Tips for Revit Project Management

September 28th, 2012

Going Solo?

If someone will be working with you to help manage the project, particularly if you are new to Autodesk® Revit®, be thankful.

I enjoy learning and sharing with others, but I was alone for my first few projects. Afterward, I was able to see that the mistakes and problems that occurred were ones I often created myself. Recognizing your own mistakes can sometimes be tough when you are working with others. Let’s face it—Revit does some funny things sometimes, but they are usually our own fault.

Hopefully your first project will not be huge with many people working together, but most of us don’t have that choice. I’ve witnessed a big team of about 10-15 people learning together for the first time on a large multi-building, multi-phased project going through an IPD phased review process through OSHPD. I can say it seemed to work out. Of course they had some experts to help them (including Titan AEC: www.titanaec.com) so I was a little jealous, but I learned to use it as a resource as well.

Time to Learn More about Worksets

In my opinion, every project should have at least two people in charge. If one leaves for vacation, quits, dies, or is fired, the project still moves forward. It can be tough to work on a project that was started by someone else if you don't have a good handoff.

By using the two-person approach you have a better chance of the team members helping each other and sharing ideas of how they plan to model and manage portions of the sometimes complicated structure. Some experts can create elaborate families that need further explanation or documentation, especially if you're still learning.

Phil Russo authored a good article in the AUGIWorld August 2011 issue regarding worksharing/worksets and here are a few more options to consider. When creating the Central File, within the “Save As” dialog box, to the bottom right is an options button. Within that dialog box you'll notice within worksharing "Open workset default." It may be good to use "specify" here so that when opening the model, team members will have to specify which workset they're starting off with. It also allows you to turn off worksets that are not needed at first.

Figure 1: File save options, specifying default/current workset during open, maximum backup location.

More backup files should be used as more people work on the project, enabling you to roll back to an earlier state. The magic number of backup files should be about 2x or 3x the number of teammates working on the project.

Figure 2: Opening worksets from the beginning, CTRL to choose multiple worksets you want closed. To select current workset:  left-click Workset1 and choose OK.

I no longer stress out too much about what worksets to create. I typically use only one (Workset1), since “element borrowing” does the trick. Some worksets I like to utilize would be: one workset for every link you have in your model, Revit and DWG. This allows individual Revit users in the same model to turn off workset versus unloading the Revit link. A workset for your Reference Planes will allow other disciplines linking in your model to unload that workset if it starts to get busy.

What was that? You have a chunk of modeled elements weighing your file down? Try Revit’s version of WBLOCK; turn the heavy models into a group, turn the group into a workset, unload it or remove it, and presto!

"Worksharing Monitor" is also available, which is free if your office is on Autodesk subscription. You may be able to find it now in your Autodesk program files if it was installed during the Revit Installation. This feature provides the following information.  

  • When everyone is in the file, it shows each user and how long it has been since each team member has saved to central.
  • It shows you when others are "Saving to Central," as only one person can save to central at a time.
  • It reflects how old or out of date your file is.
  • It shows how many saves others have done since your last save.

Also, when synchronizing with Central, I typically check every checkbox in the dialog. One thing to remember is after initiating worksets, nobody should open the Central File and/or work in the Central File. Something else to watch for: after saving to Central your current workset is changed to whatever was current during the previous save to Central.

Reasons to Open Central

You’ll need to access Central if you to do an Audit (which you should do when you update to the next version of the software). Some companies audit once a week or once a month—it depends how big the file is. Also for archiving or sharing the model, be sure to "detach from Central." There is a new eTransmit for Revit we should all look into, available on Autodesk Labs. http://labs.autodesk.com/

Overwrite Existing

After opening Revit, I do not choose to open the project using the copied file located on my hard drive (shown in the display history). Instead, I browse to the Central file on the network and left click the Central file once. Notice the bottom of the dialog box under "Worksharing" the two buttons "Detach from Central" and "Create New Local." Create New Local gives you a fresh copy of everyone's work from the day before or before lunch. You should completely delete this file (and the folder it creates) from your local drive maybe once a week or once a month; again, depends on the size of the file. You do not want old items you changed or deleted sneaking back into your model.

Figure 3: Get a fresh start with the latest and greatest updates in the model.

The New "Read Only"

This paragraph is dedicated to those who “should” be getting into the model, but are scared to mess things up. "Detach from Central" is equal to opening up the file in "read only" format (good for non-users and new users to check out).

This is also useful for teams wanting to bring the model into the field for reference and have no intention of reconnecting back to the Central file. I suggest sharing the "Detach from Central" concept with people who you would like to learn Revit or people you would like to review your model for accuracy such as QA/QC. It is easy (to be a BIM joker) to create your own 3D view, print, cut details, and figure out dimensions.

Where is my 0,0? (UCS & Insertion Point)

It’s now called “Origin to Origin”. In earlier versions it was a little tough to find that crazy 0,0… but it was and is possible. With the new versions it's a little easier as it has its own nifty little symbols. If you go to a plan view and "reveal hidden elements" you'll notice a circle and triangle over each other, "project base point" and "survey point." If the architect or subcontractor is using AutoCAD, you can typically use Origin to Origin.

Figure 4: Current View only brings lines in as detail lines; unchecked they come in as model lines (visible in 3D views). Black and white can still be changed to halftone or your color of choice for coordination, Origin to Origin (the new 0,0).

Learning about Revit "Coordinates" can help you understand how to acquire, publish, and so on. I've learned the hard way that it is an important step to coordinate early in the project. It is especially important when the architect is using Revit or you want to do some Google Earth or Civil alignment. You may also want to consider the shared coordinates tool available on Autodesk labs which is great for coordinating Revit, Civil 3D, and Navisworks: http://labs.autodesk.com/

Communicate with the Project Team

I suggest trying to meet the other modelers. As Jeremiah Bowles wrote in AUGIWorld, November 2011, “you need to figure out your modeling accountability, who models what, when, where and why.”

(Also see Vico MPS 3.0) www.vicosoftware.com/model-progression-specification/tabid/85227/Default.aspx

Find out what software versions the other project team is using and if and when they plan to upgrade in order to formulate a plan of attack.

Watching the 3D View While Modeling

I create a Level and Floor Plan 10 feet above all other levels and call it "OVERALL," setting the bottom of my view range about 10 feet below the lowest modeled item. This allows me to see everything in plan similar to a 3D view, but with grids and the ability to write notes to myself. Assure that Levels and Grids are consistent by creating a perpendicular elevation for each set of grids at every angle. Within the elevation views, you can use a level or reference plane to snap grid endpoints in elevation throughout the project.

If you need to work with a model that was created by someone else or even generated outside of Revit, it is important to verify accuracy before commencing work. After linking or importing, make sure you can flex your model.
I've typically adjusted the columns to represent actual splice locations. Afterwards, verify that the beam endpoints are moving with and about the exact center of the column. This can be accomplished by setting your view to a medium or fine level of detail and zooming in, checking one-by-one.

One of the last things to fix would be adjusting the beams in a bay to be equal to the spacing specified by the engineer. If you don’t want to use beam systems, I've also used dimension strings to lock or equally space beams between the grids. You can delete the dimension you create and the beams will stay locked or equally spaced. (You’ll receive an error, see Figure 5, choose OK and the beams will follow your orders.) Notice when you select one of the beams, a light blue dashed line will appear if you hover around the item, sometime extending off of your screen if you locked to grids and they’re too long.  This light blue dashed/invisible dimension string can be deleted if you would like to respace that bay anytime.

Figure 5: By choosing OK you do not populate the warnings.

There are many other analytical items to take into consideration that you can learn online even if your engineers are not utilizing or helping you with this process. If they do plan to do some round tripping it may be good to keep that model separate as its own link. This allows you to move forward with preparing the documents to assure that you can meet your deadline.

A Little Underground Help

Figure 6: Isolated footing with concrete above, Concrete Piers, and zones of influence.

In AUGIWorld February 2011, Gabe Cottam reminds us that as a model author, try to keep in mind your project team members downstream who will be receiving your model. This is great advice.

Modeling the concrete above an isolated footing helps create a closer estimate of concrete (and the architects appreciate it if they’re utilizing your model inside their own). Modeling the zone of influence to the correct angle of repose below the footing can help assist with underground coordination (see Figure 6).

The first time I used this technique on a project, I used Component / Model in Place / Structural Foundations / solid blend, and matched project concrete material above and utilized semi-transparent material below. I made these a group so in plan I could hide it in one shot.

I've also dabbled with using voids to cut out sand and gravel from my slab layers which can be hard to maintain depending on the deadline and design changes. This can produce satisfying results when joined to adjacent concrete (unless you need a cold joint). I ended up taking out the sand and gravel from my slab layers, but I may end up adding that stuff back in now that you don’t need voids to create voids in geometry.

I was able to copy concrete and zones of influence from one same size footing to another making it fairly quick. Building this into a family can make it even quicker. Thanks, Tomas!

Overlaying Two Plans

The idea here is when you place two plans on top of each other on a sheet, they snap into place. Try it, it’s fun! I know I should be doing this another way, but I have a problem understanding why a thin halftone line would be plotted on top of a thick black line. In AutoCAD we had a .PC3 file option for graphics that we could set the “merge control” to “lines overwrite.”
So what you do is create a plan isolating the architect’s model through Visibility Graphics, set the view range to reflect what it is you want to view, walls above, walls below, both with one or the other as thin dashed lines, halftone, etc.

Now if you place that plan view on a sheet with a structural plan, notice the snapping into place that occurs. Great, except some items may overpower your structural plan. To resolve this display issue, delete your plan from the sheet then place the structural plan you deleted on top the Architect’s plan and, voilà, the structural stuff is on top, nice and thick! I’ve used this technique when creating mechanical screen framing plans to show framing below halftone (for clarity and post location coordination), mechanical screen framing. Again, solid and thick.

Figuring out Column Height on a Warped Steel Roof

Figures 7 and 8: How high is this column?

Now this process gave me interesting results. Let’s say the roof has been defined with a high and low point at the column/grid intersections. But you have this straggler column in-between the high and low points and you’d like to figure out the top of that column.

I proceed to warp the slab and framing to satisfy the high and low points and now I need to attach the column to the bottom of slab. (Note: I like to keep my flat slabs and warped slab separate as the Architect can tab/select into your model, copying your slab into theirs, moving it up the thickness of insulation, now following the contours of your warped slab that actually sits on beams and doesn’t float above or merge into each other.) They can convert your separate flat slabs for built-up insulation using a similar type that has the “variable” options checked, allowing them to “raise the roof.”

Next you select the straggler column and “attach top” to slab above. Be sure to choose the correct options (see Figure 9).

Figure 9: Options “Do Not Cut” and “Intersect Column Middle Line.” Crazy things happen if you don’t (such as columns half disappearing).

Your slope lines should look similar to the architect’s slope line on their roof, although the steel doesn’t actually slope like that—they’re representing insulation. To help everyone’s building sections look closer to reality, you need to select the warping slab and start to “pick supports.” If the slab is too big you’ll need to break it up somehow. I do this for every chunk of slab that either slopes up or down. Too many triangles, faces, and slab edges will start to muddy your plan.

In your Visibility Graphics, go to Floors or Roofs and turn off “interior edges.” BAM! For separated slabs transitioning from flat to warped, get rid of edges by using the join tool. (Note: for projects scheduling volume of concrete, overlapping concrete should be joined. If not, the schedule will be inaccurate.)

Figure 10: Not good

Figure 11: Not bad

Adam Muñoz started with hand drafting in his freshman year at Roseville High School in 1992 and was introduced to AutoCAD a year later. He has a degree in Electro-Mechanical design and has also assisted as a drafter in Architectural, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing. Adams passion for 3D Modeling and Animation as well as Structural Drafting and Design has helped him embrace Revit Structure since Release 2 in 2005. He currently works as a Structural Drafter in the Roseville office for Hammel, Green & Abrahamson, an integrated architectural, engineering and planning firm. He can be reached at amunoz@hga.com

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