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Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk®

Revit® Structure and Add-ons

Thomas Fink – SOFiSTiK AG

This class will present an overview of SOFiPLUS, an interface for structural analysis based on
AutoCAD® and explain how it complements Autodesk® Revit® Structure. You will learn how to
maximize benefits from Revit Structure 2012 by leveraging its new analytical model. We will also discuss
the importance of working with partial models (slabs/shear walls, etc.) and code checking for single parts
of the building (columns, slabs, etc.).

About the Speaker

After receiving his diploma in structural engineering at Technical University in Munich, Thomas has
worked in structural engineering and software development for over 30 years. He is co-founder and CEO
of SOFiSTiK AG, a leading German supplier of software for analysis, design, and detailing. He is on the
board of the German section of buildingSMART®, and chairs the working group “innovations” of the
Bavarian chamber of building engineers. Whenever time allows, he loves to fly balloons and to sail.

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

Overview about this Lecture

How can structural engineers benefit from Building Information Modeling (BIM)? This lecture
will discuss several areas and demonstrate the workflow using the current product portfolio of
Autodesk® and SOFiSTiK®.

Autodesk® Revit® Structure integrates the analytical model of a building structure with
the real geometry in the form of the architectural or coordination model. Engineers use this
model for structural analysis and design. However, it will never be possible to include all
analytical data, or perform all necessary design tasks with this model. As in the past, there
will always be a need for partial and finer models, as well as particular design tasks such as
footing design.
Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

Step 1: Description of the Project

For this Lecture a typical small fabrication hall with office or storage rooms included is
used. However, all relevant topics can be discussed and demonstrated, even with this small
and simple project.

The Project
Figure 1 shows the hall in both a physical and analytical view. The structure consists of
prefabricated concrete units. The lecture starts with the concrete hall already defined in
Autodesk® Revit® Structure. Basic knowledge about this software is beyond the scope for
this lecture.

Figure 1: Physical and analytical view of the sample project

What should be considered in creating such a model?

 The appropriate level of detailing should be used. In this case the physical model
will also be used for the formwork drawings.
 Support conditions
 Loading (selected loads only in our sample)

What should be considered when adapting and completing the analytical

 Insignificant eccentricities should be ignored. The analytical model can be adjusted
independently to the physical model.

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

 Materials and Cross Sections should be checked. (As shown in Figure 2, it is very
easy to assign SOFiSTiK materials and cross sections with the mapping tables in
SOFiSTiK Extensions for Revit)
 Working with SOFiSTiK load distribution areas, it is necessary to define element
groups using their respective parameter (see Figure 3)

Figure 2: Mapping tables

Step 2: Export to SOFiSTiK Analysis Software

“SOFiSTiK Extensions for Revit” provides a seamless integration of FE analysis and design
into Autodesk® Revit® Structure. Automatic FE meshing, using one of the most powerful
3D mesh generators can be started directly to allow quick changes of the calculation model.

Figure 3 shows the ribbon tab with all commands. There are three new Parameters defined
by SOFiSTiK that are necessary to control the further workflow.

SOFiSTiK_Group Controls the group which generated elements will belong to. Groups
are used to control the distribution of loads, and are also used in
many design and post processing tasks.
SOFiSTiK_UseExcentricity Controls whether members within the analytical model that are
placed eccentrically from their center of gravity will be exported
with this eccentricity or not.
SOFiSTiK_EffectiveWidth Beams integrated into slabs must be designed as T-Beams. The
parameter controls the effective width of the T-Beam.

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

Figure 3: SOFiSTiK Extensions for Revit Structure

After pushing the Export Button the user is prompted to create a new project and a new
database (see figure 4). A country-specific standard and other global project settings can be
chosen within the export dialog. After creating a SOFiSTiK project different export
properties may also be selected. For example, it can be selected whether the entire system
shall be exported or only a subsystem. To check the overall behavior of the building the
entire model is first exported. This is also needed for earthquake dynamic design.

Figure 4: SSD - SOFiSTiK Structural Desktop

Once we have exported the model, we switch to the SOFiSTiK Structural Desktop (SSD) to
verify the exported data. Figure 5 shows a screen print of SOFiSTiK Animator, a perfect tool
to visually check what the software is doing. We see the 3 element groups defined in Revit

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

in different colors. It is also very useful for checking the load distribution areas. For
instance, we will see, that the free area load over the structure requires information about
which element groups will actually be loaded. These groups can be displayed in different

Figure 5: System check in SOFiSTiK Animator

Step 3: Completion in SOFiPLUS

Since not everything that is possible within SOFiSTiK can be specified in Autodesk®
Revit® Structure, all missing information can be added either with SOFiSTiK’s powerful
macro language or with SOFiSTiK’s graphical preprocessor SOFiPLUS. The possibility to
reuse those definitions for later runs with a modified model is essential for the overall
performance and acceptance of BIM.

SOFiPLUS is based on AutoCAD® and is SOFiSTiK's standard pre-processor. SOFiPLUS

enables the engineer to generate almost any FE-structure, from simple slabs to arbitrary
freeform-surfaces. The program takes full advantage of the enhanced AutoCAD® modeling-

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

technology. It is available as an add-on application running on a standard AutoCAD®

installation, or as a standalone version based on AutoCAD® technology. This approach of
using AutoCAD® as a pre-processor for FEA is most likely unique in the AEC-world.

Figure 6: Defining additional properties in SOFiPLUS

As a small sample, we will use SOFiPLUS to adjust the properties of two load distribution
areas. The snow load which is defined above our structure shall have a “depth” of two
meters and will load the members in groups 2 and 3 only. We can, of course, modify almost
everything else in SOFiPLUS, e.g. geometry, cross sections, loading, boundary conditions
etc. However it is recommended to do as much as possible within Autodesk® Revit®
Structure. All modifications done in SOFiPLUS must be repeated each time the Revit Model
is changed and exported. As BIM becomes increasingly popular, it is very likely that this
problem will be eliminated in the future.

Step 4: Calculation of the entire system

Now we can go back to the SSD and proceed with the analysis. All features of SOFiSTiK
software are available here without any restrictions. In our case we will add the task
“Eigenvalues” to determine the first 10 eigenforms.

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

shows the deformation behavior

of the structure for eigenvalue 3.
Additionally, the 4 load cases are
analyzed and superpositioning of
the results is performed, as well
as an initial design of beams,
columns, slabs and walls.

Figure 7: Deformation due to eigenvalue 3

After the analysis of the entire system, in practice it is necessary to perform many other
design tasks. For instance we need a finer 2-D subsystem for the analysis of the slab in
order to exclude membrane forces and obtain realistic shear forces.

Step 5: Export and Analysis of the Slab as Subsystem

As previously discussed, it may be necessary to perform a more refined analysis of the slab
as a 2D system. There exist three major obstacles to this which are addressed perfectly
with SOFiSTiK Version 2012.

First, there is just one area load over the whole slab. For superpositioning it is necessary to
divide this into many smaller areas defined in different load cases. The command “Area
Load Division” allows you to divide the existing load into appropriately smaller ones in
seconds. Figure 8 shows the result.

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

Figure 8: SOFiSTiK Area Load Division

Secondly, the appropriate support conditions must be defined. The “Partial support into
sub system” function not only creates a new separate database containing the subsystem,
but also detects all supporting elements and creates rigid or elastic support conditions in
their place.

Figure 9: Deformation resulting from a partial area load

Thirdly, there is a rectangular beam supporting the slab. For the concrete beam design a T-
section beam is required. The parameter “SOFiSTiK_EffectiveWidth” allows the user to

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

define a theoretical flange from the slab for use in the design task; however this T-beam
section will not be used in the analysis because it will result in a localized area of increased
stiffness. Instead, a complex algorithm in SOFiSTiK calculates an appropriate stiffness in
these locations, resulting in realistic design results.

Figure 10: Bending Moment of the T-Beam

Step 6: Code Checking - Design of footings

This step demonstrates how to leverage the BIM model to perform code checking tasks on
a sample of single pad footings. Currently, a software prototype is used to integrate existing
SOFiSTiK software for design and detailing of footings into Autodesk® Revit® Structure.

Figure 11: Sleeve foundation example

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

The Software uses the support forces stored in the SOFiSTiK database. You can define all
the required information such as maximum soil pressure, type of foundation etc. The size
and material of the columns is transferred from the model automatically.

After design, the foundation is added into the model automatically. The program makes a
proposal for the required rebars, which can also be added to the model.

Step 7: Detailing the slab

Finally the detailing tasks should be done. In this sample we create a reinforcement plan
based on the results of the slab analysis and on the geometry defined before. Because the
Rebar objects in Autodesk® Revit® Structure do not currently have the functionality
needed in Europe, we use the program SOFiCAD, the quasi-standard tool used in Germany
for RC detailing based on AutoCAD®. This software is well connected with the SOFiSTiK
FEA Software and can make use of any drawing sheets defined in Autodesk® Revit®

Figure 12: Export to SOFiCAD

We first export a Revit formwork drawing as a base to create the reinforcement plan in
SOFiCAD. There is a function which creates a master dwg-file for a sheet and an external
reference (XREF) for each view on this sheet. Reinforcement bars and meshes will be
drawn on the master dwg-file. This allows easy handling of modifications in the geometry

Workflows for Analysis and Design Using Autodesk® Revit® Structure and Add-ons

by performing another export of the views. Any existing reinforcement will not be deleted
by this process; it needs only to be adjusted to suit the changed geometry.

Figure 13: Required floor reinforcement

Secondly, we import the required reinforcement into the drawing. This information is
shown in a raster with numbers colored according to their value. It is possible to obtain
automatic reinforcement layouts with loose bars, prefabricated meshes or BAMTEC®
carpets. Another approach is to define a basic reinforcement layout. The software is then
able to display the amount of reinforcement which is still required, as demonstrated in
Figure 13 with meshes. A popular workflow is to cover the basic reinforcement with
meshes and to then add further loose bars to cover the peaks.

This lecture has demonstrated how structural engineers can benefit from the idea of BIM.
Many processes work very well with today’s software solutions; however, there are still
some gaps which software developers need to close. As the idea of BIM becomes more
popular in the world, there is no doubt that this will happen in the near future.