Thursday, 15 February 2018

Selecting Pinned Elements in Revit

Following on from an earlier post about 'Chain-Pinned' elements in Revit, it is useful to point out the implications of different kinds of pinning when selecting elements.

Selecting Chain-Pinned Elements

Different hosted elements can be selected in different ways:
o        Tab-select to individually select chain-pinned elements.
o        Click-and-dragging across curtain walls or railings will also select individual hosted elements such as curtain grids, panels, mullions, top rails, handrails or supports  (regardless of whether they are chain-pinned or not).

You may find that you cannot select chain-pinned elements by either method.  This may be due to the ‘Selection Controls

‘Select Pinned Elements’ can be turned on or off as desired;  it may be useful to disable selection so that chain-pinned elements cannot be selected when click-and-dragging across curtain walls (such as curtain grids or mullions)


If ‘Select Pinned Elements’ is disabled, it applies to both pinned (parent elements) and chain-pinned (hosted elements) – thus, if a curtain wall is pinned, you would not be able to select the wall or the hosted mullions etc This is particularly noticeable when you click-and-drag across many curtain walls – you will see a forest of chain-pins

In this situation, it is well worth using the selection filter to select only the parent categories (eg. Walls)

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Revit Chain-Pins

Revit has two entirely different ways of pinning elements, but they share the same UI commands & icons, so this is a recipe for confusion.  I will try to shed some light on the differences here:

Most elements in Revit can be manually pinned by a user.  This will lock an element in place to prevent it being moved, rotated or deleted.
 Pinned elements can be unpinned  to free them up to be moved, rotated or deleted


Some Revit elements host other elements that can be locked / unlocked in place on the host – this also uses a ‘Pin’ icon with a chain-link symbol beside it.  The difference in icon to a normal pin is very subtle, and easily missed - but is really important to see and understand.
I like to call these ‘Chain-Pinned’ elements, because of the chain-link symbol - and we need some kind of phrase to differentiate them from regular pinning.  They could also be described as host ‘Type-Driven’ because some of their parameters are controlled by the Type Properties of the parent.

Examples of Chain-Pinned elements are:

Element / Category types
o        Curtain Wall Grids (only if spacing is set in curtain wall type)
o        Curtain Wall Mullions (only if mullion type is set in curtain wall type)
o        Curtain Wall Panels (only if panel type is set in curtain wall type)
o        Handrail Supports


When a ‘Chain-Pinned’ element is selected it can be unpinned by clicking on the element pin or the unpin symbol on the ribbon.  This can be confusing because the pin symbol on the element displays its current status (pinned, with chain-link);  while the icon on the ribbon is an action, showing what you can and might want to do to it (but no chain-link, because the command doubles up for both kinds of pin):

o        The element symbol will change to unpinned status, with the chain-link cleverly hidden behind the red cross - you have to look carefully!

o        It makes no difference to the behaviour which pin icon is clicked on – element or ribbon (unlike regular user pins);  the unpinned icon always shows up when the element is selected.

Chain-Pinned Element Behaviour

When a Chain-Pinned element is selected (but has not been unpinned): 

o        Some of its properties may be locked (eg. Hand Clearance on Handrail Supports)
o        Its type is locked
o        It cannot be moved or otherwise manipulated
o        It cannot be deleted

When a Chain-Pinned element is unpinned:
o        Some locked instance properties are available to be changed (eg. Hand Clearance on Handrail Supports)
o        Its type is available to be changed to others of the same category
o        It can be moved (Curtain Wall Grids & Handrail Supports)
o        It can be deleted (Curtain Wall Mullions & Handrail Supports)

An unpinned Chain-Pinned element can be re-pinned:
o        Its properties will revert to those dictated by the parent (eg. Hand clearance on Handrail Supports)
o        Its type will revert to that set in the parent family type.
o        It will be moved back to its original position
o        Deleted unpinned hosted elements cannot be directly replaced to their original position.  This has to be achieved by alternative methods: 
  • Mullions can be added to curtain grids; 
  •  Handrail Supports can be reinstated by copying another one or by resetting the whole handrail (Be very careful with this - all other modifications will be lost too!)

Editing Chain-Pinned Elements

The only Chain-Pinned elements that can be edited after unpinning are curtain panels – using the ‘Edit In-Place’ functionality, which allows you to change the outline of the curtain panel using sketch tools.

I hope this sheds some light on a confusing Revit topic.  Go forth and unchain those pinned hosted elements.  Or don't, as the case may be - sometimes it is important for them to remain chain-pinned so that global changes can be quickly made.  Once unpinned, you lose that capability.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018


It has concerned me for some time now that "RevitSpeak" is slowly but surely entering into common usage in the building industry around the world.

What do I mean by "RevitSpeak"?  Well, I mean the usage of words in the Revit User Interface that are not technically correct, or they are specifically American words that were not previously in common usage in other English speaking countries - some of these are now very commonly (mis)used in architects offices around the world.  One of the confusing things for me is that I no longer know if these words are 'incorrect', 'specific to Revit' or just common American words that are different to British, Australian, New Zealand etc construction terminology.

These days it is no good doing a search on the Internet because many of the results come up with examples from Revit models or drawings - so it does not clarify which are incorrect or just different.

Here are some examples:

1.   "Mullion" is defined as:
  • A mullion is a vertical bar between the panes of glass in a window (Oxford dictionary)
  • A mullion is a vertical element that forms a division between units of a window, door, or screen (Wikipedia)
  • In Revit, a Mullion can be a vertical or horizontal element between panes of glass (or other panels) on a curtain wall.  Now, this is just plain wrong!  A mullion should be strictly vertical.
  • A transom is the horizontal member in a curtain wall or window - although it seems that the American definition of a transom is the window pane over a door (ie. a "Fanlight" in correct English)
  • And what is a Muntin - pray tell?  Luckily that one doesn't appear in the Revit UI.
A random selection of images from the internet shows various conflicting results:
Image result for mullion definition
British definitions
Correct Curtain Wall Definitions
RevitSpeak Window

2.  Casework:
This may mean kitchen cabinetry in the USA, but to me it could mean, maybe working on a legal case?  The correct word is/was "Joinery" - I resolutely have all my libraries organised with a folder for Joinery families (with a 'Join' or 'JN' prefix/abbreviation).  However, more and more non-American Revit using people talk about Casework.

3.  Mark:
As far as I'm concerned Mark is a man's name; or maybe a spot or line (in the sand).  Somehow in Revit it refers to a Number (or #?) - I guess that is another Americanism?
Luckily its very easy to create a Shared Parameter called "Lot Number" or whatever you need - and that also avoids all those pesky "Duplicate Marks" (some kind of Revit twins?)

Or maybe it is a clever literary reference to the author of Huckleberry Finn?
Mark Twain?

4.  Family:
Talking of Twins, does anyone know what Family Planning in Revit is all about?   How many families have you created recently?  No one in a Revit using architect's office seems to think that is amusing any more.

I could go on . . . .

Monday, 18 December 2017

Weird Railing Stuff - part 10 - Split railings

Have you ever tried to create a Revit railing with a split or break in it?  You'd have seen the warning that tells you it is not possible in Revit:

Split Revit Railings

Well, there is a way to do it - yes you can split railings (with lots of provisos, of course).
WARNING: this is another crazy workaround, so use it with caution . . .

In this example, a railing runs through a column, which is not desirable

You may want to break the railing and have a gap either side of the column

The first thing to do is edit the path of the railing, remove the top segments and stop it short of the column by say 50mm.

Once the top part of the railing is removed, Tab-select the 'Top Rail' (or Handrail) - it is important to select one of these sub-elements, not the overall railing.  NB. if your railing does not have either of these sub-elements, this technique won't work (eg. old style top rails)

Once selected, click on 'Edit Rail'

Then click on 'Edit Path' for the Top Rail

This will allow you to add lines to either the top or bottom end of the Top Rail element; but first it is important to set the workplane depending on whether you are adding to the beginning/bottom or end/top.

Select the name of the workplane.   I don't think that either of the 'Pick' options work here.

The workplane will be parallel to the first or last segment of the overall railing - so you'll need to work in either a 3D view or an elevation/section view.  It may be easier to start in 3D so that you can see exactly what you are doing and where.

This command is not explicit about what is going on - in fact Revit is waiting for you to draw some lines, which will become extensions to the Top Rail (or Handrail)

These lines do not need to be directly linked to the ends of the Top Rail - in fact they can be almost anywhere (in the same plane as the end of the Rail).  Start drawing a line the other side of the column from the end of the railing;  at this stage it may be easier to go into a section/elevation view to ensure that it aligns with the railing on the other side of the stair (but keep an eye on the active workplane).

Trace over the other railing (it should snap to it).

Once the Top Rail extension is complete, it will have a gap where the column is.

Be warned:  This is an extension to the Top Rail only - so balusters will not be attached to the underside of the extension.

Supports will not be attached to a Top Rail, so if you require supports on the extension, make sure before you start that your railing has a 'Handrail' sub-element, and add the extension to the Handrail, not to a Top Rail.  If you switch the railing to a type that does not have a Top Rail, the entire extension will disappear (if it was attached to a Top Rail in the first place).  Plan ahead!

Not surprisingly, this workaround is fiddly and not particularly robust - but I am showing it just in case it helps someone out.  In this example, it would probably have been much easier (and safer) to have two separate railings, but it might give people ideas about a use for this technique, so go for it.

  • Only works with a Top Rail or Handrail in the railing
  •  Top Rail and Handrail extensions are not interchangeable
  • Top Rail cannot host supports
  • Will not host balusters or posts beyond the split
  • Will not turn corners in plan
  • Will not automatically adjust heights/angles if the stair changes
  • Is quite confusing for anyone not familiar with railing extensions

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Weird Railing Stuff part 9 - Handrail supports on Multistorey Stairs

At first sight it seems that the new Multistorey tools in Revit look like a significant improvement over the old method.  However, as you delve deeper, there are some new problems that have been introduced with the new feature.

Weirdness #1

Once a regular component stair has been converted to multistorey that process cannot be reversed.  There is no command to 'Reset Stair' or 'Convert back to single storey'.  You can go to the 'Disconnect Levels' command, and select the other levels - this reverts it to a 'Single Storey Multistorey stair' - but it still identifies as a multistorey stair in the properties

So what, you might think?  Well, you can manipulate a multistorey stair by tab-selecting the stair inside the 'multistorey group', but that could be very confusing.  The more significant issue is what it does to railing supports:

Weirdness #2 Railing Supports

If you have a stair that has railing supports, and then you convert the stair to Multistorey it does something strange to the supports.  The original level stair railings behave normally - you can select a railing support and it will be pinned.

You can unpin individual supports then move them, swap to a different type or delete them

On the other levels, you can select the supports but they do not have a pin icon.  However, you can actually move, copy or delete them;  what you cannot do is swap their type (it is greyed out); nor can you change the hand clearance property.  They are in effect in some middling state between pinned and unpinned.

If you modify any of the railing supports, you can 'Reset' the railing so that all moved or deleted supports are reinstated to their original position.  Copied supports vanish.   

You might expect that supports on the original stair railing would become pinned again.  Well, not exactly:

Weirdness #3

If you 'Reset' the railing on the original stair level, it actually converts it to the strange middling state where none of the supports are pinned any more but there are reinstated to the original locations.

The moral of this tale is that you should probably try to adjust all the supports before you convert a stair to multistorey, especially if you want to swap any support types.  If that is not possible, you may still be able to do what you need to the supports after making the stair multistorey - notwithstanding all the other painful issues with railing supports.  One thing is sure - you will be confused.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Scheduling Wall Heights in Revit

One of the new features in Revit 2015 was the ability to schedule wall heights - well, sort of.  More Wall parameters could be scheduled than previously:

  • Base Constraint
  • Base Offset
  • Top Constraint
  • Top Offset
  • Unconnected Height
What was not included in this list was "Top is Attached" or "Base is Attached". 
This is really worrying because it means that when a wall is attached at top or bottom, the "Unconnected Height" is almost certainly going to be displaying a false value in the properties dialog box, and in the schedule.  

Unattached wall with correct Unconnected Height property

Attached wall top with wrong Unconnected Height property
In the properties dialog you can see those "Attached" checkboxes so it might alert you to the issue, but that does not help in a schedule, as you cannot display those properties there.

This also occurs when a wall has been attached to a gable end roof (or any angled roof)

Edit Wall Profile

The same problem could also happen if a wall has had its profile edited - again the wall heights could be scheduling false values. 

This is not so simple to pick, as there is no property for "Profile is edited" - however, Revit knows if it has been edited or not because it displays a "Reset Profile" icon in the ribbon if a selected wall has had its profile edited .


Basically, when you schedule wall heights using the 'Unconnected Height' property, it could be a pack of lies!  If we could also schedule the "Attached" properties of a wall, then we could use the schedule to identify attached walls, and perhaps use conditional formatting to highlight possible false height values.

One alternative solution is to create a calculated value of Length x Unconnected Height to get the supposed area;  this can be compared to the actual reported area (built-in property).  If they are different then you know that the wall has been either attached or had its profile edited - therefore the 'Unconnected Height' property is unreliable.

You could take this a step further by adding a comparison calculation

You could then do some conditional formatting to make any dodgy wall heights easily apparent

One other thing you could do is reverese engineer the height by adding a calculated Average Height - This would only be accurate for rectangular walls, as those with sloping tops or edited profiles would still not be accurate - hence the use of the word 'Average' in the calculation name.  I would use this solution with caution - perhaps only where walls have accidentally been attached to floors above.

Attach Walls to Edited Floor Sketches?

One of the reasons that all of this is likely to be an issue for all of you is that when you edit a floor, Revit always asks if you want to attach walls below it.  The default answer is 'Yes', which means that a lot of walls will end up being accidentally attached to floors above - meaning that your wall heights will be wrong in schedules.  Wouldn't it be better if the default answer was 'No' and even better still if this dialog box never, ever appeared.

Please vote for this Revit Idea to encourage Autodesk to do something about this.