Revit Architecture: A guide to Curtain Walls

Introduction

In Revit, Curtain Walls are a very special type of system family. Please don’t confuse them with the “Basic Wall” type of system family. It is very tempting to start with a “pre-defined Curtain Wall”. However in this tutorial I am going to show you how to build your Revit Curtain Wall fro scratch. That way will you how they go together and consequently, be able to back-ward engineer a pre-defined one should you need to.

Unit Agenda

  1. What constitutes a Curtain Wall in Revit?
  2. Building a Curtain Wall from scratch
  3. Curtain Grid Lines
  4. Curtain Panels
  5. Mullions
  6. Combining Curtain Panels
  7. Loading additional Panel Families
  8. Doors and opening lights in Curtain Walls
  9. Embedding Curtain Walls
  10. Going around corners
  11. Pre-defined Curtain Walls

 

What constitutes a Curtain Wall in Revit?

In Revit, a Curtain Wall is (and more accurately “can be”) comprised of the following elements (please refer to the image above in conjunction with the text below):-

  1. The overall “Curtain Wall” itself. You can think of this as the primary host. You cannot have the other elements listed below if you don’t have a piece of “Curtain Wall” to start with.
  2. Curtain Panels. When you subdivide your Curtain Wall (1) using CurtainGrid Line (see 3, below), then Curtain Panels are created automatically.
  3. Curtain Grid Lines. These are used to sub-divide your Curtain Wall (1) into a number of Curtain Panels (2). You can place Curtain Grid Lines both horizontally and vertically. They can be equally spaced, but don’t necessarily need to be. (Please Note: The Curtain Grid Lines can be at other angles apart from strictly horizontal or vertical- but this is a slightly more advanced topic)
  4. Mullions: In Revit, the term “Mullion” refers to the real-world element that runs along the Curtain Grid Lines. In some countries the term “Transom” is also used- however in Revit, the term (and element) “Mullion” is used in both the horizontal and vertical orientation.

Building a Curtain Wall from scratch

SO let’s go ahead and build a Revit Curtain Wall from scratch. Start off in a Plan View (this is the easiest view orientation by far in which to create Revit Walls). Go to the “Architecture” menu and select the “Wall” tool.

From the Type Selector (in the Properties Palette) go ahead and select the “Curtain_Wall-Empty” Type from the “Curtain Wall” Group- see above image.

With this Type selected, go ahead and place a straight length of it into your model. Don’t worry about the exact length- it makes no difference for the sake of this tutorial.

If you now switch to a 3D View you can see the piece of Curtain Wall that we have just placed- it should look (broadly speaking) like the one in the above image. Just to clarify: What we have here is one single piece of Curtain Wall, hosting a single Curtain Panel (which just happens to be the same size as the Curtain Wall itself. And this is because we haven’t yet sub-divided it into small panels using Curtain Grid Lines. And that is exactly what we are are going to do next.

Curtain Grid Lines

OK. Se we have our basic Curtain Wall element. What we would normally do now is to sub-divide it using Curtain Grid Lines. Now to do this next step, you are probably best viewing your Curtain Wall in Elevation- i.e. face-on. You can do it in a 3D View (as in the image below)- but (trust me on this one), it’s far easier in an Elevation View. So let’s go ahead and add some Gurtain grid Lines. On the “Architecture” tab (& “Build” Panel), select the “Curtain Grid” tool (see image above). Now (and this is the important bit) you need to hover over one of the “EDGES” of your Curtain Wall. As you do so, you will see Revit offer you the opportunity to place a Curtain Grid Line. I have stressed the word “EDGES” in the previous sentence because you can ONLY place Curtain Grid Lines by having your cursor over one of the edges of your overall Curtain Wall. Hovering anywhere inside the perimeter will NOT allow you to do so.

Go ahead and click a few times to place some Curtain Grid Lines onto this particular Curtain Wall Elements. Remember, I am showing you how to build up a Curtain Wall from scratch- once you are used to this, you can “pre-define” your Curtain Walls as a “Curtain System”. This will allow you to set the spacing between the Curtain Grid Lines both horizontally and vertically (different spacings for each if you wish) and then all you need to do is start defining where you want your Curtain Walls to be in your model and they will be created with the Panels and Grid Spacings that you have set previously.

 

Anyway, let’s get back to the Curtain Wall we are creating in this tutorial. So we’ve just placed some Curtain Grid Lines onto our Curtain Wall. Let’s just take a second to reflect on why we are doing this. We do this for for 2 main reasons:-

  1. To subdivide the single Curtain Panel(we initially started with) into a number of small Curtain Panels.
  2. To create a Host on which to place Mullion segments (more on this later in the tutorial).
So now let’s move onto Curtain Panels…..

Curtain Panels

There is no command to specifically create Curtain Panels. They are “automatically” created just by placing “Curtain Grid Lines” onto the face of your Curtain Wall. Another way to explain this is that Curtain Panels are simply the space occupied inside the perimeter of Curtain Grid Lines. NOw here’s the slightly complicated part- Curtain Panels can be either System Families or Component Families. System Family Curtain Panels are fairly simplistic- they can comprise of (basically) a material and a thickness for it. Conversely “Loadable Component Family Curtain Panels” can be quite elaborate and contain 3D fixtures and fittings such as the typical “Spider Connectors” at the corners. For the purpose of this Beginners’ Guide, I am going to keep with the System Family Curtain Panels. If you want to change the Type of one of your Curtain Panels, you first need to select it. Now this can be tricky to the uninitiated. By far the easiest way to do so is to place your cursor over one of the perimeter edges of the Curtain Panel you wish to select. Then (BEFORE clicking your mouse) use the TAB key on your keyboard to cycle through the nearby elements that Revit can select. Just take a few seconds to keep hitting TAB and see how Revit cycles through the following:-

  1. The overall Curtain Wall element itself (ONLY if you happen to be on a perimeter line common to both the panel and the overall Curtain Wall)
  2. The Curtain Grid Line (or a segment of it)
  3. The Curtain Panel- to one side of the perimeter line
  4. The Curtain Panel- to the other side of the perimeter line (as long as you’re not on an overall perimeter edge to the Curtain Wall)
  5. The Mullion segment (if you have one at this location) that is being hosted on the underlying Curtain Grid Line.
So you can see from the above that there is a lot going on all in the same space when it comes to Curtain Walls, Curtain Panels, Curtain Grid Lines and Mullions!
 
So keep cycling through (slowly) using the TAB key until the perimeter of the “Curtain Panel” highlights. NOW you can left-click your mouse to select this element. If you’ve selected the wrong element (eg the Curtain Grid Line)- just cancel out of the selection and use the TAB key to cycle through again.
 

 

Once you have the Curtain Panel selected, you will see it’s current Type in the Properties Palette. So you can go ahead and select a different “Type” from the drop-down selector. You can see in the image above that the current type shown here is called “System Panel: Glazed”

Mullions

Most real world Curtain Walling Systems have an extruded section between the panels. These hold the panels in place and provide a degree of rigidity and  structure to the composition. In Revit, these elements are called “Mullions”. Mullions (in Revit) can ONLY be placed (or HOSTED) onto Curtain Grid Lines. So you’ll need some Curtain Grid Lines on your Curtain Wall elements in order to host your Mullions- unless you’re simply going to add Mullions just to the overall perimeter of the Curtain Wall itself- as the perimeter edges count as Curtain Wall Grid Lines.
 

So let’s go ahead and add some Mullions. On the “Architecture” menu and “Build” panel, select the “Mullion” tool- see the image above.

Once you have selected this tool, hover over the Curtain Grid Lines you placed in the last step. When you click on one of these Grid Lines, Mullion segments are added (by default) to the entire length of that particular Curtain Grid Line. Now before you go any further, take a look at the right hand side of the Ribbon Menu (make sure you still have the “Mullion” tool selected). The end of the Ribbon menu should look like this….

Here you have some option as to how you add your Mullion segments. By default you add Mullion segments to the entire length of the selected Curtain Grid Line- hence “Grid Line” is highlighted in blue, in the above image. But you do have 2 further options- “Grid Line Segment” and “All Grid Lines”. Let’s discuss each of those in turn:-

  1. Grid Line Segment: This will apply a single Mullion segment to just a portion of the Grid Line in question. A segment of a Curtain Grid Line is the length along a Grid Line between the points where it is intersected by other Grid Lines. So if you look at the image below , there is a vertical Grid Line running between the numbers 1 and 2. This is made up of Grid Line segments- each one being the vertical distance between each section of the intersecting horizontal Grid Lines.
  2. All grid Lines: This is a really useful option- just one click on any of your Curtain Grid Lines and Mullions are instantly applied to ALL the Curtain Grid Lines on that particular section of Curtain Wall.

Combining Curtain Panels

So what if you want to actually combine 2 adjacent Curtain Panels and (in doing so) create just one single panel. Let’s take a look at the image above. I have identified 2 Curtain Panels- numbered 1 and 2. What we want to do is make these into a single panel. I’ll take you through that now. First of all we need to delete the segment of Mullion (assuming we have applied Mullions to our Curtain Wall). Go ahead and select the Mullion segments- remember the trick of hovering over it and using the TAB key to cycle through the available elements. Once selected, go ahead and hit the “Delete” key…

But we still have 2 separate Curtain Panels adjacent to each other- see the image below. What we need to do is actually delete a segment of “Curtain Grid Line’. So go ahead and select the vertical Curtain Grid Line between the two Panels- remember to use the TAB key to make this selection process easier.

Once the vertical Curtain grid Line is selected, take a look at the far right hand side of the Ribbon menu- you will now see the option to “Add/Remove Segments” from this Grid Line……

Go ahead and click on the “Add/Remove Segments” tool. And then simply click on the segment of Curtain Grid Line that you wish to delete. SO in the image below, you would click on the Grid Line at the point where the arrow is pointing to.

 

And that’s it. Once you deselect the vertical Curtain Grid Line, you will see that the 2 Curtain Panels have now been replaced by a single Curtain Panel. Please Note: The vertical Curtain Grid Line remains in essence- and that’s why it can still host Mullion segments above and below your new single panel. It’s just that a “segment” of the Curtain Grid Line has been removed. And you’ll recall from the start of this tutorial that it is only the Curtain Grid Lines that actually form the Curtain Panels.

Now you have a single Curtain Panel, you can go ahead and change its type as appropriate. Just select it and choose a different type from the drop-down Type Selector……

Loading additional Curtain Panel families

Depending on the Revit Template that you are using, you probably just have a small selection of Curtain Panels to choose from in your current project. At some point you will need to load additional Curtain Panels into your project. Doing so is easy. Just navigate to the “Insert” menu and the “Load from Library” panel- and choose “Load Family”……

 

When the File Browser opens, navigate to the “Curtain Wall Panels” folder……

and choose from one of the many Curtain Wall Panel families included in your default installation Library. A single click on each one in turn will bring up a thumbnail preview to see what they look like.

Doors and opening lights in Curtain Walls

Quite often you will need to form openings in your Curtain Wall. These could be ion the form of doors or opening lights (i.e. opening windows). Conventional Revit Doors and Windows cannot be directly inserted into a Curtain Wall- because this is a spacial type of Wall- i.e. a “Curtain” wall. So what you need to do is use a Curtain Panel that has been modelled as a door, window or other type of opening. A number of these “custom” Curtain Panels have been included for you in the installation Library (see the step above). It is quite possible to model your own custom openings (as Curtain Panels) but this is beyond the scope of a Beginners’ Guide.

Embedding Curtain Walls

Quite often a Curtain Wall is part of a larger, solid wall. In Revit we have the ability to embed one wall into another. Let’s take a look at a simple example.  First of all I’m going to place a single length of Basic Wall- it doesn’t really matter which “Type” it is, as long as it’s from the “Basic Wall” Group……

Now I’m going to place a shorter length of “Curtain Wall-Empty” directly on top of the Basic Wall I have just placed. Go ahead and have a go at that now and see what happens….

Referring to the image above…..

  1. I placed the shorter section of Curtain Wall directly over the section of Basic Wall
  2. As soon as I did, I instantly got an Error Message. This is NORMAL. It basically just says that the two walls are overlapping and if you want to embed one into the other- you need to use the “Cut Geometry” tool. Which is what we’re going to do now!

Switch to the “Modify” menu (1) and find the “Cut Geometry” tool (2), located on the “Geometry” panel- see the above image for reference. Go ahead and select the “Cut Geometry” tool. This tool operates with 2 clicks- The 1st click is to select the object that you want to cut (so the main, longer wall in our example). The 2nd click is to select the object that you want to cut “with” (so the Curtain Wall element in our example). So after you have (firstly) clicked on the main wall and then (secondly) on the Curtain Wall- your plan view should look similar to the image below…..

You can see in this image (and the one below) that the Curtain Wall element is now embedded in the main “Basic” Wall. If you do not want to have to use the “Cut Geometry” tool each time, you can always Edit the Type Parameters for the Curtain Wall in question- specifically the Type Parameter named “Automatically Embed”. This is switched off by default- hence needed to manually “Cut” the Main Wall with the Curtain Wall.

Going around corners

So far we have just concentrated on straight runs of Curtain Wall. Obviously at some point you will need your Curtain Walls to go around Corners. If you go ahead and create a length of Curtain Wall and (make sure you have “Chain” turned on, on the Option Bar) and then immediately draw another segment at ninety degrees to the first. Your 2 walls should look like this in Plan View….

Notice how the Curtain Panels don’t meet at the corner. This is because they are sitting proud of the centreline of the Curtain Wall itself. You can adjust this Offset in the Curtain Wall’s Type Parameters. If we add Mullions to both instances of Curtain Wall- we end up with a duplication of Mullions at the corner. This can be seen in the image below……

In order to rectify this we first need to delete one of the Mullions- it does not matter which one. The crucial thing is that there is just one Mullion at the corner. So go ahead and delete one of the vertical Mullions at the corner. Your Walls should now look like this….

The final step is to change the “Type” of this Mullion to one that is specifically suited to a corner condition. So go ahead and select the current Mullion and then expand the drop-down Type Selector in the Properties Palette…..

Notice (in the image above) how some of the Mullion Types have the word “Corner” in their name. These Types are specifically made for corner conditions. Go ahead and experiment with these by selecting each Type in turn and seeing what it looks like in the model.

Pre-defined Curtain Walls

So what we have looked at so far in this tutorial is how to create a Curtain Wall from scratch- complete with Curtain Grid Lines, Mullions, Combined Curtain Panels, etc. In reality there will be many instances where you don’t want to go through this process each time. This is when we would look to a “Curtain System”. This is where we pre-define the composition of our Curtain Wall in terms of Panel Type, spacing of the Horizontal and Vertical Grids, Panel Offsets, etc. We can set that up once in our Office Template and (consequently) have it available for each new Revit Project we start.

Depending on your specific Revit Template that came with the software, you will probably have a couple of example Curtain Systems within it- see the image above.

 

There are a range of Instance and Type Parameters that you can configure- including how the Curtain Grid Lines are set out (or Justified). I cover this particular aspect of Curtain Walls in a lot more depth in The Ultimate Guide to Revit Walls Course.

Main Points:-

  1. Curtain Walls are their own special Group in the Type Selector
  2. Curtain Walls are required in order to Host Curtain Grid Lines
  3. Curtain Grid Lines are required in order to Host Mullion segments
  4. Adjacent Curtain Panels can be combined by removing the segment of Curtain Grid Line that separates them
  5. You can pre-define the composition of Curtain Wall types rather than building each one from scratch
This tutorial is taken from "The Complete Beginner's Guide to Revit Architecture" FREE online course.
This tutorial and over 80 others are available as a PDF Ebook. For details please Click Here

 

Posted in Autodesk Revit.