Joe K: Working with Rhino and Revit, Part 1


Buildz is very pleased to welcome back Joe Kendsersky for more posts full of tips and best practices in Revit.  This will be a series of four posts dealing with importing and managing geometry from Rhinoceros, McNeel and Associate’s popular nurbs modeling platform.   Joe works at Autodesk as a Customer Success Engineer for Revit Architecture.  He is trained as an architect and joined Revit Technology in 2000, and subsequently Autodesk in 2002. Joe is a wealth of information about what it going on in offices as well as what is being developed in the factory.


The purpose of this series of posts is to cover some of the different workflow options between Autodesk Revit Architecture & Rhino and discuss topics that we should take into consideration when using both applications.

First, let’s make a general differentiation between both programs:

Rhino is a tool that specializes in free-form, non-uniform rational B-spline (NURBS) modeling and has gained a lot of popularity in the architectural community because of the Grasshopper plug-in for computational design – allowing designers to analyze and quickly iterate several building form options.

Autodesk Revit Architecture is a tool designed to integrate BIM, were building elements (walls, floors, roofs) have relationships between with other. In Revit we are assembling an entire project as it were going to be built, documenting it, leveraging the ability to quantify components and, most importantly, making real time design changes.

Choices you have to make:

Which tool is best to use and when? Can both tools work together? What should someone start off with when beginning a project? It comes down to what the users’ design goals are and what they are trying to accomplish. You could imagine several different scenarios such as creating specific family components (furniture, curtain wall elements) in Rhino to be scheduled in Revit or making a building form in Rhino to host and associate building elements (wall, floors) in Revit or even exporting the context of a Revit project to model specific elements like a complex roof in Rhino to then be re-imported into Revit. Both of these applications can work well together side by side as long as the team knows what they are trying to accomplish.

Here is a brief example of using Revit and Rhino together. The image below represents a free form exterior building envelope created in Rhino.


The geometry from Rhino can be used in Revit Architecture – the image below is a exported .sat file from Rhino inserted into a Revit Mass family template.


Finally, in Revit Architecture we can load the Mass Family geometry into a project and associate building elements (walls, floors) to the Rhino geometry, document the design and quantify components.


In the next post, we’ll discuss some different workflow scenarios between Autodesk Revit Architecture & Rhino and how we can leverage the power of both tools.

Forward to Part 2, Part3, and Part 4


  1. This is pretty rad :D

  2. Hi, nice introduction to a topic of particular interest to me and many designers working with these two powerful programs.

    But I find it hard to advocate the use of SAT (a geometrical model) for the building/project transfer. For too long we have been "manually" assigning all sorts of building information such as whether the object is a wall, column etc.

    This information can be assigned and generated within the Rhino/Grasshopper environment, and round tripped using neutral BIM file formats such as Industry Foundation Class. I look forward to IFC2x4 being released (and adopted) which will include nurbs shape representations.

    If you have a moment, please also take a look at my blog, where I explain my development work underway and samples demonstrating what is (and isn't) possible at the moment.



  3. I've done many experiments with the Revit and Rhino workflow and consulted a few firms on these workflows. The only thing i can say is that it is far from perfect. I fact, it is not a workflow I would recommend. If someone wants to use Rhino, for the simple reason that Revit is very limited, i suggest to use Rhino all the way. As a matter of fact, many firms go through CD using Rhino with BIM plugins and autocad for detailing.

    The reason for not using Rhino is because you can't edit or update the geometry in Revit. Obviously, non parametric Rhino elements with a fixed dimension like furniture wouldn't be a problem. But in an iterate design process, it's very destructive to have to re-import and reassign all building components, when changes in the design occur.

    Another problem in Revit is that using wall-, floor-, roof- by face, apart from not joining well, doesn't represent constructability in reality. In theory, you can import a sat file in revit and flesh the skin with walls, but, in reality walls have variable thicknesses along a double curved surface. Something that Revit wall by face can't mimic. Floors also don't always have a flat surface. They tend to curve and join walls in a smooth transition. Which leads to the following problems. You cannot always categorize the proper building components. A wall is not always a wall when it flows naturally into a floor. A floor is not always flat. A roof could also be a wall too. Just take a loot at the Mercedes-Benz-Museum in Stuttgart.,r:11,s:10&tx=73&ty=43

    As you can see, there are many limitations in this process, which is why many firms opt to use Rhino fully when it comes to more complex projects. However, It is possible to use Rhino and Revit if Autodesk addresses two important things.
    The first is probably the most difficult. Sat file should be editable in Revit . In any other software you can import geometry and retain edibility. No matter if you import a Rhino file into Inventor, or an Autocad file into Maya, all of the geometry can be edited.
    A more easier approach would be to ad a few more modeling tools in to revit to make it complete. At this moment, Revit still lacks some essential tools. For instance, many times a lofting isn't sufficient where as cross section tool will create a complex surface. A patch tool to cap certain complex ends. Or a two rail sweep and a 3d fillet tool.
    If these tools are available in Revit, then Revit becomes a serious design and documentation tool. These tools are not intended to replace Rhino. On the contrary, you would use Rhino in the early design stage to quickly generate multiple designs. The chosen design can be recreated in Revit because Revit will have the proper tools to do so. The recreation of the geometry can be done from scratch or the splines and points can be extracted from Rhino and imported in Revit through a plug-in. These splines will essentially create the exact same geometry as the Rhino model.
    I hope I don't sound to negative, but it is time that Autodesk acknowledge these limitations. At AU some speakers defended the lack of Modeling tools in Revit because the current economic crisis doesn't allow anyone to build blob shaped buildings. Autodesk failure to provide better modelings tools, brings more money in for Robert McNeal. As simple as that.

  4. Would you recommend Rhino to use with Revit, or Maya to use with Revit?

  5. I think that what Jon has done with the IFC export from Grasshopper is by far the best option so far. Just for the simple fact, like Craig mentioned, you can't bring in and edit sat or dwg files in Revit. IFC is the only thing that will make editable geometry in Revit.

  6. Thanks Dennis,

    I meant to add, I'm commencing development of a plugin to directly exchange data with Revit, using the native data objects which should allow freedom for all user manipulations downstream. How long it will take, I don't know yet.

  7. Simply for future proofing I'd advocate for the 2x4 method. As far as current issues, we constantly have issue where imported geometry says its only meshes, even though we know they are solids coming out of Rhino.

  8. Hi, I think that for those who still don't know VisualARQ (, should have a look at the program to consider it for this conversation.
    VisualARQ is the main plugin of architecture for Rhino, and adds a set of architectural tools to create an architectural project in 3D and 2D. It has a set of parametric architectural objects that can be exported in IFC format to Revit, keeping the building model information to work with and to be edited afterwards.
    And VisualARQ can handle architectural objects (walls, beams, openings...) which can support NURBS, as the software is totally built in Rhino workflow, so any shape is possible and easy to work with.
    I will follow up this interesting conversation and I'm already looking forward for the next parts.


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