Project Vasari, a standalone application that expands on the Revit conceptual mass family interface (available here from Autodesk Labs) brings Ecotect analysis capabilities into the Revit environment. We test drove this tool to see if we could create a surface that responds directly to the results of solar analysis. Vasari allows us to easily export analysis data in .CSV format, bring that information into Excel and read all the values generated from Solar Analysis. Having that numerical data available, we initially thought we could bring these values back into Revit to drive a specified parameter in the Pattern-based Curtain Panel family. Unfortunately, we discovered, that data exported from Vasari’s Solar Analysis does not always correspond with the position of curtain panels within the curtain wall. That is, data point 1, 2, 3… does not correspond to panel 1, 2, 3…etc. In our experiments , the logic of how the .CSV data is organized has nothing to do with the row / column organization in a divided surface grid. Without the help of a custom plugin that could perform automatic labeling of curtain panels based on position, using CSV data would require a user to manually enter a numerical value or label panel by panel.
As a workaround, we used a tool that translates pixel color from an image into values that affect instance parameters within a Revit family. By feeding in graphical results from Vasari’s Solar Analysis, we were able to achieve the desired effect. This tool, known as the Bitmap to Panel plugin, can be downloaded from Zach Kron’s blog, Buildz: http://buildz.blogspot.com/2010/08/making-revit-forms-from-image-files-in.html . It works by translating grayscale image values int0 numerical data, which is then inserted into a specified parameter within the Revit curtain panel family.
The procedure for creating a responsive surface driven by the results of a solar analysis within Project Vasari follows:
1) Load your desired surface into a [Vasari] project file and run ‘Ecotect Solar Radiation’ analysis. The default ‘Ecotect Style’ will give you a gradiated analysis result. Since the plugin only uses grayscale values, we setup our own Grayscale style. Simply create a new Analysis Display Style and choose a set of grayscale colors under the Color tab.
2) Screen-capture an orthogonal view (an elevation or plan view depending on your geometry) and open in Photoshop. Resize the image so that the pixel width and height matches the number of row/column subdivisions in your surface. Save image out in .bmp format and place the file in the same folder as your Revit file.
3) Return to the mass family in Vasari, load in a parameterized curtain panel and run the plugin! The model now takes on the grayscale values generated from the solar analysis image.
This method is a workaround to the inaccessible database of Vasari and definitely has its limitations. Since we are depending on a 2D image to drive a 3D model, it could be a bit complicated when the surface becomes more complex, which may require us to break the model down into multiple surfaces to create the desired relationships. What’s nice about this method, is how quickly and easily we can build complex surfaces and implement the results of multiple analysis. Also, every step of the process is contained within a single program. At this point, the workflow described here is used best for exploration at the conceptual level when the massing is still being refined. We welcome anyone to share a more robust approach that would allow us to incorporate Vasari Analysis directly into the curtain panel family.