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Friday, June 12, 2009

Revit The Ultimate Tool for Green Future

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has infiltrated the BSD community and is making its mark with many firms. One of the leading programs is Autodesk's Revit Building. This program incorporates both 3D modeling and 2D drafting in one. The purpose of this article is not to glorify Revit or denounce AutoCAD, but rather to give insight to the end user on whether or not to at least venture into BIM technology. Revit has many topics worth noting, however, I will just touch upon two..

The Parametric Change Engine

So what exactly is Revit? Revit is much more than a drafting and modeling program. It is based on Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology. Revit, which stands for 'revise instantly', uses BIM to create a working, living, breathing model. Using the idea of parametric change technology greatly increases productivity, workflow, and collaboration efforts. Take for example, AutoCAD. Within CAD if a window is deleted or altered, that change has to be manually updated in the file, schedules if any, xref's and any other views et cetera.

In Revit, users are able to utilize the parametric change technology and not have to worry about updating the model. When a window is deleted or manipulated within a view, it is updated throughout the entire project including schedules, isometric views, sections, elevations, and walkthroughs etc. The parametric change engine allows the user to update one item and not have to worry about changing that same information throughout. I like to say your project has the three C's in that your design and documentation stay coordinated, consistent, and complete

Worksharing and Projects

In this scenario, a firm has a residential project; one person would not work entirely on every discipline. Within Worksharing, one user will set the basic layouts and components needed for the project start. For example, an exterior shell, interior partitions, furniture layout, HVAC, conveyances, site components, and electrical components are some aspects that go into design. Once the basic layout is structured and laid out, that user will then place each of those components into worksets. Each workset corresponds to a particular design field i.e.: the exterior walls being placed into the "exterior shell" workset. Once that is done, the user will save the project file to a central file. This central file is located on a drive or folder that all users will have access to.

Once the central file is saved, users then access the file on their workstations, and save the central file locally under their username. Each local file can only be altered by that user. When the user opens his/her file, they can "check out" certain worksets. For example, if John is designated to work on the interior partitions, then he can check out the "partitions workset" and only he will be allowed to manipulate the set. Once all amendments are complete, the user will save his/her file to the central file and the updates will be saved to the central file. Each member of the design team will then reload their file thus making it current. The worksharing capabilities go further in depth but you can see how the members of the design team are in sync with one another, thus keeping consistent and coordinated files.

In addition to checking certain worksets out, you are able to "borrow" elements from a users work set. If John is working on the interior partitions and needs to move or delete a window on the exterior shell workset, he can click on an icon and ask permission from that user to borrow that certain element. On the other end, for that user to be notified about the borrowed element, John would have to either call or email the end user and notify him to check his "edit request" icon. This helps to control the project so that no two people are working on the same objects and worksets.

Benefits and Future of Revit

Revit has many features that allow users the flexibility and freedom to design in a manner that does not constrain them to just 2D drawings. BIM technology and the parametric change engine are the two components which make Revit an incredible force in the BSD community. Autodesk has launched the Revit Architecture Suite (RAS) which includes a copy of both Revit Architecture and AutoCAD. Even with new technological advances to BIM, there are a few things to keep in mind. Overcoming the resistance to change and getting users to understand the potential of Revit are two issues firms must deal with. The utilization and functionality of Revit requires an investment and a commitment to take on a new program. Proper training and project management must also be administered. These are some issues to think about when looking into Revit.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

But What if I Don't Want to Edit XML?

But What if I Don't Want to Edit XML?

There's a whole lot of variety in the MEP world; from the different system types that can meet the occupancy requirements of a building, to the different standards that can be used to create each of those system types, to the different materials and connection types that can be used to for a given standard for a given system catch my drift.

The Wall of Blinking Lights, Switches, and Knobs


For us as a product team, it means that we need to architect an application that is flexible enough to meet those needs, but is not a "wall of blinking lights, switches, and knobs".  While the "wall of blinking lights, switches, and knobs" certainly does accomplish the task, it's not the most usable or learnable solutions.

The guy who's been working at that wall for 10 years?  Well he's got that wall down, ask him to do something and he know which knob to turn to get the desired result.  If that guy gets hit by a bus, or decides he wants to work somewhere else, then the next guy just kind of stares at the wall in awe while there is a near meltdown because the Safety Inspector in Sector 7G is working from home due to an obesity disability claim (Simpsons referenece).

The contrary solution involves good UI design, user testing, and a lot more resources.  Therefore, as a product team we must pick and choose where we apply our finite resources to provide the more usable and learnable product, while still making sure it is still a capable one.  Just a little insight into our decision-making process.

The Old Way - In an XML File

With that in mind, we've made a nice step (admittedly biased opinion) forward with Revit MEP 2009 regarding a piece of functionality that was previously such a "wall of blinking lights, switches, and knobs".  As a way of delivering the aforementioned application flexibility, we previously kept record of the sizing information available for both Pipes and Wire for a given Revit project in XML files.

We willed these XML files with the information we felt was needed for a good chunk of our users' projects.  But, due to the aforementioned variety in the MEP industry, there was need to add more information to these XML files.  Simple enough, if you were comfortable editing XML files.  That is a big "IF", and certainly not the most learnable or usable solution.

Add to that fact that for projects with customized XML files, those XML files had to be accessible to every user working on that project, or else some users would not be able to use these custom sizes/materials.  This created an additional coordination hurdle for CAD/BIM Managers.

In short, we had a bit of a "wall of blinking lights, switches, and knobs" on our hands.

The New Way - In the Project

So in Revit MEP 2009 we have moved this previously XML-based information into the Revit Project file itself, creating a much more usable/learnable solution.  At the same time, we have made users aware that such capability existed in the first place...all good things.

Size List Migration

Note: Be sure to Right-Click->Zoom->Full Screen inside of the embedded video player to see it in all its 1024x768 beauty.  You you can download the full video by clicking on the linked title.

As you can see, this is a nice enhancement to the previously available functionality, and with the Transfer Project Standards functionality, it's a straightforward process to move your customized settings from one project to another.

Now, for those of you who managed to navigate the previous "wall of blinking lights, knobs, and switches", we did not forget about you.  Watch the following video for the process to migrate this previously customized data from Revit MEP 2008 into Revit MEP 2009.

Migrating Custom Settings from 2008 to 2009

Note: Be sure to Right-Click->Zoom->Full Screen inside of the embedded video player to see it in all its 1024x768 beauty.  You you can download the full video by clicking on the linked title.

I hope that helps to cover this new functionality.  As always posts comments/questions you have and I'll try to answer.

Visit contributor's website -

STL Exporter for Revit Platform 2009

STL Exporter for Revit Platform 2009

Create 3D Prints of your Revit 2009 models. As architects and engineers start their digital designs earlier and keep them digital for longer, they want a way to still physically interact with their designs. With the economical availability of 3D printers this has become possible. 3D printed models increasingly serve as a critical part of the design process to study design options and improve communication between project members and owners. The STL Exporter for the Revit 2009 family of products is a proof of concept project that we are working on. It is designed to take a 3D Revit building information model and create an STL file that can be used for 3D Printing. We invite you to take it for a spin and see what you think. We look forward to hearing your feedback.

To Get Started

  1. Download the ZIP package that cantinas the installer, installation and user instructions, and a feedback form.
  2. Unzip the downloaded ZIP file.
  3. Follow the Read Me file to install the STL Exporter.
  4. The next time you open Revit 2009 you will see a new option called Export STL under the Tools::External Tools menu.

To Use It

  1. Load a model and select a 3D view that you want to use as the bases for your print.
  2. Using the instructions in the Read Me file set up your 3D view in the one of the Revit 2009 family of products.
  3. Export the model using the command under the Tools::External Tools menu.
  4. Make any required changes to the STL file using an STL viewer.
  5. Print the STL file using a 3D Printer.
  6. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Download available at:


Duct Size Parameter - Inches - Revit MEP

Duct Size Parameter - Inches - Revit MEP

If you used AutoCAD before using Revit you likely went through a bit of withdrawal from using inches as a base drawing unit. With Revit you had to get used to typing 0 space 6 for 0'-6" or 0 dash 6. Well in Revit MEP there is one instance at least where you get to enter relevant values when working through your design.

First if you are interested I posted a little video overview of this subject. Otherwise read on...

I am referring to the duct size parameters as the title suggests. In the Family Editor > Family Types dialog we can choose to Add Parameters to our family. Aside from providing a clever name we also can choose the Discipline > HVAC which in turn offers quite a few choices for "Type of Parameter".

When you choose Type of Parameter: Duct Size, Revit will require you to enter values in inches, which is easier since most duct sizes are referred to by their size in inches.

There's a catch though if you like to add parameters by using the Associate Family Parameter "sneaky button" in the properties of elements in the Family Editor.

This route precludes the use of the HVAC Discipline, Type of Parameter choices as it defaults to common and its subset of Types of Parameters. Not FAIR I say! I'm sure it is just an oversight!

To use it you need to start with Family Types > then Add Parameter. Then you can Associate the family parameter with the Element's parameter.
 Contributor - visit for more...

How to tag doors by Type or tag windows

How to tag doors by Type or tag windows

Currently, Revit tags doors by Mark and tags windows by Type. So how do you tag doors by Type instead of by Mark, or tag windows by Mark instead of Type?

The Revit annotation family used in the project dictates the information in the door and window tags, as well as the appearance of the tag. By default, doors tags are oval with the door number centered in the tag and window tags are hexagons with the window Type centered in the tag.

In order to tag doors so that the Type appears in the tag instead of the Mark, or to tag windows so that the Mark appears in the tag rather than the Type, you need to load a different annotation family component. Revit Architecture comes with an alternate window tag that tags the window by Mark. For doors, you'll need to create a new tag that uses the Type instead of the Mark. This is easily accomplished.

It's easier to take an existing family component and modify it rather than creating one from scratch. Open the existing door or window tag family (.rfa) by selecting File > Open and then navigate to the library folder in which the tag is stored (by default, door and window tags are located in Imperial Library > Annotations > Architectural).

The tag opens in the Revit family editor.

Select File > Save As and give your new tag an appropriate name (such as Door Tag by Type.rfa) and click Save. This will preserve the original tag.

Select to highlight the label text.

On the Options bar, click the Select Parameter button.

In the Select Parameter dialog box, select the parameter you want to assign to the label. For example, to create a door tag that labels the door using the Type rather than the Mark, select Type Mark. In the Value field at the bottom, enter a value to represent the label for the family.

Then click OK.

Select File > Save. Then close the family editor.

To use your new tag, load it into your project (File > Load From Library > Load Family). visit contributor blog

Revit MEP Tricks and Tips Part #1

Revit MEP Tricks and Tips

Sometimes it's the little things which make all the difference. I thought I would share some nifty tricks that can help make Revit MEP go down a little easier.

  1. Use the space bar to inherit duct and pipe sizes from objects you have connected to instead of uses the last used size. Hit the space bar again to cycle back to the last used size.
  2. Tap the space bar to rotate Light fixtures 90 degrees before you insert them. Hold your cursor over an angle wall and tap the space bar to have you light fixture or diffuser align to that wall or go perpendicular to it..
  3. Tabbing while hovering over a duct or pipe will highlight portions or the entire run (system).
  4. Use your keyboard's arrow keys to nudge selected objects left, right, up and down small distances.
  5. Type CM to add every single available object type to the type selector. I use this when I can not remember the family type. CM loads them all.

Rotational Parameters and Face-Based Nested Families

Rotational Parameters and Face-Based Nested Families

We often come across requests or recommendations for adding rotational controls to family geometry.  This is most commonly present for door swings, hinge type families, or geometry which needs to rotate around a given point in a family.  I wanted to pass along a recommendation which typically works well.

The first step is to separate the family geometry [which will be rotated] into a separate face-based family.  Face-Based families offer additional flexibility when placing the nested family into the host family.  By utilizing a reference line for the rotational basis, the face-based family can be hosted onto the reference line by the "Place on Work Plane" option.  By using the "TAB" key the two planes of the reference line can be specified, as well as the "SPACE" key to designate the nested family rotation during placement.


With the reference line in place and an angular dimension parameter attached, the nested face-based family will rotate with the reference line it is hosted on.  I have outlined an example process in the video below:

Video Example

Please keep in mind this process can be applied to other scenarios for family creation.  I typically recommend a reference line over a reference plane because a reference line can be aligned and constrained using the end point.  This is often useful for a family rotating along an end point.  In addition you can check the "Shared" option in the nested family under "Category and Parameters" to ensure visibility and scheduling occur as needed.