Autodesk Revit: Reference Planes explained


If you have come to Revit from a 2D CAD system (such as AutoCAD), you may be familiar with the concept of “Construction Lines“. Indeed, even back in the days of pen and ink, designers would create light, pencil lines in order to help set out their design. We don’t have Construction Lines as such in Revit, but we do have something vaguely similar- and that is “Reference Planes” The key word here being “Planes”- which means they are far more than just simple 2D lines


In the above image you can see that I’ve created 6 Reference Planes. Reference Planes are always displayed as dashed green lines.

Unit Agenda

  1. Reference Planes have two distinct uses in Revit
  2. Reference Planes to help set out your design
  3. Reference Planes to control Geometry
  4. How to create Reference Planes
  5. Reference Planes are true 3D planes

Reference Panes have two distinct uses in Revit

In Revit, Reference Planes can be used for two main purposes. Simply, they can be used to form a draft outline of where you need to position certain elements. Used in this way, they are acting as simple construction lines. Alternatively, they can actually be used to control the formation and position of 3D geometry.

Reference Planes to help set out your design


In the above image, you could envisage the 6 Reference Planes representing the outline of the external walls of my design. I could place all 6 Reference Planes into the model, set them out accurately and then use them to position the placement of my wall elements. If this is a workflow (construction lines first, building elements second) that you are comfortable with, that’s absolutely fine. However, I would stress that the inherent power of Revit to be able to change an element’s position, orientation or type almost instantly; does make the use of “construction lines” virtually redundant. We’ll see very soon how it is just as quick to place your elements into the project and then “fine tune” their position and size; as to “draft out” where those elements need to be prior to placing them.

Reference planes to control geometry


Much more useful (in my opinion) is for Reference Planes to control the generation of 3D geometry. Take the above example. In this image we are looking down (Plan view) on to the top of an “Extruded Roof” (I’ll show you how to create these later on in the course). Here I am using 2 Reference Planes to control the start and end of the roof extrusion. That is, the vertical reference planes on the left and right hand side of the image. I have actually selected the left hand Reference Plane- you can see that I have also named it “Roof Start”. Naming Reference Planes makes it easier to track their intended use.

How to create Reference Planes


Creating Reference Planes is really easy. Just switch to the “Architecture” menu (see above image)…




and then click on “Ref Plane” on the Work Plane panel, near the end of the Ribbon bar (see above image). Once you have clicked this, you just need to click in your open window to place the start of the Reference Plane and then click again to place the other end of the Reference Plane.




It is a very good idea to name your Reference Planes. Doing so allows to you to keep track of what they are doing- ie why did you create this Referecne Plane to start with? What does it signify? Additionally, there may be times when you need to select a new Work Plane in Revit. If you have named your Reference Planes, you will then be able to select them from a drop-down menu. If you’ve haven’t named them, they will not appear in the drop-down menu.

Reference Planes are true 3D Planes

Much more than just simple 2D lines, Reference Planes are true 3D planes that exist in your model world. Define a plane in a plan view and then switch to an elevation view (ie view your model world from the front). You will see your plane standing upright in your model world. This feature alone, makes them very useful in helping to coordinate your design in three dimensions.

Key Points

  1. Reference Planes can be used simplistically in order to set out your design
  2. You can use Reference Planes as work planes from which to create 3D geometry
  3. Reference Planes can be named to help you remember why you created them
  4. If you intend to use a Reference Plane as a work plane, be sure to name it- so that it appears in the work plane drop-down menu.
This tutorial is taken from "The Complete Beginner's Guide to Revit Architecture" FREE online course.
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Posted in Autodesk Revit.