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Author: Ron Palma Revit, Ideate Inc.

Some of you may know that I am an AEC Application Specialist for Ideate, Inc. as well as a home designer by trade and an Oregon National Guardsman.

When first deployed to Afghanistan the summer of 2014, we were stationed at Shindand Air Base. The days were long and hard, but we did get some down time. A good friend of mine, the Fire Support Officer for the Squadron, was talking about doing a remodel of his kitchen when we return. I told him that I could sketch a few ideas so that he and his wife could review and “dream” of a new kitchen when we returned. In order for me to do this, I needed dimensions and a rough sketch of what their kitchen looked like. Through several emails, pictures, and a lot of descriptions of what I needed without the ability to go there or communicate by phone, I had a good idea of what I was working with.

Michael and I sat down and using Revit, I sketched the as-builts in a very short amount of time. The thing Michael enjoyed was the ability to see his actual kitchen “pop-up” in a 3D model very quickly. We used these as-builts to ensure the kitchen layout was correct and experiment with various layouts and space arrangements.

The as-builts included generic walls as I couldn’t actually be there to see what they were made of and had guess based upon standard construction methods. The important details such as interior dimensions were the critical part to ensure that room sizes were correct. I added casework, countertops, and a table to help identify the spaces to Michael and Heather.

As I wanted to provide Michael and Heather with a few options to think about, I decided to use Revit’s Design Options tool to create several options. I contemplated moving the as-builts to an existing phase, but I did not really have the time to manage phasing, the goal was some quick design ideas through the use of Design Options.

When using Revit’s Design Options, there are two main things to consider. Something known as the Main Model, and the Design Options themselves. The idea behind the “Main Model” is basically elements within a design that will be consistent throughout all Design Options are initially drawn prior to creating the Design Options. In my case, the main room walls, sink window, pantry, and openings were all created in the Main Model as we were not going to change those. The closet on the south wall was not added to the Main Model, as we were going to remove it and would not be in any Design Options.

NOTE: You can always add more things to the “Main Model" after Design Options have been established, but it helps to get the initially consistent things drawn first.

After creating the Main Model, I turned on the Design Options function and named the Design Option Set “Kitchen Remodel." When Design Options are first created, an initial “Option" is available known as the “Primary” Option. I renamed this option “As-Built” Setting the “As-Built” option current, and added the closet, casework, kitchen equipment, and a dining room table.

NOTE: By default the Primary Option is what is displayed in all views (plan, 3D, elevation, schedules, etc.) when not actively working in a Design Option.

As-Built Kitchen/Dining Room

 Next I added a new Option that I simply named “Option 1.” The intent with options was that I wanted to provide a few different options for Michael and Heather to dream about. Now that I had two options created, I decided to create some view to control what I was working with. As noted above, if you are not actively working on a Design Option, Revit will display the contents of the Primary Option in the view. Fortunately through the use of Visibility Graphics, a view can be set to display the contents of a particular view. I created duplicate floor plans and 3D views from the initial as-built floor plan and camera views to keep the viewpoints the same, then accessed Visibility Graphics and assigned design options as appropriate in the Design Options tab within Visibility Graphics.

Visibility Graphics to assign a Design Option to a View

The As-built floor plans and camera views were assigned the As-Built (primary) design option and the duplicated floor plan and camera views the Option 1 design option. I continued this process for future options I designed.

NOTE: The benefit of assigning a design option to a view through Visibility Graphics is that the view is dedicated to seeing the contents of the option. If not assigned, the primary option is displayed in the view when not actively working on a view.

So now the that the basics were set up, I accessed the "Option 1" floor plan view, then in the Design Options dialog box, set "Option 1" current. Anything I now draw will be assigned to that option. I added new casework and designed a kitchen island. When finished, I set the “Main Model” current and checked my work, comparing the As-built views against the "Option 1" Views. Through this repeated process, I created five different options to present to Michael and Heather.

For the main perspective camera view, I applied ambient shadows and the new Revit 2015 Sketchy Lines Graphic Display Option. This gave me a rough sketchy look providing the illusion that the idea was not set in stone. I also created some isometric views and combined the use of transparency and visibility control to generate views to aid Michael and Heather in visualizing what they were looking at. As with the floor plans and camera views, duplicating and assigning the appropriate Design Option to visibility Graphics was repeated. Another benefit of this is that each view can then be added to sheets displaying various options to compare.

Camera view of one of the options with ambient shadows and sketchy lines

I next created a few presentation sheets. A Presentation sheet for the as-builts with all of the as-built views, and sheets for each option. The various views were then added to the sheets and aligned using the sheets Guide Grid, to help me in aligning the views on the sheets. This way, all of the floor plans were lined up in the same location for each sheet, and the various camera and isometric views were located in the same locations, allowing Michael and Heather to compare the various options.

Presentation Sheet

Some things I liked about this process: (1) Easy way to incorporate various options and compare them in a single model. (2) Ambient shadows and sketchy lines for presentations. (3) Ability to control what option is visible per view.

Some things I did not like about the process: (1) When creating an option, if there are elements you would like to use again in another option, the only way to get the elements from one option to another is to use the “Copy to Clipboard” and “Aligned to Same Place” tools from the Modify Tab and Clipboard panel on the Ribbon interface.  This is a cumbersome process switching from one design option to another. (2) Although the guide grids in sheets are very helpful, there is no way to snap a corner of an element within a view to a grid line. Zooming in and moving it as close to a grid line as possible is the closest you can come to aligning these views. It is so miniscule you would never see it on a final print however.

I could go on about Design options, and there are certainly more things to consider with them, but I have to go assume some First Sergeant Duties. Our replacements got here last night, and we are beginning to cross train them in our jobs so I can get back home. For more information on Design Options see Ideate Inc. on-line training schedule for the Leveraging Design Options class, or perhaps think about some consulting on the use of options. Take care, “Steel Rain” out.

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          Ron Palma
Ron Palma
AEC Application Specialist

Ron has 25+ years of experience in the architectural industry as a drafter, designer, lead project designer, trainer, and a CAD manager implementing Autodesk Architectural Solutions for residential design firms. His instructional accomplishments include: Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI), trainer, support technician, educator at Portland and Clackamas Community Colleges, as well as a U.S. Army certified instructor. Ron holds a BA in Instructional Design suma cum laude, is a member of the Oregon Army National Guard, where he is a First Sergeant of an Infantry Company, specializing in training and mentoring soldiers in their careers, and has been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Resolute Support. Ron is a published author and continues to write professional technical training manuals and shorts for AutoCAD, AutoCAD Architecture, and Revit. As an Autodesk Certified Instructor and Revit Architecture Autodesk Certified Professional, Ron continues to provide Revit Architecture and AutoCAD training and support for various AEC firms. Find Ron on Twitter.