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Autodesk are trying to corner the UK construction market with Revit, a Building Information Modelling package that they got hold of by buying out some guys who did all the work back in 2003-ish.
Expect to pay around £5000 for a single licence of Revit, expect to pay even more than that when Autodesk crush their UK competition.
I found creating a BIM model in Revit reasonably straightforward, although not having used it in a commercial project yet I couldn't comment on things like client feedback etc.
Parametric (editable) Structural Elements are conveniently given construction-friendly names, and range from the simple (columns, walls) to the more complex (curtain wall, beam & block flooring) which are usually handled in a modular sense and then arrayed and duplicated.
Most of these I found intuitive to use, drawing a wall is the same as any other BIM product, you just click twice and you get a wall. The curtain wall system creation I found an absolute pleasure to use, reminding me of traditional 2D CAD drawing. The big drawback is the unfriendly interface. If I'm trying to create a cavity wall, create a door schedule or anything else I'm confronted with something that looks like an Excel spreadsheet, only with added complicated bits. I eventually got a useful schedule out but it took longer as I was playing 'hunt the button'. Work environment is definitely something that BIM competitors Bentley and Graphisoft have an advantage over Revit on.
Having used pure 3D modelling packages before I was keen to try out the massing tools and wasn't disappointed. Autodesk probably had a bit of a head start with conceptual geometry because all they had to do is import the tools from 3DS Max. They were really nice to use and I was able to create some organically-shaped curtain wall systems by creating the geometry then attaching a system to the face which is then repeated horizontally and vertically to fill the shape. This is great, but sadly in the UK we don't get to do snazzy 'blobitechture' buildings that often so it's just a pretty toy.
The real gains of any BIM package can be measured simply - can I save time and money by using it?
There's a few energy analysis tools that you can use for early stage stuff, but nothing that's UK accredited. Depending on how you work you may need to outsource that stuff still, probably the best that can be said about any BIM energy analysis package is that it points you in the right direction, so you may save a coupla hundred on paying your consultant for multiple calcs.
Once you get a handle on the scheduling tools you don't have to waste time on this either. If like me you dislike Excel you'll be pleased at not having to spend hours in it scheduling everything.
With other BIM packages you can create QS lists and timber cutting lists and so on - this hasn't been something I've needed to do in Revit yet, but it looks like all the other bits are there.
Local authority planning disputes could also possibly be solved with the sun study tool, although I suspect that local authorities wouldn't trust anything from any software package developed after 1980.
Another big plus is seeing as I've made a BIM model I can create some renders of it without outsourcing - again Autodesk have made good use of their other products as there's a sophisticated rendering engine. You show a client with limited construction knowledge a photorealistic render and they immediately understand and react to the project.
To summarise, I do like Revit but it would probably suit someone from an engineering background more. Creating a BIM model here is more like an assembly job than a design process, if I was doing a design/build project I'd use something else, as autodesk seem to be assuming we know what everything will look like from day 1.
I like using the tools and enjoy the fact that by using BIM software I'm in the pub at 5pm having automated a lot of my process instead of sat in front of Excel making mistakes that are going to cost me on site. However these are gains that you get from using any BIM product, and can be accessed more easily by using other BIM platforms like ArchiCAD or Microstation, and more cheaply in some cases
I was also narked off when my supercomputer couldn't take the strain of running Revit. I've got a bitchin' video card and 16GB of RAM and I can't model a warehouse box without grinding to a halt or crashing? To put that in perspective in other BIM products I've had entire city centres, business parks and colossal multistoreys and they've worked fine. This makes me worry about this products future, you can't fix holes in the scripts under the bonnet by throwing processor power at them. Also if you want to use the teamwork feature it's recommended you have 24GB of RAM. 24GB! I could launch a frickin' shuttle with that amount of push.
Also it's Windows only, so you might as well take that Macbook Pro you bought to impress clients with and flush it. Or buy Paralells or Boot Camp, but running that stuff takes RAM and your project will fall over.
I'm still learning this Revit though, often it's not the best product that wins the industry over, but the one with the most money behind it. Seeing as autodesk have paid the UK chief construction adviser to espouse their tech I'd strongly suggest that anyone studying or working in construction gets a bit of knowledge about Revit.