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Monday, August 5, 2019

Revit & the Design Process - The Making of "Stilted Studios" (Sketching, Lumion, & More)

Way back in 2013 I created a free eBook called "Design:BIM - A Guide to Using Revit During the Design Process".  The eBook documented how I used Revit while designing buildings.

Believe it or not, the eBook has been downloaded 10,746 times! I know, crazy, right??

Although my general process is similar, some of the tools and methods have changed over the last six years.  So, I decided to document (in this blog post and a video, below) how I approached the design of a recent, and really exciting, project called "Stilted Studios".  I am really proud of this post/video and it is full of tips, tricks, tools, and techniques.  From Revit to Lumion to hand sketching...  You name it.

Additionally, there is some long overdue BIM After Dark - Volume 1 enrollment news at the end of the post...

Keep reading to learn about my design process and the BIM After Dark course news...

For those of you who don't want to read or see the images and would rather watch a video about my design process on Stilted Studios, check out this video on YouTube.  Be sure to skim through the write-up either way as I have screen captured some of my settings and steps:

About the Project:

Stilted Studios is a great little project located in Northwestern Connecticut.  The existing house was built in the 70's to a somewhat contemporary style with steep shed roofs that split to create North facing clerestory windows.

The site slopes dramatically away from the house towards a lovely little stream that flows into the Farmington River.  The clients program was straight forward: a detached Yoga and Art studio that faces the stream/view.

Massing Diagram - Click to Enlarge

Massing Diagram - Click to Enlarge

Massing Diagram - Click to Enlarge

The design concept I came up with was two identical volumes, mirrored, rotated, shifted, and slid four feet down the slope.  The studios face away from each other and frame secluded views of the woods.  A covered wooden walkway connects the two masses and links the studios back to the house.

Below are a few more images from my design concept presentation to the owner (click to enlarge)...

My Revit Design Process

Step 1: Sketching (Yes, on Paper).

I know... You may find it hard to believe. But, it's true.  The Revit Kid does start all of his designs with good old fashioned sketching.  I've said it many times on this blog, Revit can make any shape, mass, or solid you desire.  Even though I do not feel restricted by what I can model in Revit, I am still constrained by scale and pragmatism (even when making a simple mass).

Even in my "BIM-centric" world there is still so much value in freehand sketching.  Studying the relationship between masses without worrying about them being drawn at 40' wide by 20' deep is such a freeing experience.

My tools of choice these days are pretty straight forward and haven't changed much:

- White or Canary Trace
- Uni-ball Vision Gel Pen (Fine): Black
- Sharpie Pen (Fine)
- Pentel Sign Pen (Black)
- Various Markers

One thing I've been getting into lately (thanks to Eric over at 30x40, who is actually releasing his own sketchbooks soon) is using toned paper.  I used it for many of the sketches on this project (like the page below).  There is something exciting about being able to add white to your sketches... Highlights, notes, etc...

A Page from my Sketchbook for "Stilted Studios"

I chose the sketchbook page above because it illustrates how I approach sketching ideas in one page (full disclosure, there are many other pages and trace scraps that came before this single page).  I will usually approach sketching a design by starting with a simple diagram (top right) and then hashing out what views of that mass might look like (ie.  an Axon, elevations, sections).  It's almost as if I am making some hypothesis about how that diagram will successfully exist in three-dimensions and full scale.

Once I get to a point similar to the page above where I am starting to hone in on one generally common idea with various views and thoughts it's time to start testing out my sketched "hypothesis" to full scale in Revit.

Step 2: Sketch Models (In Revit) 

Although I am laying out my process in a linear progression with five simple steps, step two usually cycles back with hand sketching (step one) in iterations.

Once I have an idea sketched similar to the level in the scanned page above I will begin using Revit to develop what is commonly known in architecture as a "sketch model".  This is a simple mass model with just the dominant features of the concept.  It is modeled relatively close to scale and simplified as much as possible so I can flex and move it like I would a physical sketch model.

I use the sketch model (and its many variations, usually) to create views to sketch over with trace.  I'll print out simple hidden line views (3D, plans, sections, etc...) to scale and sketch in the details over them.

Here is an example of the views I used to print out and sketch over to figure out the exterior details and floor plans off Stilted Studios:

Sketch Mass - Axonometric View

Sketch Mass Perspective View

And here is an example of how I trace over those sketched mass models:

Finally, here are some more developed versions of the "sketch model" as I added detail, printed, and sketched some more:

Step 3: Wrapping the Mass

Once the iterative process of sketching, massing, printing, sketching, massing, printing, sketching, and massing creates a design I am happy with it's time to add those sketched details.

How the model get's created from here depends on the design itself.  As you know, there are many ways to approach modeling something in Revit.  Sometimes, it makes sense to use wall by face and keep your mass for reference.

When using this method, always hide your mass... DO NOT DELETE YOUR MASS! 

Whenever you host a wall or curtain-wall to a mass you will always need that mass to update the profile of your walls/curtain-walls when things change. 

For Stilted Studios, I used a hybrid of basic modeling tools (walls, doors, floors, etc...) and the "wall by face" method.  I really wanted the clean shed shape toe be defined without any joints.  Additionally, I wanted the standing seam metal exterior to be modeled (and not just a texture).

I wouldn't suggest this for a larger project and I did move on to creating real walls and roofs for the construction documents but I actually ended up using the mass as my walls and roof.

I simply changed the category to "Walls" so I was able to host doors and windows to it!

The dreaded in-place mass... Dun dun dun.

I know, some of you may be cringing at the thought of an in-place mass being used as walls.  I promise you, as I write this post they have been converted to actual walls and roofs... Conceptual design is about getting your ideas out quickly and efficiently.  Just don't forget to take the time later on to make things "right".

I then used my standing seam metal roof technique to wrap the building with standing seam ribs:

Standing Seam Metal Panel Technique

The rest of the model was pretty straight forward.  I used curtain-walls for the south and north windows.  Floors, stairs, and railings for the covered walkway.  I used a line based array family I created years ago for the corrugated roof (for fun, check out this oldie but goody about parametric arrays... haha!).  Finally, I used my "wood slat wall" technique to represent a perforated breezeway wall to be designed by the owner later on:

Wood Slat Wall Technique for Breezeway

Click here to check out the video version of this workflow to see more about how I added detail to this model ...

Step 4: Sexy Revit Views

At this point in the process we have developed our concepts using hand sketching, Revit sketch models, and hand sketching over Revit sketch models.  We then added detail, scale, and building components to the chosen mass.

It's time to show the client...

It's time to make our design "sexy"...

In architecture, the way you present your design can be equally as important as the design itself.  You can have the greatest design solution ever thought of but if you cannot present it properly it may never get beyond the conceptual phase.

In Step 4, we are going to look at how I approach making Revit's views sexier (ie. Plans, Sections, Elevations, 3D Axons, etc...).

I have been using the same techniques on hidden line and shaded views for years.  The technique has only been modified due to additional features in Revit and some supplementary software.

My Sexy Revit Views Recipe:

1. Apply the 70/50/20 Rule - This refers to the graphic settings I use for all of my hidden/shaded views.  (As seen in BIM After Dark - Volume 1).
2. Always turn anti-aliasing on.
3. Adjust the scale of 3D views for better line-weights.
4. Use a dark solid fill for your plan and section cuts.
5. Export your views as image files for post-production.
6. Use Fotosketcher to soften up the images and add a little texture.

Here are my typical Fotosketcher settings for those interested:

If you are interested in learning more about the Sexy Revit Views recipe be sure to check out the video for this post as well as BIM After Dark - Volume 1 (enrollment information below).

Here are some examples of the Sexy Views Recipe in action from other projects:

Step 5: Sexy Renderings (Lumion)

Last, bust certainly not least, you simply have to come in with a sexy rendering or two these days.  The advancement of real-time rendering programs and insane graphics hardware accessibility make it all that much easier to create beautiful renderings of your design.

If you've followed this blog over the years it should be no surprise to you that I used Lumion (version 9) for the renderings of Stilted Studios.  For those of you new to the blog, here is a list of Lumion posts and reviews I've published over the years.

The Revit to Lumion workflow is extremely straight forward.

Here is a break-down of the process I took to get from a blank Lumion scene to the beautiful renderings of Stilted Studios you've seen in this post:

1. Export COLLADA file from Revit.
2. Import COLLADA file into Lumion.
3. Apply materials to imported model.  Tip:  Using custom materials and amplifying the "Relief" goes a long way in Lumion.
4. Add context (plants, trees, cars, people, grass, etc...). Lumion has an extensive library and you can import many different file types if needed.
5. Setup your camera views.
6. Add Effects. (Effects in Lumion are what will turn an average rendering into a great rendering).
7. Render.
8. Post-Process in Photoshop.

Again, here are the final renderings:

For a more in-depth look at the Lumion to Revit workflow I use check out the video to this post as well as BIM After Dark - Volume 1 (enrollment information below).


I hope you've enjoyed the making of "Stilted Studios".  Documenting your own design process and making it digestible for others was a tougher task than I thought it would be.  But, I hope it helped you to see how I approach design while using Revit.

To summarize, here are the steps of my design process:

Step 1: Sketching
Step 2: Sketch Models
Step 3: Wrapping the Mass
Step 4: Sexy Revit Views
Step 5: Sexy Renderings

If you enjoyed this type of post please comment below or send me an email and let me know.  It is a much longer post than I normally would write and takes some time to create, but if you find it valuable I will definitely do more!

Be sure to check out the companion video for additional information.

BIM After Dark - Volume 1: Summer Enrollment News!

If you enjoyed the content in this blog post and want to dive deep into my presentation techniques you'll definitely want to check out BIM After Dark - Volume 1.

BIM After Dark - Volume 1 will be open for enrollment on Wednesday, August 14th, 2019!

What is BIM After Dark - Volume 1?

Volume 1 is focused on one thing and one thing only: making your Revit models look good.  From floor plans, to topography, to sections, to diagrams, and renderings.  Volume 1 is a comprehensive course that will take your presentations to the next level.

Who will Volume 1 be for?

If you are tired of people telling you that BIM is not for presentations and that Autodesk Revit is only good for documentation, this course if for you.

If you spend hours developing a fully detailed building information model but find yourself underwhelmed with the graphic presentations and renderings it produces this course is for you. 

If you want to take your rendering, post-processing, and overall presentation skills to the next level with proven techniques, short-cuts, and processes this course is for you.

Finally, if you want to learn how to make images like the one below as quickly as possible then this course if for you.

What will it contain?

In "Revit Kid" fashion, the course will include simple, easy-to-follow, video tutorials, sample files, optional live sessions with me, and possibly some bonus items.

How do I enroll?