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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #61 (March 28, 2012)

The New Materials User Interface in Revit 2013

Dan Stine, CSI, CDT
Registered Architect and Author

The latest version of Autodesk Revit brings several new features. Most notable are the following:

  • An all-in-one version of Revit is available in addition to the discipline specific packages (Architecture, Structure and MEP)
  • Model based stair sketches, which allows for T-shaped, Y-shaped and stacked multi-run stairs
  • Artificial lighting and photographic exposure in realistic views
  • Ray Trace mode
  • RPC content appearance in realistic views
  • Save and reload selections (this was in Revit Structure previously)
  • Split a dimension string
  • View Templates can be assigned to a view, and then drive the view’s settings
  • Thermal properties in Materials, and assemblies which automatically calculate Resistance (U) and Thermal Mass

This article will cover the major changes made to the Materials user interface (UI) that current users need to be aware of in order to efficiently use the 2013 family of Revit products. We will be looking at the new Materials UI from the perspective of an existing experienced user.

Compare New and Old

The two images shown below compare the Materials dialog for 2012 (Figure 1) and 2013 (Figure 2). The 2012 dialog is largely self-contained within a single dialog box. In 2013, the process has been broken down into multiple dialogs. Admittedly, the new design feels more cumbersome, but complaining about that will not change anything for this version. Once you read this article, you will be aware of where everything is and not get hung up on a few not-so-intuitive aspects of the new Materials UI.

The Materials dialog for Revit 2012 is shown below:

Compare this to the Materials dialog for Revit 2013:

Looking at the new UI shown above, one can see that the original dialog was essentially split down the middle into two dialog boxes. By default, when you first open Materials from the Manage tab, both of these dialogs open side-by-side. It is possible to close the Material Editor (right) and still have the Material Browser (left) open. If you do this, the next time you open Materials, the Editor dialog will not open. If you want both to always open, just click OK/Cancel and never click the Done button.

There are a few steps you can take to maximize the usability of this new layout. First you can adjust the two dialogs to be taller. This allows you to see more information, especially in the Material Editor. Second, you can switch the Material list to Text View so you can see more materials. This is similar to the default view in previous versions. To do this, follow steps #1 and #2 in the image shown below. Once you make these changes, Revit will remember them so you only have to do this once.

In the image below, you can see the adjusted dialog boxes for overall size and Material text view.

Understanding Revit Materials

There is a new term being thrown into the mix, which is Assets. Notice this heading in the figure above, within the Material Editor dialog. To better understand Assets, let’s first talk about the overall concept of a Material. Consider the simple illustration shown below. The box shown here represents a Material in Revit.

Think of a Material as a container. Some of the information represents elements you can touch and see when the building is complete, while others do not.

All of these components shown within the box existed in previous versions of Revit except Thermal. We did not have the terminology of Assets either (except in the API). Knowing this will help to ease the initial shock one might experience when first looking at the new Materials UI. We will take a look at each of these material components in the order listed.

General Information

 Notice the circled arrow icons in the image below. These icons expand and collapse sections of information. The first one is the easiest to miss as it is collapsed by default and not near the others like it.

Clicking this arrow expands the General Information such as Keynote and Product Information, as shown below, which was previously found on the Identity tab in 2012.

One big thing missing in 2013 is the Material Class field. It was at the first item on the Identity tab. This allowed us to sort Materials.

Custom Information

The Custom Parameters button, seen in the lower left of the image above, gives you access to a list of material-based parameters in the project. This information was displayed at the bottom of the Identity tab previously and only appeared if the project had any instances of this type of parameter in it. In the previous version, the parameters were only viewed from a small area within the main Materials dialog. In 2013, a separate dialog opens to view the custom parameters, as shown below. It is too bad one cannot initiate the creation of a Material parameter from this dialog.

Graphics Assets

All materials have a Graphics asset. This is the same information which was on the Graphics tab previously. Here you control what the material looks like in your basic non-rendered views.

As shown in the image below, you need to select the asset name (item #1) to see the related information highlighted by item #2. Clicking any of the other three assets listed here will change the information displayed in #2.

Appearance Assets

Similar to the Graphics asset, the Appearance asset mimics the information found previously on the Appearance tab. The only thing worth pointing out is the new Tint option, as shown below.

Physical Assets

The Physical asset relates to the Structure tab in the previous release. A Physical asset defines the physical/structural properties of the material, as shown below.

Thermal Assets

The last Asset to cover is the big new thing with Materials, that being the Thermal asset. The “physical” properties about a material’s thermal characteristics are defined here. An example of this is shown below where we see the values for Polyurethane – Foamed In Place. Notice that these values can be changed in the project if needed.

A related feature enhancement is that assemblies (i.e., system families) can now calculate the total R-Value and Thermal Mass as shown below. Note that deleting all the Thermal assets from your Materials will cause these fields to be blank.

Adding or Replacing Assets

All of the assets, except Graphics, can be replaced with another option from the provided library. Additionally, the Physical and Thermal assets can be deleted.

If the asset already exists, but you want to change it, click the Replace icon as shown below.

This will open the Asset Browser, from which you can choose a different asset. The asset’s properties are hard‐wired in the Autodesk libraries and not directly editable until loaded into a project. Clicking the icon pointed out in the image below will push the selected Asset into the current Material.

If your Material does not have a Physical or Thermal asset, you use the Add Asset drop-down option shown below. This too will open the Asset Browser.

Adding Materials

Back in the second figure, which is shown again below, in the lower left of the Material Browser, you see the Autodesk Material Library. Here you can double-click on a Material and thus load it into your project. These materials are complete with the Assets preloaded (with a few exceptions). As before, you can create a custom user library as well.

In addition to duplicating a Material within the project, you can now also create a new Material from scratch. A new material can be created from the drop-down list in the lower left corner of the Material Editor dialog.

Conclusion

With this information, an existing Revit user should have no problem using the 2013 version of Revit. Not much has changed that will affect the day-to-day work other than this. The next big change is the stairs, but you still have access to Stair by Sketch (i.e. the old way) so you don’t have to worry about that right away.

Want More?

This author’s new book, Interior Design using Autodesk Revit 2012, is now available. An in depth discussion is provided on materials, which includes creating tileable textures and setting up materials based on real-world products such as Shaw Flooring and Sherwin-Williams Paints. The 2013 update will be out this summer. Additionally, the author will be presenting two classes at the second annual Revit Technology Conference (RTC) this June in Stone Mountain, Georgia; one class is Interior Design Essentials.

About the Author

Dan Stine, CSI, CDT is a registered Architect with nineteen years of experience in the architectural field. He currently works at LHB (a 160 person multidiscipline firm) in Duluth Minnesota as the BIM Administrator, providing training, customization and support for two regional offices. He has presented at Autodesk University and Revit Technology Conference.  Dan is a member of the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) and the Autodesk Developer Network (ADN) and also teaches AutoCAD and Revit Architecture classes at Lake Superior College. Additionally, he is a certified Construction Document Technician (CDT) and certified Revit Architecture 2011 Professional.

Dan has also written the following textbooks (published by SDC Publications):

Design Integration using Revit 2012 (Architecture, Structure and MEP): includes DVD
Residential Design Using Revit Architecture 2012: includes video instruction on DVD
Commercial Design Using Revit Architecture 2012 : includes video instruction on DVD
Residential Design Using AutoCAD 2012: includes video instruction on DVD
Commercial Design Using AutoCAD 2012: includes video instruction on DVD
Chapters in Architectural Drawing (with co-author McNeill)
Interior Design using Hand Sketching, SketchUp and Photoshop (with co-author McNeill)


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