What's New in Revit 2021

This year’s release of Autodesk Revit will surely be memorable, as it comes in the midst of a global pandemic due to the novel COVID-19 virus, aka coronavirus. While some have already questioned whether releasing new software at this time makes sense, I think it is good for Autodesk to keep its staff working and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, as most other companies are striving to do. The ‘work from home’ or ‘shelter in place’ order is relatively new for those of us in the US, but I have friends at Autodesk China who have been affected by this nearly all of 2020 (with this article being written in early April). So, having the opportunity to keep working, and seeing some sense of normalcy is likely a very good thing from their perspective.

I also think it might be a good time to test new software and get it ready for deployment. If that does not work for some, they can surely put it off. In any case, it might be a good idea to send out an announcement to staff, letting them know they should not self-initiate the installation of any new Autodesk software while working from home… or, at the very least, if they plan to explore the new features they should NOT upgrade any projects. This type of messaging becomes more relevant now that more staff are logged into their Autodesk accounts to access BIM 360 Design projects, and therefore are likely also logged into the Autodesk Desktop App which can alert them that a new version is ready to install.

In any case, the software is here and I have prepared my annual AECbytes article to highlight many of the enhancements and new features found in Revit 2021 just released today! I already have a good handle on all the new features thanks to the fact that I update all six of my Revit textbooks every year, making sure they are ready for the academic fall semester.

In this article, we will look at the platform features and then the discipline-specific features: Architecture, MEP, and Structure.

My favorite new features are:

  • Slanted walls
  • Linked images and PDFs
  • Generative Design in Revit
  • BIM 360 Design servers in Europe
  • Worksharing changes for MEP systems.

Revit Platform

First, let’s look at the non-discipline specific features found in this new version of Revit.

Link Raster Image and PDF files

Where we could only import an image or PDF file previously, Revit 2021 allows us to link raster image and PDF files from local or BIM 360 locations. If the referenced file changes, it will automatically update in Revit when reloaded or the project is opened. Notice, in the image below, there are now two sets of Image and PDF commands, one for Import and another for Link.

Along with this enhancement, the Manage Links dialog has been updated to include an Images tab which replaces the separate Manage Images dialog. There is also a Show button to locate an instance of the image/PDF within the project. Additionally, instances may be placed from this dialog using the Place Instance command, and new images/PDF files can be added using the Add… command.

In the following example, I linked page 31 from the multi-page PDF file of my Interior Design using Autodesk Revit 2021 textbook.

Void Cuts Geometry Parameter

Within the family editor environment, Void elements have a new parameter; Cuts Geometry. This can be mapped to a family parameter which can be used to control if the void cuts geometry or not. Previously we had to use tricks like parametrically moving the void away from the geometry to prevent it from cutting.

FYI: this only works on geometry within the family, not elements within the project that might be cut by the family.

The results, within a project, can be seen in the following image. Here, one instance of the same family is being cut while the other is not.

View Filter On/Off

Previously, if you wanted to see a view without the filters applied, e.g., perhaps a filter is used to make all the furniture dashed, you would have to remove it from the Visibility/Graphic Overrides dialog. That was unfortunate as the various settings associated with that filter are lost (like visibility, transparency, line styles, etc.). Now we can simply disable a view filter without needing to remove it from the list using the new Enable Filter toggle.

Tag Enhancement

More tags work as expected when Rotate with component is checked in the family editor. Although the parameter has always existed within the family editor, it did not work for several categories such as Furniture shown below. Now it does!

Schedule Enhancement

When striped rows first came out for schedules, we could only see them on the screen. Striped rows now show on sheets and print. This is great!

Units Enhancement

The unit US Survey Feet has been added as a length to better support civil coordinates from Civil 3D. The surveyors in the office I work in say this is usually the only unit they use. However, in case you are worried about all your previous Revit projects, the difference between a “standard” foot and a “US Survey” foot is very small and not likely to be noticeable on a building or single campus project. (See this link for more information: State Plane Coordinate Systems and the U.S. Survey Foot.)

New Infrastructure Categories

New bridge-centric categories have been added to support bridge documentation and tie-in to Autodesk Infraworks. Notice, in the image below, there is also a new Filter list item called Infrastructure.

FYI: If you have Autodesk’s AEC Collection, you have access to Infraworks.

Persona Based User Interface

When a user first starts Revit 2021 they are presented with a dialog asking them to specify the type of work they do. Given that Revit supports multiple disciplines, the user interface (UI) often presents several ribbon tabs and tools not needed for their tasks. Thus, this wizard will turn portions of the UI off. There are no new settings, just a wizard that manages existing settings, which can manually be turned back on in the Options dialog at any time.

Autodesk Content Distribution Change

Autodesk is no longer providing all base content during installation. This often was problematic as the content was downloaded separately during the software installation. Most Revit users will not miss this content as they have custom content created or curated by their firm, and therefore do not use the out-of-the-box (OOTB) content. If, however, the content is needed it can be downloaded via the new Get Autodesk Content command on the Insert tab.

FYI: Students using my textbooks will need to do this, as that is the content used in most of the tutorials. And, do not be confused that the folders and a small handful of content still appear by default, post installation.

BIM 360 Enhancements

With the popularity of BIM 360 Design skyrocketing during the current #WorkFromHome situation and because Autodesk is offering it for free as a way of assisting struggling firms, any new features around this functionality will be greatly welcomed.

Tip: For more on using BIM 360 Design for free, check out my BIM Chapters blog post: Autodesk to Offer BIM 360 Design Free Until May 31, 2020

Home Page Enhancement

Revit 2021 has improved BIM 360 Design project access from the Home page, including the ability to search. This also includes a link to the BIM 360 portal through your browser.

European-based servers

Autodesk now has European-based BIM 360 servers located in Ireland. Only Revit 2021 and newer projects are supported. When creating a project, the data location is not user selectable.

Functionality Change

The support for the Plans folder has been removed. Thus, the Project Files folder is now the only place for Revit models.

Dynamo 2.5

New nodes, package dependency tracking, latest Dynamo core and Dynamo Revit versions. Ten new nodes are included, most are about joining and unjoining geometry.

Decommissioned Add-ins

The following items will not be updated for Revit 2021:

  • Model Review
  • Site Designer, originally from Eagle Point

Architecture

The architecture discipline has a few new features sure to make many designers happy.

Slanted Walls

Walls can now be slanted without using a mass element as a host! Through new instance parameters, a wall can be defined to slope at a specific angle and automatically join with adjacent walls.

To make a wall slanted you must first toggle the Cross-Section instance parameter to Slanted. This reveals an adjacent parameter called Angle From Vertical. Slanted walls can host wall sweeps and windows which can be either vertical or aligned with the wall via the Orientation parameter, both of which are shown in the images below.

Realistic Views

Revit 2021 offers a totally new experience in terms of performance and quality. It’s not Enscape, but it does provide a much-improved experience within Revit proper.

There are even moments of “oh, wow” within this new realistic view… notice the quality of the metal chair base in the following image.

Path of Travel

Two new Dynamo scripts have been provided for Path of Travel workflow. Just fire up the Dynamo Player within Revit to see the list below, which includes the ability to Calculate Longest Exit Distance.

When running that script, the user must select an exit door. The result is a Path of Travel element like the one pointed out here.

Generative Design for Revit

In this new release, Autodesk delivers its first Generative Design (GD) toolset directly within Revit. This functionality has graduated from the Project Refinery public beta, but an earlier version of these tools are still available for earlier versions of Revit via the beta site. However – let’s just get this out of the way now -- to continue to show value for its Enterprise and Collections offerings, part of want I am about to cover is only available to those customers. But. anyone can access GD via Dynamo for Revit.

Be sure to check out Autodesk’s new Generative Design Primer (https://www.generativedesign.org/) to learn more. Another resource is their eBook titled Demystifying Generative Design (PDF download link).

Limited access portion found directly within Revit

The Manage tab has two new tools; Create Study and Explore Outcomes.

Clicking Create Study reveals three pre-built examples; Maximize Window Views, Three Box Massing, and Workspace Layout as shown below. Note that you can create custom studies as well. When a script is run, six instances of Dynamo run to calculate the solutions.

The results can be revisited via the Explore Outcomes dialog shown here. Previous runs are listed on the left. Clicking one shows the outcomes to the right. If a preferred solution is found, click the Create Revit Elements button in the lower right … in this example, the desks will be placed in the room.

Analysis Tools

Insight – Lighting Analysis for Revit is still a separate install, but more easily found via the Autodesk Desktop App. Previously you could only find it at insight.autodesk.com.

MEP

For Revit MEP, this release’s major focus was on electrical features and globalization.

Circuit Naming

This enhancement supports international circuit naming conventions. The primary requirements came from the UK and France for this update.

The new settings can be accessed via Manage > Electrical Settings > Circuit Naming. An example, like the one shown below, can be seen by starting a new MEP project based on the 2021 UK template provided with the Revit install.

Panel board family example: Circuit Naming parameter lists new options. In panel board schedule: Renumber Indexes – specifically not automatic, but automated for when needed.

Load Classifications have a new Abbreviation option to help with the French standard.

Single Phase L-N Panelboards

Previously Revit only supported 3 or 2 hot conductors, but not 1 hot so much, as the load does not propagate to distribution systems properly. Users may find other uses for this feature enhancement, like US lighting inverter panels can also use this method.

Higher pole panels can no longer be connected to lower pole panels. No changes to an existing Revit model during upgrade, but any changes will prompt warnings.

Switchboard Circuit Quantity

This enhancement addresses an Idea station comment “Fix the issue regarding multi-pole loads on a switchboard Loads only take up one slot, but Revit thinks the panel is full when it is 1/3 full.”
Maximum number of circuits on switchboard families as shown below. Panel families still have Max Number of Circuits.

Switchboard Circuit Phase

Select which phase a specific circuit is on. Using the new Switch Phase tool on ribbon for a selected circuit allows the user to move L-N and L-L loads to user selected phase.

Panel schedules

Panels now appear under the sheet node in the project browser.

New Space and Spare Properties

New parameters have been created, as shown here:

  • Spare: Frame Size
  • Space: Number of Poles and Notes.

Worksharing Enhancements

To address circular syncing issues and users not being able to open a project file, changes to MEP elements no longer check out the entire MEP logical system and related elements. Now, just the elements, within the system, being directly modified are checked out.

Units Enhancement

Piping Units of Liters per Hour for Flow has been added.

P&ID Modeler

This has been moved from Teams to Docs for Revit related functionality. Only affects 2021 and later projects.

Structure

Revit structure continues to see rebar improvements as well at an update to the Precast automation that supports imperial units.

More Rebar Improvements

Here is a list of the array of rebar-related improvements.

  • New Standard 3D Rebar Shapes
  • Easier Hook Length Adjustments
  • Override Hooks length by instance
  • Couplers connecting arc shaped rebar
  • End treatment without couplers for rebar
  • 3D solid fabric sheet visualization

Precast Automation Enhancements

Revit Precast Automation integration enhancements which now supports imperial units.

More Dynamo Scripts for Structural

Dynamo – integrated steel connection automation nodes in Dynamo for Revit

Steel Detailing Enhancements

Improved steel detailing tools; added stiffeners.

Conclusion

While is it not possible for Autodesk to implement everyone’s ideas and requests, they certainly managed to deliver a lot of value in this annual update. We will likely see additional features in the intermediate updates later this year.

About the Author

Daniel John Stine AIA, CSI, CDT, is a registered architect with over twenty years of experience in the field of architecture. He is the BIM Administrator at LHB, a 250-person full service design firm. In addition to providing training and support for four offices, Dan implemented BIM-based lighting analysis using ElumTools, early energy modeling using Autodesk Insight, virtual reality (VR) using the HTC Vive/Oculus Rift along with Fuzor & Enscape, Augmented Reality (AR) using the Microsoft Hololens, and the Electrical Productivity Pack for Revit (sold by CTC Express Tools). Dell, the world-renowned computer company, created a video highlighting his implementation of VR at LHB.

Dan has presented internationally on Architecture and BIM in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Slovenia, Australia and Singapore, at the following conferences: Autodesk University, RTC/BILT, Midwest University, AUGI CAD Camp, NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference, Lightfair, and AIA-MN Convention. By invitation, he spent a week at Autodesk's largest R&D facility in Shanghai, China, to beta test Revit features.

Committed to furthering the design profession, Dan teaches graduate architecture students at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and has lectured for interior design programs at NDSU, Northern Iowa State, and University of Minnesota, as well as Dunwoody's new School of Architecture in Minneapolis. As an adjunct instructor, Dan previously taught AutoCAD and Revit for twelve years at Lake Superior College. Dan is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), and Autodesk Developer Network (ADN), and is a Construction Document Technician (issued by CSI). He has presented live webinars for ElumTools, ArchVision, Revizto and NVIDIA.

Dan writes about design on his blog, BIM Chapters, and in his textbooks published by SDC Publications:
• Autodesk Revit 2020 Architectural Command Reference (with co-author Jeff Hanson)
• Residential Design Using Autodesk Revit 2020
• Commercial Design Using Autodesk Revit 2020
• Design Integration Using Autodesk Revit 2020 (Architecture, Structure and MEP)
• Interior Design Using Autodesk Revit 2020 (with co-author Aaron Hansen)
• Residential Design Using AutoCAD 2020 • Commercial Design Using AutoCAD 2013
• Chapters in Architectural Drawing (with co-author Steven H. McNeill, AIA, LEED AP)
• Interior Design using Hand Sketching, SketchUp and Photoshop (also with Steven H. McNeill)
• Trimble SketchUp 8 for Interior Designers; Just the Basics (formerly Google SketchUp)

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