FAQ's on r2010 Massing Tools

I just had this communication with a user who’s ramping up with the Revit 2010 massing and panelization tools. It’s an interesting set of questions, not so much for any one question, but the aggregate confusion of many smaller pieces that are still a bit mystifying. There is a lot more to each of these questions, but I hope this can fill in some of the gaps.

1. How do you get faceted edges/surfaces with the new modeling tools? Whenever I push or pull edges and profiles, it creates a curved surface. For example, when you create a lofted solid with three profiles and edit one of the middle profile edges it creates a curved surface rather than a “v” surface.
A: After pulling out a profile, use the add edge tool from the corners to make it facetted. Think of it this way, if you blow on a bed sheet that is fastened in 4 corners, you get a curved form. If you pinch the center and pull, you get a faceted form. One is a distributed load, the other is focused.

2. When should you use “reference lines” instead of “lines” to generate the solid/void geometry?
A: Like the rest of Revit, making constrained and parametrically driven forms is best done by making a “rig” or a set of reference geometry, and then using it to create solids and voids. Same here, if you want freeform elements that are less constrained, I recommend using regular lines, and otherwise I would stick to ref lines. The big thing about regular lines is that they are “consumed” by the form element and are not accessible on one hand, but you are also not constrained by them on the other.

3. How do you get the icons where you have a choice to create a surface or a solid (they show after you select Create Form by your cursor)?
A: The previews in general show up any time there is any ambiguity about what the possible shapes are to be made. Try just drawing 2 parallel lines, you should get at least three form element options (2 revolves and a surface).

4. I have had a hard time getting temporary dimensions to show while in the conceptual mass family editor. Is there a trick to get them to show in a 3D view? It seems fairly inconsistent.
A: There are a couple bugs in this (for instance, sometimes temp dims fail for vertex points when masses are joined), but there are also many instances in this environment when there are not meaningful temp dimensions to present. In general, you need two parallel workplanes that are being called on to dimension between and quite often with the freeform tools there aren’t 2 such planes available in your selection.

5. When would you use divide and curtain panels by pattern in a conceptual mass family. When I do it in the .rfa and bring it into a project I cannot schedule the panels or turn off the mass element and keep the panels. It only appears to work when the mass element is done as an in-place family.
A: By default, the panel family should be a shared family. If you have turned this off and you are using loaded masses, the panels will basically be masses. If you don’t change the defaults, they should schedule just fine.

6. Another related question, can the curtain panels by pattern be part of a final construction document model or only for conceptual use? What is the correct workflow if you create a great conceptual design with the patterned surface and need to have that be part of your construction documents?
A: Curtain panels can definitely be part of construction documentation. You can schedule, mark, tag, etc. Make sure the panel family itself is shared. Keep in mind a couple limitations relative to the older Curtain Panels, like Length and Width are not available because, well, there isn’t always a length and a width for your panel (hexagons, triangles, etc), and there is no necessity that opposing sides of a “rectangle” pattern are actually parallel. There are ways to deal with these limitations through the API, one example shown here:

7. Is it better to create the mass element as a family or in-place? What are the pros and cons of each?
A: This is a longer conversation. A big reason to work in external families are that working in the rfa is much lighter in terms of performance load, as you don’t have to deal with all the other stuff in the main model, also the visibility of levels and workplanes in 3d views is really nice. If you need to interact with the levels in the project more directly or reference many or changing site features in place is better. Of course, if multiple instances or thematic variations of the family are to be used you definitely want to use an rfa.

8. When I create a void in my conceptual mass .rfa, some of the tools in my contextual ribbon disappear. I have not been able to reliably recreate the issue, but the Convert to Void/Mass button disappears and sometimes the whole Modify Form Element Panel disappears.
A: In the massing environment, voids automatically cut elements that they hit on creation. The problem might be that you are actually selecting a joined element and don’t realize it. Different tools will be available than you would otherwise expect.

9. Do you need to set the work plane when creating dimensions in a 3D view to use for parameters? When I select points or edges to create parameters it doesn’t always seem to be in the direction that I want.
A: in the conceptual design environment, the active workplane is assigned “on the fly”. The selection tool might be setting the plane without you realizing it. Sometimes it makes sense to just turn on Workplane visibility to make sure you are in the Workplane you think you are in.