Dynamo is an excellent addition to the Revit portfolio of tools, but it’s not necessarily the answer for EVERY problem or situation that comes up in Revit. When you need to solve a problem that “out-of-the-box” Revit doesn’t solve, you have options:

  1. Look to third-party solutions
  2. Hire someone to build a custom application for you
  3. Develop the solution yourself within Dynamo

Before spending hours developing a Dynamo script, it’s important to assess your needs and understand the proper usage of Dynamo and its potential hidden costs and ongoing maintenance issues.    

Dynamo – A Powerful Tool for Solving Some Complex Revit Problems

Dynamo is a visual programming platform that gives you the ability to visually script behavior and define custom pieces of logic and script using various textual programming languages. It is now fully integrated with Revit and does not require an additional download. 

It has become the default “Go To” answer for complex Revit problems, almost like the answer for all project work was “BIM” several years ago. Companies wanted to say they were working in BIM, even if they didn’t fully understand it. In a similar vein, companies want to jump in with Dynamo enthusiasm, even if they don’t fully understand the benefits or pitfalls.

The benefits of Dynamo can be amazing!  You can study complex geometric options and create configurations for multiple design schemes. However, Dynamo is not always the best solution for every Revit situation.

The following chart was developed and presented at a session on a similar topic at an RTC (Revit Technology Conference, now BILT) session by Robert Manna of the international architectural and engineering firm, Stantec.

Hidden Costs of Learning and Using Dynamo

Dynamo may have a perceived low cost initial start-up. Hey, it’s FREE and integrated into Revit! What could be easier? There are many posts and discussions in both Revit and Dynamo forums about hidden costs and the erroneous perception that Dynamo is a free tool with little effort involved.

Here are two problems that impact the cost of learning and using Dynamo:

  1. A designer must learn Dynamo and then create the script to execute the tasks you desire. The simple task of extracting Revit parameter data, making modifications, and updating the Revit model can involve a very large and complex Dynamo script and graph.  (See image below.) It can be quite challenging and complex to program exactly what you need.
  2. There can be problems when distributing and running the program on multiple computers in one or more offices. What may work on one office machine won’t always easily transfer to another computer within the same office. 

Here is an image of a complex Dynamo graph that would allow limited export of Revit Parameter Data to Excel:

Using a Third-Party Solution

The time it could take to write one script in Dynamo could easily exceed the cost of purchasing software on the open market.

Dynamo is well suited to solving complex problems that are unique to a specific project. Investing in software is probably the better course if you want to distribute access to a common process/tool/workflow to ALL your users and help ensure a certain level of user experience and usability across the organization.
Many complex Revit tasks and problems have already been solved by excellent third-party, off-the-shelf, solutions.

In many cases, these tools are simpler, more powerful, and more cost-effective, and they often have more capabilities than Dynamo. For example, a Dynamo script is usually written to execute on a few tasks, where third-party software can potentially execute on many different tasks and workflows.  

Revit add-ins are typically written in computer code that can access the Revit API in a fast and efficient manner. These add-ins are tested to run on different Revit versions and different Revit collaboration workflows, such as C4R (Collaboration for Revit) or BIM360. The responsibility is on the vendor to design, test, maintain, and update the features and functionality across various Revit versions.  It’s also the responsibility of the vendor to supply documentation and ongoing support, so it’s important to select a trusted vendor with a good reputation.

Make an Informed Decision

An off-the-shelf solution may seem like a more cost prohibitive solution, but after factoring in the time to create, maintain, learn, and teach the Dynamo scripts, you may find that you will come out ahead with a third-party solution. 

One size doesn’t fit all; and custom solutions, Dynamo scripts, and add-in applications have strengths and weaknesses.

It’s important to make informed decisions, fully knowing the pros and cons of each method that can assist in your day-to-day Revit tasks.

To discuss the pros and cons further, contact us at [email protected].

About the Author

Richard W. Taylor, Associate AIA – Technical Evangelist 
Richard has more than 30 years of experience working for companies that develop architectural and engineering software solutions, such as Intergraph, Bentley, and Autodesk. He has over 18 years of Revit experience, and he was part of the original development of Revit while at Revit Technology Corporation. He worked for 12 years at Autodesk, where he presented, taught, and worked to improve features in Revit. Richard holds both a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and Master of Architecture from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. As Technical Evangelist, Richard works with AECO clients worldwide, developing and consulting on BIM solutions. Find Richard on Twitter.