What Makes Good Revit Content…And Who is Judging?

By Suzanne Painter-Supplee, LEED AP+ID&C, MHS, CFSP
A Revit library is a considerable investment in time and money for a manufacturer of commercial kitchen equipment. Hardly a one-time deal, upkeep is ongoing as new products are added, discontinued, exported to other countries, Revit version and/or FCSI standards change. More than 3D modeling, problematic content irritates the user or worse, uncorrected errors can find their way to installations where costs could be incurred to field-fix. Until content is correct, errors can multiply across numerous projects and geographies and the manufacturer has fewer options for alternative use of the library.

Sneeze Guards on the Floor?  Sideways airpot? Red Box Clearances?
I’ve seen sneeze guards on the floor, improper placement, countertop equipment embedded in counters, drop-in wells in counters so you can’t see the well, cooking equipment placed too close to other pieces, dishwashers so close to the wall that service would have to be done by the Thin Man, or if placed in another direction, scrap screens would be harder to remove. A real barrel of laughs, countertop equipment that lands on top of a sneeze guard because it was created as face-based. They often land on the floor. While some content libraries allow the consultant to name the insertion height, most do not.

Placement issues are minor because they are easy to catch in other views, IF the designer looks at all views, so fixable in the project rather than having to fix each family. Content is upgraded to the current version as the consultant uses it, but it will load more slowly stalling the drawing, or ‘break’ in such a way it cannot be used at all.
It’s what you DON’T see in the content that should have you worried. Worse, you must have Revit to see or fix the issues, and most manufacturers don’t because they aren’t architects.

So, MANUFACTURERS,  why are you just finding this out NOW? Why didn’t anyone using your Revit library say anything? Because the user either misses the problem, particularly if new to foodservice, OR, more likely, they don’t have time to wait for YOU to fix it, or for that matter, just get back to them, and when you do,  you don’t understand the issue anyway. Would you even know HOW to fix it or even direct someone to do so? Do you have to issue a PO? What perils small and large await if you don’t make corrections?
Testing Your Revit Library
While content creators test the work, and present PDF’s for engineering review, they are not experts in YOUR product. Nor are the Revit operators working for consultants. Consider how user-friendly your library is and what you can do to make your products easier to specify.

In a recent review of multiple brands, other than most not updated since Revit 2012, here are the most frequent catches:(
• Missing utility information when the product requires a utility (gas, water, drain, boosters, voltages, amps)
• Missing data specific to dishwashers, incoming water temperature requirement (important for building hot water heater sizing and distance)
• Missing door swings, or drawer clearance
• Wrong ‘material’ used for clearances. One major manufacturer’s clearance for a countertop item actually cut a hole in my counter!
• Face-based families (a royal pain to work with)
• Too much detail that increases file size over 1mb
• Improper naming conventions. Approved: QF_Brand_Model. QF identifies the equipment as Foodservice-Specific in the broad Autodesk category of “Specialty Equipment”. Some have mistakenly used ‘generic’ equipment and found those products wouldn’t schedule.
• Inability to schedule an item number (wrong parameter used)
• Inability to ‘tag’ because the family template used was wrong
• Cold water incoming temperature & water quality requirements, exhaust clearances for ‘breathing’ (ice makers)
• Not using FCSI/NAFEM approved material library & in some cases naming materials using brand
• Not assigning materials at all (ok if not named)
• Sub-categories improperly named resulting in multiples showing up in the project
• Descriptions-all over the place & inconsistent with other manufacturers
• Drop-in equipment that does not ‘cut’ its host. (was not available for Specialty Equipment until Revit 2014)
• Incomplete or unclear use or lack of use altogether of type catalogs. (Item 1 had a very descriptive type catalog so finding my model & knowing it was correct was very easy.)


In the sample below, I sought an electric 44” conveyor dishwasher, 208/3 with a built-in 70 degree rise booster. Easy, right? I used the same library to retrieve all but one of the dishwashers and lo and behold, the booster utilities were missing from five of them. So who pays for the utility run to support 25-30KW? Someone not familiar with food equipment might not have the knowledge of what is typical. What about the connections? Is the booster on its own?

If the designer has to pull a cut sheet for every single piece of equipment that goes into his drawing, it takes time away from his project. Worse, changing manufacturer-supplied families could result in errors that the consultant now owns. You may think this is extreme, but I’ve witnessed it and a manufacturer could be charged back for such errors.
Worse but not uncommon, rather than ‘hide’ clearances and other annotations, in use, the Revit operator deletes them purely for aesthetics.

Despite specifically searching for models with built-in boosters, selections were correct based on spec sheet information. As per foodservice equipment Revit standards, machine guts like internal boosters aren’t shown, although the connections for them should be and they aren’t. Not all show clearances: height, distance from wall, etc.

In the generated schedule, based on data in the families, no model or brand had all elements correct or depicted, and only items 1 & 7 account for the booster, a 15-30 watt mistake, and have the correct incoming water temperature. Only items 2, 7 & 8 have a parameter assigned for GPM, critical for dishwashers, nor are any of these referenced in “comments.” I’ve seen projects with two booster heaters as a result. Consultant specifying a unit with a built-in booster, its utilities not scheduled, so a booster gets added!

Don’t try to read the detailed schedule, just look for the yellow indicating missing, but necessary information. If I was using this for a competitive comparison, this would be a lot of work to fix, IF I decided to fix it. Or I could just make the manufacturer look BAD. Regardless, it reflects a manufacturer’s product: if you miss the small stuff, what about the big stuff?

Blue arrows indicate where clearances were shown in families. Only two showed door clearances (ceiling height, door swing if doors are hinged.) Three show NO clearances!

Billable Time Spent Correcting Manufacturer Content
Designers finding deficiencies, can usually make the corrections themselves, but it involves leaving the project, pulling a spec sheet, and opening up each model family. TIME! BUT, when information is missing from the spec sheet, a consultant nor content creator won’t, nor be expected to catch it.
Deficiencies including inconsistent naming of subcategories, requires checking every family to find the ‘perps’ and eliminating the subcategory. Why is this important? If you want to hide clearances for the purpose of a render or realistic view presentation piece, just like they do to hide walls and ceilings should be able to with one click, not several. Multiple names clutter the project too, vexing some designers. Deference to layering as is done in AutoCAD is up for debate.
If a manufacturer expects to repurpose content in sales drawings and competitive comparisons, the data needs to be there. Often considered “just 3D, higher LOD (Level of Detail), the geometry could all be boxes as long as the data is there because “You” will tell that box what it is.


What’s the Next Move?

Perhaps the worst thing that could happen is that you’ve made significant changes in a model (manufacturer), enough to affect a schedule or dimensions. The consultant specifies that the “newest model be the one supplied.”  Who  PAYS?

How can we all do better? If you are a manufacturer, follow this advice:
• Learn Revit or appoint someone in your organization to learn it at the very least to police your content, possibly update content, make sales drawings, make minor corrections. Some instructors offer foodservice-specific or Customized- To- Your -Product or Category training. (Shameless plug!)
• Hire a third-party Revit reporter (Shameless plug!) to run version reports, object styles, materials, file sizes (under 1 mb.) and test in several types of projects & Revit versions, with assorted scheduling fields, using FCSI Shared parameters. Review the report with others in your company. For the FIRST FIVE manufacturers who contact me regarding this matter, I will review five of their models free, but it might not be happy talk you get back.
• Ask your Revit reporter to pull similar products from competitors to see side by side. To test stainless, do a drawing with products & brands likely to be in a lineup with your products, i.e. dishwashers & dish TABLES.
• Upgrade/Update your content, first to Revit 2014 or 2015, then to correct and enhance it. The best content is easy to identify quickly the right model for the job, in categories that are recognized, not proprietary to YOU. In most cases, geometry is reusable as long as the correct template was initially used.
• Keep it up to date per FCSI/NAFEM Revit standard to be no more than 2 versions behind Autodesk’s current version. Only in rare instances would a complete do-over be necessary.
If you are a consultant, architect, contractor or dealer-designer:
• Share with reps whose content works best for them and why. Is it easier to use, correctly formatted and named per standards, with clearances, door swings, cut outs and other details affecting installation included.
• If there is a problem with a library in general or families, TELL the manufacturer, even if you fix it to use in your project, or their library won’t get better.
• If you can, demonstrate content problems for your factory representatives. Let them see what kind of time you spend to specify their products using their library. Empathy Sells!

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