For architects, what benefit does Autodesk Formit bring?

Posted in: Architecture & Interiors

Architectual design in Autodesk FormitEver wish you could create building forms and masses in an easy-to-use, push-pull environment and import the geometry seamlessly into Revit?

Ever wish you could export a Revit Model to explore façade designs in an easier and quicker to use environment?

Ever wish you could very quickly study some design options without the fear of messing up your production Revit model?

If so, Autodesk FormIt may be for you!

Autodesk FormIt is a new tool that can potentially offer a lot of value. It can allow designers to create building forms and masses and import the geometry seamlessly into Revit, export a Revit Model to explore façade designs, or quickly study some design options without the fear of messing up your production Revit model.

I explored this new program recently for a façade study on a renovation to an aircraft hangar. In my case, we have the Revit model of the existing facility, but what I was looking to do was explore ways to study some possible options for the exterior of the building.

In a traditional Revit workflow, this would involve new wall types, hatch patterns (maybe even custom ones), design options and careful phasing of objects. “Pushing” and “pulling” isn’t really a thing, and I didn’t want to risk any unintended consequences or inadvertently change something I didn’t intend to. I had not ever worked in FormIt before, so it took some trial and error, some mistakes, and some rework, but by the time we presented some options to the client, I had worked through about 30 different concepts. Eventually, this was narrowed down to two that we showed the client. Revit would not have allowed me the flexibility to explore all the options I did, or even try as many things as I did.

In my case I was lucky to have an existing model of the building to work from; however, exporting from Revit is not a requirement to use FormIt. FormIt works as a stand alone program, allowing all the same features and benefits of quick and easy modeling and design iterations on a “blank slate” or for a new building, as it did for my façade study.

FormIt talks to a mapping service, making it easy to import a satellite image of your site, and some topography. Through trial-and-error, I’ve learned several tips for use and exporting from Revit:

Tips/Best Practices:

  • Make layers for all your concepts and the initial building. This makes it very easy to control visibility.
  • Make groups and apply the group to a layer instead of individual planes, lines, etc.
  • Groups are your friend. You can have groups within groups.
  • Group all the objects associated with a current design concept together.
  • Hitting the “H” key while editing a group will hide everything not in that group; this makes it easy to see other portions that may be hidden by something else.
  • When copying a group, right-click to copy, then right-click again to paste. It doesn’t seem to have a logic to where it pastes, but after placing it, move it to a common point of the first one so it’s in the same place, then make it unique.
  • If you’re making another iteration of a current design, copy the group, but remember to make it unique (right-click) or you will also change the original group! (I made this mistake more than a few times.)
  • Right-click on groups, faces or other objects and see what sorts of options you have.
  • The Revit model will import as ‘mesh’ surfaces. To successfully apply materials, you will need to convert the ‘mesh’ to ‘objects,’ which can be done by right-clicking on the item.
  • If your Revit model changes, no worries—just export it again and import into FormIt, align with the group that is currently there, then delete the old one. You will need to re-convert to objects and paint, but the geometry will be correct.
  • Don’t be afraid to set up camera views for shots you really like. You can assign layer properties to camera views and even some special graphic display options. With a saved camera view, it will be easy to return to the same spot for the shot or the same shot of multiple design options.

Revit Exporting Best Practices:

  • If you’re working on exterior options, create a dedicated 3D view within Revit and turn off everything inside the building. This will result in less objects and surfaces being exported, which means smaller file sizes and increased performance. Tip: Use a filter to turn off all walls with a function of NOT “Exterior.”
  • The less objects are visible, the more stable the file will be within FormIt. If you don’t need to see it for what you are studying, turn it off.
  • Export from Revit as an “.SAT” file. There are multiple file types FormIt can import, but this one seems to be the smallest file size (which means better performance).

Overall, the exercise was successful. I liked the program, and it was easy to use. There are many more features than I could go through here, but it is definitely worth trying out. The program is a great tool for architects and designers because it allows for the flexibility try out multiple options, ultimately resulting in better design for clients.

Andy Malanowski

About the Author

Andy Malanowski is an NCARB-Certified Architect who is experienced with a variety of project types including K-12 Education, Corporate Government and Military. Additionally, Andy holds his LEED AP BD+C, and is constantly pushing and evaluating new technologies for use in Architectural Practice. Outside of work, Andy enjoys sailing, biking and involvement in outside architecture related organization.

Read more posts by Andy Malanowski

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