Tips to Leverage Data Efficiently in Revit MEP

May 30th, 2012

The key to operating Autodesk® Revit® MEP efficiently is to utilize the data associated with the elements in the model. Revit provides tools to manage the information of the design, and you can fully leverage data and eliminate the redundancy of tasks by being creative with these tools.  Querying the data through the use of schedules, tags, filters, and view templates goes a long way in ensuring that the drawings are accurate and consistent.   The illustrated techniques below are discoveries I have made over the years that are helpful in using Revit MEP to its full potential. 

TIP:  USE IF/THEN STATEMENTS TO COMBINE INFORMATION FROM MULTIPLE COLUMNS

Those who are fluent with the software would agree that the schedules in Revit are not pretty.  It is not uncommon for users to struggle with consistency and accuracy when transitioning from traditional schedules to smart schedules.   Combining information from multiple columns will limit input errors while reducing the overall width, thus making the schedules more legible.  This commonly occurs when displaying dimensional information from a part. 

To display the WIDTH and HEIGHT in a “12x12” format, for example, a nested if/then statement is required.  In the example below, the common sizes are accounted for in the formula;¬ if a part does not match a specified size “REFER TO PLANS” is displayed in the MODULE SIZE column. 

MODULE SIZE = if(and(Width = 2', Height = 2'), "24x24", (if(and(Width = 2', Height = 1'), "24x12", (if(and(Width = 1', Height = 1'), "12x12", "REFER TO PLANS")))))
A similar scenario can be exemplified with the Light Fixture Schedule.  The voltage is displayed, but the fixture may have universal ballast in which “UNIV” is shown.  Adding a hidden column with a yes/no parameter allows the user to override the VOLTAGE column to display UNIV instead of the Actual Voltage.

FIXTURE VOLTAGE = if(Universal, "UNIV", if(Voltage = 120 V, "120 V", if(Voltage = 277 V, "277 V", "Other"))

TIP:  USE CONDITIONAL FORMATTING TO HIGHLIGHT HIDDEN COLUMNS

Both of the above examples utilize hidden columns.  The columns need to be part of the schedule so the data can be used in the if/then statement, but their presence in the final schedule is unnecessary.  Users are required to manually hide columns in a schedule so they do not print.  Highlighting an entire column is an ideal way for the user to visually identify which columns should be hidden prior to plotting.

To highlight an entire column, use conditional formatting with a condition that will always be met.  In the example below, the WIDTH column has the conditional statement Type Mark is Not Equal To “blank”.  This statement will always be true (every row must contain a Type Mark value) which ensures that every row in the width column will highlight yellow.

TIP:  CREATE SCHEDULE VIEW TEMPLATES AND PRESET COLUMN WIDTHS

The two examples above talk deal with managing the information in the schedule.  This tip will provide visual consistency among the schedules.  Addressing common cosmetic problems makes your smart schedules look less robotic, and your sheets look more professional.       

The appearance of the schedule is controlled by the Appearance tab of the Schedule Properties dialog box.  The information on this tab can be captured in a view template and applied to all other schedules in a project.  To create the view template, right-click over the schedule name in Project Browser and choose Create View Template From View…   Applying the view template to all schedules will ensure every schedule has consistent graphical properties. 

The Appearance tab in the Schedule Properties dialog box does not give the user authority to preset the width of the columns.  The user must manually adjust each column when the schedule is placed on the sheet, and this can be very cumbersome when manipulating a larger schedule such as an Air Handling Unit Schedule.  

The column widths can be preset in the project template to provide all subsequent projects with consistent schedule column widths.  In the project template, place the schedules on a sheet, use the grips to adjust the columns to the desired widths, and then delete the schedule from the sheet.  When the schedule is placed on a sheet within the project, the preset widths of the columns will remain.  This same method can be applied to schedules that are stored in an external file and loaded into the project as needed. 

TIP:  LOAD PREDEFINED SCHEDULES INTO THE CONSULTANTS PROJECT

In addition to supplementing construction documents, schedules are often used as design or maintenance tools.  Best practice dictates that when linking models from outside consultants, the received model should be purged and compressed, and unnecessary views should be deleted to reduce the file size.  Some users may justifiably argue that deleting the views and sheets can be time consuming, especially when receiving a new model from the consultant on a weekly basis. 

Predefined schedules can be loaded into the consultant’s project to help automate the task of removing unnecessary views and sheets.  The loaded schedules will display all the views and sheets in the model and the user can quickly delete the views through the schedule, rather than deleting in Project Browser.  The schedules can be saved on the network and loaded into the project using the Insert from File command on the Insert tab of the ribbon. 

TIP: CREATE 3D AND SECTION VIEW TEMPLATES TO ORGANIZE THE PROJECT BROWSER

While schedules display the information from the model, view templates and filters can be used to help visually clarify and validate the information during the design and modeling process.

When a section is cut from the model or a new 3D view is created, they are strategically hidden under the “???” sub-discipline of Project Browser.  These views are out of sight and often remain in the project when their function is no longer needed.  Also, when creating these views, every element is displayed regardless of discipline.  Turning off unneeded elements can become redundant and frustrating for the user. 

View templates store common properties for a specific type of view such as visibility graphics, discipline, sub-discipline, and filters.  Adding discipline specific view templates for 3D and section views to the project template will help with the coordination and organization of the Project Browser.  They will also provide a streamlined approach to quickly toggle the irrelevant categories off and add any filters to the view. 

TIP: ADD A FILTER WITH A SOLID FILL OVERRIDE TO THE 3D VIEW TEMPLATES

3D views are essential when modeling in Revit.  They are useful for many reasons including verifying the connectivity of systems and visualizing spatial relationships.  The views often become congested, and it can be difficult to decipher the many systems.

Differentiating the duct, pipe, and their associated systems is simplified if they are colored with a solid fill in a 3D view.  This can be accomplished by creating a filter within the 3D view template.  The filter is applied to duct and pipe, and their fittings and accessories with the Filter Rule set to Filter by: (none).   Having a filter with the filter rule set to (none) will group all the objects in the category regardless of their properties or system.  After creating the filter, set the pattern override of the filter in Visibility Graphics to Solid Fill.  The solid fill will assume the color that is defined in the system definition. 

TIP: ADD A FILTER TO CHANGE THE COLOR OF CIRCUITED DEVICES

There are tools available within Revit to notify the user if something has not been assigned to a system, such as Show Disconnects and System Browser. These are two valuable tools but may not be the most efficient for verifying that all devices have been assigned to a circuit during the design process.  The Show Disconnects exclamation mark disappears immediately after the Power button has been applied to the device, it does not notify the user if the panel has not been selected.  The System Browser is a great tool, but it can be time consuming to find the unassigned object in the project. 

To visually differentiate between circuited and un-circuited elements, create a filter to change the color of the device after a panel and circuit have been assigned to the system.  To accomplish this, create a new filter with the filter rule set to Panel does not equal “blank”.  In Visibility Graphics, select a color for the line graphics override of the filter to highlight the device after the condition has been met. 

TIP: CREATE TAGS THAT DISPLAY MULTIPLE PROPERTIES IN ONE LABEL

Filters are used to visually highlight design information while tags display the information for construction documentation.  One object may often need to be denoted with multiple parameters on the drawings.  For example, one light fixture may need to display the Type Mark, Panel, Circuit Number, Night Light, Emergency, and a Switch ID.  Adding all of these parameters in one tag will eliminate the need to place multiple tags on one object.  One tag containing all the data also ensures all parameters will be accounted for on the drawings.

Create a tag with the properties in one label and use the Spaces and Break options in the Edit Label dialog box to control positioning.  If a property does not contain a value, the parameter will not display.  In the example below, both light fixtures have the same tag.  The light fixture on the right does not have a value assigned to the two middle parameters, so the last parameter moves up to be under the first.  After the light is added to a circuit the bottom parameter will move down to display the circuit number. 

A similar example can be seen with an air terminal tag.  One air terminal has a rectangular neck while the other has a round neck.  The same tag can be used on both air terminals.  If the diffuser does not have the “Diffuser Connection Diameter” parameter in the family, it will not display any information for that field.  

TIP: CREATE CUSTOM FAMILY TEMPLATES

To capitalize the data as explained in the earlier examples, all families must be created consistently with the same shared parameters.  Shared parameters are stored in an external text file and can contain an excessive number of parameters.  Determining which shared parameters to add so the family works with the schedules and tags can be discouraging and time consuming for the user. 

Having custom family templates preset with the shared parameters will ensure that all families are created equal.  To create a custom family template, start a new family using a template that installs with the software.  Add the shared parameters that are needed for the schedules and tags and save the family.  After closing the family, use Windows Explorer to change the file extension from .rfa to .rft.   

Note: This tip ensures all families created by the user have the correct shared parameters.  However, it does not mention what to do if content is used directly from a manufacturer.  Currently, the user must manually add each parameter or modify the existing parameters to point to their shared parameter file. 

Revit provides the user with a variety of powerful tools to extract data from the model.  Using these tools to their full capabilities will streamline the design process, reduce redundant tasks, and ultimately maximize efficiency.  Leveraging the data efficiently in Revit MEP allows designers and engineers to focus on the quality of their designs. 

Emy McGann is a BIM Manager for Karpinski Engineering, a multi-disciplined consulting engineering firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is responsible for implementing and supporting Revit MEP across the firm. Her previous experience as a Revit MEP Technical Specialist has helped Karpinski Engineering stay on the cutting edge of BIM technology. Emy is a Revit Architecture 2010 Certified Professional and an AutoCAD 2010 Certified Professional & Certified Associate.

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