Revit Structural 2021 for Beginners

Several years ago, my firm made the choice to switch from Microstation to Revit.  The biggest challenge of this switch was understanding that Revit was NOT a new 3D drafting tool.  Understanding that there was so much more to Revit than just a 3D model of a building.  Some of the things that we looked at were Intelligent Schedules, COBIE data, Live Renderings, IPD Workflows, integration with engineering analytical software, early coordination to resolve clash conflicts, and the list goes on.    

This article will focus mainly on tips for those beginning to use Revit Structural.   The planning and startup process, looking into different analytical applications that integrate with Revit Structure, and the workflows with design staff.  

Beginner Tips - Projects

So, you have Revit installed, now what?  What is the next step from here?  What is the plan to get Revit deployed to your firm and start utilizing the tools for more than just developing construction documents? We started by:

  • Developing a small list of individuals to be trained
  • Deployed Revit to those individual’s systems
  • Developed a training plan
  • Developed firm wide templates
  • Developed firm wide BIM standards
  • Picked a pilot project
  • Evaluated the pilot project upon completion
  • Made changes and rolled out to the rest of the firm

Where/How did we begin?  The first thing we had to understand was that Revit is more than a 3D drafting tool.  Some people saw Revit as the next CAD tool.  Revit is so much more than a CAD application.  Understanding what Revit is, and can do, was an important first step in our development. Some of the goals we wanted to achieve with the switch to Revit were, to develop intelligent models and drawings.  Develop better coordinated documents with fewer RFI’s and less conflicts between disciplines.  These are just a few of our goals in switching to Revit from true CAD applications to start out.

We wanted to get a pilot group up and running quickly. So, we had someone come in and hold an initial weeklong training session for our core group of employees and BIM Management staff that would be involved in the pilot project.  The plan was to pick a small project that was not too complex, and the team could get their feet wet with to develop some good workflows and learn what worked and what did not work. This could be shared with the rest of the group before bringing others in and teaching them.

We spent the time to develop our structural template that contained a majority of the families that would be used on 90% of our projects (or what we anticipated we would need for a typical project).  The first template we developed was heavily loaded full of data that as time went along, we discovered was not the best approach to the project template.  Talking with Autodesk and others we met at AU, we learned that the leaner the template is, the faster the model would be on the project.  On smaller projects we did not notice the issue as much, but as we started doing larger and larger projects, this became more obvious.

BIM standards, not the same as the old CAD standards, but similar.  BIM Standards do not just involve components of the model (symbols, linetypes and styles), BIM standards involve Hold Harmless agreements on how the model will be shared with contractors, subs, and clients. The development of a BIM Execution Plan and LOD documents for projects with the integration of Revit with other applications such as BIM360 and Structural Analytical applications like RAM, RISA, ADAPT and ROBOT.  This is the plan for BIM projects and how they will be setup, managed, and delivered for the project team after the completion of the project.

The pilot project we chose was a small, simple project.  During the kickoff meeting with the team, we discussed goals for the project that we wanted to accomplish during the project.  The reason behind this is that there are so many moving parts to a full BIM project, that we did not want to take on too much in the first project.

  • Model all concrete and main steel members
  • Use live schedules
    • Column schedule
    • Footing schedule
  • Convert standard CAD details to Revit details
  • Develop construction documents for project delivery

After the project was completed, we called the team together to review the project, listen to the team, and discuss:

  • What worked, what did not work?
  • What would you change for the next project?
  • What training needs do you think would have helped?
  • Develop a plan to address issues before the next project or bringing others on board?

After we addressed the issues that were brought up at the evaluation meeting, we discussed plans to bring others on, and training for the next group of designers and engineers to use Revit.  We also developed a small committee of users from the pilot group to task them with developing and converting CAD details to Revit details.

By converting, what is meant is NOT bringing a CAD detail into Revit, but we took the time to re-draw the details from scratch using Revit Detail Items.  Doing this ensured that our new standard details for all projects moving forward were clean and ready for use.  We previously tested converting the CAD details and found that our models were plastered with linetypes and CAD layers from the original CAD details.

Working toward the second project, with the same team, we developed some additional goals for the project team:

  • Develop custom tags for beam labels
  • Develop additional schedules
  • Utilize a structural analytical model for the development of the Revit Structural model
  • Develop braced frame elevations from the model

The development of the custom tags was to make the tags look more like the text labels we had in CAD.

Figure 1 – Customized Beam Tags

For this project we added a reinforced concrete wall schedule, concrete beam schedule and post tension beam schedule.

The BIG thing we added to our workflow on this project, was the ability to reuse and utilize the engineering model without having to model the steel structure in Revit. This saved a TON of time on the project schedule.  We were able model the structure using RAM Structural Systems, a Bentley engineering application for analyzing the building structure.  Utilizing the structural model is the big difference between CAD and BIM.  Reusing data when possible will eliminate errors and omissions of the manual process of developing a model like old school methods of taking a paper drawing and stick build the model.

We also developed our braced frames from framing elevations in the model and then setup the views, tagged them, and placed them on the designated sheets.

With each of the first few projects we did, we made it a point to sit down as a team after the project was finished to do a debriefing to see what could be made better.  This process happened until we moved everyone over to Revit and had people up to speed on the best workflows.  With all the jobs we have done over the last several years, we still do training.  Each new version they improve workflows and tools, new features, and add-ins all the time to help automate and improve workflows of doing repetitive tasks.  We live in a world now where we no longer rely on the CAD drawings.  Now the model is just as important as the drawings.  We are asked to push projects out faster than ever before and minimize RFI’s.  The only way to continue to do that is to fully understand how the tools work and find ways to do our jobs as efficiently as possible. 

One of the biggest pieces of advice in closing, would be to keep your models as clean as possible.  Make sure to do model maintenance regularly, keep up to date with patches and versions and follow best practices to keep things moving smoothly.

Kenn Farr is currently Senior BIM Technology Analyst - Practice Technology Group w/ 13+ yrs of experience at Gresham Smith. Involved in troubleshooting, training, development, implementation, and support with the building engineering groups. Kenn has over 26 years of experience in the AEC industry.

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