This article will cover every aspect of the Revit modeling process and provide best-practice modeling tips and a wide variety of related FAQs.
Before We Begin
The Geometry Plugins are BIM extensions that make exporting building geometry a quick and accurate process. By automating 90% of the workflow, cove.tool gives the time it takes to set up and run a simulation back to the designer. Make sure you have the most recent plugin version before proceeding.
What kind of geometry is required for a cove.tool project?
Short Answer: The thermal envelope, typically associated with the architect's model.
Long Answer: cove.tool runs many types of building performance simulations. Each analysis type has its own set of geometry requirements which are used to output accurate results and diagrams. The minimum required geometry categories for accurate energy and daylight results are Roofs, Floors, Exterior Walls, Windows, and Building Height. Find a more elaborate explanation of geometry inside cove.tool here. Any space that is a conditioned area should be imported but only a single layer. Avoid excessive smaller objects.
Optional layers which can provide more detail in a wider array of simulations include Skylights, Interior Walls, Shading devices, Spandrels, Below-Grade Walls, Furniture, and Outdoor Floor Objects. If your Revit model contains these objects, then you may import them if you choose to.
Other Top Revit Tips before we discuss Object Properties
Yes, check out this key insight before you check all your model properties:
Be wary of the size and density of your model. cove.tool has a size cap on BIM exports to prevent unnecessarily large models from importing to the App. The cap is between 50K-150K triangles depending on your project type. For perspective, a typical Skyscraper project is ~30K triangles. Models approaching their size cap can typically reduce mesh count by removing non-shading mullions, rounded highly-triangulated objects, and any item which may have been provided by a manufacturer.
Reference Point(s) determine where your building shows up in the 3D Site Model. The plugin does not use Revit's geo-location for siting, instead, we use the proximity of the Revit geometry to your chosen reference point. Therefore make sure you know which reference point (Project Base Point, Survey Point, or Internal Origin) is closest to your model. If your model is not located near a reference point, let alone located miles away in model space, then we will not be able to run any analysis until geometry is better referenced. Read more here.
Install the plugin correctly. Make sure Revit is closed while running the installation file and if you see the error message "External Tool Failure - Contact Provider" try restarting Revit. If the message persists ask an IT admin to reinstall.
Closed Geometry is not required but can be handy later. Learn how to make an air-tight Revit model here and if the benefits are worth the early-stage efforts.
Having these elements is only half the battle. The other half is making sure that those objects are compatible with the automation and export process. The next section will cover the ideal model properties for each geometry category for an error-free export.
BEM Definition - Roof objects are defined as the insulated top surface of a conditioned space that protects against solar radiation and heat gain. Roofs are part of the envelope, therefore ceilings should not be considered roofs unless they are exposed to the outside environment. The roof object for cove.tool must only depict the cap of a thermal envelope.
Model Properties Expectations - In Revit, roof objects should be categorized in the Roof Family category. Roof objects for cove.tool should not be connected to other objects, such as floors, overhangs, canopies, and cantilevers when importing. Although many firms have a set practice that requires BIM modelers to use as few model objects as necessary, leaving objects as continuous across different categories would result in incorrect energy results. The thermal performance and mechanical strategy of each building component category are very different. Users should split (separate) thermal' roof objects with non-thermal/architectural roof objects, such as cantilevering, shades, or barreling components. While preparing for an energy model, or even calculating roof area for internal reasons, having these objects joined can cause inaccuracies and overestimate results.
(User) My Revit model has both a Flat roof object, more akin to a ceiling, and a pitch roof model. Which should I import into cove.tool?
If the space below the pitch is conditioned, then import those elements. If space is not conditioned, then importing the flat area would be an accurate indication of the building's thermal roof.
BEM Definition - Exterior Walls are defined as the highly insulated, up-right enclosing elements of a conditioned space that, like roofs, protect against solar radiation and heat gain.
Model Properties Expectations - In Revit, exterior wall objects should be categorized in the Wall Family in Revit, and have their Function property set to Exterior. BIM modelers should not allow exterior walls to continue beyond the envelope, which means dividing a wall that continues inward and transitions to become interior walls. Interior Walls have their own category and including them in this export will be problematic when assembling the thermal envelope.
Curtain walls are also a typical family tag most Firms use to model their exterior walls, especially when the building envelope is predominately glazed. This method is not encouraged as it can become increasingly difficult to select and/or separate your exterior wall objects and the glazing elements. Curtain Wall will automatically filter into the Window category, so to have them appear in the exterior wall's view would require extra steps as seen in the Revit Plugin Tutorial.
Ensure the wall is oriented with the front face of the object facing outward. This is indicated by the switch arrows present in a floor plan view as seen below.
Exterior Walls FAQ's
(User) Should shading elements be modeled as Exterior Walls objects?
>No items like Fins, Overhangs, Louvers, Cantilevers, and Balconies belong in the Shading Devices Layer. If your Exterior Wall objects are joined to these elements, users are recommended to separate them and layer them as separate.
BEM Definition - Window objects can be classified by their low insulation properties (i.e. U-values is equal to 1/R-values), and are mostly attributed as holes in the project's thermal envelope. Because they are a major factor in the envelope's bridging, transfusion, and infiltration attributes, it is important to accurately depict the amount of glazing and wall surface area, or WWR % (window-to-wall ratio), by orientation in a project.
Also note that although windows is a category typically attributed with translucent material properties, it is not required that they be translucent or thin materials. The most important criteria for determining whether it belongs in the window layer or not, is 1) Is it in the building envelope layer, 2) are the insulation properties considerably lower than that of the exterior walls.
Model Properties Expectations - Window objects can belong to a couple of different categories in Revit. A BIM modeler may label a window-object as a Window, Curtain Walls, and/or Curtain Panels. Three Revit Families to stay away from when modeling this category is the Wall Family, Curtain Systems, and Generic Models. Windows with Window, Curtain Wall, or Curtain Panel tags, should have no issues as they are already correctly marked, and will be automatically filtered into the cove.tool window's view. If your Window object is in the Wall or Curtain System category then your object should just be un-hidden in the cove.tool window view. These object types will have their area values properly exported once visible, no matter the family tag.
However, if you repeat the 'create cove.tool views' command, these objects will again be filtered out and you will have to repeat the un-hide step to return them to this view. If your window object is in the Generic Model Family, then the views command or export tool will not read this object, because this object type is a composite file in Revit which has linked or embedded area information that the plugin cannot pick up. Even though Generic Models objects have height and width components, they do not provide a variable that can be used to identify the surface area. These object, in order to properly export with the plugin, should have either their family tag change or be remodeled as a compatible window object type.
Lastly, doors will also show up in the automated generation of this 3D Export View. If doors do not have a glazing panel they would need to be moved to the cove.tool spandrel view. As for an energy model equation, if those doors have glazing those areas are used in the EUI calculation and should be categorized as window objects because of their poor insulation properties. Also, if these elements did not show up in the 3D View, do not hurry to include them as these objects can be included in the show up in your windows-view.
(User) Spandrels make up 50% of my project's total glazing area, and they have a very different U-Value from my project's normal glazing product. What values should I use?
> You can export spandrel panels/objects through the cove.tool spandrel view and account for their U-value in the energy simulations on cove.tool. More on spandrels here.
(User) How do I let cove.tool know I have Dark Colored Glazing/ Treated Glazing?
>Users should import the glazing as normal, then once inside cove.tool adjusted the glazing properties to reflect their product's visual performance. For the Daylight model that can be done in the right-hand control panel, under the "Visual Transmittance" input. For the energy mode, in the baseline page under the envelope tab, in the U-value, SHGC inputs.
(User) Should I import interior glazing, not just envelope glazing?
>No, interior glazing geometry should not be included in the window surface export. Only glazing elements on the building envelope should be included. Interior glazing objects are typically the most transparent (>88% VT) products and thus can be reasonably indicated by leaving the area open for demonstrating daylight penetration.
BEM Definition - Skylights can be defined as a hybrid of roofs and windows, objects which can be classified by their low insulation properties and holes in the thermal envelope as well as exposure to direct radiation from above & encloses a below-conditioned space.
Model Properties Expectations - Skylight objects should be modeled with the Skylight Family Tag. Modeling them in any of the other glazing-related families, will not cause any headache but they will not automatically filter into the Skylights 3D View. Users will have to select them manually with the Reveal Hidden Elements (light bulb icon) tool, to unhide them in the cove.tool' skylight view. Skylights will be categorized similarly to windows but as horizontal geometry. Also note, not all projects have skylights, so if your project does not include geometry for this category, then leave this section empty.
(User) My skylight is a vertical clerestory, is this still considered a skylight?
>Vertical panels would actually be modeled and exported as windows. In an energy model, this would be the category in order to be accounted for the context obstructions. Keep the skylights category for horizontal laying, or angled (<45 degrees) glazing elements.
BEM Definition - Shading devices are defined as daylight obstruction elements, not crucial to the insulation of the thermal envelope. Objects like context, overhangs, fins, mullions, double facades, and trees are examples of shading devices.
Model Properties Expectations - The cove.tool' shading device layer will typically load as an empty 3D view or a collection of all the mullions in the project. This is because shading elements can originate from any Revit Family Category and automating the 'create views' process can be difficult. So instead, the plugin process for this category is to reveal the shading elements. Compatible categories for shading devices can be floors, walls, roofs, curtain walls, and sweep objects. Moving any of these elements to the shading device layer will make for a compatible export.
One model method which is not compatible with the plugin process is the geometry of perpendicular components. Perpendicular geometry is modeled elements that have a horizontal plane and vertical plane embedded into single objects. Examples include a curtain wall object with branching planar geometry. The objects are problematic for the plugin because they complicate the area and coordinate the recording of the project.
The plugin is not able to accept elements with perpendicular geometry embedded into a single object. This is also causing the shading elements in your model to not export. The objects should remain either vertical or horizontal planes. The shading objects are modeled in a vertical category but used the horizontal component to model wide mullions. Once I replaced your curtain walls with a generic glaze property and no mullions or Grids, the area was able to easily export and run the daylight.
Shading Devices FAQ's
Spandrels? - opaque curtain wall panels or spandrel objects belong in the cove.tool spandrel view.
Doors? - Exterior solid/opaque doors can be exported through the spandrel view, interior doors should not be included in any export.
Louvers (ventilation screen)? - Export as part of the exterior wall, they are counted in the building's engineering inputs, not as part of the project massing.
Louvers (shading screen)? - Export as part of the shading device layer.
Frit (shading strategy)? - Do not include in geometry export. It can be replicated with the Visual Transmittance (VT%) input for glazed building objects by using an area-weighted average.
Mullions? - yes, mullions provide energy benefit as shading objects and therefore should be placed in the shading device layer when possible.
Interior Window Blinds? - Do not export unless they are large and modeled include in the shading device layer. If not just enable interior blinds in the engineering inputs. Family type cannot be Model Group or Generic Model as an element will not export. Highly Triangulated geometry will cause the simulation to crash to be wary of exporting blinds.
Curtains? - Do not export. Use the blinds/curtains input in the energy inputs page.
Interior Shades? - Do not export as this is not appropriate for a daylight model.
Operable Shades (louvers, screens, awnings)? - Kinetic elements cannot be accurately simulated in the cove.tool 3D Visualization because it is an annual metric. They can be accounted for in the energy model by going to the energy inputs page.
Cantilevers? - Include in the shading obstruction layer. If your cantilever is connected to a floor or roof object, separate the elements before export and place them in the appropriate export layer.
Balconies? - Include in the shading obstruction layer. If your balcony is connected to floor or roof objects, separate the elements before export and place them in the appropriate export layer.
Building Context? - Neighboring building context can be exported in the shading device layer. Keeping these elements simple is key, as into scale block models would be the recommended path.
Trees/ Deciduous Trees? - Simplify geometry by making cubes that approximate the size of each tree. Do not model spheres or other complex geometry as this will slow down the simulation and will not increase accuracy. Make sure these cubes are visible on the shading view or layer.
Vegetation (Miscellaneous) - Simplify geometry to cubes, then move to the shading device layer. Again, heavily triangulated geometry is not a smart idea for the export. This will considerably extend the run time for your daylight analysis.
BEM Definition - Floors are best defined as a surface area that bounds a conditioned space from below, and the best indicated for regularly occupied and conditioned space.
Model Properties Expectations - In Revit, floor objects are identified by their Floor Family categorization. Be wary of having multiple surfaces indicate the floor are on the same plane, as they may double-log surface areas and will result in double-counting the project's square-footage calculations thus result in many incorrect results and input which depend on an sqft-unit factor. Another item to look out for is export the roof object like a floor, which would result in a bright red surface area above your project in the 3D Visualization and thus an inaccurate sDA%/ASE% result.
(User) One of my floor objects extends out to be roof area on an adjacent space, and/or extends out to be a cantilever, should I separate the geometry to make the floor area distinct from roof and shading device categories?
> Yes, floors should only indicate the area of conditioned space. If your geometries extend out of the thermal envelope. Unpin the geometry and redraw the outline to separate the geometry. Hide and reveal geometry to the correct layers accordingly.
(User) For LEED Daylight compliance, the credit language says to not include typically unoccupied spaces for the daylight simulation. Therefor should I not include this floor area in the floor geometry export?
>Yes, if you are strictly using cove.tool to explore Daylight for LEED, then separating regularly occupied and typically unoccupied spaces will be required.
Alteratively you could import your Revit model into drawing.tool to assign occupied/unoccupied spaces and receive room by room results for the LEED Report. For more information on this process, check out this article. Also, LEED Language requires the analysis to use a 2ft Grid Size, so this input would also need to be changed.
(User) I used floor objects to model my project's roof and shading devices, is that OK or should I remodel them?
>This is fine, for rapid results managing the visibility of the objects in the different Revit views will ensure an accurate import. Make sure the same geometry is not exporting in multiple export views.
BEM Definition - Interior Walls are defined as permanently installed up-right elements that obstruct daylight from within the thermal envelope. Interior walls object are not necessarily going to be used for the energy analysis model, but rather are crucial for modeling the conditions in the daylight model. The amount of daylight obstruction your interior walls provide will the impact the sDA%/ASE% of your project, which may in turn impact your energy results if your project has daylight sensors and has the ability to receive energy benefit from a highly daylit design.
Model Properties Expectations - In Revit, interior wall objects are identified by 1) their Wall Family categorization, and 2) their "interior" function property as seen in the Edit Type Window. Users do not need to worry about the number of interior walls in their project as area is not being recorded in the final export, only their Cartesian position in space (this is also true for shading devices). Also, BIM modelers should not have interior wall elements that continue beyond the envelope and/or convert to becoming exterior wall-envelope geometry. If so, they should be separated at the thermal envelope seam and filter accordingly.
Interior Wall FAQ's
(User) Is a column considered an interior wall? Will columns show up in my export?
>No, the column family is not automatically revealed in the "create cove.tool views" process. However, users are recommended to include these items by revealing them in the interior walls layer and exporting if they are large enough to obstruct the daylight map.
(User) Are my interior glazed partitions going to be included in this view?
>No. Interior glazed partitions, glazed door, or partition windows should not be included in any of the export categories. They are typically the most transparent (>88% VT) glass products and thus can be reasonably indicated by leaving the area open for demonstrating daylight penetration.
(User) Would stairs, furniture, cubicle partitions be included in this export?
Do not do this as this is not how professional daylight analysis is done and it will greatly add to the simulation time for no purpose. Especially in the case of highly triangulated geometry like furniture models. For Stairs and cubicle partitions which are more permanent elements, these can be added in this layer or in the Shading Device Layer, as they do provide an amount of daylight obstruction and could provide energy savings. Again, avoid high geometry elements as a daylight ray must be run to each triangle.
NEW GEOMETRY CATEGORIES v2.4.0 and later
BEM Definition - Spandrels are commonly used architectural elements seen in modern high and mid-rise glass buildings. They commonly consist of opaque glazing materials with minimal insulation used to conceal building elements such floors, columns, HVAC systems, etc. They are exterior elements and typically present between the vision glass of each floor. They are also known as "opaque in-fill systems".
Model Properties Expectations - Solid components of a Curtain Wall with Visual Light Transmittance (VT%) marked as 0.00.
BEM Definition - Large movable equipment, such as tables, chairs, desks, and movable partitions used to make a space suitable for living or working. Furniture elements that act as visual obstructors may impact the Views Analysis. Furniture that acts as physical obstructions may impact the COVID Occupancy Assessment Score.
Model Properties Expectations - Furniture components.
Below Grade Walls
BEM Definition - Below grade is a term that describes a space that is below ground level – usually referred to as a basement. Below Grade Wall Objects typically have a lower U-value, because of the slower rate of heat transfer between the exterior wall and the ground. These below-grade conditions typically have lower temperatures and higher moisture percentages than the above-grade environment which in turn can influence your building's energy consumption and expenditure loads. Learn why some below-grade spaces should not be imported into cove.tool here.
Model Properties Expectations - Walls Families with Function marked as Retaining or Foundation.
BEM Definition - Outdoor Floors Objects are site elements for site analysis.
Model Properties Expectations - No identifier, must be manually assigned into the cove.tool 3D view.
Building Height Export
This measurement will be automatically be recorded by the Revit Plug-in once selected. Note that the building height export should be the vertical measurement of the lowest point to the highest point of conditioned space, for more information see here. If your building height displays incorrectly, check this article to see why.
User can check out how to create a mixed-use project in this article. The process of creating a mixed-use project with the plugin can be seen here, note that the video tutorial uses an older version of the plugin but carries the same principles for making a mixed-use project, i.e. duplicates of the 3D Views for each use-type.
Only include geometry from the parking structure if the space is conditioned and would make up a considerable percentage of your overall lighting load. Typically we recommend not including these spaces. If you do include it you will need to set it's system to not use heating and cooling and adjust the mechanical ventilation. Also, the wall areas should not be exported and their values set to 1 since there is not a thermal envelope. There are several more inputs that should be done in collaboration with an engineer.
Interior Architecture Study, Renovation, or Modelling Addition with Existing Project?
Modeling a renovation/addition project varies somewhat on a case-by-case level. It really depends on how much of the project you would like to encompass into the analysis (ex. only renovation, or both existing+renovation), what kind of information you have on the existing projects (ex. BIM Models, Past Energy Reports, knowledge of existing construction), and if your design is only interior, single or multiple levels, or an entirely separate wing with the only connection being a transitional space.
Answering those will help clarify how you should proceed. As far as setting up a model for geometry export, best practice is to only include area & building elements that directly depict the analysis space. For example, if you are renovating only the 1st level communal/lobby space in a multistory tower, and this program is only along the southern facade. Then the model would only have the floor area that bounds the lobby space, a south facade with wall and window objects, and no roof objects, since the definition of a roof object requires direct radiation from above. Also to set up the energy benefits from a shaded space, you would place the lobby ceiling in the shading device layer, and include interior walls that shade and bound the rest of the space.
If this makes sense then feel free to start setting up your model and reach out to the support team on live chat as other questions arise. Sending the team model images and project details about your project will help discuss your analysis in further detail.
Parametric Designs (script-generated)
Just make sure the elements fall in the correct families as specified above. One red flag to look out for when generating custom geometry in Revit, elements intended for cove.tool export should always have area information in their properties panel. Items that do not display area out-front, will likely not be accepted by the plugin.