What's New in Autodesk Revit 2017

By Bill Adams, Redstack (@blads)

Last night I was notified that I was able to download and install Autodesk Building Design Suite 2017 from my Autodesk subscription account. Before I get on with it, I need to mention that a fair portion of what is new has already been seen, and put into play by Autodesk customers with active subscriptions. Autodesk released Revit 2016 R2 like they did with Revit 2015 the year before. The special R2 version gives us early access to some of the  Revit 2017 features that were code complete and did not require a file format change, which necessitates an upgrade of files. We'll see a need for upgrading from 2016 to 2017 files but not from 2016 to 2016 R2 files. Okay, on to the list with some of the best features in 2017...


Help Documentation links for What's New in Revit 2017

Architectural / Multi-Disciplinary Enhancements
(Previously called Platform Enhancements)

Depth Cueing

One of the best “new features” is that of Depth Cueing – it lets you add depth to your elevations and sections to create stunning visuals to better communicate your design.  This functionality works with shadows on, realistic, hidden lines, sketchy lines, ambient shadows, anti-aliasing and more.  It works in any view effect.  When you turn it on, you can control where the depth starts, stops, and the limits. 

You have control over the effect in order to meet your needs.  Designed for Architects & Designers, depth cueing adds “pop” to your elevations and sections in either architecture or coordination views to create stunning visuals to better communicate your design.

Text Editor

A top ten wish list item since Revit 1.0 has finally been tackled. Initially things don't look different. You still click the Text button and find text defined by Types. Text Types have the same Type Parameters we've had before. Prior to clicking to place text the ribbon is still the same too. You click to place text in the same way. Once you've done that you'll begin to notice some differences, namely in the context ribbon panel.


  • We'll be able to create indented lists with a bit more control now and we can place just a leader (empty text).
  • You can specify the text editor to display an opaque background and a border when editing a note. This option allows you to better see the text while typing over complex drawings.
  • Improved export of text to DWF, DWG, and DGN files: Enhancements improve the fidelity of character size, location, overrides, font, spacing, line spacing, numbering, tabs, indenting, and other text related properties.  As a side issue to this, when you upgrade from older projects you're going to have to deal with text changing to reconcile these changes. 
  • Text orientation when rotating Project North: When you use the Rotate Project North tool, a new option allows you to specify whether text notes should rotate with the model or maintain their current orientation in the view

Improved Railing Hosts

Now you can host railings on shaped edited floors, roofs, and on the top of walls with a single sketch line. This provides architects and designers with the ability to do a single sketch and host the rail as it is intended to be built on site. This continues on improving the railing functionality so you can model the way you want.

NOTE: Autodesk recommend we check railings after upgrading projects.



Global Parameters (2016R2)

Global parameters are specific to a single project file, but are not assigned to categories like project parameters. Global parameters can be simple values, values derived from equations, or values taken from the model using other global parameters.  Global parameters bring the power of parametric families into the project environment to better capture design intent. Use global parameters to drive the value of a dimension or a constraint, associate to an element instance property to drive its value, or report the value of a dimension, so the value can be used in the equations of other global parameters. For example, a standard corridor width requirement can be associated with any dimension we use between corridor walls, like this.


The change over is complete, Mental Ray is out. Autodesk Raytracer is now used for all rendering functions so the option to select a rendering engine has been removed. When you export a walkthrough, if Visual Style is set to Rendering, the Autodesk Raytracer rendering settings specified for the walkthrough's view are used for export.   Rendering settings are saved with each view's properties. Autodesk Raytracer is used when you render a material preview. You can select draft or production quality. When you upgrade a model, the rendering settings that were specified for the NVIDIA mental ray engine are mapped as closely to the appropriate settings for the new engine as possible.  There is a new Background style in the Rendering dialog called Transparent.   

You'll want to use that when exporting to PNG or TIFF formats for further processing in Photoshop.

Reference Planes

We can now create different Reference Plane sub-categories which can be given different graphic properties. This is an example of it in the Family Editor.

In a project it might look this if we created a unique subcategory for Building Edges and Roof Drains…

One thing to be mindful about is that Reference Plane subcategories created in a family are added to projects if they aren't already in the Project. Potentially that could create quite a management issue when family editors go nuts with this feature.

In 2016 R2 we can provide a Name for a Reference Plane directly in-canvas after selecting it, it looks like this:

Reference Planes and Filters

Like Grids and Levels we can now use Filters to manage Reference Planes because the category has been added to the available categories they see.

revit filters
Combine Parameters (in Schedules)

This is the often requested ability to concatenate parameters values into a single column. The schedule Properties dialog has seen some cosmetic changes, note the new Combine Parameters button.

I’m not sure I like this but we now see new smaller buttons replacing the larger and clearer buttons of old. It's a cleaner interface but I do miss the clearer labeling of such things. Now if I'm not sure what something is I have to pause for a tool tip to appear. I also get the New and Modify buttons confused with each other all the time. When we use Combine Parameters the dialog looks like this for a Room Schedule…

This is combining width and height into a single size parameter for a Door Schedule…

Note: Because combined parameters are not assigned to a category, they cannot be reused. If you want to use the combined parameter in another schedule, you must redefine it.

In-Place Stairs

This opens the door to creating custom stairs that don't use the stair tool itself. They have added Stair related categories to the list of available family categories for In-Place geometry.

Calculate Options for Columns (in schedules)

You can display minimum values, maximum values, or both minimum and maximum values for calculations in columns.

Auto - Project Base Point to Project Base Point (2016R2)

This positioning option gives us a new way to reconcile files that are started without agreeing in advance how to create our models relative to our own project's origin. We can un-clip the Project Base Point and move it to mark a specific location in our own model. Anyone linking our model can use Auto - Project Base Point to Project Base Point instead. This way our un-clipped PBP location will be used to align their model with our own PBP.  It may be necessary to also move our PBP un-clipped if it isn't already where we've agreed it should be. Keep in mind that Shared Coordinates are still very relevant with respect to survey, site and landscape models and drawings.

Move to Project Base Point

The Move to Project Base Point command moves the link back to the host model Project Base Point in the same manner as the original (project base point to project base point) positioning method. This command is available for any RVT link, regardless of the original positioning method.

Move to Internal Origin

The Move to Internal Origin command moves the selected link back to the host model's internal origin in the same manner as the original (origin to origin) positioning method. This command is also available for any RVT link, regardless of the original positioning method.

Toposurface Edge Calculations

For conditions where sloped building pads meet other building pads you may recall a sliver of surface might appear between them. Toposurface edges are now calculated based on the building pads, not the overall toposurface. The resulting toposurface should now be more accurate, and hopefully the slivers of toposurface we've all seen in the past won't be there.

Keynote Legends

These legends, when set to By Sheet, will now be aware of whether or not a keynote is visible in the view as a result of View Range settings, Design Option settings or Depth Clipping/Far Clipping settings.  In the past Revit displayed a keynote even if it was outside of the View Range, assigned to a different Design Option than the one currently displayed in the view or actually outside of the view’s Depth Clipping / Far Clipping range. Now they won't be included in the schedule if these conditions are true of a given keynote.

Tangency Lock

This permits us to lock in a relationship between line segments that are tangent to arc's with new icon's that appear when such a condition exists. This should make it easier to deal with arc/line relationships than it has been in the past. 


Energy Analysis

This is a hot topic these days but mainly due to non NATHERS (National House Energy Rating Scheme) compliance in Australia (you have to use the alternative solution method), I don't see a lot of use regarding these features.  To simplify the initial effort required to generate an energy analytical model they've made a number of changes.  The Energy Settings dialog has been redesigned so that you only need to specify a location for the model, at the outset. Revit defaults to assigning all other parameter values to arrive at an optimal analysis with minimal input. Many parameters that used to be found in the Energy Settings dialog are now part of the Advanced Energy Settings dialog. You can adjust these settings after performing an initial analysis once you understand the results and decide to refine the analysis.


Autodesk have also renamed quite a few parameters, namely:

  • Analysis Mode is now Mode
  • Core Offset is now Perimeter Zone Depth
  • Divide Perimeter Zones is now Perimeter Zone Division
  • Conceptual Constructions is now Conceptual Types
  • Building Construction is now Schematic Types
  • Include Thermal Properties is now Detailed Elements

They also added Help links from both dialogs to provide quick access to supporting information.

Export to gbXML

The Export to gbXML tool now allows you to choose whether to export the energy analytical model created using energy settings or the model using volumes based on rooms or spaces.

Point Cloud Visibility

We can control the visibility of individual scan locations and scan regions in each view. This allows us to hide point cloud information that is not relevant in a given view. It should also help improve performance.

Upgrade Information

There is a dedicated section in the Help Documentation for Upgrade Information. It will be helpful to see which features we need to watch closely during and after the upgrade to make sure it completed successfully and the results are satisfactory.

Export to FBX

When exporting a 3D model view to FBX, select one of these formats to ensure import compatibility: FBX Files for import in 2016+ version products, or FBX 2015 and Previous for import in 2015 and earlier version products.

FormIt 360 Converter

This add-in is now installed with Revit and available on the Add-Ins tab. It can be used to convert FormIt 360 files for use with Revit or the reverse, Revit files for use with FormIt 360.

Collaboration for Revit (C4R)

This is installed in Revit 2017 automatically. This eliminates the need to install something if/when a user then subscribes to C4R. It is intended to reduce the need for IT effort and involvement.

Structural Enhancements

Column base attachment

The Attach Top/Base command can now attach structural columns to isolated foundations and footings. Adjustments to the foundation height cause the length of the column to adjust accordingly.

Structural foundation parameters

To achieve consistency and use more recognizable terminology, several reporting parameters have been renamed or changed for wall foundations, isolated foundations, and slab foundations.

Isolated foundations

The Offset instance parameter is now Height Offset From Level.

Slab foundations

The Default Thickness parameter for filters, tags, and schedules is now Foundation Thickness.

Elevation reporting

Top/Bottom Elevations parameters are now measured in relation to the Project Base Point.

Elevation at Top/Bottom Survey

The Elevation at Top/Bottom Survey parameters for filters, tags, and schedules are measured by the shared Survey Point elevation.

New parameters for slab documentation

To improve tagging and scheduling of floors, two new parameters allow you to specify the default (total) thickness and core thickness of floor types. Use these parameters for schedules and tagging. When one floor layer is set to "variable" and the sub-element has a variable thickness, the parameters display the value "Varies."

Bent fabric reinforcement

Sketch bent sheets to accommodate different shapes of concrete hosts. You can edit them later to adjust to any change.

Constrained Rebar placement

A new graphical constraints manager enhances precise rebar placement. You can place standard rebar shapes that snap to adjacent standard rebar, or you can constrain them to host faces. The user interface highlights each rebar segment that can be constrained, along with available targets. You can modify dimensions to adjust the rebar position. The snap constraint maintains its relationship when you place, move, drag, or copy rebar.

Graphical Rebar Constraint Editing

A new in-canvas editor replaces the Rebar Constraints dialog.

Generic Connections (Structure)

To facilitate the exchange of information between engineers, detailers, and fabricators about a connection between steel framing elements, Revit supports placing generic steel connections. You can place these to define the relationship between elements which can be used, via parameters, to supply information about the connection, including pictures and links to connection requirements or other information. They can display in drawings and use colors based on approval and/or code checking status parameters for an easier review/approval workflow. If required, they can also be replaced later with detailed steel connections created using an add-in.

Steel Connections for Revit

This is similar conceptually to what has been done for MEP Fabrication. It is an Autodesk add-in which allows us to view detailed structural connector geometry and to modify additional parameters within the Revit modeling environment.

Reinforcement connectors

Reinforcement connectors are new kind of family. Structural engineers can use schematic connectors to define requirements. Detailers can use them to produce shop drawings. Manufacturers can go into full detail, precisely modeling and representing reinforcement connectors to create installation instructions.  Rebar connectors interact with the rebar that they connect to, facilitating change management. You can add the connectors to groups, assemblies, and partitions with unique coupler numbering. You can also export connectors to various formats.

Variable Rebar Distribution

To fit rebar within complex shapes, you can use rebar sets that can vary along inclined faces. Documentation should be easier with multi-rebar annotations, customizable numbering settings, and accurate schedules that display varying lengths. You can also define inclined rebar sets.

Split columns

The Split Element tool can now split vertical columns at desired points.

MEP Enhancements

Electrical Settings

We can specify a default rating to use for creating circuits in a model.

Assigning a Distribution System

If there is only one distribution system applicable to an equipment instance, the distribution system is now assigned automatically

New annotation families for MEP

To improve annotation for generic and fabrication parts, several annotation families are now available for tagging ductwork and pipework. (Electrical containment is not currently supported.) You can use tags for offset, elevation, spot elevation, invert elevation (pipework only), set up, and set down to tag generic and fabrication elements. Use the Mechanical Settings dialog to customize the labels for the tags.

Electrical settings

You can specify the load calculation method for how Revit sums electrical loads: Sum True Load and Reactive Load, or Sum Apparent Load and True Load. When upgrading a model, Revit uses the Sum True Load and Reactive Load method as the default.

Temperature Difference family parameter type

The type of parameter is now available for HVAC, Electrical, and Piping families.

Calculate pressure drop for taps

To improve the existing task of calculating pressure drop in a duct system, you can associate an ASHRAE table for duct tap fittings.

Volume calculations

To improve performance pipe system volume calculations are a background process now.

Display of ducts

Revit will regenerate duct layouts only for what is visible in the drawing area. If duct appears very small in the drawing area, it will display as simplified lines, regardless of the detail level assigned to the view (similar to what they are doing for walls now).

Revit Fabrication

They've made quite a lot of changes to this ongoing integration between design and fabrication. This is a list of the information they've provided in the what's new documentation at the help site -

  • Convert design intent to fabrication parts - You can convert generic, design-intent Revit parts to LOD 400 fabrication parts.
  • Route and Fill - To simplify the process for completing a fabrication model, use the Route and Fill command to step through possible routing solutions.
  • Quick Connect - To simplify the process for filling a gap between a fitting and a straight, use the Quick Connect command.
  • Trim/extend - To simply the process for filling a gap between two straights, use the Trim/Extend tool.
  • Swap fabrication parts - Use the Type Selector to quickly swap fabrication parts.
  • Fabrication parts optimization - To help optimize fabrication ductwork layouts, you can use in-canvas controls to reposition short straight segments and to extend fitting extensions. Additionally, you can review warnings to find fittings that are longer than specification-defined lengths.
  • Hanger bearer position -To avoid clashes in the model, use the hanger controls to modify the length and position of the hanger bearer and its corresponding rod location.
  • Hanger placement - You can place a fabrication hanger on the straight portion of a fitting extension. Hangers can be placed on other hangers to model trapeze conditions or in free space.
  • Tag fabrication parts - To support workflows for construction documentation for fabrication, additional fabrication parameters are available for tagging fabrication parts.
  • Fabrication parameters - To improve tagging, scheduling, and filtering capabilities for MEP fabrication modelling, several parameters are now available for fabrication parts.
  • Fabrication family categories - To improve annotation, scheduling, and filtering capabilities for MEP fabrication modelling, family categories have been added for MEP Fabrication Containment, MEP Fabrication Ductwork, MEP Fabrication Hangers, and MEP Fabrication Pipework.
  • Hidden lines for fabrication parts - To improve documentation, fabrication parts now display hidden lines.
  • Insulation and lining - To improve documentation, fabrication parts now display separate sub-components for insulation and lining for duct and pipe elements, allowing more control of display properties.
  • Rise drop symbols - This enhancement supports coordination between fabrication models in Revit and the Autodesk Fabrication products (CADmep, ESTmep, and CAMduct). Rise drop symbols for a fabrication run in Revit are defined in the Autodesk Fabrication products, and are mapped to the rise drop symbols used for duct, piping, and electrical containment systems in Revit.
  • Tool Tips for fabrication parameters in the Properties palette - Tool tips now provide descriptions for fabrication parameters in the Properties palette.
  • Fabrication settings - When you specify a fabrication configuration, you can also specify a fabrication profile.
  • MEP Fabrication Content for Revit - This fabrication configuration is now available as part of the Revit installation.

Software Product Package Changes

Revit Arch, Revit MEP, or Revit Structure are no longer sold as individual products. All Revit users now get Revit in one Box which contains ALL of the features of the separate versions.

There are also many changes and additions to the API for Revit. You'll need to refer to the related SDK (software developer kit) for those details.

There’s a substantial amount of enhancements to get into - have fun getting acquainted with 2017!

Contact Redstack for more information on Autodesk Building Design Suite, Autodesk Revit and more, or purchase your software today from our online store.

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