Flexible Scheduling

October 10th, 2012

When it comes to pulling everything together in Autodesk® Revit® MEP, the scheduling tool is a natural fit to display a large amount of data in a compact package. Schedules are unique in their ability to convey not only a large quantity of data, but diverse information from many disciplines that can include the ability to total, assign costs, and calculate. This makes schedules the ideal tool to collaborate between architectural, electrical, and mechanical disciplines and ensure coordination. This article will demonstrate the basics of Revit schedules and show some nifty strategies to leverage the Revit database to collaborate with the entire team.

The Schedule tool is found on the View tab of the ribbon and includes five types of schedules: Schedule/Quantities, Material Takeoff, Sheet List, Note Block, and View List. The Schedule/Quantities type produces a schedule of a selected family category. Most of schedules are of this type. To create a new schedule, select the Schedules/Quantities tool. This opens the New Schedule dialog box.

All Revit entities are categorized. Select the appropriate family category to schedule by selecting it from the drop-down list. Only one category can be selected at a time. <Multi-Category> can be used to apply all categories at once. Typically, filtering is used with <Multi-Category> to narrow the schedule to the desired categories. The Name of the schedule will automatically fill out once the category is selected. The name can be accepted as is or cleared and typed in as desired.

Under the name, users have the choice of creating a schedule of building components or creating schedule keys for every category except <Multi-Category>. Scheduling by building components searches the Revit database for a specifically categorized family and accesses its parameters. Schedule keys can be used to apply information to multiple items that have the same characteristics. If an electrical device, mechanical equipment, or telecom device has a defined key and is added to a schedule, fields in the schedule will automatically update with the keyed information, reducing the time required to produce the schedule. Schedule keys are instance parameters and project parameters, which automatically apply themselves to every family of a particular category. Values applied to the key are applied to the individual elements. For basic schedules, just select “Schedule building components.”

Schedules are phase aware. Use the Phase drop-down to select the phase of the current project from which to schedule components. This way, existing elements can be filtered out of a schedule of new equipment, or a schedule of existing lights to be relamped can be created.


Select “OK” to open the Schedule Properties dialog. The first tab in this dialog is the Fields tab. Different parameters for the selected category are listed in the Available fields: window on the left. Use the Add-> button in the middle of the dialog to add selected parameters to the right-hand side Scheduled fields window. The <-Remove button can be used to send parameters back to the left window. If a required parameter is not available in the left window, the Add Parameter can be used to select/create a project or shared parameter. Depending on where the families in a project come from, the use of project parameters can come in handy here.

In the case of lighting fixtures, a set of standard light fixtures is often created and added to a company-standard Revit template with all required parameters for scheduling. When a specialty fixture is downloaded or acquired from the architect, that family will have to be edited to add the required parameters.  To avoid editing or missing these specialty families, a project parameter can be added to the template. The project parameter will attach itself to every family categorized as a light fixture, no matter where it came from.

The Calculated Value button can be used to add percentages and formula-driven data to the schedule. Give the field a name, select formula or percentage, and then pick the discipline of the field. This is used to apply the proper units to the field. When entering formulas, remember that parameters are case-sensitive. This option is especially important in the MEP world because so many things can be calculated directly in a schedule. Again, it is important that the parameters exist in the families that are being schedule in order for calculated values to work. Some great examples of calculated values are watts per square foot, CFM per person, and cost per square foot.



The Filter tab allows a category to be filtered by the parameters of that category. A common application here is the use of a schedule number parameter to associate families of the same category to differing schedules. In this way, types of mechanical equipment such as terminal units, pumps, and air handling units can have their own schedules without having to weed them out of a mechanical equipment schedule, which finds every piece of mechanical equipment in the model.

The Sorting and Grouping tab lets the user sort the data in the schedule by parameters either ascending or descending. A header, footer (or both) can be added to each sorted parameter in the finished schedule along with a blank line by checking those boxes.

Below is a check box for Grand totals. If checked, the drop-down to the right gives different combinations of data to associate with the totals.

The “Itemize every instance” check box creates a separate line for every instance of a model element. If left unchecked, similar elements are combined into a single row in the schedule.

The Formatting tab addresses how each field in the schedule will appear. Select a field on the left to control its formatting. The heading of the schedules automatically reflect the name of the field, but can be overridden by typing a new heading in the provided box. The orientation and alignment can also be controlled per field.

 

There is a check box to hide the field in the schedule. This enables sorting and filtering by fields that are hidden in the schedule. A cost can be added to a schedule for internal use, and can be hidden when present on sheets for a project. Or an intermediate value used in a calculation can be in the schedule, but hidden to keep things clean.

If Grand Totals is checked in the Sorting/Grouping tab for a field, the “Calculate totals” box is enabled. This will place a grand total at the bottom of the schedule. Where calculations are involved, the totals option will follow, so it’s a good idea to try it a lot of ways to test how it looks in an actual project.

The Conditional Format button can be used to change the background color of a cell based on the value of the data in the cell. This is usually used to alert schedule users that a condition needs attention such as low volume, low light level, or excessive distance. The conditional format option uses logical tests to compare the value in the cell pass or fail to a benchmark value. If a passing condition exists, a background color can be applied to indicate a problem (red) or a pass condition (green).

The Field Formatting button is available for numeric fields, and allows for control of numbers’ format. By default, the “Use project settings” box is checked. When checked, the settings in Project units are used. When unchecked, these settings can be overridden in the schedule. This is handy to remove the unit symbol, suppress zeros, or change the rounding of a number. This is usually the case when project units are needed for labels, but redundant in a schedule where the unit is indicated its heading.


The last tab, Appearance, controls the title, headers, fonts, and linework of the schedule. It’s not a bad idea to create standard line styles for the grid and border lines and select header and body fonts according to company standards.

A bonus of using Revit MEP compared to other “flavors” is its ability to nest schedules. This allows for a schedule of rooms that will report what MEP objects are inside of these rooms by nesting a MEP schedule inside of a room schedule. Select the Embedded Schedule tab, then check the Embedded Schedule check box. Select the category of family to add, and then pick the Embedded Schedule Properties button to format the nested schedule. This starts the process of formatting all over again for the nested schedule.

 

This can get dizzying when first attempted, but reaps huge benefits to those that master it.

As with any Revit MEP tool, experimentation is required. With so many options and configurations, the combination of results is vast. Chances are, whatever the task, it can be done with a little perseverance and the willingness to fail before succeeding.

Carla Edwards is a BIM/CAD Manager for Leo A Daly in Omaha, Nebraska, and the President of the Revit User Group of Nebraska. Look for her to present at the Central States Revit Workshop 2012 in September.

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