Render more quickly and accurately with Autodesk Raytracer, the default visualization engine in Revit 2017.
Courtesy Autodesk Render more quickly and accurately with Autodesk Raytracer, the default visualization engine in Revit 2017.

Software developer and tech giant Autodesk has unveiled the latest release of its flagship BIM program, Revit 2017. With more than 50 new features and enhancements, this version is a refreshing and substantial perennial update as compared to its past two predecessors, Revit 2015 and Revit 2016, which didn't offer significant upgrades until their R2 (Release 2) editions. Disclosure: I am a member of the Autodesk alpha and beta testing programs for Revit 2017, and participate on the Autodesk AEC Blogger Council, both of which I do on a volunteer basis.

Gone are Autodesk's discipline-specific “vertical applications”—programs such as Revit Architecture, Revit MEP, and Revit Structure. Now it’s just Revit or Revit LT. The former is the full-featured product suitable for all disciplines, while the latter is more apropos for single-user projects, such as architects working on small projects.

Because the sunset period for perpetual licenses ends this July, and Autodesk application suites are only accessible via a subscription model, customers will likely demand more for their investment. Does Revit 2017 deliver? Yes. Below are five reasons why.

1. Modernized Text Editing and WYSIWYG Experience
Besides its new sculptural “R” logo, Revit 2017 has improved its text entry tool with a completely redesigned text engine that improves compatibility with imported and exported AutoCAD DWG files and creates a pixel-perfect WYSIWYG experience in the text editor. Moving between text editing and viewing in the building model no longer creates the unexpected and disruptive reflow of text as it did in past Revit editions. Instead, you can format the text with confidence, knowing it will look the way you intended.

Communicate designs more effectively with new WYSIWYG editing and features that give you more control over text.
Courtesy Autodesk Communicate designs more effectively with new WYSIWYG editing and features that give you more control over text.

The text tool also gets its own ribbon menu, similar to a word processing program, which displays an array of new options, including: nested lists, for entering multiple levels of bulleted or labeled items; an auto-capitalize tool; and the ability to create subscript or superscript text. You can also create leaders without any associated text, which is great for diagrams.

If you do bring projects into Revit 2017, make sure longer text notes are reading as intended and are not running into other graphics on the sheet as the overall height of characters in certain fonts may appear slightly taller and wider than before. This slight bit of fussing is still an improvement over the reformatting required after copying and pasting the lengthy notes you previously had to type in other applications.


2. Improved Schedules and Tags Tools
This item is really two features that I consider as one because they steal from each other's playbooks. The Schedule tool can now combine multiple fields into a single cell; for example, a pair of 36-inch-wide doors can now be efficiently stated as 2 @ 3'-0", rather than requiring multiple schedule columns. Tags, which display parameter data such as rooms and number of doors of drawn elements, can now hold formulas—such as for room-occupancy counts and other code calculations—that update automatically, making it easier, for example, for life-safety drawings to be current.

Data sharing within Revit 2017 has been improved with new tools that simplify the reuse of schedules.
Courtesy Autodesk Data sharing within Revit 2017 has been improved with new tools that simplify the reuse of schedules.


3. Enhanced Ability to Show Depth in Drawings
Depth cueing is a new graphic-display option for indicating distance in elevations and sections. It can create a range of faded effects on lines, shadows, and colors to indicate hierarchy, and to show what is most in the foreground. By building this setting into view templates, you can produce great-looking elevations and sections with far less tedium than a similar feature in Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture. The output feels much less like a technical drawing but it is still useful for marketing images and construction documents. Perhaps this is the panacea that interior designers and architects have sought to create more readable interior elevations, since depth variations tend to be more discreet than in exterior views.

Add depth to elevations and sections to create stunning visuals that better communicate your design.
Courtesy Autodesk Add depth to elevations and sections to create stunning visuals that better communicate your design.


4. New Muscles in Calculations and Scripting
Two ongoing developments by Autodesk have reached a noteworthy level of maturity: Global Parameters, introduced in Revit 2016 R2 and improved upon in this update, brings the level of parametric flexing found in objects (or families, in Revit-speak) to the project environment. You can assign parameter values across multiple categories for effecting large cascading changes to the project. Global Parameters can now be organized in groups and help filter schedules for better data management.

Dynamo, the independently developed and enabling creation of Revit workflows analogous to Grasshopper for Rhino, is also coming into its own. The visual programming environment now gets properly integrated as a tool in Revit.

Users can embed design intent in a model by using Global Parameters to drive dimension- and element-instance parameters.
Courtesy Autodesk Users can embed design intent in a model by using Global Parameters to drive dimension- and element-instance parameters.


 
5. An Easy Button for Energy Analysis
Preparing a model for energy analysis has become much simpler with Revit 2017, requiring fewer clicks. While this may seem like a minor feature, it is vital in encouraging architects to conduct performance analyses early and often in their projects rather than waiting until the late stages of design. The only thing you need to start an analysis is a project location, according to Autodesk, which hid the more advanced features behind a button to reduce the intimidation factor.

The precision and creation speed of an energy model have increased again with this version. The analysis tool uses Autodesk Green Building Studio, which has been getting a makeover with the introduction of the intuitive dashboard style interface of Insight 360, a collaboration between Autodesk and the 2030 Palette, a project of the nonprofit Architecture 2030.

Surprisingly, the Insight 360 tools and dashboard have not been directly integrated into Revit, as they have with FormIt, the conceptual design tool by Autodesk. Rather, they are offered as a separate plug-in. I hope to see that integration in future versions to more clearly illustrate how BIM can contribute to better building energy and environmental performance.


Though Autodesk has expanded its investment in cloud computing, the existing cloud features—rendering, various A360 file-sharing options, or Communicator in Revit 2017—haven't made my top features list. The core application—Revit itself—still has room for improvement while it becomes more integrated with cloud-computing and for communications.

Revit can be purchased as part of the new offering Revit Collaboration Suite, which also includes AutoCAD and A360 Team; or as part of the Building Design Suite Premium (which includes 11 applications) or Ultimate (which includes 13 applications) editions. Prices for the three degrees of suites range from a retail price of $315 to $605 per month, to a range of $2,500 to $4,830 per year.

Revit 2017 features an improved view refresh and navigation performance.
Courtesy Autodesk Revit 2017 features an improved view refresh and navigation performance.
Convert design level of detail (LOD) model elements to construction LOD elements using the Design to Fabrication tool.
Courtesy Autodesk Convert design level of detail (LOD) model elements to construction LOD elements using the Design to Fabrication tool.