When any new technology hits the ground, there are plenty of false starts and back tracking. In time, shortcuts are found, tricks of the trade are discovered, and best practices are defined. So is the case with Autodesk® Revit®, even for MEP users. This article will outline a logical roadmap of technical and non-technical must do’s, and don’t do’s for transitioning to Revit MEP. From setting expectations, defining goals, and plotting in Revit, to addressing BIM, IPD, and VDC, the checklist of elements required to help Revit really work in an office will be covered. Every implementation will come with resistance, workflow issues, and plenty of headaches, but staying on course and hitting the important milestones along the way will help reduce stress of something akin to the craziest family trip ever.
First Considerations – Software
One might think it is all about Revit. The truth is that Revit really wants to act as a central location for data that is constantly on the move. Much like a smartphone leverages the power of thousands of applications, Revit plugs into workflows with more than a few Autodesk programs as well as a host of third-party programs. The simple fact that the Building Design Suite comes with so many varied applications is a pretty big hint that Revit wants to play on a team. Firms need to look at their processes from a high level and look for the best workflows and programs for the team.
First Considerations – Hardware
Evaluate the PCs and know what their capabilities are and know what Revit requires. Search Autodesk’s website for system requirements for Revit products. Requirements for three tiers of deployment are listed for systems covering an entry-level configuration, a balanced performance configuration, and a performance configuration. Certified and supported graphics hardware is also accessible from this page. The non-hardware savvy should seek input from an IT professional. Revit cannot and will not perform on outdated or entry-level PCs, and the person leading the implementation usually takes the blame when expectations fall short. Best advice is overkill it on hardware. What seems over the top today is inadequate in a year.
First Considerations – Training
There is no way to get around the fact that training will need to be done. Even if every person in the firm has already used Revit, training on using Revit company standards must still take place. There are many ways to deliver training. An in-house expert can provide just-in-time, all the time. Autodesk resellers and consultants typically provide three- to five-day immersion training and short- to long-term consulting. There are countless web-based training options—free and paid. Community colleges that offer Revit training usually require a final project that will put students through the paces and better entrench the knowledge and skills.
On the down side, Revit MEP-specific classes are all but impossible to find. Lastly, the extreme go-getter can buy a book and learn on the job. In reality, everyone learns differently and being prepared to leverage all these types of training is the best solution. People will gravitate to the solution that works best for them when it is provided.
First Considerations – Line up your ducts (ugh… ducks)
Set appropriate goals based on the size of the firm. Small, medium, and large firms will have drastically different goals and timelines. It might seem odd, but small firms have the upper hand in adopting new technologies and processes. Think about it: What is easier—getting 3 people to agree, or 300? Recognize that an AE firm will have completely different goals and processes than a solely MEP firm. During any shift in process be prepared to support the old and new at the same time, and sometimes in the same project. This will mean keeping symbols in Revit as close as possible to symbols in AutoCAD®. Consider how quality reviews are done and client expectations. When things look different, it is an impediment to change. Minimizing the impediments will help tremendously.
All of that being said, communication is the real key to most every project’s success. It is important keep information flowing up and down the chain and set the expectations early. Some critical expectations for this type of implementation are that things will go wrong, things will take longer, things will look different, things will have to change, and things will continue to evolve. Remind users and management of the progress they have been made by tracking and documenting incremental goals.
With a general direction and expectations set, it’s time to get more specific about the journey. This trip is a long one, and a phased approach is best. Firms can tailor the following phasing to suit individual needs. This example has four phases—each with its own goals building off the previous phases.
Phase #1 - Goals
- Create construction documents
- Improved collaboration
- Interference mitigation
To obtain these goals, the following Revit items need to be addressed. The first group addresses the goal of good construction documents. The second group deals with process and keeping things standard. The space available in this article doesn’t allow for “How to’s” for each item, but each is well documented in the Revit help page and all over the Internet. Get a couple points of view and marry the possibilities to the culture and needs of the firm in question.
- Line styles created
- Fonts set for plan text, titles, title blocks, tags, and everything else
- Object styles – Define the weight, color, tone, and transparency of everything
- Incorporation of standard details
- Browser organization – Decide how you want to see views organized
- Filters – Know if you need standard filters and create them ahead of time
- View templates
- Project template
- Duct Styles
- Pipe styles
- Family creation
Phase #2 - Goals
- Data mining/data reporting
At this point the low hanging fruit has been harvested, so to attain the goals above, a deeper understanding of the topics below are required. There has to be in intentional meeting of Revit experts and progressive engineers that can influence the status quo to change long entrenched processes. Think high level and have goals in mind to refine and streamline the everyday workflows in the office. Again, the personality of the firm will dictate the way the tools are used, but the tools are the same for every firm.
- Shared parameters
- Project parameters
- Electrical circuiting
- Electrical panel templates
- MEP settings
Phase #3 - Goals
- BIM / IPD
- Virtual calculations
- Virtual design with rendered reporting
Once the first two phases have been achieved, people get crazy ideas. This is good. Know that Revit likes things to be perfect before it produces perfect results. This is a big reason to have a proven track record of attaining the first two phases before launching into phase 3. Prove the concept on a small scale before attempting things on the biggest project ever. Well-picked pilot projects can very much influence the acceptance of new tools and processes in future projects. There are more possibilities than those shown below. At this point, the firm’s imagination is all that restricts the possibilities.
Heating and Cooling Loads
- Solar studies
- Lighting calculations
- Family creation
- Standard subcategories
Phase #4 - Goals
- Upgrade and maintain
This is not really a phase as much as a constant issue. There are many facades to maintaining Revit. It is not uncommon to have to support four version of Revit at a consulting MEP firm. So be prepared to maintain differing family versions and templates. Know that Revit is new every year and upgrades mean small changes and sometimes big changes.
- Updates and service packs
- Maintaining multiple family versions
- Upgrading families
- Third-party tools for shared parameter manipulation
- Documenting standards as the software evolves
The point here is to take well thought out incremental steps. The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” applies. Do the homework up front and get buy-in from above. A well-run implementation will earn the respect from the floor.
Over-communicate all the way through the process. Surprises tend not to be pleasant when making big process changes, so let people know what to expect and when to expect. Follow up often and remind everyone of the progress that has been made as a firm and the progress people are making individually. People’s receptiveness to communication changes with their proximity to the issue. So training and communication is most meaningful when a project is going on.
Be relentless. This isn’t accomplished with a short burst of energy. It takes time, and it takes a leader who is consistent and persistent. Be the unwavering North Star that the firm will follow. Pick and stick, and people will follow.
Get a doughnut. That is, reward yourself. This isn’t easy, and nothing says “job well done” like a doughnut.