Modeling Structural Elements

BIM for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Curriculum


In this lesson, students will learn how to add the elements to the building model that provide the structural framework for the building.

Students will start by adding a dimensional framework of levels and grids to the architectural model, and then add placeholders for structural elements that impact the architectural design (such as columns). They will then copy essential elements from the architectural model to a Autodesk® Revit® Structure model and place the key structural framing elements such as foundations, floors, shear walls, columns, beams, and joists. 

The endpoint of the lesson will be a structural model that can be used for structural analysis and shared with the other members of the design team.

Linking an Architectural Model and Copying Shared Elements

Link the preliminary architectural model to your Revit Structure host project and use the Copy/Monitor tool to copy shared elements:

  • Dimensional framework—levels and grids 
  • Placeholder elements—walls, floors, and columns placed in the architectural model 

Figure 4.2.0 - Adding placeholder columns to the architectural model at grid intersections


Modeling Concrete Columns, Beams, and Floor Slabs

Model the concrete columns, beams, and floors slabs on the first floor and lower level of the project using the Structural Column, Beam, and Floor tools in Revit Structure. These elements will provide the basis for detailed structural design and structural analysis to confirm the sizes of all members.

You can place structural elements in any view, so select a view that makes your work task easier:
Use plan views for elements that are placed below or through the cut plane (for example, columns).

  • Use reflected ceiling plan views for elements that are placed above the cut plan (for example, beams).
  • Use 2D or 3D section views for elements that are difficult to select in plan views (for example, floors).
  • Use 3D views with the Snap in Place option for elements whose ends snap to other objects (for example, beams).

In addition, be sure that the view’s level of detail, view range, and visibility graphics overrides are set in a way that makes the structural elements visible.

Modeling Wood Columns, Beams, and Beam Systems

Model the wood columns, beams, and beam systems on the upper levels of the project using similar techniques, but with a few variations:

  • Use the Align tool to line up the outside faces of the wood columns in the exterior walls with the edge of the floor slab (and the outside face of the concrete columns) below.
  • Use the Beam System tool to create a regularly spaced system of joist elements to span between the wood beams and support the upper floors and roof.

Since levels 2 through 4 are very similar, you can use shortcuts to simplify your work. After placing the wood structural elements on one level, copy them to the clipboard and use the Paste Align tool to copy them to similar locations on other levels.

Modeling Structural Walls and Foundations

Add structural walls (for example, shear walls that resist lateral forces) to the structural model using the Wall tool. For this design, you will place:

  • Concrete shear walls at the lower level and level 1 to work with the concrete framing at those levels
  • Plywood shear walls at levels 2 through 4 above
  • Retaining walls at the edges of the lower level

You can also add foundation elements to transfer the loads from the structural framing to the ground:

  • Foundation slabs to transfer distributed loads
  • Wall foundations to transfer continuous wall loads
  • Isolated foundations to transfer concentrated column loads

Be sure to set the Placement Plane option to accurately place your foundation elements at the proper level. In addition, make certain that the view’s level of detail, view range, and visibility graphics overrides are set in way that makes the new elements visible.