The Limits of Revit System Connectors

Connected CRD Revit families - 3D Fine

System connectors and their limitations have been a recurring theme in a slew of MEP content projects that we’ve been working on recently. When it comes to creating Revit families for MEP systems (HVAC, piping, plumbing, electrical, etc.), connectors are an essential feature of any usable piece of content. Anyone doing system coordination and calculations in Revit projects will know about the importance of having families with the right kinds of connectors, and of having those connectors correctly configured for the particular system (and for those that don’t, you can check out this Autodesk primer on Revit connectors).

Still, when we think about what makes for complex MEP Revit families, we’re usually focused on how varied and intricate the model geometry is, or how to configure parameters and type catalogs to cover a range of technical options. It can be easy to underestimate the impact that system connectors can have on how you should build a Revit family.

Indoor Heat Pump Revit Family in 3D Fine View

Indoor heat pump Revit family in 3D fine view.

Indoor Heat Pump Revit Family Selected with Connectors Showing

Indoor heat pump with system connectors visible.

In part, this is because system connectors in Revit have certain limitations that may not be obvious to engineers who use Revit families in projects, and even less so to manufacturers who hire others to build Revit families for their products. In terms of building MEP content in Revit, the three most critical constraints on connectors are:

  1. Connectors added to a family cannot be turned off – When you add a connector to a Revit family, that connector will be available to use no matter what else you do with the family. You can temporarily hide a connector’s geometry in a particular view, but the connector itself can’t be permanently hidden or deactivated.
  2. A connector’s discipline cannot be changed – Once you’ve designated a connector’s discipline (pipe, duct, electrical, etc.), the only way to change it is to delete the connector and add it again.
  3. Not all connector properties can be controlled via parameters – You can link certain connector properties to family parameters, but some big ones such as System Type and System Classification can’t be controlled that way. This has an impact in terms of covering system specs via type catalogs, and it generally makes it more difficult for end users to manage system connection details within a Revit family.
Connector Properties for Mechanical Equipment Revit Family

Connector properties for a mechanical equipment Revit family.

The big upshot of these limitations is that your fundamental connector options cannot change from type to type or based on other parameter values within a Revit family. This creates complications for certain kinds of MEP equipment that can be configured to have different numbers or types of connections based on their required capacity, application or other factors. Rather than being able to cover the full range of technical configurations within a single Revit model, the model has to be split into a separate .RFA files to reflect these different connector configurations.

Damper Revit family split into three due to varied number of supply air connections.

Ceiling radiation damper Revit family split into three due to varied number of supply air connections.

Damper family with single supply air connection

Damper family with single supply air connection.

Damper family with double supply air connection

Damper family with two supply air connections.

Damper family with three supply air connections

Damper family with three supply air connections.

One might argue that it’s not very difficult to handle this situation – simply save another copy of a Revit family and then just change the connector options, right? To a degree that’s true, but of course the devil is in the details. It might not take much work if you have a very simple set of technical configurations that happen to require different number of connectors. We faced a situation like that with the ceiling radiation dampers shown above, where there could be between 1 and 3 connections for supply air, but the types of connectors were all the same and the impact on geometry was minimal.

Then again, it’s a different story when you’re dealing with things like commercial or retail HVAC equipment that can have an extensive range of operating capacities, electrical specs and system options that all relate to your connectors – including different types of connectors and where those connectors can be placed. In those cases, splitting a Revit family by connectors is no trivial exercise, if for no other reason than the extra care that needs to be taken in configuring the connectors and all related parameters. It can also involve modifications to the model geometry, depending on the product and manufacturer requirements.

Render of Connected Ceiling Radiation Damper Revit Families

Render of Connected Ceiling Radiation Damper Revit Families

The good news is that it is easy to solve for this problem. The only thing that’s needed is the full product documentation from the manufacturer, and perhaps a conversation with them about which options need to be covered within their Revit families. Unfortunately that’s often a process that can take a while or have unanticipated developments, as the people in charge of helping sell and market the manufacturer’s products (i.e. salespeople, digital marketing staff, etc.) might not be the people who handle its technical documentation and product engineering.

Sometimes there are gaps in communication, timing or resources between those areas within a company. In that case, the next best thing to having all of the documentation at your fingertips is to be able to explain why an existing Revit family can’t work for your particular application, or why it’s going to take longer and cost more to create Revit families that cover all of the system options that the products require, or why your company should address that gap and align teams more closely.

So the next time you’re requesting MEP content from a manufacturer or planning to create MEP Revit families yourself, remember to consider the limits of Revit system connectors and how they can impact your models. It’s often the case that, due to connector limitations, an MEP Revit family will need to be split in ways that don’t match up exactly with how the manufacturer packages or sells the product. And if you don’t plan for that upfront, you’ll only pay the price in time and resources later on.

Hopefully this blog post helps anyone facing such situations, and if so then I’ll be a happy writer. Stay tuned for more on system connectors soon. I plan to write a couple more posts about how we can maximize their use and flexibility within Revit families, despite their limitations.

Built to Fail: A Study in Contrasts with Manufacturer Revit Content

Type Parameters in an Andekan Revit Family (Left) vs. Another Content Provider (Right)

After my last post on building manufacturer Revit content that can easily flex to accomodate new dimensions and specs, we received a customer request that offers up a perfect study in contrasts. The customer in question is a manufacturer with existing Revit families that had been made by some other provider (unknown to us) and later published on Seek. The manufacturer now wanted to add a few new types to those families, each of which had only minor changes to dimensions and electrical specifications. Sounds simple enough, right?

When we actually opened the families in Revit and took a look at the parameters, what had seemed like a quick and easy job revealed itself to be a nightmarish labyrinth. All of the type parameters were controlled by lengthy IF formulas that referenced a slew of opaquely named parameters. The below images are just a portion of the parameters that drove the type data for these families.

Poorly configured Revit type parameters - example 1 of 3
Poorly configured Revit type parameters - example 2 of 3
Poorly configured Revit type parameters - example 3 of 3

How do you update Revit content like this? Well, you could spend hours picking apart the formulas and tracing the parameter references to hopefully figure out the “simple” update that’s needed to add a new voltage value or stretch an outer dimension by a few inches. Of course there’s always the possibility that you miss a step the first time or that your mind goes numb before you can get to the end of the maze. And even if you do manage to decipher how to add your new type values, you better re-check all of the other types afterward to make sure you didn’t accidentally affect any existing data.

It’s possible that whoever originally created the content has some tool or spreadsheet that they’ve configured to easily add new type values and generate all the correct parameters and formulas. But it’s truly a disservice to the customer to build content that they can’t maintain independently (either directly on their own or by working with any reputable Revit content provider). This is especially true when there is an existing, standard tool called a type catalog that can make the same process as easy as modifying or adding a row in a spreadsheet.

So what can you say to a customer who brings you families like this with the expectation of quick and easy updates? In this case, we knew that trying to update the existing Revit families would take us just as much time (and with no added value) as it would to rebuild the families from scratch. So we told the customer that they had two options — 1) go back to the original content provider to have them update the existing families, or 2) have us rebuild the families and gain the added value of better long-term management through flexible geometry, clearly named parameters and type catalogs. While that may not have been the answer that the customer was hoping for, their response was to avoid the previous content provider and request a quote from us for rebuilding the families.

To illustrate the contrast, below are samples images of the type catalog and type parameters from one of the manufacturer-specific Revit families that we highlighted in our last blog post.

Type catalog for manufacturer-specific Revit family created by Andekan Concise type parameters for manufacturer-specific Revit family created by Andekan Clearly named type parameters for manufacturer-specific Revit family created by Andekan

If Revit content is done right the first time, then you get great value from Revit’s parametric design and family data structure – then jobs like this one really can take 5 minutes. On the other hand, taking the wrong approach to parameter data or geometry can turn simple updates into such a complicated job that you’re better off ditching the content altogether and starting from scratch. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to tell the difference between the two, since Revit families that are poorly built can still look great in 3D views and still give you the parameter data you need today. Often problems don’t surface until down the road, when the content die is already cast and it’s too late for quick fixes.

Built to Last: Manufacturer-Specific Revit Families That Are Made to Flex

By on February 22, 2017 in Revit Families, Revit Family Standards

Daikin Chiller Revit Family - Perspective Raytrace

We were hired recently to create a few chiller Revit families for use by a major engineering firm. The firm requested the families to be based on specific manufacturer models that they needed for a particular project, but they also wanted to get Revit families that they could readily adapt to future needs. The project was a good chance to demonstrate how Revit families can be built to match a specific manufacturer product while still being flexible enough to serve as the basis for a range of similar products from the manufacturer.

The chiller Revit families we created were based on the Trane Series R, the Climaveneta TECS2 HC line and the Daikin EWWQ-B-XS. We modeled the geometry for these families to our usual standards – three levels of detail in 3D and 2D, with materials applied in 3D Medium and Fine views, and with only symbolic lines and masking regions shown in 2D views. The results are beautiful and accurate 3D views along with clean and fast 2D views.

Climaveneta Chiller Revit Family - 3D Fine View
Climaveneta Chiller Revit Family - Front Elevation Fine View

While we modeled these chiller families to match real-world products from the manufacturers, we also made sure to include a high degree of flexibility into their geometry. We did this by incorporating a variety of parameters that can be used to control all the individual elements of each Revit family, such as diameters for the compressors, evaporators and condensors, as well as the spacing of geometries about all three axes. Below is a sample of these parameters from the Trane chiller family.

Trane Chiller Revit Family Parameters - 1 of 3Trane Chiller Revit Family Parameters - 2 of 3Trane Chiller Revit Family Parameters - 3 of 3

Having this set of parameters available means that a Revit user will easily be able to modify the families without having to dig into the details of their geometry. Although the engineering firm that requested the content only needed a single version of each chiller, now any experienced Revit technician on their staff can quickly update a few parameter values — or a line in the type catalog — to add new capacities or models within the manufacturer’s product range.

Trane Chiller Revit Family - Plan Fine View

Trane Chiller Revit Family - Perspective Render

There is still a common misconception in the world of Revit that there should be different approaches to creating manufacturer-specific content versus “generic” content. The truth is that any quality Revit family can and should be built to flex, even if it’s created to represent just a single manufacturer product. It’s one of Revit’s best and most important features, and it’s how you create Revit families that will last and keep providing value product after product, project after project. As a perfect case in point, we heard from the client that, within days of receiving these families, they had already modified one of them to cover three other models from the manufacturer with minimal effort. And that’s how we know we’ve done our job and delivered Revit content done right.

Condenser Revit Families Chill Out

By on January 19, 2017 in Revit Families

660kW Condenser Revit Family in Raytrace Rendering

We’ve hit the ground running (sprinting, really) in 2017 with Revit content projects. This year we’ll be sharing more of the Revit families that we’re creating, which we hope will be fun to see and a little informative as well.

First out of the gate are a couple chilled water condensers, a 330kW unit and a 660kW unit. Both families have been modeled with three levels of detail in 3D and 2D, with materials from the Revit library applied to the 3D fine views. The use of 2D geometry (symbolic lines and masking regions) for 2D views ensures faster performance within a Revit project. They also include clearance zones set to a Clearance Zones subcategory, which gives the end user more control over visualization within their projects.

660kW Condenser Revit family in 2D front view

Although the two families have a larger than normal Andekan file size (800KB-1MB), this is largely due to the nature of this kind of equipment. Anything on a skid/frame raises complications, because you can see all of the internal components that can normally be ignored in a Revit family. Of course we simplifed the geometry for those internal components, but we kept enough detail for the Revit family to continue looking the part of the actual product.

The only nested element used in both Revit families are the fans seen on top. While the 660kW unit appears to be simply two of the 330kW units stuck together, there are some key differences in the piping connections involved. So the 660kW family does not have the smaller unit nested, which creates more work for us but ultimately produces a family that is faster to work with and has a smaller footprint.

660kW Condenser Revit Family in 3D Fine Realistic330kW Condenser Revit family in 3D realistic view

This is also the first project where we created our own images for the materials. In the past, we have modeled geometry for a single fan, for example on air conditioner or heat pump Revit families. But since this family was already on the larger end of acceptable file size, we couldn’t justify the added file weight of having 2D and 3D for the fan detail. In answer to this problem, we created our own images for the fan image and fan bump image. This means that complex fan geometry doesn’t need to be created, instead just a simple extrusion to host the new custom material.

Close up of fan image on condenser Revit family

Although the fan images may not be visible in normal shaded mode, the fans will show whenever the user creates a render for the project. In order for you to see the fan image, he/she needs to copy the two custom image files to the correct material folder location on their c: drive. C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Autodesk Shared\Materials\Textures\1\Mats.

Recapping RTC Europe 2016: A Grand Finale and New Beginning

By on October 25, 2016 in General

RTC Europe Main Stage

All things eventually come to an end, especially good things. RTC Europe 2016 just ended this past Saturday. Some of us held on a little longer by staying in Porto over the weekend to enjoy a few more of the many things that the marvelous Portuguese city has to offer. Others are already back home, went to work and started sharing with friends and colleagues the highlights of their learning and experience at the conference.

RTC Europe 2016 was definitely the best European RTC event to date. Of course everything that we learned over the previous three RTC Europe events helped to make it such. It was also the largest European event in terms of attendees.

But this time it went beyond being a single event. It added the inaugural European Building Content Summit (BCS), which brought together all of the players/protagonists in the story of content as it goes through the lifecycle of a project. And the city of Porto also engaged with RTC and, through IPSEC, hosted a series of Fast Track beginners sessions prior to the start of RTC for students and organizations looking to start their journey in our industry. With help from RTC and volunteers from speakers already in Porto, those sessions opened a new window for many people.

The end of RTC, the beginning of BILT…

Yet RTC Europe 2016 was extra special for another reason too. It was the last in a long line of RTC events that have taken place all over the world over the last 12 years. As Wesley Benn, chairman of RTC, has said, in order to grow, we have to dare to change.

What started as the Australian Revit National Congress after several meetings of (the world’s first) Revit User Group Sydney (RUGS), and then transformed itself into what RTC has become today, is now going through yet another evolution.

The events will now be known as BILT, reflecting a more expansive, comprehensive view of what they are all about: Buildings, Infrastructure, Lifecycle, and Technology (or Building and bringing Industry Leadership Together). In the age of ever increasing collaboration, gone are the artificial walls that have separated us from others we want to work and share knowledge with. And while RTC had long ago stopped being a Revit-only event, it couldn’t escape the fact that everyone knew that RTC stood for Revit Technology Conference. The first BILT event will be BILT Asia, in Singapore in March 2-17, and the next European event will be BILT Europe 2017 in Aarhus, Denmark.

..and the end of my time on the European event committee

RTC Europe 2016 was also a personal milestone, as it marked my final RTC as a member of the European event committee. It’s with sadness that I say goodbye to this group of passionate volunteers who’ve made the past three European events so enjoyable and rewarding. But times do change, and unfortunately time is a very scarce commodity in my life these days. I’ll be stepping away to focus more on my family and my new venture, Kinship.

Jose Fandos talking with an exhibitor at RTC Europe 2016

One of the many exciting conversations I had during RTC Europe 2016

RTC Europe 2016 wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of many talented people. Thanking everyone would take a few pages, in part because it would also have to include our attendees and speakers, for whom and by whom this was all done in the first place. But I wanted to thank a few people in particular.

Special thanks go to the European committee and in particular its regional manager Silvia Taurer, who’s put a great team together and has been instrumental in making RTC Europe the special conference that it is today, even among its peers in other continents, with its unique flair and special venues.

Thanks go also to the team back in Australia, and in particular to our European event manager, Harriet Cottam. Harriet is the one who always has a smile and contagious laugh that’s certainly needed when dealing with the myriad details and large numbers of vendors that come with an event like ours.

And to our global team of Heidi Earl, Phil Read, Chris Needham and Wesley Benn, who keep taking this great RTC-now-BILT ship higher and higher.

And to all the other international committee members who put in their time and effort every year in exchange for a smile on the face of attendees and the satisfaction that they have helped others get ahead.

I look forward to attending many more BILT events and to seeing you there!

Returning Text from Lookup Tables in Revit

By on August 10, 2016 in Revit Families, Revit Family Editor

Sometimes you want to have a Revit parameter that returns a text string depending on a number of options. For example, you might want to have a parameter show a product SKU code based on other parameter values for dimensions, color and material.

If the options are all organized into family types, and you build a type catalog, then the text string can be returned by the type catalog, and job done. But there are times where we need the text to change based on instance parameters, or where the parameter is used with Revit families that don’t make use of type catalogs, e.g. to return model numbers or SKUs of pipe, duct and conduit fittings (1). What is the solution in such cases? To date, it’s been IF formulas that could run the length of books.

Below is an example of the kind of long-winded formulas (and this one can be considered small) that people will create to have parameters that report text:

if(V = 2015, “3/4×1/2”, if(V = 2515, “1×1/2”, if(V = 2520, “1×3/4”, if(V = 3225, “1 1/4×1”, if(V = 4020, “1 1/2×3/4”, if(V = 4025, “1 1/2×1”, if(V = 4032, “1 1/2×1 1/4”, if(V = 5025, “2×1”, if(V = 5032, “2×1 1/4”, if(V = 5040, “2×1 1/2”, if(V = 6550, “2 1/2×2”, if(V = 8040, “3×1 1/2”, if(V = 8050, “3×2”, if(V = 8065, “3×2 1/2”, if(V = 10050, “4×2”, if(V = 10080, “4×3”, if(V = 125100, “5×4”, if(V = 150100, “6×4”, if(V = 200150, “8×6”, if(V = 250200, “10×8”, if(V = 300250, “12×10”, “NA”)))))))))))))))))))))

I’m happy to report (pun intended) that there is a better way.

At a London Revit User Group (LRUG) back in March last year, Darren Snook and I got to talking about lookup tables. He mentioned some odd behaviour where the lookup table would return text. I knew there and then that he was onto something. We discussed the details, and he went on to write a blog post about it the next day; and all credit for this trick is his, so let’s call it the Snook Solution.

Let’s go back to the formula shown above and see how we can use the Snook Solution to achieve the same result with way less hassle and potential for error. In the image below we can see the above formula in context. For the different values of V, we have a lengthy chain of IF statements that return a different bit of text in the 0BV_Size parameter. The logic is straightforward enough, but checking such formulas and maintaining them over time gets to be a pain. And remember this is a short example among many.

Revit Text String Formula Parameter

Fortunately we can skip all of that with the Snook Solution. The family already has a lookup table that contains the exact same text strings we want Revit to return.

Manage Lookup Tables in a Revit Family

When we export the lookup table to a spreadsheet, we can see that the values for V are in the second column and that the text we want to return is in the first column.

Revit family lookup table detail

So we only need to get the value of this first column based on the value of V. The formula we can use for this is:

size_lookup(Look, “”, “NA”, V)

Let’s break this down term by term. The “size_lookup” is the name of the function in Revit. “Look” is the name of a text parameter that contains the name of the lookup table. “NA” will be what we want the function to return if the value of the parameter “V”, which is the last element inside the function, is not found in the lookup table.

Now, the magic happens in the double quotes of the second element in the function. That tells size_lookup to return the value in the column with no name, from the row matching the V value that we have passed to it. We indicate the column with no name, i.e. the first column, by having nothing between the double quotes in the second element of the function. Below is an image showing the different parameters referenced in our formula, and the resulting value for 0BV_Size that gets reported from the lookup table.

Formula detail for the Snook Solution

There are many places where this trick can be put to good use, some of which I hope to share in future blog posts. Also, nothing stops you from loading more than one lookup table for different text parameters, which makes it convenient to update whenever the need arises.

Last year, at the first Building Content Summit in Washington D.C., I showed the Snook Solution at the hackathon, combining it with a couple more tricks to achieve nice reporting of alphanumeric product codes in pipe fittings. As long as you are using Revit 2014 or higher, you can get part numbers, product codes or SKUs in any type of fitting in Revit. No more monster formulas and hard to maintain product catalogs! And with some clever thinking, you can use this as an alternative to the still missing text concatenation feature in Revit parameters.

This year, at the second Building Content Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, Ralph Schoch from Victaulic reminded me that I had promised to write about this time-saving trick. Seeing that the question still pops up in forums, and that new manufacturer content is still coming out with performance-sapping formulas to deal with this, it seemed like as good a time as any to spread the word again about the Snook Solution.

(1) If you come across a fitting in Revit done with type catalogs rather than lookup tables, you most likely stumbled upon crappy content.

Ready for Take Off – New Airplane Revit Families Now Available

By on July 7, 2016 in Revit Families

For years, Andekan has been hired to build world-class Revit families for product manufacturers, design firms, project owners and Autodesk itself. Today, we’re excited to expand our Revit content services by offering our own Andekan Revit families for purchase through our website. And we’re launching our new Revit Content Store with content that’s a little out-of-the-ordinary yet still practical – families that will help a project look awesome and achieve the best results. We’re talking about airplanes, of course!

Andekan Airplanes Rendering

We’ve released top-notch Revit families for seven of the world’s most popular commercial airliners: Airbus A319, Airbus A380, Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 787, and Boeing MD-81. Each of our airplane Revit families features fully-native Revit geometry with three levels of detail in 3D and 2D. Materials have been applied in fine and medium 3D views, and 2D views have been built using only 2D objects (masking regions and symbolic lines). And with a special 3D-only version for when 2D isn’t needed, these families not only look beautiful but offer outstanding file size and project performance. All families include options for angle, height offset, and show/hide landing gear, so you can model any takeoff, landing or runway scenarios imaginable.

  • Boeing MD81p Revit Family - Raytrace
  • Boeing 787-9 Revit Family - Raytrace
  • Boeing 757-200 Revit Family - Raytrace
  • Boeing 747-8i Revit Family - Raytrace
  • Boeing 737-9w Revit Family - Raytrace
  • Airbus A380-800 Revit Family - Raytrace
  • Airbus A319 Revit Family - Raytrace

Our airplane Revit families are available in Revit 2013 and higher, and can be purchased individually for $400 or as a pack for $1600 (that’s seven airplanes for the price of four!). And as a special offer for our readers and fans, we’re offering this awesome aviation content at a 25% discount now through the end of July. Check out with discount code TAKEOFF2016 and save $100 on the price of individual families or $400 on the pack (and get seven Revit families for the price of three!).

Whether you’re working on an airport project or just looking to add some flair to a rendering, our airplane Revit families will help your Revit projects soar like never before. We have more top-notch Revit content coming soon and look forward to offering some of the MEP families you’ve come to know and love from Andekan. For now, we hope you’ll enjoy taking these airplane Revit families for a spin, and don’t forget to use discount code TAKEOFF2016 to get them at great low price. As always, we welcome any questions or feedback in the comments or via email at contact@andekan.com.

Loud and Clear — Revit Family Speakers

By on June 3, 2016 in Revit Families

Over the last few months, we’ve been working on a slew of loudspeaker and sound system Revit families. Audio equipment isn’t a new area for us, but the recent run of projects has definitely allowed us to deepen and refine our knowledge of how to build this type of Revit content for maximum usability and performance in Revit.

It’s been a pleasure developing these speaker Revit families with features like multi-axis rotation via pitch and azimuth settings, the use of InfoComm shared parameters, multiple built-in bracket and mounting options, and movable connectors. With the annual InfoComm show coming up this weekend in Las Vegas, we thought the next best thing to being there would be to share some samples of the loudspeaker Revit families we’ve been working on.

Aside from the beautiful renders you’ll see below, it’s worth mentioning that all of these families have been built to our usual standards with three levels of detail in 3D and 2D, materials applied in fine 3D views, symbols for coarse plan views, and all at file sizes between 600-800KB.

Wall-mounted loudspeaker Revit families
Loudspeaker series with fully adjustable pitch and azimuth and optional wall or pole mount (shown below).

Pole-mounted loudspeaker Revit families
Same loudspeaker series as above but with optional pole mount applied.

Ceiling-mounted Cluster Loudspeaker Revit Families
Ceiling-mounted cluster speakers with adjustable pitch.

Columnar loudspeaker Revit families
Columnar loudspeakers with automated bracket configurations based on type and rotation settings.

Loudspeakers Raytrace Rendering
And all together now…it’s the loudest room in the world!

Clearances in Revit: Worthy of Their Own Subcategory?

Whether you call them clearance zones, clearance areas, access areas, obstruction clearances, overhead clearances…whether you like to see them in red, blue, or patterned…whether you need to make sure that there’s enough room for something to be accessed, opened, ventilate properly, fit properly…modeling the required space around an object is a routine part of using Revit and working with Revit families.

 

Bakery retarder oven with clearances for door access and overhead obstruction

Bakery retarder oven with clearances for door access and overhead obstruction

I’m not going to explain anything about how clearances work in Revit, because you can simply google “Revit clearance zones” and find a whole handful of perfect tutorials on how to go about it. But what you’ll also notice is that not one of those tutorials comes from Autodesk themselves. And this despite Revit having an Interference Check tool, for which clearance zones would seem to be a key ingredient.

What I want to suggest is that, given how widely applicable they are, maybe it makes sense for Revit to treat clearances as more of a built-in or standard feature. While building design firms will always have different needs regarding what clearances need to be checked and how they want to see them, they will also always share the general need to model clearances. I think it’s fair enough that Autodesk don’t force any standard settings regarding how clearances are shown, but I think there’s a simple first step that would make a lot of sense: a built-in subcategory.

A more complex example of clearances for a rooftop air handling unit.

A more complex example of clearances for a rooftop air handling unit. This time with dashed outline instead of solid.

If you checked any of the tutorials linked above, you’ll find they all start with the same step of creating a new family subcategory for the clearance geometry. The problem with this approach is that you can easily end up with different subcategory names for the same thing. This happens either because content comes from different sources – a manufacturer, your firm and project partner, for example – or because the terminology used isn’t broad enough – someone adds an “access areas” subcategory to one family and that doesn’t seem accurate for an “overhead clearance” needed in another family, for example.

If Revit came with a built-in “Clearances” subcategory, at least for certain family categories that tend to need them, wouldn’t that save users a lot of repetitive setup, tedious tweaking and accidental oversights? I realize that having the same subcategory in different family categories would still require turning each on and off separately, and I would suggest that Revit also do something to correct that – not just for clearances but for any built-in subcategory that is shared across categories. It shouldn’t be a required setting (turning on/off for individual categories still seems valuable), but an option that’s available as needed.

A more unusual example of a clearance for opening the lid on a meat grinder.

Clearance for opening the lid on a meat grinder. A more unusual example but one that can be important for commercial kitchen layouts.

I’ve been working quite a bit with clearances recently, and there is more to say on the topic, but I think a built-in subcategory is an obvious place to start. Do you agree? Should “Clearances” be a part of all family categories or just certain ones? Do you have other ideas about how clearances should be handled in Revit? Perhaps something to discuss after-hours at this year’s Building Content Summit in July. For now, share your ideas by commenting on this post or tweeting them to @andekan.

Revit Families Reunion

By on April 10, 2016 in Revit Families

It’s been a while since we’ve posted on our blog, and we wanted to fill you in on what we’ve been up to. Some of you may have seen us at RTC Europe last October, which Jose helped organize as a member of the conference committee. Or you may have seen our booth at Autodesk University in December, where we unveiled our new content management service, Kinship, which has been keeping us very busy (much more on that in future posts).

We’ve also had our hands full creating Revit families for a whole range of products and manufacturers. We thought we’d start making up for lost time by bringing together a bunch of snapshots from our recent work to share with you – an Andekan Revit families reunion, so to speak. While we can’t always provide details about which manufacturer’s products we’re modeling or who they are for, we hope you enjoy this glimpse into where we’ve been spending our time.

ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Flexible pole height and body length. Versions for surface mount (bollard) or wall mount, single port or dual port, and dual-port power sharing. Three levels of detail in 3D with materials from Revit library. 2D linework in three levels of detail with custom symbol for 2D coarse views.
File size 750 KB – 930 KB, Revit 2014.

ChargePoint CT4000 Single-Port Bollard-Mount in 3D fine view
ChargePoint CT4000 Dual-Port Wall-Mount in 3D fine view

Wall-Mounted Speakers

Flexible case height and positioning, with types for single, double and triple unit configurations. Fully adjustable pitch and azimuth with required bracket hardware automatically applied. Optional transformer accessory. Two levels of detail in 3D and 2D, with materials from Revit library and symbol for coarse plan views.
File size 665 KB, Revit 2013.

Adjustable wall-mounted speaker in 3D fine view
Rendering of wall-mounted speaker with adjustable pitch and azimuth

idX Custom Cabinetry

Custom beverage service fixture for commercial retail. Includes options for placement of station components, clearance zones, under-counter light sources, and electrical connectors. Two levels of detail in 3D, with materials from Revit library, and rectangular masking regions for 2D views.
File size 850 KB, Revit 2014.

idX Beverage Station rendering
idX Beverage Station with Clearance Zones
idX Beverage Station rendering with under-counter light sources

Submersible Wastewater Pumps

Three levels of detail in 3D, with materials from Revit library. 2D linework in three levels of detail with symbol for coarse plan views. Power and sanitary connectors with option for discharge diameter.
File size 680 KB, Revit 2013.

Submersible Wastewater Pump fine plan viewSubmersible Wastewater Pump fine elevation view
Submersible Wastewater Pump fine 3D view
Submersible Wastewater Pump rendering

Ensign Cast Iron Drainage Fittings

Set of 41 families covering Saint Gobain’s Ensign line of cast iron drainage fittings. Two levels of detail in 3D and 2D, with materials in 3D fine. Flexible to all manufacturer sizes as well as custom sizes with auto-highlighting.
File size 270 KB – 370 KB, Revit 2013. Coming soon as a pack for purchase!

Perspective 3 - Rendered - Ensign Revit families
3D 2 - Medium - Ensign Revit families
3D 2 - Fine - Realistic - Ensign Revit families
Plan 4 - Fine - Wireframe - Ensign Revit families

Plan 4 - Fine - Shaded - Ensign Revit families