We learned recently that UK-based Keysoft Solutions has purchased LANDCADD from developer Eagle Point. LANDCADD is a landscape software package largely based around AutoCAD, but which also (until recently) had some limited Revit integration. We reached out to the new owners to ask about future Revit integration, and got a positive response. They responded by asking what we’d like to see in any future Revit version, so this post is our manifesto.
The TL;DR version is this:
Revit needs some Softscape tools, some Hardscape tools, and every Landscape designer needs a great Plants Database!
UPDATE, June 2016:
Keysoft have now merged Keyscape with LandCADD to become ‘Keyscape LandCADD’, but it’s AutoCAD only, and they have ‘no plans’ to bring it to Revit.
Check out CS Artisan RV instead, for a Revit-based landscape application.
Let’s just get the obvious question out of the way – why Revit?
The answer to this is easy: Revit is the No.1 BIM platform by a long way. We’re a multi-disciplinary practice doing architecture + landscape and we already use Revit. In fact we already do our Landscape in Revit too. The workflow is terrible though, because at the moment you pretty much have to hack Revit to do Landscape.
It’s hard to define where architecture stops and landscape starts. For the project above, we as architects designed the site layout, the split level pond, the deck, the car parks, the cycle paths, the fences, the bollards and even the concept for the public art. Our landscape appointment was for the hardscape (the paving), the planting design, the tree specification and the ecology. How on earth could we separate out the ‘landscape’ and do it in AutoCAD? Even with something like Keyscape Design Studio, AutoCAD just doesn’t make sense. We’d end up duplicating half of the design.
So if we’re doing Landscape in Revit, how do we do it currently?
Revit makes some things easy, and some things very hard. Civils design such as road modelling is a nightmare, but at least Autodesk have solutions which are slowly becoming compatible with a Revit workflow, i.e. Civil 3D. Modelling trees in Revit, at least as lollipops, is simple. Fences, bollards, benches and anything tangible is also very easy. Planting beds with mixed plants, which aren’t actually modelled are harder. For those, we use a version of Lauren Schmidt’s hack, which you can find over at LandarchBIM.
How could LANDCADD or Keyscape for Revit help?
We’re happy to pay for Revit extensions where they offer genuine improvements in functionality. We’d be lost without RTV Xporter for instance. Keysoft have an open goal in front of them, to plug a gap in the landscape BIM market. As we said in the TL;DR, we need better hardscape tools, better softscape tools and we’d love an integrated Plants database. Here’s our very short summary of what we’d like to see in ‘Keyscape Designer for Revit’:
You have to start with a good planting database, and Keyscape already have one of those. The library for Revit would be a mix of data, 2D, 3D and RPC:
- Data Library – most extensive, specification library allowing generic ‘planted areas’ to be populated with basic non-visual data. Region specific, UK, US etc…
- Graphic Library – extensive 2D plan/elevation graphic/symbol library
- Model Library – simplified 3D vector models to cover the appearance of a broad range of tree and shrub types. Parametric sizing.
- RPC library – realistic style RPC models for use in rendering visuals
All of the above content should be available within a single Plants database just like the current Keyscape product. A plant entry should be predefined with default 2D/3D and RPC appearances, which can be duplicated and amended as required.
Sports & Streetscape libraries
This isn’t one of our high priorities, as the content is available elsewhere, but it’s good added-value content and will naturally be to a better standard than the free stuff trawled from the internet.
- Sports Pitch layouts, verified to National Standards (e.g. Sport England)
- Streetscape families, benches, bollards, cycle stands etc
Creating workable Revit tools will be the hardest part for any developer. To get an idea just how hard it is to use the Revit API to create something usable, have a look at Site Designer (formerly Site Works) developed by Eagle Point. It’s ugly, slow, counter-intuitive, cumbersome and hardly useful at all. Let’s hope Keysoft like a challenge, because getting this right is the single most important aspect. Here’s what we need:
- ‘Place Plant’ tool – for placing individual trees and shrubs, would work like the native Revit tool, but with selection via the Plant Database rather than the Project Browser
- ‘Planted Area’ tool – for planting beds specified by area, at plants per square metre (or square foot for the US). This would work like the LandArchBIM hack, with scheduleable areas, but with proper Family Types linked to the Plant database.
- ‘Hardscape’ tool – for paving layouts. Ideally this will work in 2D and 3D by producing a generic mass with an applied pattern and will be able to accommodate slopes and falls without distorting the hatch pattern.
- ‘Kerbs and Edges’ tool – something that can apply modelled kerbs (curbs) and edges to the Hardscape objects
- ‘Site Appraisal’ – a graphics toolset for 2D and 3D site appraisals
Workflows are hugely important. We often receive Excel files of Tree Surveys for instance, and have to laboriously transcribe them into Revit data. Anything that can act like an import wizard to ease this process would be a big selling point.
- ‘Import Tree Survey’ to generate tree models from an external schedule (e.g. XLS format) just like the current KeyTREE product.
Schedules / Take-offs
We can already do beautiful planting schedules straight out of Revit, with live data, and with counts, areas and totals. You can do formulas and calculated values. We’ve even made one that can score BREEAM habitats based on areas of various taxon richness. They require very careful management though, due to some poor implementation by Autodesk, such as the inability to use Shared Parameters in Key Schedules, or to be able to tag parameters you create in Key Schedules. Let’s see what a third party can do with the API:
- Native Revit schedules but with the ability to schedule the third-party ‘Planted Area’ and ‘Hardscape’ elements.
- Native Revit Takeoffs but with the ability to schedule the the same third-party elements
- Schedule templates for typical uses e.g. existing tree schedule, planting schedule etc.
In conclusion: Landscape for Revit
I’m writing this blog post as an architect, not a landscape architect, and one who works in a multi-disciplinary practice. No doubt our needs are not the same as those of a dedicated landscape firm. We work with independent landscape architects too though, and generally their software is no more advanced than a copy or two of AutoCAD LT. They’ve heard of BIM though, and are just beginning to be asked to do it. An opportunity awaits for the developer who can plug the gap in the BIM Landscape market. A big part of that market would prefer those tools to work with Revit.
Your move, Keysoft.