Adding a Beam to a Beam Family

Typically, in structural framing plans when indicating a beam above or below your modeled beam(s), users tend to just add a 2D line adjacent to the beam(s). On the one hand, this is an easy solution; on the other hand, you run the risk of having an errant line on your drawings if that beam were to move or be deleted. The following is a step-by-step instruction for adding the 2D line directly to the Beam family with the ability to turn it on/off and to offset the beam all within the Family Properties.

Duplicate a Beam Family

For the purpose of this exercise I duplicated the W-Wide Flange beam family found in the Imperial Library under Structural Framing. Do a “Save As,” rename the beam family, and save in your appropriate family/ project folder.

Figure 1: Beam Save As

Create Shared Parameters

The purpose of creating these Shared Parameters is to control the visibility of the 2D lines that represent a structural beam above or below another beam.

While in the Family Editor, click on the Manage tab, Shared Parameters, and click on the Create button in the top right. Create a Shared Parameter.txt file and name it BM Abv. (Beam Above); save this file with the Family file. Create a Parameter Group and name it Beam Annotations. Now click the New button under the Parameter category and assign the following properties to your Shared Parameter file: for the Name we will name the file BM Abv; for the Discipline it will remain as Common; and for the type of Parameter we will assign Yes/No. Click Instance as the type and  click OK.

Figure 2: Beam shared parameters

Now click on the Family Types icon and click on the New Parameter icon on the bottom left. The Parameter Properties prompt will appear. Select the Shared Parameters button, then the Select button, and load your Shared Parameters file. Under Parameter Data, Group Parameter Under: select Graphics.

Figure 3: Beam shared parameters

Repeat this function and create a separate Shared Parameter called BM Blw (Beam Below).

Create Family Parameters

Similar to creating the Shared Parameters we will also create Family Parameters to control the offset dimensions for the 2D lines. Click on the family Types icon and click on New Parameter in the bottom left. The Parameter Properties prompt will appear. By default, the Family Parameter will be selected. Now let’s populate the Parameter Data. Under Name let’s call it Dist Btwn BMs Abv. (Distance between beams above). Discipline will remain Common, Type of Parameter will be Length, and Group Parameter Under will again be Graphics. Click Instance as the type and click OK.

Figure 4: Beam family parameters

Repeat this function and create a separate Family Parameter called Dist Btwn BMs Blw (Distance between beams below).

Create a Line Type for 2D Beam

In the Family, the line you will use to represent the beam above or below must match the line type you use in your project template. For this example, I am matching our Girder type. In my Project template file, I click on the Manage tab, Object Styles and I scroll down to Structural Framing to review what my Girder line type is set to. In the Family click on the Manage tab, Object Styles, and select New to create a new line. Call the line Girder and assign the same Line Weight, Line Color, and Line Pattern as the Project Template file.

Figure 5: Beam family parameters

Add Graphics and Assign Parameters

We are now ready to start drawing our “beams” and assigning the parameters we created so we can graphically control how we represent beams above or below in our framing plans. Click on the Annotate tab, Symbolic Line and draw a “beam” the same length and above (Plan North) as the modeled beam. Click on the line. In Properties, click on the Visibility/Graphics Overrides tab. Make sure the Detail Levels are only set to Coarse and Medium, click OK. Under Visible, click on the small Associate Family Parameter button and select the BM Abv Parameter.

Figure 6: Beam family parameters

Repeat these steps and create a “beam” below (Plan South) and assign the BM Blw parameter.

Next, we will assign the Family Parameters to control the dimensional offset of the beams. Click on the Annotate Tab and select the Aligned Dimension. Add a dimension from the center line of the modeled beam to the centerline of the Abv (Plan North) 2D beam. Click on the dimension and assign the Dist Btwn BMs Abv parameter. Repeat the same process to the beam below using the Dist Btgwn BMs Blw Family Parameter.

Figure 7: Beam family parameters

Figure 8: Beam family parameters

The completed family should look like Figure 9.  

Figure 9: Beam parameters complete

Parameter Review Prior to Use

Prior to loading the family into your project, you should confirm that the Value Setting for the BM Abv, Blw Parameters are Unchecked. This will ensure that when you load the family it will come in without the 2D linework.

Figure 10: Beam properties in project

Use of Family in a Project Environment

The family is ready for use in your project. Once in your project environment, click Insert, Load family, and navigate to the Beam family. Model your structural framing plans using this family and you now have the ability to add a beam, graphically, to your Beam family. Please note that this can be replicated into any Structural Framing family where you may need to indicate a structural member above or below.  

Alex Mercado has roughly 20 years of AEC experience with an emphasis on design, production, and BIM in Architectural, Structural, and Interior design. He is the BIM Manager at Pennoni Associates Inc.

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