Renting with Revit
A very useful addition to the UK CAD market has been used to design a high-profile project. How did it fare?
Just over a year ago Revit launched an all-new three-dimensional parametric modelling application in the UK.
In the face of the competition, it was a brave move. Breaking all of the established rules, Revit was the first AEC CAD-type developer to refuse to sell you a copy of its software, preferring to rent it to you on a monthly subscription. Now other CAD developers are following suit.
Timothy Associates, a small architectural practice in South London which is responsible for the design of the Stephen Lawrence Technocentre, has been using Revit for the past 12 months. Erica Timothy explained that the practice first saw Revit at the London AEC Show last autumn. 'We thought that it was very exciting and we wanted to trial it on a live project which was more than a simple box, ' she says.
With so many CAD tools to choose from, I was interested to find out why Timothy Associates chose Revit - an untried and untested tool from a brand new company. 'We thought that the Technocentre would be the perfect building to trial Revit, and the fact that we didn't have to commit to buying it meant that we would not stand to loose a great deal if we didn't like it, ' says Timothy.
The design process The site for the Technocentre is in Lewisham, south London, and is shared with other developers of buildings that are yet to be fully designed. Revit has enabled Timothy Associates to produce information in a format that improved design communication inside its project team, and has in turn had a positive affect on the communications with other owners/designers of neighbouring projects.
'Designing and modelling in 3D at the same time has enabled us to explore quickly design options which would otherwise have been impossible in the timescale, ' explains Timothy. 'We can be more cavalier with our ideas, which as a result has enabled us to produce a more comprehensive and challenging design.'
This ability to effect design changes quickly paid dividends when the brief changed in mid-project.
Reacting quickly to the changes and reissuing information was crucial:
Timothy Associates was able to change the model and update all the drawings in the reaction time of a much larger company.
Timothy cites the ability to explore and develop the design in 3D, while simultaneously and transparently creating all the plans, sections, elevations and schedules, as the main reason for adopting Revit. 'It takes about 15 seconds to set up and view a perspective of the model, ' she enthuses, 'à and the plans and sections take about the same amount of time to extract.'
Each drawing is dimensioned automatically, with key elements such as windows and doors being individually labelled for scheduling.
If you are nervous about working in the 3D environment, you can modify the plans, and the model and elevations will update to reflect the changes. However, this kind of integration comes at a price - you will need a fast PC to run Revit.
Revit was initially installed on an existing computer in Timothy Associates' office - four years old and below the minimum system requirements of 128MB RAM. The PC caused crashes to the system and frustrations for the user, as the software asked questions faster than the hardware could answer. The practice bought a newer, faster PC (in the form of 384MB RAM) for about £1,000 and the 'frustrations' were solved.
Service and support
Because Revit is licensed via monthly subscriptions, the decision to 'give it a go' meant that if it did not perform as expected, the financial implications were small. Indeed, at about £100 per month for early adopters, the financial risk is minute. Furthermore, the monthly subscription includes online training and support (the former ignored by Timothy in favour of the latter). 'We did not participate in any online training courses, ' she says. 'We had in-house training when our Revit client services architect (CSA) visited us for the first time and showed us all of the basics.' The relationship continues today with the team's CSA who visits for about half a day per week to check on progress and assist individuals in further developing their skills.
Timothy Associates' first foray into the world of 3D with Revit has proven to be extremely satisfactory.
'The software is so easy to learn and the support we have had from Revit has been very good, ' says Timothy. In a world where software tools are often selected by necessity rather than choice I wondered what she thinks of Revit one year on. 'I like it! We now use Revit on all of our projects.' But with Revit cutting back severely on staff, it will be interesting to see if future customers can get the same level of support.
Joe Croser can be contacted at joec@ adrem-dcx. com or on 07973 263360