Design Options in Revit – What you need to know

When you are modeling a building, you probably get asked to explore a couple of options for your design. Before you start creating a separate Revit file, did you know about the Design Options feature of Revit? Design Options make it possible to redesign building components and explore alternative designs inside your model.

With design options, you can create multiple designs for your building. You can think about exploring different room layouts, windows, doors, etc. Each Design Option Set addresses a particular issue or area. When the definitive design is chosen, you can merge these options into the main model and delete the alternative options.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the Design Option feature in Revit. What terms are used when it comes to Design Options? How do we use and set up an Option set with different options?

Overview

Design Options in Revit are disabled by default. When you want to activate the feature to create different design alternatives, you have to open the Design Options Menu. To open this menu follow the steps below:

  1. Open the Manage tab
  2. Go to the Design Options panel > Click on Design Options > The Design Options window will open

Alternative: Click on the Design Option icon inside the Revit Status Bar (when enabled) on the bottom right of your screen.

enable design options revit


When the Design Options window is open, you will see a Blanco window without any explanation of the buttons. Even if you hover over the buttons it will describe nothing. Don’t worry, I will explain how this feature can be used. But first, let’s get you started to understand the terminology belonging to the Design Options.

design options revit
Design Options window

Terminology

The following terms are used with the Design Option feature of Revit:

TerminologyDescription
1Design Option SetThe Design Option Set is a collection of different design options which addresses a particular design solution or alternative. You can think of varying floorplan layouts, different kinds of windows, etc. It is possible to create multiple Design Option Sets.
2Design OptionWithin the Design Option Set, you can create Design Options which are the solutions or alternatives for your design. The Design Option contains elements that are excluded from the Main Model.
3Main ModelThe Main Model contains the entire Revit model excluding any design options. All elements that are not assigned to one of the Design Options are considered part of the Main Model. Note that only one Design Option within a Design Option Set can be assigned as the primary. Every option after the primary option will be called the secondary option. It is possible to change any secondary options to the Primary Option status.
4Primary OptionThe Primary Option will be designated as the preferred Design Option within any Design Option Set. The Primary Option has a closer relationship to the Main Model than the secondary options.
5Secondary OptionThe Secondary Option is the alternative to the primary option in the Design Option Set. You can create multiple Secondary Options per Design Option Set. Elements in the Secondary option can reference elements in the Main Model. However, the Main Model can’t reference elements within a Secondary Option.
active option revit
Active Option/Dedicated View
TerminologyDescription
6Active OptionThe Active Option is the Design Option that you are currently editing/working in.
7Dedicated ViewA Dedicated View is a view that is dedicated to a specific Design Option. This means that when the view is active, it will show the Design Option including the Main model.

The terms described above can still be difficult to understand, but in the next chapters, they will become a lot clearer.

Design Options – Setting Up

Now that the different terms are explained, let’s look at how to create a Design Option Set with different Design Options. The Design Options are disabled by default and should be activated first.

Design Option Sets

To activate the Design Options you will need to create a Design Option Set first. This can be done by opening the Manage tab [1] > Design Options [2]. When you see the Design Options window, you will notice some buttons on the right side. Click on New [3], in the Option Set panel.

On the left side of the window, you will now see a created Option Set, which is called “Option Set 1“, by default. Notice that, when you create the set, it will also create a temporary Option which is called “Option 1“, by default. The first option created in a set is always the primary which can be changed at any given time.

create design option set revit
Creating First Option Set

To organize your Option Sets and Options, Revit can let you rename these. To do that, select Option Set 1 and click on Rename inside the Option Set panel. For Option 1, click on Rename in the Option panel.

You can create Design Option Sets as much as you wish. When you have multiple areas in your project that are subject to different design alternatives, it’s better to create different sets to keep them organized.

Tip

Whenever you create multiple Design Options Sets with Options, always give them a name to organize your model. This will prevent you from unnecessarily searching through each option, and will let your colleagues know where to find each alternative.

Design Options

Now that you have created a Design Option Set, you can add some additional options to it. Inside the Design Options windows, click on the required set [1] and then go to the Option panel, and press on New [2]. You will now see an additional Design Option in your set. Create the number of options you wish, and rename them if required.

create design option revit
Creating first Design Option

Design Options – Working With

When the Design Options are enabled you will notice that there are a few other tools at your disposal, which can be found in the Design Options panel tab. You can see the Add to Set [1] function, the Pick to Edit [2] function, and the Active Design Option [3] dropdown menu.

The Pick to Edit function can be used later on if you are already working with different options. Revit will determine the design option to which the selected element belongs, and will also open the design option. You can use this to quickly open a design option for editing, for example.

From now on, it’s important to know which design option we are working on. You can check this with the Active Design Option [3] which can be found in the manage tab and inside the Revit Status Bar in the bottom right corner. Notice that there are also “Exclude Options [4] (available in Main Model)” and “Active Only [4] (available in Design Options)” checkboxes. These functions allow you to select elements from other options different from the Active Design Option. You first have to uncheck the box to enable that function.

design option

Tip

Enable the Revit Status Bar – Design Options in the User Interface. This will show you which Design Option you are working on. The Status Bar is always visible on the bottom of the Revit screen, while the manage tab is not.

Place elements in Design Options

There are various ways to add elements to Design Options in Revit. Each of the methods can be used depending on your needs. The methods are:

  • Add to Set – Assigning already existing elements to a Design Option
  • Working directly inside the Design Option
  • Copy/Paste to the Same Place into a Design Option

Tip

If you work a lot with grouped instances, try to make the primary first and place the groups inside this Design Option before you put annotations such as dimensions to the view. Otherwise, you will most likely lose these annotations.

Add to Set

When you already have generated model elements inside your Revit Project, you can select all the elements you wish to assign to the premade Design Option. The selection can be done from any view. Be careful, if you select elements that are based on a host, you should also select the host of the elements. For example, if you have modeled windows or doors inside a wall, then you also select the walls that represent the hosts. Elements that lose their host will not get moved into the desired Design Option.

  1. Select the elements/groups you wish to move to a premade Design Option
  2. Go to the Manage tab > Design Option panel
  3. Click on Add to Set > Add to Design Option Set window opens

Alternative: Add to Set icon in the Revit Status bar.

add to set revit
  1. Choose the desired Design Option Set
  2. Select the options where to add the selection to > Press OK > Elements are now moved to the Design Option
add to design option set

Working Inside Design Option Directly

After creating a Design Option, you can open this option and model directly into it. In the next steps I will explain how to do this:

  1. Go to the Manage tab > Design Option panel
  2. Click on the Dropdown menu > Select your desired Design Option > Option will open

A faster alternative to do this is from the Revit Status Bar on the right bottom of your Revit screen.

change design option

When you open the Design Option, you are ready to model the elements in the new “workspace”. Be aware of the Design Option you are working on at any time. When you finish modeling in a Design Option, change it directly to another Design Option or the Main Model. This will prevent you from making unfortunate mistakes.

Copy and Paste

In addition, there is a possibility to move elements from the Main Model or Design Option to any other Design Option, by using the Clipboard tools. You can use Copy + Aligned To Same Place, or Cut + Align To Same Place.

Select all elements you wish to move > Copy to Clipboard [1] or Cut to Clipboard [2] (CTRL + C/CTRL + X) > Change to another Design Option or change to Main Model > Paste, with Aligned to Same Place [3] Tool.

copy and paste from clipboard

Design Option – View Output

It is essential to configure and organize the visualizations of Design Options. Otherwise, you probably do not know which Design Option you are editing or which one is the active Design Option.

By default, all views in Revit will automatically display the Main Model and Primary Design Options. In the Screenshot below you can see an overview of how views should look in the Main Model and Active Design Option View. Notice that when you are in an Active Design Option View (Primary or any Secondary), the Main Model will appear halftone.

main model and active design option view

Dedicated Views

If you like to create a sheet that contains views with different options, you should work with dedicated views. To create a dedicated view, start to create a new view, or duplicate an existing one. After creating a view, create a proper view name to keep your views organized. I recommend putting a part of the name of the Design Option into the view name. Then follow the step written below.

  1. Go to the View tab
  2. Click on Visibility/Graphic Overrides or use the shortcut (VV/VG)
visibility/graphic overrides

When a View Template is enabled, go to the Properties Browser and click on the View Template to open the Visibility/Graphic Overrides.

visibility/graphic overrides
  1. Inside the Visibility/Graphic Overrides select the Design Options tab
  2. Change the Design Option in each set to whatever you like to show in the view
dedicated view design option

Alternative: to quickly show a Design Option in a view you can also use the Visible in Option parameter in the Properties Browser. By default, this option is set to All but can be changed to any of your created Design Options.

visibible in option

Standard, each view has Design Options set to Automatic, which will show you the Main Model and Primary of each set. With the Design Options tab, you can change what Design Options the view should look at.

So, the more Option Sets you have, the more Design Options you can combine and visualize inside a view. If you like to show more Options on a sheet, you should create different views, because there is only one combination available at a time in the view.

dedicated view design options
Dedicated Views

Design Option – Merge and Finalize

After you have explored different alternative Design Options, there comes the point when you have to make decisions on which Options are definitive. With this method, you can finalize options and put them into the Main Model, while other options get deleted.

  1. Set view to Main Model (Manage tab > Design Options dropdown-menu), or inside Revit Status Bar
  2. Open the Design Options
  3. Select the Design Option in each Design Option which you want to make definitive (one at a time)
  4. Select Make Primary in the Option panel
design options revit
  1. When the definitive options are chosen, select each Design Option Set (one at a time)
  2. Select Accept Primary… > You will get a notification to let you know that all secondary options and the design option set will be deleted > Select Accept Primary again to proceed > Now the primary of each set will be merged into the Main Model.
design options revit accept primary

Unsupported Elements

If you are working with Design Options in Revit, it is good to know that not all elements are supported to place inside the option. There are three main elements, which are:

unsupported elements in design options revit
  1. Levels: It is impossible to add Levels to a Design Option. If you try to add a Level while editing a design option, Revit will automatically place it in the Main Model. The level will be displayed in halftone, which indicates that it is not part of the Design Option.
  2. Views: A bit confusing maybe, but you can’t add views to a Design Option. Nevertheless, it is possible to Dedicate Views to Design Options, as explained before.
  3. Annotations and details: It is not possible to add view-specific elements like annotations and detail items to a Design Option. When you are adding view-specific elements while editing a Design Option, Revit will add the elements to the view you are working in, not in the Design Option. Create a dedicated view of the option if you want to put dimensions. View-specific elements such as dimensions can reference elements in the Design Option.

Wrapping Up

Designing a building mostly comes with exploring different alternative options. Before you start creating a separate Revit file, Revit comes with a nice feature that is called Design Options. This feature makes it possible to redesign building components and explore alternative designs within the same Revit file.

With the Design Option in Revit, you are able to create multiple designs for your building. Exploring different room layouts, dormers, etc. Each Design Options Set is made for exploring a particular issue or area. After you have explored different options, you can choose the definitive design in each Design Option Set. The definitive options can be merged into the main model and will delete all your alternative options.

I hope this article helped you to understand how Design Option work in Revit. If you have any questions, just drop a comment below.

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