Parametric Revit

Maybe part of the issue is that Revit is built on a parametric paradigm that is focused on making things rather than the messier and fragmented architecture workflows that are still part of the industry. Revit’s “Location level” operations work well in my experience but its limitations with detail modelling and interaction with other geometries is problematic. After 20 years, why can it not read and write CAD geometries and drafting details giving some choice to haw we undertake our work. The waste is significant. Productivity, in terms of contract documentation, feels like half of what I was experiencing in the 1990s using well-tuned and organized CAD systems. Practical interoperability is difficult, even between different versions of Revit. After Revit was purchased, the various Autodesk code streams never combined and evolved into new approaches. They remain siloed, maybe talked about but practically, “non BIM”.

To me, it is about scale, workflow and how you tell the story. Take Fusion 360. A parametric design system where small things are designed, drive the drawings and documentation, and provide the workflows to support direct links to CNC and 3D printing. There is a direct data relationship cascade from design to production. This process is scaled up in the car industry where economies of scale support the significant capital required in IP, robots and processes to produce a sophisticated and highly complex product at scale. Again, design is directly driving the production and we see this across many manufacturing industries. – except much of architecture and building. This workflow does happen in some cases and increasingly so as building is becoming industrialized. That said, a lot of building in the 21st century is still like constructing one uniquely designed Boeing 747 on a very muddy rugby field in the rain and the rugby team, who have been asked to build it, do not know how to build airplanes, just want to play rugby, and are not talking to management.

Enter Revit, which is fundamentally based on the parametric paradigm. It deals with the simple stuff well, – mass design studies – and the more complex, 1:100 plans, elevations, sections, renders etc. The finer detail, 1:10. 1:5. 1:1, is still drawn as it is not feasible for most users to model at this level of detail with Revit. In my experience, it does not offer the full range of tools, the fidelity or the interoperability to model to this finer level. Nor does it provide efficient documentation tools to power the documentation compared to well tuned CAD systems. Often the resolution of the detail falls to the builders with architects abdicating this aspect of the work.

The parametric paradigm often breaks down and does not support the actual workflow but, in some cases, it can work by using innovative thinking, perseverance and re-framing expectations. I guess this is how we make progress.

With the fragmented nature of building projects, the politics, software marketers, vested interests and Revit’s shortcomings described in the letter above, one can see why the industry is questioning its future.