Revit Family Attributes Unraveled

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In the January issue of AUGI HotNews, I addressed the question of whether the Revit community needed a marketplace for user-generated content. The answer was a resounding "Yes," but with an important caveat: to make such a marketplace work, the families would need to be quality-checked.

Revit Market, the marketplace we launched as a result of these findings, has grown at a brisk pace since then, with more than 1,000 assets published for download. We implemented a quality certification process in response to user requests, with a capability for visitors to search for certified assets only.

Now that the need for quality-checking has been addressed, we find ourselves dealing with a new issue: how to classify families so users can find what they need.

Labeling buckets

When deciding whether to download a family, you might ask:

  • Is it 2D only or is there a 3D view?
  • Does the family include Coarse, Medium, and/or Fine levels to retain readability when scaled?
  • Does the family include construction details?
  • How many parameters, and what are their names? Which ones can be edited?
  • If a 3D view is included, have materials been applied?

Ideally, when you're searching for a Revit family, you want to know which one of these buckets the family fits into. Our users seem to agree.

"Everything I do with Revit families relates to workflow," says Robert Cloward of Reved Up Families, a Revit Market publisher. "The best families are created with a specific purpose in mind. I want to know: Is it 2D or 3D? Will it have 25 extra parameters that I'll never use?"

To determine the best way to bucketize, I checked out other sites that offer Revit families for download. None of them provided the level of information we're talking about here. The families on these sites are free, so there's no liability in letting the user download it and figure it out later. Since Revit Market is a for-pay marketplace, we need to be smarter about it.

Other people’s buckets

There are already several classification methods in place for Revit content: MasterFormat, UniFormat, and OmniClass, and the family categories in Revit itself. While these systems are useful, they don't classify families according to the criteria above.

Nailing down family attributes became doubly important when we launched our Revit contest. With the influx of families being published, we have to make sure we get it right. Otherwise, we (or the publishers) will have to go back and update all the information later. Since we expect this marketplace to go well beyond 10,000 families by the end of the year, we need to address this issue very soon.

I decided to turn to our Revit Market users for answers. The result was a great deal of head-scratching and deep pondering; it seems that no one has ever tried to break down families to this level before.

"It's important for a family to be readable at all scales," comments Robin Ballew of Ballew Designs, in response to the Coarse/Medium/Fine question. "When I'm looking for a family to download, I'd like to know that the family's creator took that into consideration."

"A family that tried to do it all would get too bloated," says Paul Light, Assoc. AIA and Revit freelancer. "It's important that a family description shows the intended use: visualization, options for functional layout, materials shared by type."

"In large-scale projects, you might want simple 2D families to keep the file size low," saysRoger Cusson, an architectural industry consultant. "For visualization, detailed 3D families are necessary. You can't always tell from a thumbnail whether something is going to suit your needs." He went on to comment that in attempting to classify families beyond a category, Revit Market is "breaking new ground."

I am beginning to realize he's right.

Speak to me

To help me blaze this new trail, it became clear that I needed to run another survey, this time on Revit family classification. If you want to make your voice heard, you can take the survey here. When the survey closes on April 12, 2009, I’ll choose one survey respondent at random to receive a free TurboSquid T-shirt.

I also invite you to enter the Revit contest and to email me with your comments With your help, we'll crack the nut of classification and continue to make Revit Market an asset to the Revit community.

Michelle Bousquet is Director of Emerging Markets at

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