Custom Revit Plugins
Use automations to give your team more time for design!
What’s Revit, and why do we need plugins for it?
Revit is a 3D modeling software used to create replicas of buildings, used by architecture, engineering, and construction industry professionals. Revit is considered one of the most advanced data authoring tools which can be used for communication, information management, sheet generation, and more.
More and more companies, including small boutique firms, are shifting away from more traditional, 2D print paper based workflows to communicate with the site and operations teams, which is what makes it such a useful tool.
Revit has limitations. Even though it’s one of the most heavily used building authoring tools, it still has limitations in what it can do with real world functionality. AutoDesk releases a new version improving its functionality every year, but still falls short of users expectations, especially in edge cases. With the advent of even then Dynamo has its own limitations.
There are two ways of improving the functionality of Revit and connecting the functionality of Revit to some other application:
Dynamo Scripts and Custom Revit Plugins
Our client, “John,” was repeatedly facing a problem, model after model, that caused each member of his team to spend several hours fixing a problem before beginning work on the model. What happened was that a corrupt family had shared multiple wrong shared parameters with the same name. This meant that most of the models were impossible to use, making it a nightmare for people doing schedules and modeling.
Every time they synced (once a week) there were 300 or so orphaned shared parameters that reappeared in the model, which needed to be deleted manually. This would eat about 4 hours per week per model. Depending on how long the project was, it would add up to weeks that could have been spent on more useful and enjoyable work.
Our client was stuck. Short of reinstalling a blank copy of Revit and reinstalling everything from scratch, which would have taken weeks and slowed the team down, even more, he didn’t know what to do.
Luckily for them, we were able to fix this problem in under a week. We created a simple Dynamo script to target the wrong parameters and delete them from all models. Now, every time the model is synced, the designer just has to run the Dynamo script, and that 4 hours of work is reduced to 0.
The cost-benefit analysis:
Writing any plugin for Revit can be variable in the time required due to each client’s unique Revit parameters.
This plugin took just 20 hours at our Dynamo rate of $35/hour for a total of $700.
It took just 2 weeks for the client to break even on the cost, and the designers’ increased productivity resulted in higher project volume and increased profits for the firm!
Bill of Quantity Generation
What was the issue:
Our client was a drywall contractor; he frequently worked with construction drawings prepared by Architects and used their Revit Models for his work. The main issue that he was facing was that of generating Bill of Quantities (BOQ) from those Revit Models. These bills are generally created to estimate the costs involved in any project. This is traditionally done by a process referred to as “taking off”, which works by creating a list of all materials to be used during construction and their specific quantities (studs, frames, drywall sheets, etc.), and then estimating their cost.
The client only had 2 estimators working on his team, and as this process of generating BOQ was manual, it was taking a lot of his and his estimators’ time. They had to manually list out every material involved in the construction process, work out specific quantities and then work on pricing. This process was both hectic and time-consuming. Since the models that they were working on were created in Revit, they had no way of automating their work, as Revit does not include any built-in technology or plugin to automate the process of BOQ generation; so, the client was really stuck and required to manually generate BOQ, before he could begin with the actual construction work.
What we did:
Understanding the client’s problem, we began working on a custom plugin using different formulas which utilized standards of BOQ generation and then accurately estimated specific quantities of materials that were required. Now, the client could easily use this plugin in Revit to quickly and automatically find out how much material was required and then easily work out their cost. Effectively reducing the time and work consumed on estimation by half.
It took around 1.5 months to create this plugin and the total cost was $8000.
By paying this amount one time, the client took the benefit for his every future project.
The labor hours were greatly improved; previously, the client had a very heavy workload, he only had 2 estimators working, but the work they did was that of 4, sometimes more. Now, after using our custom plugin, he effectively slashed the workload and time consumption in half. The 2 estimators could now do their work with increased productivity and additional time on their hands to do the estimation more accurately, this also reduced material costs; since, manually generated BOQ could overestimate the materials used, thereby, increasing the actual cost. So, the client enjoyed multiple benefits like reduced material costs, improvement in labor hours, increased productivity, and reduced workload.
What was the issue?
Our client was a manufacturer of wall panels. Their work often involved the usage of Computerized Numerical Control (CNC); a technique, which uses computer software and pre-coded patterns to draw different geometric shapes on various types of materials. These patterns are drawn using specially designed ‘CNC Machines’.
The client had to make use of CAD operators to feed the numerical values and types of cuts. They also had to work with Revit, as the initial designs were made using Revit. They then had to compare the outputs generated via Revit with the ones they were making using the CNC Machines.
This whole process of feeding cut types and other values into CAD software by technicians, and then manually comparing the results with Revit output was creating problems for the client as their workflow was getting continually delayed. It was a very time-consuming process, and as there was no existing technology, or a script for Revit, they were thinking about hiring more CAD technicians, costing them extra money, while only minimally improving workflow and productivity.
What we did do?
The client wanted us to create something that would help automate some of the processes, while still retaining the accuracy and quality required for CNC Cutting. We started by creating a simple and easy-to-use UI that helped him insert values more easily. By using different Geometric Operations, we were able to make the operations more accurate; geometric shapes came out with increased accuracy, within a reduced time frame.
Lastly, to solve the problem of Revit model output comparison, we programmed a separate application; this application automated the process of CNC Cut comparison with the output of different Revit Models.
The whole process of application generation and creating a custom UI took us around 3 months, with a client cost of approximately $18,900. To compare the cost with the benefits, it is necessary to mention that the client was working with a single CAD technician, but his workflow requirements were not being met. He was going to have hire 3 more technicians to meet his requirements; costing him around $210k per year (considering the usual CAD technician pay is around $70k per year).
The client not only saved $210k per year but by using our technological solutions, he was able to automate most of the processes, thereby, increasing his production outputs by 500%.