Revit MEP: Electrical and Mechanical Coordination

October 3rd, 2011

It is not uncommon to have mechanical and electrical engineers working at the same firm and coordinating efforts on projects. Because Autodesk® Revit® MEP is essentially a database, there are opportunities to make that coordination tighter than ever before. Take, for example, mechanical equipment. This equipment often requires an electrical connection, but not always. This equipment is drawn on mechanical sheets, but if it requires an electrical connection it must also be shown on an electrical sheet. The mechanical equipment that is not powered should not be shown on the electrical power sheets. Revit MEP can make this a relatively seamless process.

The normal workflow here is that the two engineers speak often about any mechanical equipment on the project. Cut sheets are provided and views are updated as required. Electrical power views may have all mechanical equipment turned on, and hide in view may be used on any mechanical equipment that is not required. This type of interaction opens the door to human error. If the wrong piece of equipment is hidden in view, the resulting change order can be costly, especially by the time it is discovered.

Let Revit MEP Do the Work

Improving this process with Revit MEP takes a solid understanding of Revit, but it is easy for users and produces better results. The approach is as easy as 1,2,3.

1. Add a yes/no parameter to all mechanical equipment families that indicates if that piece of equipment requires an electrical hook up. 
2. The mechanical designer indicates if the equipment requires electrical hook up when the equipment is placed by checking the parameter (yes) on mechanical equipment that requires an electrical hook up and (no) when it doesn’t.
3. The electrical views apply a filter that leverages the Yes/No parameter to turn off all mechanical equipment not requiring electricity.

How to do it

First, a shared parameter needs to be created that indicates if an electrical hook up is required.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of shared parameters, it is worth pausing here and researching shared parameters in the help file. It also makes sense to give some thought to how to organize and name shared parameters.

Go to the Manage tab of the ribbon and select the Shared Parameters tool. If the project does not have a shared parameters file associated with it, one can be assigned for it with the Browse button or use the Create button to make one. For this example, a shared parameters file will be created. Revit will ask for a name and location for the new file. Place it in a shared location where the whole office has access and name it something obvious like ACME Shared Parameters File.txt. In the Edit Shared parameters file, parameters and groups can be added. Groups help sort parameters. Some example groups would be Lighting, Power, HVAC, Plumbing, Title Block, and Common. Create a group by selecting the New button under the Groups heading and name it Common.

Define the new parameter by clicking the New button under the Parameters heading and filling out the Parameter Properties dialog with the name “Requires Electrical Hook-Up”, a discipline of “Common” and type of parameter “Yes/No.”

Select OK twice to exit all open dialogs.

The newly created shared parameter must be made into a project parameter to be applied to all mechanical equipment in the project. On the Manage tab of the ribbon, select the Project Parameters tool and then select the Add button on the Project Parameters dialog. Yet another dialog appears—the Parameter Properties dialog. (Hang in there, it’s almost over.)

Select the Shared parameter radio button, followed by the Select button underneath it. Find the Requires Electrical Hook-Up parameter under the Common group and select it. On the right-hand side of the Parameter Properties dialog, ensure that the category of Mechanical Equipment is checked. Click OK twice to exit all open dialogs.

What did going through all this trouble do for us? Each instance of every family in this project will now have a check box indicating if an electrical hook-up is required. The check mark will initially be grey, indicating that it is neither checked nor unchecked. Mechanical designers can clear the check mark or add the check mark. It is also easy to select all instances of a piece of mechanical equipment and assign the proper state.

On the electrical side of things, a visibility filter needs to be created to hide the mechanical equipment that does not require electrical hook up. This can be done by going to an electrical view and typing VG to open the Visibility Graphics dialog. Click the Edit/New… button to open the Filters dialog. There is a new filter button directly under the Filters heading indicated in the image below. Select this to give the new filter a name such as “Powered Mechanical Equipment.” Under the Categories heading, select Mechanical Equipment. Under the Filter Rules heading, filter by the Requires Electrical Hook-Up parameter and set equals to No.



Add the new filter to the list of filters for this view. The new filter finds every piece of mechanical equipment that does not require electricity. In the Filters tab of the Visibility Graphics dialog, simply uncheck the Visibility check box. This leaves only mechanical equipment needing an electrical hook-up visible in the electrical view.

With a pre-made filter and the shared parameter added to mechanical equipment families that may need power already in a template file, the mechanical user is left only to specify with a check box if power is required and the electrical user is immediately shown new equipment that requires a power connection. 

The true power of Revit MEP is the endless ways in which the data in the model can be manipulated. This example can be used as a template for any instance of objects that cross disciplines and need to be controlled. Thinking outside of the box, this example could be used to leverage existing architectural parameters in walls, such as are they structural or not, and in fire ratings. It could be used to show only vertical duct, pipe, and cable tray for shaft coordination. Consider what worked procedurally in AutoCAD® and try to replicate that in Revit MEP. Consider ways to improve the process. It is likely that Revit’s advanced capabilities can make a good thing even better.


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About the Authors

Todd Shackelford

Todd Shackelford

Todd Shackelford is the BIM Manager for Leo A Daly, a University of Nebraska instructor and a fequent speaker at Autodesk University. He authors two Blogs; CAD Shack and The Lazy Drafter. A Revit 2013 Certified Expert. Todd looks for his missing socks when not otherwise committed. Tweet Todd @ShackelfordTodd or email Todd at tshackelford@alvine.com

 

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