What FormIt wants?

What has informally been dubbed the “SketchUp Killer“, hasn’t quite delivered up to its full potential. Certainly within our office, Trimble SketchUp users that dictate early schematic design workflow have casually rejected the threat.

The ease of modeling that the designers enjoy, frustrates those that are working further downstream. The SketchUp model cannot be used effectively and remodeling efforts undoubtedly occur. This is true the reverse direction, when the updated Revit model is imported back for further iteration within SketchUp. There is no-live linking within SketchUp or sharing of efforts. Even materials do not talk to one another.



SketchUp design model


SketchUp model linked into Revit – where did the materials go?


Linked SketchUp model does not cut in plan?


So why is SketchUp still a market force? It has been around a grand old time, over ten years in my career, which in software terms is a lifetime. It has had multiple development cycles and the financial support of Google. What makes is so compelling is the ease of use, even my father of 79 years is a keen user! However things shift and newer kids on the block want in. My 10 year old son every morning fires up Autodesk FormIt on my aging iPad. Tweaks and builds his fantasy baseball stadium at Rat Field. Even his 6 year old younger brother is competing, modelling his police cars and bus stops, although scale can still be somewhat of an issue!

For me, I want an intuitive and efficient workflow that really talks to Revit, our tool for documenting and modelling our designs. It should maintain parametric data and interoperability, not wasting effort in remodeling or sharing assets. If this can be done on a mobile, non complex application that can create forms that make designers happy, we have hit the jackpot. We may not be there yet, but not having to think of file format or be restricted by what the tool can and cannot do, is something we should ask software developers in the AEC industry to produce.

I think FormIt has potential. I really do. It is no Rhino for modeling or SketchUp for intuition and speed, but it does provide a cheaper, nimble, efficient, mobile, analytical, iterative (combined with Dynamo Studio) platform that in someway can inter-operate with Revit. It is relatively young and needs some work to be a mainstream architectural application. For that to occur, FormIt needs to seamlessly work with its mature uncle: linking between one another and sharing the same resources.


A potential FormIt workflow to Revit?

I don’t think it is too much to ask to have our multi-generational teams work in the same sandbox, never having to remodel, work in isolation or be dictated to by the tool’s functionality.

Ways to partner in Revit

There are many ways to have multiple teams work Revit. Within the office over a network you work share with your colleagues, all synchronizing your respective local files to a central model. Nothing new here. Your external consultant teams send you their detached central model via FTP and you link these into your central model. Once again, nothing new. If you have colleagues that are not local, you will utilize a Revit Server. What happens though if you are working with external teams remotely and they need to work in your model, such as an architect of record partnering with a design lead architect? You don’t necessarily want the other architect perusing your other projects and files? You also don’t want to pay for their Revit licenses or setup dedicated workstations for them to remote desktop into. Luckily for you there are a few options.

Collaborate for Revit (C4R)

A simple solution is to utilize the “Cloud”. Autodesk have created such a product, linking multiple Revit users to their respective models via their BIM360 integration. Setup is relatively simple and intuitive. Communication is handled via their proprietary chat engine.


Imaginit Clarity

Hosting in the ‘Cloud’ may not be for everyone. You may even be worried that access at times may be spotty. You may be right!


Wouldn’t it be great to host the all Revit files on your Revit Server restricting user access to other folders? Now you can! Imaginit have done a nice job of overlaying permissions onto your Revit Server using their product they have coined ‘Clarity’. The remote firm can use their Revit Server and sync the files. Setup is a little more complicated as firewalls need to be navigated, IP addresses white listed and users need to be managed. Yet when all is set up, it works great. There is even the bonus of scheduling Revit tasks such as exporting files, printing drawings etc. Want the communication of C4R, federate your Skype for Business and you have a more enhanced experience. The cost is competitive also, with only the host paying for the service, all others need only set up their Revit Server, if they haven’t done so already.


Here is a précis of Revit collaboration methods

Remote Desktop

  • Free for partnering firm
  • Not a good user experience due to bandwidth
  • Utilizes hosts hardware
  • Licensing concerns
  • Have to restrict network folder access


  • Easy to implement
  • Can be pricey – subscription requirements
  • Communication platform restrictive
  • Cloud offering could go down


  • Little cost for non host
  • Files host on servers rather than Cloud
  • Perform scheduled tasks
  • IT departments need to typically set up

Need to know partnering firm IP address, Revit Usernames, Autodesk ID’s, email addresses of users.

AIA Seattle Presentation

Today I co-presented at the AIA Seattle “Working together in the BIM environment” with Heather Skeehan of GLY Construction. This exercise has inspired me to share both ideas, work and challenges that I am faced within the profession of architecture as a Design Technologist.

I have never been one for a journal, but in the spirit of a new year approaching, I believe it time to pick up my digital pen and reach out to fellow technologist, designers and architects. Let’s see where this goes!