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Revit for Interior Design

Discussions about BIM (Building Information Modeling) typically focus on the design of the outside of the building and the many benefits BIM brings to that aspect of architectural design. We read about massing models and curtain walls, expressive roof forms, and detailed wall sections. But how is BIM being applied to the design of the inside of the building - the finishes, the fixtures, the area requirements, the furniture schedules? This paper examines the use of Revit® Architecture software for the interior design of a building.

Interior Advantages

Regardless of the specialization of the interior design group - corporate, hospitality, retail, etc. - interior designers cite several key advantages of BIM:

The speed and ease of creating an interior design model, coupled with the ability to visualize that design.

The ability to capture and manage the design as multiple options within a single model - options that may vary anything from space layout to material selections.

The richness and reliability of the data embodied within the building information model. This is fundamental for early tasks such as schematic space planning and master scheduling, the accuracy of detailed design activities like quantification and costing, and finally for the production of well-coordinated documentation.

Creating the Design Model

Architects and designers working on the interiors of a building sometimes start with the building shell CAD files from their own firm or another firm. But in many cases, the building shell might pre-date the interiors project by many years with only paper documentation to rely on. Because it's so easy to create a 3D model with a BIM solution like Revit Architecture, these designers will sometimes quickly model the relevant portions of the building exterior off the 2D or paper floor plans as a way of starting their project.

As the interior design progresses (spaces defined, walls created, fixtures added, finishes selected) a parametric building modeler like Revit Architecture preserves design intent, coordinates changes and maintains consistency within the project design. If the designer changes the plan layout, the related ceiling plan and other documentation adjusts automatically. If a wall is deleted, the lighting sconce is deleted too, and the schedule of fixtures is instantly synchronized.

The Revit Architecture library ( features families of equipment and components. The parametric nature of the library elements means users have a vast selection to choose from. Manufacturers and vendors, industry groups such as the Woodwork Institute (formerly the Woodwork Institute of California, and user communities such as or AUGI® forums; all provide content as well. Revit Architecture also includes an easy-to-use family editor to create custom content - a task some firms assign to a junior team member to build their familiarity with BIM.

Seeing Is Believing

As the design evolves, Revit Architecture allows designers (and clients) to easily visualize their design in whatever form suits their needs - from straightforward perspective and axonometric views to the most sophisticated rendered images, 360° panoramic views, and animated walkthroughs.

Most architectural modeling tools support hidden-line views. Most solutions also have some sort of shading capability. Purpose-built BIM solutions such as Revit Architecture take this several giant steps further. Views - whether they're elevation or plan or perspective, wireframe or hidden-line or shaded - are direct presentations of the underlying interior design information, including the spatial configuration, finishes, materials, etc.
When the designer changes the information (in any view), all views update automatically. In fact, the same is also true for drawings (which are actually "live" views of the underlying information model), schedules, material take-offs, and so on. The building information across all representations of the project is reliable, coordinated, and internally consistent - the signature characteristic of BIM.

Because visually rich 3D views are direct presentations of the underlying building information, Revit Architecture allows designers to produce visualizations within their own design environment (with the same user interface they're already accustomed to), as a natural part of the design process. This ability to easily visualize their design in 3D without using specialized tools and the effortless model/image coordination is a driving force behind BIM's adoption by interior designers.

Figure 1: Designers at The Stubbins Associates use Revit Architecture to visualize their developing interior design.

Jeff Millett, AIA, director of information and communications technologies for The Stubbins Associates (, used the example of their interior designers wrestling with the height of workstations in a recent tenant fit-out project. The workstation walls formed an interior corridor, but the designers were worried that the planned 6' height was too severe, producing the wrong look and feel for the space.
They "dropped a camera into the corridor" (see steps below) and created a few quick shaded images. The images validated their concern, and they modified the workstation height throughout the area. "Without Revit Architecture, we wouldn't have had the time or budget to do this type of design investigation," reports Millett.

To create a camera view in Revit Architecture:

  1. ƒSelect pull-down menu View >> New >> Camera.

  2. Click a location (in any view) to place the camera.

  3. Click again in the same view to indicate direction and range of the new camera view, and the view automatically updates.

  4. To change to a shaded view, select View >> Shading with Edges.

Getting Down to Details

Creating images for interior design must be quick, easy, and expressive. Lighting, materials, finishes, fixtures all play a role in the visualization process. BIM allows for this level of detail - even in the early conceptual modeling stages.

The traditional process of creating quality rendered images is to export a CAD hidden-line view to a graphics design package, color it, and manually add finishes - with lots of graphic tweaks along the way to get presentation-quality renderings. It's a complex, costly process - limiting the amount of renderings a firm can produce during the design cycle. Using Revit Architecture, designers can produce rendered views with realistic lighting conditions and accurate finish/material representations directly from the building information model, leading to better design decisions earlier in the process.

Revit Architecture includes tools for shaded views with vectorial shadows, capped section boxes and silhouette edges. Photorealistic renderings can be generated using either raytracing or high-end radiosity techniques (which produce the most subtle and accurate lighting possible).

Revit Architecture - 3D View

Figure 2: Revit Architecture includes a variety of tools to enhance presentation views such as the use of highlighted section boxes.

 Designers can also use libraries of real-world materials to create detailed representations and renderings. Firms can even scan actual products (a hardwood flooring sample, for example) on a flatbed scanner, then use the scanned image to create a custom finish, giving it a slight bump factor to produce very realistic renderings.

To create a custom material finish in Revit Architecture:

  1. Scan a material sample and save the image file.

  2. Select Settings >> Materials from the Revit Architecture toolbar.

  3. Open the Materials Library and create a new material.

  4. In the Materials Editor, select the saved image file. Manipulate the image as desired (e.g., strengthen the color or give it a bump effect)

  5. Save the new material, then apply it to a component.

Revit Shaded Views

Figure 3: Shaded views featuring vectorial shadow casting can be created specifying date, time, and location.



Calculating Quantities

The ability of Revit Architecture to store, manage, and coordinate design information is essential for the precise tracking and reliable quantification of building materials, supplies, and equipment. Other design technologies scatter building information across multiple CAD files or require user intervention to make sure that all of the building information is internally consistent - resulting in less reliable information retrieval. In contrast, schedules and quantities of building components in Revit Architecture are live views of the building database, and are therefore accurate.

Revit Architecture allows users to calculate area and quantify materials effortlessly and reliably - reducing overall project cost by producing accurate estimates and minimizing the ordering of excess or unnecessary materials. Accurate area measurements lead to accurate finish budgeting for items such as carpet, wall coverings, ceiling tile, or finishes. Accurate furniture and equipment counts leads to accurate schedules for those items.

Returning to RTKL's hospital project example, hospital spaces contain very specialized, expensive equipment that require long lead times for ordering. By involving the interior design group early in the overall project (during the start of detailed design in this case), and relating detailed equipment schedules to emerging design spaces, RTKL was able to produce a better overall design, with minimal late changes and precise equipment counts.

Interior design modeled in Revit Architecture, rendered using 3Ds MAX® software

The accuracy and level of detail of the Revit building information model can also be a segue to more effective ways of managing and operating the resulting facility. The ability to track occupancy, space allocation, and assets is prompting some firms to contemplate how to leverage the building information model for future service offerings.

Interior Documentation

With Revit Architecture, all the construction documents relating to the interior design are direct presentations of the underlying building model - including schedules, material takeoffs and other "informational views" of the building. The Revit parametric building modeler coordinates any and all changes to the interior building model. If an interior wall is deleted, the lighting sconce on that wall is deleted as well and all related documentation is updated. The plan and elevations drawings that contained the wall and sconce, the electrical plans that contained the sconce, and the related schedule of lighting fixtures - all are instantly updated.

Figure 8: RTKL uses Revit Architecture to produce very accurate preliminary estimates for interior designs by relating detailed equipment schedules to emerging design spaces (such as this hospital patient room).


Revit Architecture software provides interior designers with a unified environment for conceptual design, design development, visualization, rendering, and documentation without requiring duplication of effort or replication of model information. The Revit parametric building modeler coordinates this information across all representations and design options of the project - giving designers, and their clients, confidence in the accuracy and reliability of their interior design documentation and information./p>

For interior designers, as for architects and other building design professionals, building information modeling is a powerful tool for thinking and communicating about design and is a strong competitive advantage for interior design businesses.

About Revit

The Revit platform is Autodesk’s purpose-built solution for Building Information Modeling

Applications such as Revit Architecture, Revit® Structure, and Revit® MEP built on the Revit platform are complete, discipline-specific building design and documentation systems supporting all phases of design and construction documentation. From conceptual studies through the most detailed construction drawings and schedules, applications built on Revit help provide immediate competitive advantage, better coordination and quality, and can contribute to higher profitability for architects and the rest of the building team./p>

At the heart of the Revit platform is the Revit parametric change engine, which automatically coordinates changes made anywhere — in model views or drawing sheets, schedules, sections, plans… you name it.
FFor more information about building information modeling please visit us at For more information about Revit and the discipline-specific applications built on Revit please visit us at

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