3 Hacks for Creating an AutoCAD Drafting Environment in Revit
I’ve heard it so many times, from so many principals of small architecture firms, “Revit seems great, but we know AutoCAD, so why change?” This article is not the place where I will go into the why, but rather discuss ways to ease the transition once you have made the leap. Hopefully these tips can help you start creating an environment that not only makes you feel at home while drafting, but also makes things more efficient. Here’s three simple strategies you can use to begin creating an AutoCAD user-friendly setup for detailing and drafting in Revit at your firm.
1. Creating Custom Linetypes - Revit linetypes work a little differently than in AutoCAD, but in the end, the aim is the same – communicate design intent by utilizing varying lineweights on a piece of paper (or in this case digitally). So how do we achieve this within Revit? We do this by creating a library of line styles that can be both familiar to AutoCAD users, and refreshing to those seeking a more intuitive way to draft. You may be familiar with some of these commonly used line styles from your previous AutoCAD experience:
Revit offers many of the same line styles without having to create anything custom. To review these line styles, click on the Manage Tab > Object Styles > Model Objects. Here, you can see what default settings are included and make the edits to match your existing AutoCAD library. Unlike AutoCAD, line thickness isn’t dictated by line colors. Still, what you print in greyscale can look the same. There’s a lot of flexibility in how to modify the line types and weights. Here’s a great work-around tutorial on creating custom line types with text embedded in them.
When drafting, a nice trick is the ability to toggle between thick and thin lines very quickly by clicking on the “Thin Lines” hot button or typing “TL” on your keyboard. This toggles between all lines appearing onscreen as a uniform thin line regardless of view scale or showing everything in the weight you have drafted it in. It is very useful when you want to make sure you are drawing things to exact locations where thicker lines may obscure snap points.
2. Detail Components - What are the repeating elements that your firm likes to show? How do you go about displaying them in Revit? The answer is Detail Components. Detail Components are a great way to speed up drafting. The best similarity I can think of in AutoCad is blocks. Detail Components are line-based 2D elements that are added to detail views and only visible in those views. Revit offers us the ability to design detail components that enhance model geometry while existing independent from the model itself. We can take live wall cut sections in the model and add things like insulation, wood blocking, and anchor bolts as 2D overlays that don’t interfere with the actual 3D model. It is a drafting experience that is not that different from AutoCad. Here, just take a look at how Detail Components can quickly add clarity to a drawing.
Revit offers a healthy variety of out-of-the-box Detail Component Families that you can load into your project. To do this, find the “Load Family” button underneath the Modify | Place Detail Component Tab > Detail Items folder. If you have details that are repeatable, such as bricks, blocking or flooring, you can use the “Repeating Detail” function in the drop down of the Detail Component. If you are really determined to make your Revit drawings look and feel just like your AutoCAD drawings, creating your own custom details and repeating detail components is a great place to start.
3. Creating Detail Container Files - Drafting views are used to create unassociated, view-specific details that are not a part of the modeled design. This is different than the standard model view, where changes made in 2D can change the actual 3D model. Since offices typically reuse details on similar projects, this a great opportunity for bringing consistency in the transition from AutoCAD to Revit. For typical 2D drafting view details, you should create a separate file to hold all your old AutoCAD details. This isn’t a difficult process, however it can be very time consuming. Have a summer intern you need to keep busy? This is the job for them! They can start by methodically bringing all your old AutoCAD (or in some cases hand drawn) details over into individual 2D drafting views where they will do something you should NEVER DO in an actual project file; import AutoCAD into Revit and then explode the import. This will give them a nice amount of information to work with. From there it is a matter of using your new Revit linetypes and Detail Components to make your details read correctly. Once all details are completed, do a “Purge All” to get rid of the debris left over from AutoCAD.
Remember, drawing details in a Drafting View creates information that is not a part of the parametric model design. It may feel familiar and friendly to seasoned AutoCAD users, but these changes will not be reflected in the working model. I was a part of a design team that created a large, complex model years ago, and much effort was spent curating the working model to show as much detail as possible. Once we were ready to create our construction document set, over 300 standard drafting details were inserted into the project sheets. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue; however, on this particular job as the design evolved and changes were incorporated into our working model, none of these standard drafting details were updated, creating the potential for confusion among the construction team. As a standard practice you should always double-check your drafting details to make sure you are communicating a consistent design message.
So if you’ve just committed to Revit and are starting to miss your old drafting environment in AutoCAD take a deep breath. There are plenty of ways to customize the Revit drafting environment to closely match the way your drawings have looked for decades. Who knows, through the use of linetypes, detail components and other strategies, you may even find a more efficient and enjoyable process for drafting.