After much anticipation, Autodesk has finally launched its new Structural Design tool, Revit Structure, into the UK market. But what is the target market, why has it been introduced at Version 3 and what happened to 1 & 2? CADline’s Paul Woddy explains.
While we’ve been hearing a lot about Revit Structure over the past year, it was only officially launched in the UK last month. Versions 1 and 2 were tried out on the US market first in order to develop the functionality of the product without having to worry about localising everything. So Revit Structure 3 is effectively the first worldwide release and will be sold here in the UK together with AutoCAD 2007 as AutoCAD Revit Series – Structure.
Revit – or Autodesk Revit Building as it is now known – has contained a menu dedicated to structural modelling since the early days. So is Revit Structure any different?
Well yes and no. No, in that Revit Structure and Revit Building are developed as a common platform. Yes because it is different in terms of the interface and some of its capabilities which are tailored for structural engineers and technicians. Revit Structure has all the benefits of information-rich co-ordination and rule-based intelligence that we have started to take for granted with Revit, but with an engineering focus.
Many of the immediate visual differences can be explained as a change in the default template, view settings, and component libraries, but we have tools here that do not exist in the Building package – some of which would be very useful but let’s leave that for another article! The main target market here is Structural Engineers and Technicians and many of the interface choices are based around that demographic.
Autodesk define the theoretical process of using Revit Structure in two ways;
Autonomy: The engineer will develop the structural elements of a building in Revit Structure as an anatomical model, add loads and tweak the analytical model before round-tripping through an analysis tool to clarify the section sizes etc. Back in Revit, building sections and fabrication details are compiled and prepared for publication.
Teamwork: The architect supplies the engineer with a model of the building, either substantially complete or as a work in progress. The engineer extracts the relevant information from the model, taking for example walls and associated openings, while effectively ignoring the content of the opening. Grids and levels are transposed and if required, Top of Steel levels replace Finished Floor Levels. The engineer then works his magic and adds extra support where needed. The above analysis and preparation of drawings is the same, and then the model is issued to the architect for information and review. They can then show the structural frame in relation to the architectural fa?ade. If either party makes a change, then the copy monitor will highlight the alterations to the other team. Once we get the HVAC boys using the same system, we have a powerful building coordination tool.
" As the product and its associated links to analysis are still in their infancy, we will have to wait and see how they work effectively, but each analysis software house promises full two-way communication with the Revit model "
Whilst the benefits of the latter option are obvious, in the short term, whilst the market share of Revit Building is relatively small, we must assume that Revit Structure can operate effectively on its own. Several producers of analysis software have developed links with Revit, including RoboBAT’s Robot Millennium and Fastrak from CSC, which are both used extensively here in the UK. The decision by CSC is on the surface an odd one as they are effectively supporting a product in direct competition with their 3D+ software. When you dig deeper, however, it is a similar argument to the time-worn Architectural Desktop versus Revit discussion, which boils down to whether customers are in the market for SBIM (Single Building Information Modelling) or not. Either way CSC wants to maintain the position of Fastrak which is the company’s main focus.
As the product and its associated links to analysis are still in their infancy, we will have to wait and see how they work effectively, but each analysis software house promises full two-way communication with the Revit model, replacing elements and maintaining a co-ordinated model. The model can be started in Revit as suggested by Autodesk, or it can originate in the likes of Fastrak before being moved across to Revit for model presentation and drawing production.
One thing that we can say from experience is that where engineers have opted for Revit, the reasons have not always been for the links to analysis but more fundamentally, co-ordination of information and communication of this information in various formats. ‘A change made anywhere is a change made everywhere’ is a concept that interests people just as well in engineering as it does in architecture.
When an engineer/architect partnership adopts Revit as its platform, the results are astounding, with unparalleled levels of communication between the disciplines and then on to the customer. This has major implications on the industry as a whole with closer ties and better understanding of the finished building. Something I think worth striving for.