Promoting Industry Standards
Please consider the following information, which promotes BIM standardization within the AEC industry for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP). I highly encourage you to share this with your colleagues, consultants, and resellers to help promote this ambitious effort.
This is not a sales pitch for the MEP Productivity Pack (MEPPP) per se, but a call to action. We are giving away, for free, our Shared Parameters file, User Guide, and some reference material to promote and facilitate this cause.
The first three chapters of the free user guide document the standards used when creating the MEPPP. These standards will serve as a starting point as we continue to work with manufacturers and organizations in pursuit of Revit® standards for the mechanical and electrical industry. History (e.g., Autodesk® SEEK standard) shows us that standardized shared parameters alone are not enough to establish an industry standard. We need standardized shared parameters that are also developed into standardized schedules, standardized connector settings, and standardized formulas to truly pursue an industry standard.
So why would someone want a standard? The answer is simple—time is being wasted fixing content to schedule and propagate flows, which only hurts the bottom line. Firms are not using intelligent information in the models because it requires too much time to accomplish that.
Imagine a world where an engineer or designer can use any manufacturer’s family to drop in the model and have the family tag and schedule instantly, or even better yet, by having the schedule already filled in with actual selection information. Instead of spending valuable project time and budget to fix families and perform data entry, we should spend time reviewing selection information in the model, using intelligent information to propagate flow through systems, and reviewing clearances and layout for optimization. This is only possible if an industry standard is achieved.
There is no better place to begin this discussion than standardized shared parameters.
In the words of Autodesk, “Shared parameters are parameter definitions that can be used in multiple families or projects. The shared parameter is a definition of a container for information that can be used in multiple families or projects.”
Think of shared parameters as the connectors of information in the BIM world. They connect information in the Revit families, to information in the tags, to information in the schedules. These containers of information all have very specific data types, which allow engineering calculations to be performed in the model. An airflow data type, for example, is uniquely different from a number data type. Figure 1 shows a sample of some of the different data types available for shared parameters. The key element to standardized shared parameters is utilizing the right data types for each possible piece of information. It is also important to not use “units” in shared parameter names since units can be changed in the project, making the shared parameter value and name invalid.
Shared Parameter Goals
So what were the main goals and objectives when creating the mechanical and electrical shared parameters for the MEPPP?
- Preserve proper data types.
- Use names that are clear and easily understood by users.
- Keep names short enough to be easily read in any of the many Revit windows displaying them.
- Use names that don’t contain “units” so the name is always valid in the project and also compatible with the Metric system.
- Use tooltips for clarifying abbreviated shared parameters and also for instructions to users.
- Use hidden shared parameters to declutter the properties window for users in the project.
Abbreviations Based on ASHRAE and NECA
After multiple iterations, over the years, of developing master shared parameters, the parameter name length has been the most challenging goal.
Thus, the ideal scenario is to abbreviate names. But which standard should be followed?
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is recognized as a leading organization in our industry with extensive development of standards currently being used across the globe. The 2017 ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals includes Chapter 38: Abbreviations and Symbols. This chapter was used as the foundation for abbreviations in the MEPPP shared parameter file. Similarly, the electrical abbreviations are based on National Electrical Code (NEC) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) standards. As shown on the left in Figure 2, this has dramatically cleaned up parameter names in Revit windows while still keeping parameter names in line with what the industry already knows and accepts.
The MEPPP Shared Parameter File
The current release of the MEPPP has taken the need for intelligent parameters to another level. We have Articulated Cartesian Arms with super flexibility that require a great quantity of hidden parameters containing formulas; we have autosizing Air Terminals and Equipment that rely on parameters with tooltips to help users through the autosizing process; and we have engineering equations in many families that heavily rely on shared parameters with proper data types.
So, here is what we ended up with, which hopefully is the beginning of an industry standard:
- Over 2,000 shared parameters with implemented abbreviation standard from ASHRAE (2017 ASHRAE® Handbook - Fundamentals Chapter 38 Abbreviations & Symbols & ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013).
- Electrical parameters and symbols are based on NEC and NECA.
- Over 500 shared parameters include tooltips.
- Over 500 shared parameters are invisible in project to provide the user the cleanest environment in the model.
ASHRAE, NECA, and Autodesk: we need your help in pursuing an MEP industry standard for Revit. We look forward to further collaboration and engagement.
We also need MEP engineers, designers, and contractors to continue to reach out to their contacts at ASHRAE, NECA, Autodesk, and manufacturers to help consolidate everyone’s effort. There is a clear benefit for the manufacturer to follow a widely adopted standard that is being used by engineers. Better and more compatible families developed within a standard increases their chances of being the basis of design and scheduled on the drawings, which is a step above making it into a specification.
This discussion has already started with manufacturers, but you can still send them this MEPPP Information Kit and tell them to contact CTC Software (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would welcome a continuation of this important discussion.
Figure 2 shows how the MEPPP shared parameters file is organized.
Download the Free MEPPP Information Kit
To help facilitate this standard please download and review our 269-page MEPPP User Guide, the Shared Parameters file and lists/examples: family list, view template list, schedule and detail example PDFs, and much more.
With this information in hand we, Blake Guither (Gausman & Moore), Dan Stine (LHB), and Shawn Zirbes (CTC Software), hope you will join us in this important endeavor to make our industry more efficient!
Daniel John Stine AIA, CSI, CDT, is a registered architect with more than 20 years of experience in the field of architecture. He is the BIM Administrator at LHB, a 250-person full-service design firm. In addition to providing training and support for four offices, Dan implemented BIM-based lighting analysis using ElumTools, early energy modeling using Autodesk Insight, virtual reality (VR) using the HTC Vive/Oculus Rift along with Fuzor & Enscape, Augmented Reality (AR) using the Microsoft Hololens, and the Electrical Productivity Pack for Revit (sold by CTC Express Tools). Dell, the world-renowned computer company, created a video highlighting his implementation of VR at LHB. He has presented internationally on BIM in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Slovenia, Australia and Singapore. Dan was ranked multiple times as a top-ten speaker by attendees at Autodesk University, RTC/BILT, Midwest University, AUGI CAD Camp, NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference, Lightfair, and AIA-MN Convention. By invitation, he spent a week at Autodesk’s largest R&D facility in Shanghai, China, to beta test and brainstorm new Revit features in 2016. Committed to furthering the design profession, Dan teaches graduate architecture students at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and has lectured for interior design programs at NDSU, Northern Iowa State, and University of Minnesota, as well as Dunwoody’s new School of Architecture in Minneapolis. As an adjunct instructor, Dan previously taught AutoCAD and Revit for 12 years at Lake Superior College. Dan is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), and Autodesk Developer Network (ADN), and is a Construction Document Technician (issued by CSI). He has presented live webinars for ElumTools, ArchVision, Revizto, and NVIDIA. Dan writes about design on his blog, BIM Chapters, and in his textbooks published by SDC Publications.