Convert Masses into Buildings in Revit

In our previous post, we introduced you to the fundamentals of conceptual mass modeling in Revit.  This is an important topic, especially for architects who have been using SketchUp for conceptual design.  On November 4, 2020—yes, during this pandemic year—Trimble is changing SketchUp from its economical perpetual license to a more costly subscription service.  We understand the frustration that this is causing, so we are showing you behind the curtain of Revit’s powerful conceptual design tools so that you can make an informed choice before investing in another software subscription.  

In this post, we will demonstrate how to convert a conceptual mass design into a functional parametric building model within the Revit project environment.  It takes only a few easy clicks and it is far more accurate than the comparable SketchUp workflow.  Best yet, modeling your conceptual designs in Revit will save you a hefty subscription cost!

Preparing the mass model for the project

Before saving and closing the conceptual mass family file, jot down the levels created within the family file.  Remember, these levels exist within the family and will not translate into the Revit project.  You will need to re-create these levels once you are inside your Revit project.  

Next, navigate to the Properties palette and uncheck Work Plane-Based.  This will allow your model to be loaded into the Revit project without needing to assign a work plane to host it.  Finally, save and close out of the Conceptual Mass family.

Preparing the Revit project for the mass model

Open the Revit project file where you will be inserting your conceptual mass.  Navigate to an elevation view and create levels within your Revit project that match those that you created in the conceptual design.  Doing this before inserting the model will ensure that the model is able to be converted into a real building in just a few clicks.

Inserting the conceptual design model

Revit treats conceptual masses as a family file.  Therefore, they are inserted into the project environment in exactly the same way as a component family.  Begin by making your ground level the active view.  Then, navigate to the Insert tab and select Load Family.  Locate your conceptual mass family file and select Open.  Click to place the conceptual mass in the drawing area.  If you cannot see the mass, open the Visibility/Graphic Overrides for your current view and click to display Mass.  Once you have placed your mass, it can be moved, copied, or rotated like any other family.  

Creating floors within the conceptual design

Let’s begin by adding parametric floors to the conceptual mass.  First, open a 3D view to show the entire mass.  Click to select the mass, and the Ribbon toolbar will automatically open a Modify | Mass tab.  On this tab, select “Mass Floors” and, in the dialog box that opens, check the project level(s) where you would like to create a floor within the mass.  A plane will be inserted at each of these levels.  Then, Navigate to the Massing & Site tab on the Ribbon.  Select the Floor button and choose the floor type family you would like to use within the Type Selector on the Properties panel.  Then, click to select each floor plane you would like to convert to a parametric floor.  If you need to deselect a plane, simply click it a second time.  Finally, with the desired floors selected, click the Create Floor button on the Ribbon panel.  The floors will automatically replace the planes.  If you wish to change a floor type, simply click to select the floor and change it to a different family with the Type Selector.  You can edit the sketch boundary of floors created from masses just as you would any other floor you create in Revit.  

Creating walls from conceptual mass faces

Now that we’ve added floors to our building design, let’s take a look at how we can apply real walls to our mass shell.  Begin by navigating to the Massing & Site tab on the Ribbon and selecting the Wall tool.  In the Properties palette, choose the wall type you would like to use.  Pay attention to the Location Line settings for your wall type.  It is likely you will want to use Finish Face: Exterior to ensure that your wall’s exterior face aligns with the outside face of the mass.  This is especially important if you’ve constrained the mass dimensions to fit within lot line restrictions.

Next, click each wall you would like to convert.  You may change the wall type assignment in the Type Selector at any time.  If you would like to change the wall type after assigning it, simply click the created wall and select a new wall type on the Properties palette.  Walls created from mass faces function exactly as walls drawn in the Revit project environment and can host windows, doors, and be quantified in schedules.

Creating curtain systems from conceptual mass faces

One of the biggest advantages of creating conceptual designs in Revit is the ease of creating curtain systems from complex geometry including slanted, curved, and splined faces. To do this, open the Massing & Site tab on the Ribbon and select the Curtain System button. Click to select the mass face(s) you would like to convert to a curtain system and choose the Create System button on the Ribbon. Remember, you can edit the system grid layout, panels, and other attributes by editing the Type Properties for that system.

Creating roofs from conceptual mass faces

We will want to add a roof to our building. In order to do this, open the Massing & Site tab on the Ribbon and select the Roof tool. Once again, select the roof type you would like to use in the Type Selector on the Properties palette. Then, click the mass face you would like to convert to a roof and select the Create Roof button on the Ribbon.

Finishing touches

Once all the mass faces have been converted to walls, floors, roofs, or curtain systems, you can hide or delete the mass from the Revit project. Doing so will not remove any of the structures you created from the mass geometry. You may now fill in the interior spaces with walls, doors, and systems or add detail to the exterior of your building.
It’s truly simple: with just a few quick clicks you have converted a complex mass form into a real, workable building in Revit. Any of your created elements can be scheduled, tagged, moved, or quantified just as any other Revit structure. This is a much simpler, more accurate workflow than creating a building within a third-party program like SketchUp and re-creating it inside Revit. Plus, with the new subscription model, this is a significant cost saver!
For more Revit tips and training, join us at Cadnetics U! We offer online training in all the top AEC industry software and expert mentoring and support on your projects! Learn more at

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