Collaboration: Making Views for Others to Use

For an experienced Autodesk® Revit® user, creating views for doing modeling work, producing documentation, and coordinating with other design disciplines is a straightforward exercise.  Revit was designed to be used in precisely this way, and without much practice it is easy to adjust the visibility and graphics overrides of a view to make it look exactly the way that is desired.

Once external Revit modeling information is inserted into a model as a link, things naturally get more complicated.  As shown below in Figure 1, Revit provides the Revit Links tab in the Visibility/Graphics Overrides window that allows manipulation of model information that originate from external sources.

Figure 1: The Revit Links tab of the Visibility/Graphics Overrides window

From a structural engineer’s perspective, the basic working knowledge of the Visibility/Graphics Overrides window is probably sufficient to complete coordination with other design disciplines and then get on with the structural design.  Rarely does model information from other design disciplines end up in the final documentation views that structural engineers use, other than perhaps the CMU layer of a multi-layered wall and the window/door openings from the architectural model. 

Yet what about the needs of the other design disciplines?  Are they getting what they need from the model? Is it sufficient to place the model on a server and let others figure out ways to display what they need from the model?

Full Team Collaboration

Full team collaboration involves more than placing the Revit Structure model on a server and offering its access to the team.  Conversely, how often does an inserted model seem to show some basic geometry, but perhaps not in a way to allow even simple coordination to take place, let alone at the correct level of detail to be used as a background within a view? 

There are two critical questions that need to be answered when looking downstream to keep team collaboration on the right path:

  1. What do others need from my model?
  2. How do they want that model information shown?

The answer to the first question is quite obvious to an experienced designer.  A responsible architect will want to see that the structural model has a foundation that properly aligns with the wall system that has been modeled.  The HVAC designer will need to know where the walls are and how thick they are going to be.  The plumbing designer will need to know how thick the floor is, if it is sloped, and where the plumbing will need to pass under/through the foundation. 

The examples above are a few of the many pieces of information that design disciplines try to extract from each other.  There are, of course, many other examples of design information that gets passed from one design discipline to another using the built-in modeling power of Revit.

Beyond just needing to know the information requested above, for many design disciplines the information that was requested will ultimately be used to form part of the background for documentation purposes.  The answer to the second question from above is critical to produce background information that is relevant, precise, and clear.

Customizing with Linked Views

Figure 2 shows how the walls from an architectural model often appear natively in the HVAC designer’s view.   The problem is that HVAC designers often do not want to see wall hatching, insulation details, or any other superfluous line work from the background model in order to make the HVAC model information properly stand out. 

Figure 2: This not how many HVAC designers want to see architectural or structural walls

While it is possible to adjust the way the wall is displayed for this particular example by manipulating the Visibility/Graphics Overrides settings and controlling the detail level of the linked model as shown in Figure 3, for more complicated linked model adjustments it can take several clicks through a few layers of menus.  This exercise can get tedious if there are a number of linked models that will be used in a particular view and if different graphics settings and overrides that need to be applied to make the background information appear in the desired way.

Figure 3: Adjusting the detail level or other graphics overrides of a linked model

Fortunately, with Revit there is an incredibly easy way to make linked content appear precisely as desired in a view with minimal input from the downstream designer.  By using the featured called Linked Views, the proverbial tables are turned and responsibility for manipulating the background view is placed on the design discipline providing the linked model.  Figure 4 shows where to reference a linked view from another model into the current view.

Figure 4: Using a Linked View

Creating Linked Views for Others

Figure 5 shows the walls in the way the HVAC designer wanted.  All the architectural designer had to do was duplicate the plan view that showed the walls and, for this example, turned the overall level of detail to a coarse setting.  The view was then renamed with something that the HVAC designer would easily recognize when linking the view, i.e., “…For HVAC.”

Figure 5: This is what the HVAC designer wanted (using a linked view from the architect)

In this example, the fundamental difference of having the architect manipulate the view as opposed to the downstream HVAC designer is that the person most familiar with the content is at the helm of the view changes.  Instead of trying to understand how every sub-module of Revit works, the focus of the designer can remain in her/his domain.

Understanding What Others Expect from Your Model

As was shown above, using linked views is not very complicated and is a pretty straightforward, built-in method offered by Revit to get the results that the overall team is striving for.  This method does require a slight change of approach, and clearly requires an advanced level of communication and mutual understanding between team members.

Whether regular formal Revit project team meetings are required or if more frequent informal individual conversations serve a better purpose, somehow the team members need to be aware of downstream needs of their models and at the same time not hesitate to communicate requests upstream.  The basic flow of information from one designer to another is vital to project success. The built- in tools of Revit will help take care of the rest.

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