Revit Version: Advice from the West Virginia architectural firm that “lives and dies by Revit”

Today, Autodesk launched Revit 2023 with important new cloud services, including connections to Inventor, analysis workflows for structural and electrical engineers, and soon a connection to Microsoft Power Automate. These advances take us into a new frontier of open building information modeling (BIM) data. Equally important to these evolutionary improvements are the incremental updates that we carry out on the basis of a permanent dialogue with our customers.

Nearly 10,000 people make up the Autodesk Research Community, a group of customers who provide feedback and advice on our products and development roadmap. Over the past two years, we’ve responded to over 13,000 Revit-specific votes on “ideas” from customers; product improvement ideas that guide the development roadmap. From Revit 2021 to Revit 2023, over 100 community ideas influenced our Revit-only updates. All votes reflect the contribution of diverse voices, from multidisciplinary global giants tackling megaprojects to specialized regional companies serving tight-knit communities.

Closer to the middle of the scale is the Mills Group, an architecture firm nestled in the hills of northern West Virginia. Recently, its manager Ryan Hess told me that his company “lives and dies by Revit”. I had to know more.

Here’s a deeper dive with Ryan where he shares with me how his team gets the most out of the tool, and how your business can too.

Amy: You made a strong statement about Revit. What did you mean by that?

Ryan: If we didn’t have Revit, we couldn’t move forward as a business. We have a strict mantra that you don’t start 2D projects. You start them in Revit. Even if someone is slow to learn the tricks and processes, Revit should be embraced because you can iterate and cover a lot of ground quickly. We do everything from small home additions to $20 million sports complexes. Revit is flexible enough to work on any type of project.

Amy: What is your process for learning and staying current with Revit?

Ryan: We have a six-person Revit team that meets quarterly. We share tips and tricks we’ve learned, talk about product updates, review features for the next release of Revit. We adopt the latest version every two years. This year we are moving to Revit 2022. This is a game changer as it allows us to duplicate sheets.

Amy: It seems like a small thing. Why is it so powerful for you?

Ryan: As you know, for us, time is money. Give us something that saves time, and we’re thrilled. It’s a tedious job, a meticulous job. We view advancements such as sheet duplication as significant advancements for our firm – and likely for many others – as they address another critical efficiency challenge for architects. And frankly, we only want to accommodate modest software changes at any given time. We need this stability in our firm of about 25 professionals.

Amy: Where is your company on its digital transformation journey?

Ryan Hess: We are very technical. We always evaluate what exists. Years ago we started a Revit group to watch demos and test things through trial and error. We have found that by creating a small team to constantly investigate and interrogate Revit, we get more value out of the product. Then, each year, we do pro bono work for a non-profit organization and often use these projects as testing grounds for new Revit functionality.

We’ve had three different VR products over the past six years, but we’ve stuck with IrisVR for immersive team collaboration because it’s a great product, but also and more specifically, it integrates so easily with Revit and Autodesk Construction Cloud. For our work with existing buildings, we have scanners that allow us to import detailed models into Revit. We don’t try any new tools that don’t integrate. Everything should work in the Revit ecosystem.

Amy: What advice do you have for other companies looking to get the most out of Revit?

Ryan: There are several things. Create a process where you can assess whether you’re getting everything you need from Revit. Our Revit group realized that we could do better with our models. We curated our own component library and are building our own, so that we don’t have too many components in one model when we start a project. My other suggestion is to look at all other Revit compatible software and products. We use additional tools from the Revit ecosystem for motion-based measurement, digitization, realistic renderings, and more, including Leica Cyclone, Lumion, Otis Elevator Add-In, and PointCloud to Surface. All of these tools connect to Revit and improve our internal processes or improve how we communicate and share details with our clients. Revit can do so much, and companies like mine don’t need it all; we appreciate the customization flexibility, and Revit offers it. The key is finding the right mix of integrations, workflows, and processes you need for your teams.

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