REVIT Architecture: Hand Drafting for 3D

I was tasked with writing an article about Architecture in the industry focusing on an Autodesk product.  Being that I am a BIM Manager for The Austin Company, one of the most storied design-build firms, Revit Architecture is the first thing that comes to mind. 

Merriam-Webster defines industry as “systematic labor especially for some useful purpose or the creation of something of value”.  From the same source, the definition of architecture is “the art or science of building”.  So, how do these two words tie together for something meaningful related to Revit?

Since the inception of Revit Architecture, it has been billed as the industry’s answer to all of the 2D coordination issues arising from normal AutoCAD.  I know you’ve heard the old song and dance about AutoCAD being just lines, not always to scale, etc…  So, I won’t quote all of these to you.  The truth is that Revit is more efficient, better coordinated and, did I say more efficient, than any engineering software program out there. (See Fig. 1)  Yes, I said engineering software program.  I know that it’s easy to think of Revit Architecture as a program that makes pretty pictures and spits out 2D drawings, but, at its core, Revit Architecture is a design tool like no other.

Being a BIM Manager, I have the opportunity to train a lot of beginning to intermediate architects on Revit Architecture.  What I have noticed is that, much to my surprise, not every architect out there knows Architecture.  Now I’m not saying that this is always the case.  Noticing how we live in an “I need it yesterday” society, there isn’t a lot of time to train the up-and-coming architects.  A big reason for this is technology and how it has affected our day-to-day operations.  Going down the history of architectural drafting, there is a timeline for why this may have happened.

First there was hand drafting (See Fig. 2), where the architects really thought about what they were drafting.  For two main reasons: One, they took pride in the artistry of their work; and two, they really didn’t want to erase it and draw it all over again.  Granted, hand drafting took a lot of time, but in the background, with every stroke and every sharpening of the pencil, the architect was constructing that building in his mind.  There was plenty of time to finish the project because time was needed.  With ample time, proper instruction and teaching was the norm for the next generation of architects.

Then came AutoCAD and everyone couldn’t believe how easy and precise it was to draw on a computer. And oh, the time that could be saved per project!  This eventually pushed the hand drafters to the side with a handshake and a “thanks for the good job, but we don’t need your services anymore.”    What wasn’t considered at that time was the separation of the hand from the mind.  Instead of the hand drafter working with his tools, his hands, we were told that the keyboard was just an extension of them.  Except there were more non-architectural issues to worry about.  Remembering commands, worrying about fonts, why isn’t it printing, etc…  If that weren’t enough, this new technology took away from the art of building and put the onus on getting the job out of the door as quickly as possible.  When delivery date trumps quality, the project suffers.  I’m not naïve enough to think that the architects of past had an unlimited amount of time to finish the projects, but it was always quality first.

So, now there’s Revit Architecture.  From the outside, everyone will tell you that it’s BIM (Building Information Modeling), it will solve all of your coordination problems, and it’s the end of RFI’s (Request for Information).  Well, yes and no.  The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” really applies here.  Translated, the more information you put into your model, the more efficient your model will be for you.  Revit has taken the industry by storm, in every aspect of that phrase.  Now there is a light at the end of the efficiency tunnel.  There are so many directions one can take that it’s hard to envision the future of this software.  From 3D to 4D (Scheduling) to 5D (Estimating), Revit has endless possibilities.  One can utilize information from a model for pre-engineering all the way to commissioning. 

These are exciting times for the AEC community.  But, let’s not forget the most important fact about this software.  Revit forces you to construct the building in your mind just as the architects of old. (See Fig. 3)  This isn’t just linework anymore.  This is a tool that the older generation of architects can use to teach the younger generation what architecture is all about.  They can explain to the younger generation just what a hollow metal door is and, through the process of modeling and adding parameters to the door family, it becomes real.  They can make the younger generation understand that we’re modeling with the end in mind, which is exactly what they were drafting for. It’s more than just for the next line drawn. 

In summation, as a combined definition, Revit incorporates the systematic art of building for the creation of something of value.  After all, value is really what we’re striving for.  This is Revit Architecture’s greatest attribute.


Matthew Hill is the BIM Manager for The Austin Company, a Design-Build AEC firm with offices in Cleveland, Irvine, Atlanta and Kalamazoo. He has been customizing, utilizing and providing training for AutoCAD for 16 years and Revit for 5 years. Matthew has produce Revit projects with multiple Architectural clients, all with varied experience levels. Matthew currently sits on the executive board for NEORUG. He was a speaker at Autodesk University in 2008 for "Efficient CAD Management Through Customization". He has also given multiple presentations on Revit and the multi-disciplinary functions of Revit as well as training sessions for Architectural clients.

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