I have read several blogs discussing the roles and responsibilities of an office BIM Manager, BIM Coordinator, BIM Specialist, or whatever the title may be for the Autodesk® Revit® “go to” person. One task on that long list of responsibilities is to manage all the different files associated with Revit. The other task that goes hand in hand with it is maintaining company BIM standards. This has been my responsibility at a mechanical and electrical consulting engineering firm for the last two years.
This article is intended to be a launch pad for those just starting out and to get those already started thinking about how they are doing things. The best place to begin is with the Project Template file (or files). One choice to make is deciding if it makes sense to have one master template file, or one per project type. Developing organized processes will be another big underlying task that spreads into every part of management, as I think you’ll see.
Revit has several types of template files. There are project templates, family templates, and annotation templates. Each version of Revit has new template files that are updated for the current version. These templates should be modified to match company standards and as such, every user in the company will need access to these files. From the big Revit R on the top left of the ribbon, there is an options button which will give you access to the File Locations tab. From there, default locations for these files can be set to a location on the network. It would be wise to make these files read only except by those you want editing them. Also, these locations can be saved into the Revit.ini file prior to deployment, saving time for offices with many users.
What should be in your template files? I say, as much as you can put in it. Anything that will be used on most of the projects you work on should be loaded once now, or every time you need it on every project. This philosophy is well explained by Aaron Maller’s blog on project templates at http://malleristicrevitation.blogspot.com. This includes tags, details, schedules, duct and piping system types, fittings, air terminals, lights, electrical panels, receptacles, coversheets, floor plans (placed on sheets, even if empty), details sheets, and anything else you might need on every project. Think of it like this: how close to finished can this template project be before any work is done? How about some design tools as well? Go ahead and create some views to be used with assisting the design such as a first floor plan view with a duct legend already loaded and the settings preset and standardized. The same could be done for piping, plumbing, and so on. Lighting could already have a view setup to display light levels per space.
Lighting Levels per Space
If there are any tools you find yourself or others creating on every project, add it to the template and save time on the next project.
Surely you have spent hundreds of hours developing a library of families to be used on all projects. Where do you keep them? Each release of Revit requires the files to be updated. Otherwise you have to wait for them to be updated on demand each time they are used. I start out by copying the out-of-the-box library to a file on the network, and then I copy my existing library to a subfolder of the same directory. Then I upgrade the previous library (using the automated script provided with the installation) to a file within the out-of-the-box content. Finally I point the Library Path (found under “Places” on the File locations Tab) to the company library file. Then should I need something from the OOTB content, I insert as normal, but only need to press the up arrow on the file browser dialog to get to the OOTB location; very convenient. Another thought—as you are building content that requires the use of annotation symbols, save a copy of the annotation symbol and place it on your new symbols and abbreviations page.
Now how about the volumes of vendor-provided content? I love that they are on board with Revit and are making content for us. That makes our models much more accurate. A word of warning: while some of this content is ideal, some of it is less so for a variety of reasons. In all cases, they likely do not match, or even come close to matching, your company standards. So plan to adjust pen weight assignments, connector type and value settings (very often ignored), and add any shared parameters used for scheduling.
In all fairness these settings could not have been built into the parts and satisfy everyone’s different standards. Next, the parts will need to be flexed—make sure they can stretch and adjust as expected. Lastly, make sure they are not too detailed. If every nut bolt and screw is modeled, the file size will likely be an indicator. About the worst family file I have seen available for download was an AutoCAD polymesh’s that had been exported out and loaded into a generic family (with each size change loaded as a separate polymesh). They printed as black blobs of toner and had huge files sizes.
So now that some ideal content has been found and modified to meet the company standards, either adopt them as part of your standard library or keep them separate in a nearby location. I keep ours on the first level of our company standards directory and call it vendor-provided content.
One big reason to keep it separated is to allow for the Franken-unit. The what? Many jurisdictions, state, and federal projects require three or more equivalent models of equipment to be interchangeable for use on any project. This is an attempt to keep a level playing field and prevent unfair favoritism. However, this means while we have this nice accurate vendor-provided equipment that fits perfectly in the ceiling from vendor A, Vendor B, who is 6 inches deeper, might win the project. And if theirs doesn’t fit, it’s our fault. To account for this on most pieces of equipment, we a create a Franken-unit that has the worst dimensions of all the possible bidders for a given project. This makes a strong argument for building your own parts and pieces.
Details & Schedules
Don’t worry about details and schedules—there is already a system in place for the AutoCAD® ones, and you can just import/link those into your projects. Blasphemy! Okay, that does work in a pinch, but don’t let that become standard operating procedure. Bite the bullet and create them in Revit. It is absolutely worth it. Don’t object on the grounds that you don’t want to maintain two libraries of details and schedules. I agree—don’t maintain two libraries. Revit can export out any detail or schedule needed in AutoCAD format, but AutoCAD cannot make a Revit file. So maintain one library in Revit. Then you gain efficiency threefold. First, you don’t have the memory issues related to having several AutoCAD files linked/inserted into your project (they bloat the database). Second, you don’t have to spend time modifying and reinserting the AutoCAD files so they print right for every Revit project you get. Finally, you can use the “Insert Views from File” tool under the Insert tab. From there, just point to the Revit Library file containing your Details and Schedules, and check the boxes for the ones you want in the current project. After they are loaded in the project browser, simply drag and drop them onto the sheets in the order desired, and voilà, done. One quick tip: in the Library file, you can specify a “name on sheet” that is different than the View name. Using this, you can name your views with a prefix that helps organize the details and the titles display as desired (without the prefix).
Organization will set you free
A system of nomenclature will need to be developed to handle the following: Filters, Systems, Detail Line Styles, View Templates, Worksets, Annotation Symbols, and Shared Parameters, just to name the major ones. Have you ever needed a tool you couldn’t find, but know you had one perfect for the job? It’s infuriating and time wasting. Not only do you waste time looking, but then you have to recreate it if you fail to find it. Having a system in place for naming the tools is invaluable for saving time and frustration. For filters I like to follow the convention of: X_Object Effected_How Effected, where X indicates a Discipline Designator. So an example would be H_Duct System_Isolate. There are many different systems for each of the object categories; what works best for your firm will likely be different. Just try to keep it simple.
Trying to match the company font standard for drawings is one of the most difficult “simple” tasks I have come across. The challenge isn’t just in changing a project setting, but in changing the font in every annotation family that will be loaded in a project. Any symbol that is using an annotation symbol with a piece of text in it will need to have the font changed. Every schedule that is created will need to be changed to the standard font. There are many places that must be updated to maintain consistency with fonts. Next, if you do decide to change the fonts, be sure to test them. Do the “I”s look like “1”s? When printed, do the periods disappear because they are too small for the printer? Remember that contractors are often reading copies of our paper drawings—do the periods disappear when copied? That could make a huge difference on your schedules if the values are off by a couple of decimal places. A cooling coil flow value of 3.6 GPM becomes 36 GPM. Last, I should mention that Revit only supports True Type fonts. The big drawback for companies converting from AutoCAD is the font of Romans. It is a very commonly used font in the industry and it is not a True Type font. This muddies the waters with recreating AutoCAD details in Revit.
You have control over how the project browser organizes your views and sheets. Using this you can organize any project in a fashion that makes sense to you or for the project. If any of the out-of-the-box settings don’t meet your needs, you can always add a project parameter to your views or sheets and create a new organization that sorts by the project parameter you created. So you really do have full control over how they get organized. Why not create a category of views as design tools? It sure would be nice if the print dialog could take advantage of this organization. That’s on my wish list.
Implementing Revit MEP in an office is as major a change as converting from pencil and paper to AutoCAD 25 years ago. Plan on spending at least six months to a year or more to get all of this set up and established. If you don’t understand anything mentioned in this article, then I encourage you to get training on it. These are the foundations you are building that will impact the efficiency of your firm for years to come. This is a huge undertaking involving lots of change. William Deming said it best, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” With that, I encourage you to do it once and do it right. Good luck.