Module 3 - Design Project Brief: Vacation House


In this assignment you’ll design a new multi-story building and then document and present your proposed design using Autodesk Revit.

Your task is to design and model a small vacation house that will be built to provide a weekend or short-term retreat for a small family or group of friends at Lake Tahoe or a similar mountain resort area.  This is a house that will be used for short periods at a time, so your design strategy and the features you provide can be a bit different from a home that would be used day-to-day throughout the year by a single family.

Design Program

Your proposed design for the vacation home should provide the following:

  • Total size of the living area should be around 2000 – 2400 SF.
  • A large central meeting space/lounge/living room. This is the heart of the home where people will gather to share stories (around a fire?), be entertained, and hang out.
  • A food preparation space/kitchen/dining area. While this kitchen may be a bit smaller than what you’d find in a primary home, you’ll still want enough room for several cooks to work together on a preparing a grand meal. For your clients, preparing the meals is part of the shared vacation experience.
  • Three primary sleeping spaces (bedrooms) around 150 SF (just over 12’ x 12’) or larger. For your initial design, think of one as holding a queen size or double bed plus typical bedroom furniture. The other two would probably be furnished with two twin beds or bunk beds plus other furniture.
  • Two small bathrooms with toilet, vanity/lavatory sink, and shower.
  • Another room that can be used as a study or quiet retreat (for when someone wants to get away from the crowd). This should also be able to function as a guest room -- using a convertible sofa, a futon, a pull-down wall bed (Murphy bed), padded benches, or some other creative strategy.
  • Storage space (at least 10’ x 10’) for all those off-season items. It’s where the skis will live during the summer, and where the rubber rafts will be stored during the winter.
  • A parking area for two cars (about 20’x20’). This could be a fully-enclosed garage (with walls and roof) or a covered carport (roof, possibly a partial wall, but not fully enclosed). These 400 SF are not counted in the living area above.
  • This vacation home will be built on a hillside site with fantastic views of the lake and valley below. Your clients would like to an outdoor entertaining space (a deck or a terrace) that takes advantage of the view. They’d also like as many of the living and sleeping rooms in the house as possible to also enjoy the view.

Inspiration Images

Your clients have provided examples of some of their favorite homes to help explain their design aesthetic/preferred style and inspire your design work.  These include:


Your design does not have to look like any of these examples, but use them as inspiration and think about the qualities of the spaces in these homes and how it will possible to incorporate them in your design.

Construction Planning / Methods

Some issues to keep in mind when designing on a hillside site:

  • To accommodate the hillside site, the lower level will probably need to be at least partially below grade. A good strategy to use in these cases is a partial or walk-out basement – below grade at the uphill side, but open to the site at the downhill side.
  • The lower level floor can be a simple concrete slab (or pad) placed directly on the site. Again, we’ll use a thick slab – that’s a little thicker than absolutely necessary for the loads, but the extra thickness will add some thermal mass to help capture heat and maintain an even temperature.
  • The lower level walls will need to be concrete up to the height of the grade. The concrete walls will holdback the earth and can be waterproofed. Above the grade level, the walls can be light frame wooden construction.
  • At the upper level, the walls should be 2x6 light frame wooden construction. Using 2x6 studs (actually 1.5” x 5.5”) will allow us to provide R-19 insulation, which will be better for the temperature extremes.
  • The roof 2x10 or 2x12 wooden rafters depending on the span. We’re going with a larger size here due to the snow loads that will encountered in the winter months. Again, the structural soundness of your choices will ultimately be checked by one of our engineers. These are really just starting assumptions to facilitate your early design.

Getting Started

Use this Revit project file (.RVT) as the starting point for your work:

This project contains some standard wall, door, window, floor, and roof types to help you get started.  You can use these pre-loaded types or customize them as desired --  feel free to define or load additional types and elements into your model as needed.

Note: As you search for Revit component families to add to your building model to illustrate your design concept and add context, be sure to check out the choices available in the Revit Library or download them from websites, such as or manufacturer sites.

What’s Expected

  1. Illustrate your proposed design using a building model that the includes basic building elements for a multi-story design:
    1. walls
    2. doors and windows
    3. floor
    4. roof
    5. stairs and railings
  2. Add furniture and fixture objects to your building model to help create context and illustrate the scale of the rooms and the building. It’d be nice to add elements representing:
    1. plumbing fixtures
    2. furniture (check the Revit library and online sites like to see what’s readily-available)
    3. cabinetry – for this preliminary design proposal, a great time-saving strategy to consider is:
      1. Not spending the time to do a detailed cabinet design and place individual cabinet components.
      2. Rather, creating quick In-Place models of your cabinets by extruding some basic cabinet profiles and outlines up from the floor.
      3. In practice, after the initial design concept is accepted, you can go back add the detail to the cabinets in the next design phase.
  3. Place views of your building model on the provided sheets to “tell the story” of your proposed design:
    1. floor plan
    2. roof plan (can also be used as a site plan if you show the topography)
    3. exterior elevations (all sides)
    4. one or two building sections showing the vertical relationships between all the levels and the site
    5. a ground level camera view showing your favorite exterior view your design
    6. an interior camera view showing your central meeting space/lounge/living room

Some tips for placing views:

  • You’ll probably need to crop your views to fit them neatly on the sheets.
  • Leave the scale of the plan, elevation, and section views set to ¼”=1’-0. Although the views may seem small relative to the size of the sheet, this is a standard scale that is typically used for plotting and submitting design documents -- so, easily recognized and understood.
  • Add additional D-size (36” x 24”) sheets as needed to place all the views that you’d like to share.

Sharing Your Project

Please follow the instructions in the Canvas assignment to upload your building model to your folder on Autodesk Construction Cloud (BIM 360) and create a new post sharing your project on this linked Notion page.

✏️Module 3 - Design Project Submissions: Vacation House

Points to Ponder / Wrap-Up Questions

Please also share your comments on 3 of the Points to Ponder questions listed below in a new posting on this linked Notion page.

🤔Module 3 - Points to Ponder