When Project Spark was introduced to Autodesk Labs, it seemed only a matter of time before Autodesk launched an entry-level BIM modelling tool. This month Project Spark left the lab environment and manifested itself as Revit LT.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) software providers would have us believe that the technology is widely adopted and spreading fast. The reality is that we are still in the early adopter stage and the mass market has yet to make that move. It is true that many firms are actively learning about BIM, considering how to run pilot projects and deal with the cultural issues of conversion.
Having had such a dire market for the past five years (thank you for the debt bubble dear bankers), many architectural firms have been operating on very low margins and the idea of re-equipping and investment in BIM has often been put on the back burner. However, with looming legislation and technically savvy firms investing, the time seems ripe for the software companies to provide a lower point of entry to BIM.
On page 31 we have news of ArchiCAD’s Solo entry level offering and now Autodesk enters the scene with Revit LT. It is now possible to equip an architect with a BIM modelling tool that costs less than £1,500.
Autodesk’s Revit LT is primarily designed for architects who use 2D workflows and want to transition to a BIM process.
In many ways Revit LT harks back to the initial benefits of Revit — build a 3D model and get 2D drawings as a byproduct. Make a change to the model and all the drawings will update and incorporate the new design. While it may require more initial work to build the model, when edits and changes come huge productivity benefits will be gained in reducing the reworking of production documents. Full Revit offers MEP and Structural, conceptual and energy analysis, together with the ability for teams of users to work on shared files.
Revit LT is all about modelling a design to produce documentation from the perspective of the single user. Revit LT also lacks the built-in rendering capability of its big brother but this can be overcome through purchasing an Autodesk subscription, which provides access to cloud-based rendering and does not tie-up the desktop machine when producing lovely photorealistic images. Unfortunately the online structural and green building analysis is not accessible from within Revit LT.
Targeted at the new BIM convert, Revit LT comes with a suite of learning tools, videos and wiki help, so the self-starter will be able to teach themselves the basics of modelling and documenting in Revit LT. For those that do not want to give up their AutoCAD LTs there is also a Suite which includes both AutoCAD and Revit LT for a small incremental cost.
However, new users be warned that the more editing down to Revit LT’s output drawings, the smaller the benefits of their automatic production as all that traditional 2D reworking will have to be done again with each change. It is best to learn to love the Revit LT output as it is.
Perhaps the weakest point of Revit LT is its data exchange capabilities. Revit LT can exchange designs in the DWG or RVT file formats. There is no support for IFC or GBXML. This is very much a ‘child’ of Revit and is best used with other Revit users. The ability to produce designs in the DWG file format is perhaps the most ‘popular’ format but you lose a lot of the ‘I’ in BIM.
Revit LT is aimed at the small architectural firm that wants to trial BIM. This could be done by simply cross-grading an existing AutoCAD LT seat into a Revit LT seat. There is even a free downloadable trial version.
The lack of compatibility for other BIM systems means that Revit LT really is a one way ticket to full blown Revit at some point in the future as all the data created in Revit LT will only make sense in a pure Revit collaborative team.
Existing Revit customers will love Revit LT as there is finally a cheap seat option for teams that work on creating families of parts or just concern themselves with producing 2D documentation as here Revit LT offers no compromises at a bargain price.
For £1,100 for a stand alone seat, it is great value, especially when you consider the horrendous price of AutoCAD LT.
The Suite at £1,500 ensures customers get to keep their AutoCAD LT and again is a pretty good bundle price.
Iain Godwin – Godwin Consulting
Firms will be attracted by the low price at a time when investment in Building Information Modelling (BIM) is achieving serious momentum. The target market appears to be smaller projects, smaller practices or single practioners with Autodesk revealing that “Revit LT is ideal for single users who do not need to collaborate in the same project file simultaneously with others.”
LT could be the baseline training platform for BIM, but it will not aid an understanding of the definitions to support integrated design and documentation processes across multi-disciplinary shared models.
Can Revit LT replace SketchUp in the early stage design explorations? It is more likely to move the boundaries between pure geometrical exploration in Sketchup and BIM modelling rather than replace it.
Intelligent modelling will start earlier in the process as Revit users transition workflows to BIM processes. The cloud-based rendering solution on the subscription licence will promote an early quality approach to visualisation.
Revit LT is likely to find a sweet spot among smaller firms that are now more easily able to justify the cost. Middle sized and large practices will need to stick with industrial strength BIM.
Paul Woddy – Revit Guru
Revit LT could be a game changer for this market. A high price-point has always been a stumbling block for many looking to dip into Building Information Modelling (BIM).
The Autodesk policy of grouping products into suites has only pushed this entry point further away, so Revit LT and the release last year of ArchiCAD LT can only be good for BIM.
When government strategy is sharply focused on bringing the trailing edge of the AEC market over to BIM, this could well be what everyone has been waiting for.
Some might say that the removal of file-sharing features and the fact that this is exclusively for Architecture may be backward steps, but neither multi-user access nor pretty pictures are what makes BIM successful; communication and the manipulation or management of data is where the future of this industry lies, both of which can be achieved with Revit LT so lowering the entry price will open the floodgates.
David Light – Case-Inc
Revit LT is compelling, especially if moving from a 2D-based workflow. But users need to be aware of the limitations; and there are plenty. No massing, no work sharing, limited structural modelling, no inbuilt rendering. Models can be shared by linking files, but multiple users cannot work on the same model together. Can you live with those limitations?
The removal of massing is a big mistake. Many small firms would like to use a data-centric process during the concept design stage. Extracting area and volume data and sun studies on simple forms at an early stage is important. It builds the foundations of a Building Information Modelling (BIM) process. SketchUp could be used for concept work and brought into Revit LT, but it adds another level of complexity to the process.
Will Revit LT have a profound impact in the AEC industry? It is difficult to say. Availability of ready-made Revit content for use inside Revit LT is plentiful, which is important. Revit LT could be an ideal start point for an AutoCAD LT user working on small projects with no need to collaborate.
Joe Croser – Oundle Group
At first glance Revit LT is positioned to do for Revit what LT did for AutoCAD — dominate. Thanks to Autodesk’s omnipotent marketing machine and huge user base Revit is synonymous with Building Information Modelling (BIM).
The addition of a cut-price, slimmed-down, version could likely tempt two distinct markets: small firms that have (until now) adopted a ‘watching brief’ for BIM, and large firms that have successfully trialled Revit and are now (if they could afford it) ready to deploy enterprise-wide.
But, by slashing the feature set larger firms will be unable to deploy Revit LT across the enterprise. The removal of model sharing capabilities from Revit LT renders it useless as an adjacent seat to full Revit copies. If LT users cannot collaborate on the same model at the same time using workshare functionality, then LT cannot be deployed as an adjacent seat to full Revit licenses in much the same way as AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT can.
That leaves the larger firms where they are today — facing a big bill to roll out Revit across all desks.
Autodesk is afraid to cannibalise Revit sales by offing key functionality to large enterprises for a reduced price. But as we learned with the existing LT offering, it is better to risk self-cannibalisation than get eaten by the competition.