Navisworks for Detailers

Navisworks® is a powerful tool that should not be limited to BIM managers. The misconception of all the responsibility for clash detection falling on BIM managers hurts coordination efforts. Detailers can and should incorporate Navisworks into their workflows to avoid clashes and speed up the coordination process.

The Weakest Link

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and a coordination is only as strong is its weakest team member. Anyone who has participated in a BIM coordination has seen the delays and complications that come from having even one weak team member. Delays to a coordination can come from members taking too long to populate a complete model, or not making adjustments to their model between meetings, or creating new hits every time they do make adjustments. I have worked as a detailer and a BIM manager and I have experienced the frustrations that both deal with. Whether you’re a manager or a detailer you know who’s the weak link during a coordination. If you have felt like the weak link before, don’t worry—Navisworks is here to help you become the one waiting on everyone else to finish.

Recently I have seen some confusion with regard to the responsibilities of BIM managers versus detailers. One of the main duties of a BIM manager is clash detection; clash detection however, is not the sole responsibility of the BIM manager. Even minor clash detection should be a common practice for detailers while modeling. Many, if not all, construction schedules are aggressive and do not allow time for a “complete” review of all clashes during meeting times. Effective meetings are spent covering large issues that require team collaboration. If that time is used looking at minor hits you will see meetings start to run four or more hours and become mind numbing. Detailers have the responsibility to correct those minor issues between meetings so that no time is wasted in meetings covering issues that can be fixed without help from other team members.

Here are some tools that detailers can incorporate into their workflows that will help them get the job done faster and right the first time.

Clash Detection

You should never be caught off guard during a meeting with a major issue related to your system. Who wants to feel like a fool when asked what to do with their system? No one wants that—you want to know, or at least have an understanding of your systems issues so you can contribute during the meeting. Basic clash detection should keep you aware of any issues related to your system. I won’t go into how to run a clash detection because there are many in-depth guides already out there to help you, but I do want to stress the benefits of running clash detection as a detailer.


Once you have found an issue through clash detection, one tool that will help you understand the issue and maybe more importantly recognize the solution is the sectioning tool. Using the align to surface or align to view options with the section tool will help you quickly cut an elevation view along your route. The goal for most detailers is to find that perfect space to run so they don’t have to add bends and offsets, and one of the best ways to recognize that perfect space is to cut sections along and through your route.

Figure 1: Sectioning tools


Once you have section cuts you can start to pull measurements using the XYZ axis locking features and shortest distance in the measure tools. You can quickly and accurately find how much space you have to work with and how far you need to adjust. But as good as the measuring tools in Navisworks are, there is a more effective way to find that perfect path. That method is through the Move tool.

Figure 2: Locking measurements

Play Pretend

The Move tool allows detailers to quickly play pretend with their systems and find that perfect path or the closest thing to it. They can easily visualize solutions and see if there systems will fit without having to pull a single measurement. Once a solution is found, the transform bar will show you exactly how far you need to move in the X, Y, and Z axis. Then when you have that information you can adjust your model and reset the transforms in Navisworks.

Figure 3: Getting the transform

Update and Refresh

Now that you’ve found the perfect path to route your system it’s time to update the model. For anyone using Autodesk® Revit® as the modeling platform it’s as simple as selecting the object you need to adjust and using the switchback command. For many detailers it’s not that easy—they have to find that piece manually. No matter what modeling software is used, there is one simple setting in Navisworks that should always be checked when working with NWC files. Under the options editor Model>Performance>On Load the check box that asks to close the NWC and NWD files on load should always be checked.

Figure 4: Options editor

Typically a detailer should have the modeling software open along with Navisworks. If the option to close NWC and NWD files is not checked, then Navisworks will prevent modeling software from copying over those model files. This means in order to update the NWC files you would have to close Navisworks then export an updated model and then reopen the NWF. This simple option allows detailers to simply copy over old NWC files and hit the refresh button in Navisworks.

If detailers incorporate Navisworks into their workflows they can flip back and forth between their modeling software and Navisworks and update instantly to make sure they get their systems placed right the first time. That is not to say that other systems won’t change and possibly cause more problems, but that can be minimized through frequent model posting from all team members, not just once a week.

And even if the rest of your team doesn’t update frequently or they cause hits when moving, it will still become clear that you are not the weakest link.

The Navis Ninja, aka Mark Hunter, is an innovative and talented Navisworks professional.  After being recruited by C.W. Driver as a BIM Manager, the Navis Ninja developed a new workflow for coordinating buildings that slashed the prep time in half.  Key to the Navis Ninja’s success was his ability to help his team members “take their blinders off” and shift the paradigm for coordination that made the process twice as efficient and twice as fun. Outside of coordinating some of the most complex and congested buildings for C.W. Driver, the Navis Ninja is known for vetting new technologies (i.e., integrating augmented reality through a high-end professional quadcopter) and constantly finds himself evading sleep while working on his next innovative project.  To follow and track some of the Navis Ninja’s latest developments, frequent Mark can also be reached at, or at 909.945.1919.

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