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Conceptual Massing Families in Revit - Part 1

Guide to Conceptual Massing Families in Revit – Part 1

This video shows how to use some of the conceptual modelling tools in Revit to create mass families that can be loaded into any project for schematic and conceptual design at the beginning of a project.

This is a transcription of the above video by Travis Van Clieaf.

Here are some of the techniques involved in using Revit as a conceptual modeling tool.


There are two different ways that you can do this:

1. The first way is by opening a ‘conceptual mass RFT’. You’ll notice I click on the ‘new’ icon and just go to ‘conceptual mass’ and there’s a template in here that we can use. You’ll know that you’re in a conceptual modeling template when it opens in this 3D view that has a grayish white gradient background. So, this is a family that we load into a project.

2. The other way is if we create a new project, you can create masses in-place. An in-place mass is essentially a mass that you’re going to use in one project only. So, if I go to ‘Massing & Site’ you’ll notice that we have ‘Place Mass’ which goes back to the mass families that we were just looking at. We can also say ‘In-place mass’ which is going to ask me to name it, and then we go about creating a mass. So, if I call this “Sample In-place” and hit OK, we’ll see that our ribbon changes to the mass editor, which will allow us to start creating an in-place mass.

I’m just going to say ‘cancel mass’ and leave this project open for the time being and then I’m going to switch back over to the Family1 3D view that we started.

Mass/Parametric Framework

The first thing that you might want to do is set up a mass framework or a parametric framework that you can start to commit parameters to. These will help you define the shape, the size, any of the dimensions that you might need in your project.
We’ll do this with instance parameters first. I’ll start by going to my ‘Level 1’ in the Project Browser and I’m going to start drawing in some reference planes. So, I go up to ‘Reference Plane’ under the ‘Create’ tab or type ‘RP’. I’m just going to draw in four reference planes on either side of these origin planes that we already have in here. You’ll notice that I’m not connecting these. I don’t want the end points to come to the same spot. The reason being, if I grab one of these end points to extend it, I don’t want to have to tab-cycle through to get the specific reference plane that I want. So, I leave these disconnected.

Naming Planes

To name your reference plane you can click on it and you’ll see it says ‘Click to Name’. Alternately, you can name it over on the left of the screen in your Properties window.
So, back to the origin planes, if I click on the centre-horizontal one, you’ll see that it’s already named Centre (Front/Back)’. So, I can assume that the top horizontal plane is going to be my back plane. You can go to the 3D view just to make sure. Name all other origin planes accordingly – back, front, left, and right.
So now I have named planes and when I go to ‘Set’ to draw something on, you can see that under ‘Placement Plane’ I’ll have those named planes now that I can pick from my pick list. That’s something that’s kind of handy. You don’t have to name these planes but if you don’t, then you’re going to have to pick them from the options when you go to set your reference plane.


The next thing that I would do is set up some dimension constraints that will allow me to create geometry and lock the faces of the geometry to these reference planes.
If I go back to my ‘Level 1’ view, you can see my Dimension tool becomes active at the top of the screen. I’m going to click on that and put a dimension that goes all the way across and I’m going to hit my EQ toggle. That lets me make sure that any dimension that I input for my parameter is going to be equal on both sides.

Creating a Parametric Framework
Now that I have that dimension in there, you’ll notice that when I select it I get my options to create a parameter at the top of the screen. In 2016 and any Revit further back this dimension label would have appeared down in the options bar. This is something new in 2017 that it has now moved into the extended ribbon.

To create that parameter, what I’m going to do is click on the button to the right of the option box in the Label Dimension box. You’ll notice it brings up a dialog box. Because I’m going to this from a dimension itself in the model space, you can see that the discipline type of parameter in the group is all kind of set up here already for me.
I’m going to call this one ‘mass width’ and I’m going to change that to an instance parameter and hit OK. So now you can see I’ve got ‘mass width’ at 208 and then I’m going to do the same thing on the left – a string. Hit the EQ toggle and then I’m going to do a full dimension that goes all the way. I don’t want to create parameters for the string. I want to create the parameter for the full dimension.

Now I’m going to go back into ‘Parameter Properties’ and type in ‘mass length’ in the name box and change that to ‘instance’. OK so now I have my parametric framework set up for the horizontal dimensions but to get a height parameter in here the next thing I’m going to do is go to any elevation view and just double click on those. I’ve got my length parameter in here but now what I want to do is draw another reference plane that’s going to go across the top.

We could name this one ‘top’ and I’m going to do the same thing here. I don’t need an equality dimension in here. I just need the one dimension. We’ll call this ‘mass height’.

Flexing the Framework
So now we can start creating the geometry, but before I do that, what I want to do is flex my framework and make sure that these things are working. I’m going to go into the 3D view and just change that to an isometric view so that I can see these. You’ll notice that the user planes that I’ve created are up here at the top. But when you hover over them you can see a representation of that plane. Now when you select these you can expand them. You can make them a little bit longer if you need to but I’m just going to leave them as is for the time being. I probably don’t want to see these dimensions in this view. I’m just going to want to see my reference geometry and the actual geometry that I create.

I’m going to hit ‘V V’ to control my visibility and I’m going to move over to ‘annotation categories’ tab and just uncheck ‘Dimensions’. This way when I’m working in 3D, I’m just looking at geometry and not the actual parameters. I’m going to worry about my parameters in the orthographic views.

PART 2 of 3 is coming soon!

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So many are still unaware of the power that lies latent in their Autodesk ID. In this 13 Slide PDF, Travis will show you what your Autodesk ID is, how it can greatly benefit you, and how to get it!


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