KHouse Modern Progress – Revit

August 29, 2013 — 65 Comments

Just a mere 16 calendar days ago I introduced you to the next modern house I will be profiling here on Life of an Architect – the KHouse Modern. Technically speaking it’s only been 12 work days since that post was written but a lot has happened. I thought the timing would be good to show some of the progress we are making on the design and drawings.

My office is now 100% Revit. Some of you will know what that means, but some of you will not, so let me give a brief explanation. “Revit” is a brand name for a drafting program that we use to prepare our design and construction documentation. This type of drafting software is more generically referred to as Building Information Modeling – or BIM – and I believe that it’s the direction that things in the architectural world are heading. When you draw in BIM, we aren’t simply drawing lines, we are virtually building the building in 3-Dimensions. That means when we draw an exterior wall, it isn’t just two lines, it is the entire makeup of the wall – the drywall, wood studs, exterior sheathing, vapor barrier, and exterior cladding material (like stone or brick). I’m not going to make this a post on Revit specifically but it does figure in heavily in how we now go about our business.

(note – you can click on any of these images and a new window will open with the images 2x larger)

KHouse Modern Site Perspective

The image above is an aerial view of the site for the KHouse Modern. This house is well sized at 2,500 square feet air-conditioned and sits on a 16,000 square foot lot that slopes down from the street about 8 feet towards the rear property line. For the most part, this is a one-story residence, but there is a small 2-story section where we slid a 2-car garage under a guest suite at the rear of the property to take advantage of the grade change.

KHouse Modern Front Elevation Perspective

All of these images are directly outputted from Revit – and there is no faking what we haven’t drawn and what we haven’t designed. This is something new for me to acclimate to because there is no “we’ll get to that later” … when you draw a window in the plan view, it shows up in the elevation view.

Good-bye Placeholders … I kind of loved you.

We are also planning on pursuing LEED for Homes Certification – which would explain why the roof on this house appears to be green. This is a “vegetative roof” and the pattern of the roof follows the line of the building line below. The image above is an aerial perspective of the front elevation. The mass you see on the left-hand side is a detached garage that will act as the owners main entry. Our client for this house made a point that was very reasonable during the programming phase where he requested that his entry sequence to the house be the same as his guests. No coming in through a mud room or some rear garage the dumps you off by the utility room – nope. He wanted to walk in the front door. It also helps support our LEED goals by having the garage detached from the main house. There are generous seating areas by both points of entrance … plenty of room to take a load off and remove your shoes prior to entering the house.

KHouse Modern Side Perspective

We created all the renderings of the project I am using in today’s post YESTERDAY! Since the process of using Revit is that the house is being created in 3-dimension, there wasn’t any special work we needed to do to create these perspectives. There are a lot of things we could have doneΒ to these perspectives but I thought it would be more interesting to see – the good and the bad – what you can get without having to export the file into a different rendering program. The materials indicated here aren’t entirely correct – the brick is still brick but things like the actual color of the brick and mortar isn’t quite right. If you look at the image above, you will see a ramp that leads up to a door that looks like wood. It’s not supposed to be wood, it’s a metal door but for some reason, the program is busting our chops and something isn’t coming out right.

KHouse Modern Ramp Perspective

Here’s another look at the wood door that isn’t supposed to be wood [sigh]. This house is being designed so that the owner can live here and “age in place”. We are paying attention to how the house will work as he gets older and when the possibility increases that he might not get around as well as he used to (years from now).

KHouse Modern Terrace Perspective

I am walking you around the house with the images we’ve prepared – hopefully that’s obvious by now. In the picture above, the lowest part of the picture is a large outdoor seating area that is elevated above the downward sloping site. We still need to design the bench and the handrails but you get the idea. At the far end of the elevated terrace is an “exterior room”. This space is outside the air-conditioned building footprint but is under roof and wrapped in hardware cloth to keep Β the bugs out. This space is directly across from the kitchen and there are sliding doors all along this rear window wall. These sliding doors will allow the owner to open the house up, take advantage of the cross breeze, but not have to worry about letting in the mosquitos.

I want that.

KHouse Modern Rear Elevation Perspective

In the image above, we’re standing towards the rear of the property looking back and up at the main house. On the right-hand side of the image is the 2nd garage (future bonus room) on the lower level with a guest suite above. There is an outdoor cooking area between the guest suite and the screened in porch – don’t really have a good view of that area since we haven’t fully modeled it yet.

KHouse Modern Rear Elevation Perspective from Alley

This final view is of the second garage and the guest suite. There is a board-formed concrete retaining wall that is currently shielding a set of stairs from your view. In case you’re wondering – no – the retaining wall will NOT look like how it is shown in this rendering. This is an example of what happens when you draw the retaining wall in plan and have to deal – right then – with how it will be shaped vertically. This retaining wall hasn’t been designed yet so the wall “stair-steps” down the site just so the client wouldn’t look at this image and wonder why he now has a loading dock at the rear of his property.

I am endeavoring to learn Revit and it has been illuminating to see how the house has been coming together. This process has already challenged my way of thinking about how you put a set of construction drawings together on a residential project. The end product will still hold to my high standards the journey of how we get there will be different. There have been times when the software really demonstrates its power (inserting and sizing windows into walls is ridiculously easy) but there have been just as many times when the software has driven me mad (like trying to get the metal siding that clads the garages to actually read as metal siding). So far, I have to admit this learning process has been extremely rewarding … for 16 days.

Thanks to Ryan in the office for doing most of the heavy lifting, I’m still at the stage where I point at the screen and say “move that over there”.

More to come –

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  • Michael Powell

    Revit can be a struggle at the start but I moved across from dreadful 2D to using an early BIM called RUCAPS in May 1981 and never looked back.

    It takes a bit of preparation work, a bit like using a SUV for a trip to the postbox, so isn’t ideal for small and quick schemes, but your K-house looks like it’s working.

    I spent most of the last few decades using BIM on super sized schemes like hospitals, national libraries, and universities. This is where the system completely outclasses tedious little 2D systems.

    And for tiny schemes? Well, I love felt pens, a photocopier, scissors, adhesive and an iPad with printer to write out the annotation neatly. And SketchUp, naturally. A bit like college, circa 1970, with a modern touch. And I can now photograph the finished sketch, and email them to the planning department!! Job done!!

    • That is pretty awesome – I am always amazed and admire the early adopters of technology in our field. It is such an uphill battle (in certain regards, I think our profession is somewhat resistant to change, or at the very least, slow adopters).

      • Michael Powell

        I can’t tell you how many people told me:

        A. It won’t work
        B. Its not doing it properly
        C. Nobody wins awards using that stuff

        Ha!! At least some have come and apologised since. And I did win architectural awards!!

        But then there were others dismissive about my first cellphone. And, now, my electric car.

        And not just here in Wales, where-ever I went in the world, its the same. I spent a month in Seattle at a very large practice trying to crack heads together, but it was tough.

        In Sweden I had the only computer in the architects office in 1982. Last year I went back to the same place, and there were two-hundred, everyone had a workstation!

  • One big thing I’ve learnt from this post (besides the usual gems from you Bob) is that I dont need to speak hours in front of a screen trying to render fancy angles with trees and birds and what not…

    This simplistic rendering actually tell me I should have been doing this because the images are what my mind reads better. No better way to present work to a client without all that “clutter”…

    Thanks Bob

  • Michelle Linden

    I’ve been a long time lurker on your site, and have to say re-reading this post and comments made my evening. My small 6 person office just made the leap to Revit and it has been a pretty painful first few weeks. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have anyone in our office who knows the program well, just a few people who have dabbled, so I expect the learning curve will be steep. But, hearing from other similar sized firms working on similar typologies (and succeeding in Revit) really makes me feel more confident in our decision.

    • I have a new post coming out on this project tomorrow (14 October 2013) that will shed some new light on the process. Hopefully other small firms like mine will be able to know that everybody seems to be going through the same issues.

      Thanks for leaving a comment, glad you’ve moved from “lurker” to “participant” – Thanks Michelle

    • timothy

      I’ll work for you..Im Revit certified

  • Joshua

    Hi Bob, big fan! love the blog,
    Quick question I hope you wont mind answering, would you be able to tell me what the name of the font is that your office uses on working drawings? (referring to the 2012 modern house pictures that are up on that post!)

    • architxt.shx and archititl.shx (I think that’s how it’s spelled)

      • Joshua


        • Kyle B

          The firm I work for uses that same font, I have to say it looks fantastic. I have wandered your site for a couple years now and I always wondered that! Now i know…

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  • Can’t wait to see the renders once you crank them through photoshop or whatever tools you prefer. One of the biggest growing pains in architecture school right now is figuring out how to constantly move between the tools at our disposal to accommodate both presentation and working representation.

    The process changes depending on the project timeline, too – I recently did a massing model in rhino, printed out line and shadow renders, and traced them to rapidly produce some watercolors. My building suddenly had a landscape, interior space, and dense urban context (Paris!) without having to model a single table, plant, or extra building. Good for the conceptual stuff, but then again, if I needed to produce working drawings, a lot more time would need to be put into the virtual model.

    • Hi Andrew,

      I probably won’t go through the render process again – maybe. As the plans move from a schematic design an design development phase, the need for us to spend time on this area is greatly diminished. It is possible that the owner might like a finished product render of the house but that remains to be seen.

      • Ah! I wasn’t thinking. I am so used to the rendering being the typical ‘final product’ of projects I work on in school. I will watch the progress of this one patiently!

  • Richard Martin

    I can’t believe I’m ahead of you on something Bob. Now imagine if you had jumped onto Revit last year when you and I were in a discussion via email about Revit. I did purchase Revit ( and Chief Architect X5) for my move to 3D and really like the improvement it brings to the design process. No more drawing endless views to make sure everything works. Being able to rotate models and details is awesome. I use my Revit for light commercial, but for general residential design I find CA delivers on what I need. It even allows me to import my AutoCAD blocks so all those years of work are not wasted. What I like most about both programs is the take off list you can do for ordering materials. Both Exports and imports Excel spread sheets. A major bonus! Enjoy your training and just keep in mind that hours of frustration leads to a moment of “I finally understand this!”. it’s a real cool moment!

  • Excellent Bob. It was really looks great. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lee Borrero

    Bob: House looks great re: BIM. I’m a 79 yr old fogey. Would love to see plans
    if they are available for the blog.

    • We’ll have to see. I generally don’t like putting certain types of information onto the web site – entire floor plans being one of them. This owner is incredibly nice and seems to find the coverage/ attention on his house enjoyable but there are certain personal boundaries I don’t want to cross.

  • Chad Conrad

    Congratulations on making the leap into BIM. I too made the jump as I wanted a more efficient workflow that worked like an architect thought. I haven’t drafted for ten years now and I can tell you that it really makes documentation and design much more enjoyable.

    I have used Archicad for ten years now and love it. I have tried Revit and I just like archicad’s workflow and interface much better.

    Keep moving forward!


  • Mark

    Looks great Bob.
    I love that you have to understand construction to put your model together
    properly in Revit. It is a good learning tool for the kids.
    Extension/ re-modelling work in Revit is where it becomes really obvious if
    you know what your doing.

  • Al Ochsner

    Impressive work for a first-time Revit user, and quite a nice project as well!

    Once you get comfortable with it, there are some fairly remarkable things you can do with the software above and beyond its “common” perks.

    If your firm isn’t already familiar with these, check out cloud-based rendering, rendered animations, energy simulation (via .gbmxl export), clash detection/trade coordination in Navisworks, and point cloud modeling (for existing construction/renovations)- just to name a few. Not all will be appropriate for every project, but when the situation arises, they are amazing resources.

  • Wow, great project, really.

    When you’re not satisfied with the materials in Revit, you can also export the Model to sketchup, artlantis or other render/3D programs. But actually it looks pretty good already and changing that wooden look of the steel door can’t be that hard, can it πŸ˜‰

  • Kyle

    looking good. Nice renderings. My experience with revit was with less than optimal computers so it would take 30 minutes to render on low. That and we didnt have the time to do long term renders.

  • Erik

    Awesome work here Bob. Congrats on the dive into Revit / BIM. I’m still learning daily. Also, congrats to Ryan in the office. He evidently knows his stuff.

    • Thanks – but let’s not start congratulating Ryan just yet … I don’t want him getting a big head πŸ˜‰

  • Craig VanDevere

    Great job Bob! I’ve been using Revit for over eight years and have never looked back. It was by far the best investment that I have made. With the level of thought that you had put into your initial sketches and drawings, as you progress with Revit, you will find building your models will become really easy and fast; probably substantially complete in a matter of days. As you are learning the program there will be days you may question what have you done but when that light bulb turns it will be a big yes I should have been doing this all along. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

    • Thanks Craig – that’s just what I needed to hear. Keep your fingers crossed for me that my journey is as successful as yours!

  • Welcome to the dark side Bob.

    • it’s not as crowded (or as fun) as I thought it would be

  • Elrond Burrell

    Revit can be used for design as much as it can for documentation – it just depends on the familiarity and ability of the person using it. Software fluency is always a barrier to using any software to support a design process rather than limit it. (And equally, fluency using design tools such as pencils and paper are barriers for some people, architects included unfortunately!) For early stage design development it is easy to render the project to appear like a white card model rather than “finished building” and when the design is progressed further more realistic materials can be applied and rendered very effectively. Lighting levels etc can be easily modified in Revit also without the need to take an image out to PS, unless of course you prefer that. (Depends on software fluency again!) The other side to Revit & BIM not touched on in this post is the data side and the ability to schedule anything in the model and then use the schedules very intelligently for design, documentation and QA tasks. Best wishes taking it all forward in your practice.

    • Thanks Elrond – spending time working on the render and presentation side to the models we are making, there is definitely a lot for us to learn and practice on –

      surprisingly, I’m looking forward to it


  • Cathy

    welcome to 3D/BIM. i think you will love it. it’s so nice to really see the building outside of your own head early on. we’ve used ArchiCad for 10 years now.

    • I’ve heard a lot of good things about ArchiCAD but since the firm I partnered with was already fully on Revit I am committed to dance “with the one that brung me”

  • Robert R. Machado

    I am really impressed with your revit drawings! We have been 100% revit for about 8 years now and it has elevated the speed and accuracy of our drawings. Granted there are still drawbacks in some areas, but overall it has been a rewarding experience. Your client should be very excited with what your team has produced! I like your design and will be very interested in following the process from concept to finalization.

    • The process is moving through construction documentation very quickly. Since the model is so complete, I can see now why the drawing sets that utilize Revit always seem to have an overkill on the drawings – you can cut all the sections you want!

      but that’s also a bad thing – something new to process in the next few weeks as I cartoon out the final set of construction drawings

  • Megan Musgrove

    I am sooooooo excited to see you working in Revit and see all of this coming together! Good point on the “we could have done” b/c that is a constant battle. Have it ready enough for the client to view, but not so much that you waste time. *sigh* Anyway, good work!

    • Thanks Megan – finding that balance seems to be a career long objective. Let me know if you figure out the secret

      • Megan Musgrove

        Um . . .considering I’m just a drafter/designer and I work by myself from home and I haven’t been doing this NEARLY as long as you I seriously doubt that I’m going to figure it out before you. But I sure as heck feel like I at least get a teensy bit better at it as time goes by. It’s just hard when you’re constantly distracted by things like . . .the package of Circus Peanuts that should NOT be on my desk. WHO put that there?! Ug, I should just go back out the job site. lol

  • Colin

    I really enjoy watching the design process at your new office. Revit is an amazing program. Hands down more efficient than autoCAD. Obviously it’s not a design program, but coupled with physical modeling and sketching / drafting its an extremely successful combination. In fact I couldn’t work for a firm that isn’t on some kind of BIM program. Thanks for giving us a peak into your office’s process.

    • Thanks Colin! Good to hear an affirmation that we’re on the right path using BIM – I’m fairly enthusiastic about it

  • Wade MacAdam

    Great natural surveillance with the open rail design. Did you consider opening the concrete retaining walls near pedestrian routes to maintain the natural surveillance by incorporating the open rail with the wall at the ends or via another open design strategy?

    • not really – we know that the design isn’t quite there yet but we are actively looking at options – budget is rearing its ugly head!

  • CPR

    Don’t fear Revit. It is a construction documentation tool that really helps bring the whole package together quickly, more accurately and has a few cool bells and whistles (like the ability to see your drawings in 3D), BUT despite the hype, it will never replace true design, just like autocad never did. It is simply too rigid in its functionality.
    If at the end of the day, the medium that inspires you is trace and paper, or sketch-up, or water colors, etc… then continue that way, and remember the Revit is simply another tool in your bag.
    BTW, even if you said that the post is about the design and not Revit, the mere mention of Revit is going to hijack the point of your post. Love your design work, and I’m looking forward to the progress in the coming months!

    • I agree 100% with what you are saying but I am interested in seeing how my particular method of designing will dovetail into this documenting process. I tend to design by thinking about how a thing gets built – it’s individual parts and pieces. While I start with an overall concept, the finesse of the design is in how it detailed and its ability to get built properly (and within budget). The fact that you have to consider these facts when drawing the project in Revit can’t possibly be a bad thing and I can’t help but think that the younger folks doing the bulk of the drafting will understand how buildings work better because of how you assemble the drawings in BIM.

      I suppose we’ll see about that won’t we?


      • Ryan Hansanuwat

        One thing to keep an eye out for that I learned the hard way: when you get past “designing” and into the “documenting”, make sure everyone understands what still needs to be detailed. A lot of times since we have already “figured it out” in Revit we forget to detail it. In CAD we used to figure it out as we put the details together, but with Revit you’ve resolved a lot of issues already and forget to detail it for the contractor.

        Unless you are handing the BIM model over to the contractor, they are still getting a piece of paper to build from and can’t see all of the 3D details unless you put it onto paper for them.

        • good point – at least the detailing is my favorite part of preparing construction drawings

  • idarchie

    My office has been using ArchiCAD for some time but has only recently started using the model for our CD’s instead of converting everything to a 2D drawing. It definitely takes some mental adjustment for the new process but by the time I get to actual notation I feel like the CD set has just magically put itself together. Your model looks great, hard to make them perfect. I know my office still has a long way to go.

    • Thanks.

      While I am excited to see how the building just sort of “shows up” I look at these images and have a hard time not seeing all the deficiencies and missing unresolved parts. There will definitely be some mental adjustment for me regarding this process.

  • Ryan Hansanuwat

    We can have a million other posts on Revit itself and how billing ratios need to change, with the way drawings get put together so heavy on the front end now, but in the end, I applaud you for taking the leap.

    One quick note for everyone that I think makes a big difference, immediately after you render, bring it into Photoshop or Gimp and adjust the levels, curves and add a photo filter. It helps get rid of the Revit haze.

    • Thanks for the tip Ryan – after going through the render process yesterday, it was painfully obvious that we have some housekeeping and some research to do. I appreciate the tips

    • Megan Musgrove

      Not to high-jack this, but I haven’t edited my renderings outside of Revit . . .yet. I primarily use the 3D views and only render at the very end of the project. What exactly do you do in Photoshop?? I do know Photoshop, but I’m certainly not an expert. I’m curious . . .

      • Ryan Hansanuwat

        Depends on the level of detail you want. If you want a super high quality rendering, look up Alex Hogrefe’s website, he has some good tutorials on post processing. If I just want something quick, I just export the image, and add adjustment layers in Photoshop to correct the image (levels, curves and filter), then bring it back into Revit and put it on a title block.

        • Sara

          +1 to Alex Hogrefe’s site. He really knows his stuff and is fantastic at putting together tutorials and showing different styles of renderings.

          • Megan Musgrove

            Thanks. : )

          • Megan Musgrove

            Oh My Gosh! I’m so glad you guys pointed me to Alex Hogrefe. Now I’m going to be wondering how in the world I lived this long without his stuff. lol

        • Megan Musgrove

          Thanks, I’ll certainly go check that out. I work all by my lonesome, so I don’t have the guy at the next workstation telling me stuff like that!!! lol

  • SBA

    What will the cost of revit do to small construction firms and small design firms?

    • On one level I’m not sure that the answer to your questions matters – I think moving forward – whether it’s Revit or some other BIM type program – the change is coming.

      We are a small firm (8 people) and we had to buy the software and while it was a painful hit to the ledger, we recognize it as a necessary cost of doing business.

  • Jen Born

    Revit is an amazing and a powerful program! I’m glad you have been forced to use it Bob πŸ˜‰ But unless you plan to use it everyday, it will be very difficult to learn and really a waste of your time especially if you have folks that will do that work for you anyway. You will only get frustrated, believe me. What I can draw and design on paper will never render to any computer program exactly, even Revit. But it’s close and a complete upgrade from Cadd. Good luck!:)

    • Thanks Jen,
      I have no doubt that you are right but I have to learn enough about the system so that I can jump in it at the very least and manipulate the views and drawings should I need to take a look at something when nobody else is around (which happens all the time actually).

      I am interested to see what I can learn – hopefully enough to be competent but I know I’ll never be as good as the folks that work in the program all day, every day – that’s not my role anyways.


  • Nathan Taylor

    Looks great so far! Looking forward to seeing what that green roof looks like! Is there anyway for you to show more of the process? Say a conceptual sketch and a Revit image grab of the same element? I’m interested how your sketches were interpreted by the design team in your office.

    • If you want to look a the design sketches – go to this post:

      I’ll see what I can do about creating a comparison but don’t get your hopes up too high. We are already past the point to provide what I think you are asking for other than showing the sketches from that post (in the link I provided)

      I’ll do my best