A Modern Façade for Revit Designs

June 28, 2016 | Comments

If you have been relying on screenshots to convey your designs to clients, Modelo, a little startup in Cambridge, Mass., wants you to know that you have it all wrong—or, at the very least, that you are a bit old-fashioned. In an industry where style is paramount, you will not look very modern if you pull out your trusty old Windows laptop when everyone else is using their iPads. You may lose style points just by asking, “Where can I plug this in?”

The modern world is wireless and connected. It is a world in which Modelo was raised.


Modelo lets you share and collaborate your architectural designs. (Image courtesy of Modelo.)

The better way, according to Eli Laipson, VP of business development for Modelo, is to put your design on the cloud. From there, you can see it from anywhere and on anything, such as the sleekest tablets. You’ll see it not just as screenshots you have selected, but in the form of an entire view-optimized 3D model that can then be seen by viewers you choose, who just need to click on a link to view your designs.

Viewers can be anywhere—in a boardroom or on the other end of an email. You don’t have to worry if recipients have your CAD software or even a viewer. Nothing is downloaded or installed onto their devices. They’ll be looking at the same design as you are, so you can chat with each other and comment about the designs.

What Is Modelo?

Modelo is a lightning-fast CAD file viewer. You can view the file along with your fellow designers, wherever they might be (it is web-based), and collaborate by writing notes and using online chat.You can peer behind walls, look at floors and turn layers on and off.

Sharing a design with someone is easy. You just send them the link to the Modelo model of your design. They only need to click on the link to see the model. It looks like no viewer download is necessary.

Modelo models can also be embedded into your company site, a Word document or a PowerPoint slide.

Modelo can be displayed on a browser on any device, including Android tablets and iPads.

Modelo also lets you create a virtual reality (VR) model from a Revit model. See a Revit-to-VR transformation in two minutes in this video:

How Does It Work?

First, you upload your Revit, SketchUp or Rhino file to the Modelo site. Modelo will keep the original file but generate from it a compressed file that is optimized for fast viewing. You can download or delete the original files at any time.

CAD model files can be unwieldy. Modelo claims to compress files by as much as 50 times so that graphics can display smoother and faster. As is the big advantage of viewers in general, you don’t have to have the CAD program loaded to see the design. Modelo uses WebGL to speed things up and make files usable in a browser.


You could add all your projects to Modelo, creating a visual library of your designs. (Image courtesy of Modelo.)

Avoiding Death on Stage

With modern cloud and connection-reliant software comes a nightmare scenario. What happens when you don’t have a connection? See “Connectivity—the Achilles Heel of Onshape.”Who wants to be making a presentation to a class or to customers only to suddenly lose your connection? It’s like a death on stage. However, Modelo seems to have this figured out.

“Once a 3D model has been loaded into your browser, Modelo can still be used to present, regardless of Internet connectivity,” explained Laipson, who demonstrated Modelo at the recent Vectorworks Design Summit in Chicago. This capability has saved Laipson on more than one occasion. “I gave a demo to a customer that had literally just moved and didn’t even have Wi-Fi in the office yet.”

Who Is Behind It?

Qi Su, cofounder and CEO of Modelo, got his architecture degree in his native China, then added graduate degrees in the U.S., with master’s degrees from both USC and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“He picked up programming on his own,” according to Laipson.“Modelo.io was part of his master’s thesis.”

Su would like to bring collaboration to architects the way Slack has improved collaboration between teams in general.

“While Slack is good for real-time chatting, it’s hard to collaborate around a design, which has to be presented visually,” said Laipson.


Modelo follows a common current practice, offering a personal version for free but charging a fee for multiple user licenses, unlimited projects and collaborators—in this case, at $25 per month.


The company is located in Cambridge, Mass., and has raised $1.1 million from China-based venture capitalists, according to CrunchBase. It has 11 full-time employees and is over two years old.


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