Revving Up Revit MEP

October 26th, 2012

Time is money and Autodesk® Revit® MEP has a reputation for wasting both.  If you use Revit MEP or are considering it, this article will give you a framework for using it efficiently and effectively for your clients and profitably for your firm.

Over years of using AutoCAD®, the industry has developed a standard method of exchanging information in a logical and efficient way.  The architect provides all the background files that the MEP and other firms require for their drawings.  Those firms change the layer colors to match their respective company’s printing standard, Xref the background files into their sheets and begin their work.  Some firms even have script files that automatically change the layers to the appropriate colors, or use the layer manager express tool built into AutoCAD.  When the architect provides an update, all the firm has to do is apply that LMAN file or run their script and overwrite the previous XREF files.  Rinse and repeat.

With Revit, this process has been more tedious.  The beginning is the same—the architect provides the model along with any other linked models (as well as CAD files if a consultant isn’t using Revit).  The current common practice is for the MEP firm to link each of those files into their model, copy/monitor the levels and grids from the architectural model, and then create each of the views they need.  By default, these views are set to show each link “by host view.”  All model elements, including reference planes, are shown simultaneously and the view is a jumbled mess. 

Now the MEP modeler must go through each view to edit the visibility and view range in order to ensure a clean background.  Sometimes plan regions need to be used in order to get the view to show just like the architect’s.  Every time there is an update, the MEP modeler must go through coordination review to make sure the grids haven’t changed.  He/she must also go through each view to make sure nothing has been added in the architectural model to affect the visibility modifications made during the initial setup. 

Not only is this process inefficient, but it is a common point of failure where a change can easily be missed.  As an example of the havoc this can cause, permit drawings were issued with incorrect grid lines for a job one MEP firm worked on because it wasn’t noticed that the grids had changed during an architectural update.  The architect was understandably upset that the drawings were incorrect.  In order to fix this, the firm had to go through each view in the entire project and manually delete the grid lines that didn’t belong there.  Another downfall to this method is the MEP firm must also place spaces in their model for each room, on each level of the building, and then tag each one of those spaces.  They must use the space naming utility or manually inspect the model to ensure that they have the most current room names.  If any rooms were added in the architectural model (and this is not communicated to the consultant) that room name and number will likely not be shown on the consultant’s drawings.

All of this adds up to frustration on all sides because the job is taking longer and costing more than it should due to silly errors.  Luckily, there is a better way.

Introducing Linked Views

It’s a shame that few firms know about this giant time saver. Put simply, linked views are specific views within a model that are set up to display exactly how the company that will be linking that model needs to see them.  This is helpful because the architect can create these linked views by duplicating the views they already have set up for use in their drawing package.  The architect can then make minor modifications based on the requirements of the firm they are working with.  Since they are duplicating an existing view, the view range and many of the visibility settings are already taken care of. 

Let me walk you through this to show you how easy and helpful it is. First, rename the view to have the company name (or an abbreviation), the words ‘linked view,’ and then the name of the view.  For example, _Company_Linked View_Level 1.  Now, when the MEP firm receives the architectural model, they copy/monitor the levels and create their views. Then, in visibility graphics, change the display settings for that link to display “by linked view.”  Use the drop-down to select the appropriate view from the list based on the naming convention mentioned previously.  Their view will then show exactly how the architect set it up in their model.  No further setup is necessary. 

This not only works for architectural models, but also any linked model (structural, food service, lighting consultants, and so on).  Even MEP can set up linked views for the architect to use.  For example, there can be a linked view setup for each level that shows only light fixtures and diffusers.  Not only that, but the light fixtures can have the emergency hatch (or any other hatching the architect doesn’t wish to see) turned off.  This way, all the architect has to do is change the display settings for the MEP linked model to that particular linked view and they’re done.  Revit will even crop the view when callouts are created just like it would if set to “by host view.” This is a huge time saver and ensures that everyone’s models are properly coordinated. 

Everyone’s backgrounds now match exactly how the architect intended to show them and nobody wastes time trying to figure out how each linked model must be manipulated.  All that is required to harness these time and frustration savers is some up-front communication and a clear list of settings developed by each firm to provide at the beginning of the project.

Five Revit Tricks Save Hours of Frustration

1. Grid lines in the architectural model must be set to 3D in linked views.  If they are instead set to 2D, the grid lines will not crop for the consultant when a callout is created.  This leaves you with a plan showing a small area of the overall floor and grids lines extending out to where the edge of the building would be.  However, if the grid lines are set to 3D, Revit will crop the grid lines nicely around the called out area.

2. Text within the room tags in the architectural model should be set to transparent so it does not mask the work shown in the consultant’s main model or any architectural background information.  Since the room tags are located within the linked model, the consultant cannot move the tags around on their views.  There may be instances where a symbol needs to be placed near a room name and if the text within that room tag is not set to transparent, it will mask the symbol.

3. Never (ever!) delete a linked view once it has already been created and sent out for other companies to use.  Here’s why: Revit creates an ID for each view in a model and uses these IDs when referencing views.  When a view is deleted, the ID is deleted with it.  If you recreate that view, even with the same name, it is given a new ID.  According to Revit, it is a whole new view and any associations created with the first linked view will now be broken.

To drive this point home, here’s a common scenario.  A consultant has their view set to a linked view called _Company_Linked View_Level 1 and then receives an update where that linked view has been deleted and recreated.  They won’t see the difference because the name is the same and will proceed with the update.  However, once they open their model they will notice that their Level 1 views are showing incorrectly and are set back to “by host view.” That consultant will now need to open every Level 1 view in their model and associate them with the new linked view.

Therefore, to harness the power of linked views, it is important not to delete linked views once they have been put in use.  Renaming is okay, but do not delete!

4. If the drawing package for a building is broken up into multiple sheets to show enlarged areas of a level, create an overall parent linked view and then create the area linked views with the “duplicate as a dependent” option.  Use scope boxes to crop each dependent view to the correct area.  This way you only need to make visibility changes to the parent view and those changes will automatically occur on the dependent area views, saving you time.

5. Communication is your best friend when it comes to Revit.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the person when necessary.  This is the best method we can all use to help each other save time and alleviate headaches and frustration.  Each company knows how their model and families were put together and it will take the owner of the model significantly less time to make modifications than it would for anyone else. 

Revit is a new tool that promises more information, quicker turnaround, and better coordination.  Just as with any new tool, we must all work together to find the best ways to harness those promised advantages while minimizing the learning curve and the pain of newness.  Try out the suggestions in this article and you’ll have a whole new view of Revit.

Megan Green currently works as the BIM Manager and unofficial Revit Guru for JBA Consulting Engineers in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.  Megan grew up in Virginia and attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.  She worked for four years as an Electrical Designer before transitioning to BIM Manager.  She is responsible for developing and maintaining company standards as well as the training and implementation of Revit MEP for all disciplines.  She can be reached at mgreen@jbace.com.

 

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