with straight line segments but that is not too practical. Making door swing lines thicker helps the appearance, somewhat.