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Friday, September 21, 2012

Revit LT - Light or right?

For those who missed the press release on September 5, Autodesk has announced Revit LT. 
There have been a number of blog posts and quasi-review posts regarding this announcement and the comments range from delight to disappointment to anger. Since it wasn't available for trial download until September 18 many of those reviews are based on promotional material from Autodesk and user experience from Autodesk Labs' Project Spark that graduated to become Revit LT.

Is Revit LT a way for large firms to get into BIM 'on the cheap' or is it for the small firm to dip their toes into the model based delivery pool?
Let's look at the dollars first (because, let's face it, most people look at dollars before they consider value).
(All prices shown are suggested list price in USD and do not include subscription. There are some promotions on now to save you on purchase and subscription. Contact your reseller for pricing)
A license for Revit LT will run you $1,1195. When it becomes available you can bundle that with AutoCAD LT in the 'Suite' for $1,495.
A full Revit license (any discipline) lists for $5,775 or $6,825 for the Premium Suite which includes all versions of Revit as well as AutoCAD and a number of additional applications.

The first question we'll hear is what do I get for your $1,200? The more important question  is what you don't get and whether or not you can, or should, manage without it.
The link below takes you to a chart comparing Revit LT with Revit 2013

I won't bore you with a point by point review of the differences. I'll limit how I bore you by looking at what might be considered the 'big ticket items'.

  • Worksharing
  • Visibility control over linked models
  • In-place and conceptual massing families
  • Limited structural tools
  • No access to the API.

Worksharing is what allows multiple users to work concurrently in the same model file. Without this ability you are limited to a single user per model file. There are a number of approaches you might be able to patch together to emulate a multi-user workflow but the bottom line is you will still be limited to one user at a time.
In addition to allowing concurrent access, worksets are a valuable model management tool. Without them you have no method for 'demand loading' portions of your model. This may limit the scale and complexity of the projects where offices might be able to effectively and efficiently use LT on its own. 
Along with worksharing comes shared coordinates. Not having this ability prevents you from publishing or acquiring coordinate systems from linked models. Maybe not an issue on smaller projects but this might make keeping campus type projects or sites with multiple instances of linked models coordinated.
Clash detection is also eliminated from the equation

Visibility control over linked models: this limitation goes hand in hand with how many ways one might be able to approach a 'linking' strategy' to overcome the lack of worksharing. LT will still allow you to link other Revit models, from LT or full versions, but you have virtually no control over what and how they will display in your model views. Linked model display control is governed by the view settings from the host model. In other words no graphic overrides by link, no 'by linked view' option. That might work for basic coordination with other consultants but it may not serve you so well when you need to leverage model information from other disciplines. On the plus side, you can still schedule and tag across linked models and Revit LT gives you layer by layer override control over 2D DWG information.

In-place and conceptual massing families.
As far as in-place families are concerned I'm of two minds. For the most part in-place families can, and probably should be avoided. If used with abandon and without an understanding of their implication, in-place families can affect model performance, efficient change management and inconsistent graphical representation across views.
That said, some tools in Revit lack certain functionality that require the use of in-place families to allow certain forms to be modeled. Battered walls, roof that are not planar or aren't extrusion based, curtain systems (as opposed to curtain walls) are all frequently discussed 'shortcomings'.
The inability to leverage the power of mass objects, even simple planar volumes, for such things as schematic design eliminates mass floors and roofs from the mix. These tools are very powerful on all project types at early design stages for verifying program areas and helping to explore design options. (Speaking of design options, they are available within LT but are turned off by default. Why???? They can be enabled under Options on the Applications Menu.)

There is still a Structure tab but conspicuously absent is the beam system and truss tools that can come in every handy for quick 'architectural' layout of structural framing systems. There are no systems tools (MEP) at all.

No access to the API at first may not seem like a big issue but as third party developers are busily creating tools and enhancements for Revit that allow everything from family library management, analysis tools, productivity utilities, etc. I'm sure that LT users might feel somewhat left out in the long run.

So, who is the target audience supposed to be? How can they manage without all those tools that we've grown accustomed to in the full version of Revit. Well the fact is that much of the day to day architecture that is being produced effectively with plain old fashioned 2D tools is well suited to Revit LT. 
The sole practitioner who does interior fit outs, the bulk of residential work, renovations, small pad retail outlets and a plethora of buildings of various descriptions will find LT a good tool for most of their work.
LT has all the power of the family editor required to create architectural content for most uses. Yes, adaptive components are missing but we managed quite nicely without them for a number of years and there seems to be enough content out there for the vast majority of needs.
I have no inside track but my guess is that AutoDesk is after the portion of the market currently using 2D CAD tools or AutoCAD LT. Why not get them into a BIM tool? They may decide they like model based project delivery. The upgrade path to full Revit is there and I'm guessing that is part of Autodesk's plan as well. The difference is that the upgrade will really only be a dollar cost at that point. The change in attitude and approach will be more or less complete and users can step into a full blown solution without having to learn a new set of tools or major changes in workflow.
You can't argue that the price point is pretty attractive for people to 'take a peek', and in today's economy that can't be a bad thing.

I would really hate to see larger offices attempt to cobble together a clumsy Revit LT workflow so they can get some extra hands on deck for the final push. That's CAD thinking and it has no place in a Revit world. 
Revit LT is surely not for large projects or projects with complex geometry to resolve. That will still require the extra power of the full Revit package and a good dose of planning to make it effective. 

So is LT right for you? Check out Autodesk's version of what should drive that decision. 

If you aren't sure and these comments weren't enough to enlighten you feel free to give us a call and we can help you decide.


Take a look at some of the subtle graphic differences between Revit and Revit LT. It may not seem like much but this little difference made the options bar more apparent at a glance. This might benefit new users and help remind them they need to keep an eye on that space.

Jeremy also discovered a neat little feature that appears to be available only in LT. The annoying (only for tags) double click to edit a family is extended to walls, floors, roofs and other sketch based system families. In the full version it seems that it only applies to tags and component families.