Tips and Tricks: Rhino to Ecotect and/or Vasari

The “digital plasticine” environment

There is a growing number of architects and designers using Rhino3D, a 3D modelling software that provides a new art medium described by colleague Dimitri as “digital plasticine” (the techincal name is NURBS or Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines).

A common question is: How do you get a model from Rhino to import correctly into Ecotect or Vasari? The following pdf outlines a procedure for accomplishing this task. Feel free to comment if you have alternate solutions/tips.

Rhino to Ecotect (.pdf) – Note that although this was created with Rhino in mind, it also works for importing .3dm files into Vasari. Vasari however, doesn’t like faceted surfaces, it prefers smoothness. For that reason, it is best to actually export as a .SAT file from Rhino and then bring that in to Vasari. Thus, you can export from Rhino as an ACIS (.SAT extension) file and use the import CAD button within Vasari. The solids look smooth as opposed to the faceted .dxf file.

.SAT vs .DXF – Only one was successful in running solar radiation

The best practice if you are using Vasari/Revit, is to import external geometry into a mass family. This allows rationalizing the form into an energy model in Vasari (provided imported object is a solid and not a surface; hence, Sketchup is often only effective for casting shadows, solar radiation and wind, but no energy analysis). For the times when this doesn’t yield good results, it may be necessary to re-create the form natively in Vasari using the imported file as a reference (see David Light’s blog post). Within Revit, importing into a mass family will allow you to apply “real” construction assemblies by face. More  information is available at the Wiki Help page and you must also check the Vasari talk link in the related information section below.

Edwin Guerra


Edwin is a BIM Consultant focusing on Building Performance and Structural Design with Summit Technologies, a leading provider of BIM consulting services based in Vancouver, BC. Edwin’s extensive knowledge of Revit, Dynamo, Navisworks, Bluebeam, Ecotect, Green Building Studio and Autodesk Vasari, is complemented by a passion for Green Building Design.

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