Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

In today’s world, although we create information-rich 3D models, we still need to submit 2D drawings. Plan view drawings should be presented in such a way that the information is clear and concise. As we all experiment the various ways to display Autodesk® Revit® information, we learn some procedures are better than others. Often the fastest way isn’t the best way and there is not a “one-size-fits-all” for every scenario. This article will share a few helpful tips on creating plan views, things to look out for, experiments to try, maybe break a few rules, and try to avoid some headaches.

Let’s Start Off on the Right Foot

There is a saying, “In order to go faster, you must go slower...” To bring clarity to your plan view you must investigate the following. What are the company standards for the various plan views? Are they documented in the office BIM/CADD Manual? Does a BEP (BIM Execution Plan) or MPS/LOD (Model Progressions Specification / Level of Detail) have it all spelled out for you?

Ask your fellow Revit experts how they overcome various visibility graphics issues. They may even be able to teach you a thing or two. At least you can get that conversation started with your team and avoid working in the dreaded BIM silo.

It’s good to open up dialogue even to debate how best to assemble and present that next complex model. Soon you could be joining forces, testing out ideas together, and improving workflows with your fellow Revit team members.

While resolving Revit visibility issues, based on the problem, you will get better at prioritizing the order of places to look first. One recurring snag to note is the incorrect discipline being utilized on objects and views. The discipline view property is initially set by the View Type chosen when the Plan is first created as an (architectural) Floor Plan or a Structural Plan (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Be sure to select Structural Plan. This will control the initial discipline visibility property of that view.

The plan view may have already been created based on the template utilized (Autodesk provides pre-created plans in its Structural Template as do most company templates.) You can check this by selecting a view in the Project Browser or by simply activating a view—now the view’s properties are available. Is the view property discipline set to Structural? How about the discipline of your elements? (See Figure 2.)

Many forget that walls must also be set to Structural for them to show up in a view also set to Structural—hence, why the Architectural walls do not show up on your Structural Plan unless the views discipline is set to “Coordination.” Good or bad, to utilize this option of the architectural walls, you will have to somehow get the specific architectural walls you want to be assigned as “Structural.” Time to coordinate!

Figure 2: Walls will only show up on the Structural Plan if they’re assigned as Structural (assuming the discipline is set to Structural).

Revit Linked Graphics in Construction Docs

In some scenarios, the architect has already created an Architectural Revit model that you’re then able to utilize for your own construction documents. All teams can save time by utilizing each other’s work already created, such as walls, roof outlines, footings, structural beams, etc. Some companies and Revit experts know how to utilize “Parts” and/or “Copy/Monitor” for various items, which I highly suggest learning and utilizing. After a few bad experiences some will argue “Copy/Monitor” should be used sparingly. I beg to differ; don’t give up, keep practicing, and become the expert.

Figure 3: Revit Link display settings.

After the link is loaded, within the view Visibility Graphics go to Revit links (see Figure 3), then 1) Select “By Linked View”; 2) Select the Linked View desired. Before the third step, apply the changes to the view and see how the view looks. Something to note is that that Linked View Plan displays just as the chosen view from the Link—annotation and everything. If the Linked View contains Plan Regions/Masking Regions or some other view range trickery, you’re seeing it because that is how you set it: by the linked view.

Now you can go back to the visibility graphics of the link and move on to step 3) Select Custom, and then go to town! Notice even though Custom is set, the view is still starting off with the Linked View and allowing you to edit from that point on. A good first thing to do is turn off the Architects annotation category. Next maybe thin up all the projection and cut lines, and maybe assign all architectural model categories to have 100 percent transparency. If you need to you can adjust the Wall Detail Level to Coarse. Some of these procedures can help bring clarity to your structural plans.

Figure 4: Visibility Graphics for Revit Links.

 Halftone or Underlay?

One project setup example is for the entire existing building to be modeled as its own external link. Before I could fully understand/embrace view filters and phase filters, I often used the halftone option for my Existing Building/Revit Link (see Figure 4). “Ahhh...” I remember thinking, “my first Revit battle has been won with the halftone check box—maybe this isn’t going to be so bad.” Boy, was I wrong. After a Print Preview, the existing edge of concrete line was plotted over the new concrete slab edge. This can be a problem as we want to see the extent of the new concrete slab. Understanding how to best control draw order will help your plans tell the story.

If you search the Autodesk Knowledge Network “Revit: Halftone/Object style gray line is printing on top of black lines” you will find Incident ID: 111621 – the Issue: Users reported that Halftone/Object style grey lines is printing on top of black lines. Status: No issue has been identified and the software is behaving as designed. For you old-school AutoCAD® users, this was overcome by overwriting your PC3 Properties...>Device and Document Settings>Graphics>Merge Control to Lines Merge. Revit does not have a way to globally control this, so one must learn how to best utilize draw order.

On plan views we should try not to fix visibility issues using the Linework tool or 2D detail lines. It is not fun keeping track of detail lines on plan views. Try to avoid this unless absolutely necessary. Eventually I learned the “Underlay” option is a better choice as it understands and plots as though it is “under” my more important information! (See Figure 4.)

Figure 5: Some halftones show up when utilizing blacklines, but grayscale is mostly used if grey shades are utilized.

Before you get too far, always check the printing settings (Figure 5) and the output of any halftones/gray scales. I’m always getting unexpected results. What you see in the view (on the computer) isn’t always what comes out on the PDFs or the full-size plots. Printing test plots is a good way to evaluate and refine your results. Remember, half-tones on half-size sheets are twice as dark!

Figure 6: When stacking the second view, notice the two blue location lines that help align and snap together the two views in each direction—north-south, east-west.

Stacking Views on Sheets

I wrote briefly about this in an AUGIWORLD 2012 article titled “Tips for Revit Project Management”

At that time, I called it “Overlaying Two Plans” and what I explained was the stacking of two (or multiple) plan views on a sheet (see figure 6). Since then I have learned ways to avoid this—or at least to not have to do this as much. This workflow can get you out of a pickle when the engineer asks to see a specific object from a linked model on the level above and/or below whilst also viewing structural elements, maybe with a completely different phase, view range, discipline, detail level, etc.

Some might say, “Stacking two views on a sheet = totally lousy answer” or "Overlaying two views is not a supported workflow." You can also read some funny debates on Revit Forum, but I think Steve Stafford said it best on his blog: “Folks get caught up in the notion that they ‘need’ to put all the pieces and parts in one view.” You can read more here:

Another good one—“ñññ”—can be followed up here:

Ever since I’ve started stacking plan views I’ve come across many scenarios in which it was impossible to show all the various family elements in the state or view range requested. Currently we only have control of one View Range per view, but you can also create a Plan Region with a different View Range. The new “Underlay” tool may support some workflows but will only provide you with so many visibility options. For some intricate projects it is impossible to have a mixture of info above and below a level (especially if it is utilizing a Linked View) to show up exactly how one wishes.

Utilizing stacking views with view templates, a project can contain typical plans for engineers to duplicate, rename, and stack for themselves (Figure 7).

Figure 7: You can see the draw order is based on which order the view is placed. Each view has its own Filled Region graphic to show you which view was placed first. Depending on what views need to be on top or bottom, you may need to delete the plan view that’s on the bottom and reapply it to the sheet so it shows up on top.

Depending on your workflow, if you’re having a problem seeing something below a floor or roof (or any other family), you may need to edit the transparency. Under Visibility Graphics>Model Categories>Projection/Surface, you will find the Transparency option that can be overridden to 100 percent, making items below visible.

Figure 8: Do you want that AutoCAD link to come in as 2D detail lines (current view only checked) or 3D model lines (current view only unchecked)?

Embracing the AutoCAD Link and Draw Order

Are you linking an AutoCAD file into Revit? Current View only please! This is my plea about 90 percent of the time. Slow down and be cautious when linking in a DWG. You must ask yourself: 2D or not 2D?

Another way draw order can throw you for a loop is when linking in .DWG files (Figure 8) with current view only not checked—you have different control of your DWG graphics. Do you really want this to happen? Many users often do this accidentally. Do you want to see these DWG lines showing up on unexpected views or just a few views? You can always link it in once to current view only—copy and paste to other views as needed.

Another way to overcome DWGs showing up in the wrong view is to place them on their own workset, which allows you to choose whether they are visible in all views. This way the workset will have to be purposely turned on in that view.

Figure 9: Select the DWG and adjust the draw order in both places; they’re two separate controls.

After linking in your AutoCAD file, current view only, select the DWG link and check the properties, as well as the ribbon. Notice the two locations to control DWG visibility to send to back or Draw Layer: Foreground (Figure 9). As you can see, linking a DWG current view only will allow that link to be utilized with draw order functionality.

Hide In View, by Element (aka Bad Habit #1)

While first learning Revit, you are trying to meet deadlines and not destroy the budget or killing yourself trying to make it work, you hopefully have come across these two gems: Hide in View and Override Graphics in View. And right below that, Override Graphics in View, by Element (aka bad habit #2). (See Figure 10.) If something on your plan view doesn’t look right and you run out of time trying to figure it out in visibility graphics, maybe you just want to Hide in View.

Figure 10: Select object and right-click, Hide in View or just Override Graphics in View, By Element. Like it says, you’re only modifying the graphics in this one view.

Since the beginning, these two puppies have got me out of some jams! Some might think I shouldn’t be teaching this, but hey, things happen and Autodesk wouldn’t provide the tool if they didn’t want you to use it! So when you’re running out of time, you can’t find the answer, after trying so long to hide or change the visibility graphics the correct way, you have to ask yourself: Will the building fall over?” Or can we just hide this object/change the visibility one way or another just to keep this ball rolling until we have time to figure out what’s really going on? Is it a big project? Will others be working on it? Can my action cause problems for others later? These are all things you must ask yourself before you push that button.

If you find yourself repeating the approaches I’ve described on a lot on projects, it may be best to think of a longer term solution such as a view template modification/creation and perhaps view filters, but don’t be scared to stack some views and break some rules.

Take control of your draw order as well as other various visibility graphics in unique ways when confronted with new challenges. Don’t fall victim to stating, “Revit just doesn’t do that.” Anything is possible!

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