Building Your Revit Family Library: What to look for in a Content Creator

  • What to Ask
  • What to Demand
  • Delighting in the Results!

By: Suzanne Painter-Supplee, LEED AP+ID&C, MHS, CFSP

After all of the kicking and screaming to get your product’s Revit library budgeted for, you won.  Whether you are building the library from scratch or upgrading, everyone wins because your products will be easier to specify, and there’s sales/marketing benefit beyond consultants and design dealers using it. You may find that you’ll recoup the cost in unneeded photography and other sales literature, particularly if materials are properly created, and reduce installation errors resulting from bad or incomplete information.

Some manufacturers believe that only THEY can produce a worthy Revit library, AND that Revit families contain ‘proprietary’ information-that reverse engineering is possible.  That is not the case. Here’s why:

  • Engineers are not architects-there’s a difference between designing/building a product and designing a product INTO A SYSTEM known as a kitchen, with multiple brands, utilities, ‘rules’ and functions.
  • Steep learning curve to learn Revit, and very likely they don’t own the program.
  • INFORMATION is built into Revit families, not every PART is in the model, which is the case with engineering software like Solidworks, Inventor, ProE.
  • Engineers are less likely to fully comprehend NAFEM/FCSI Revit family standards
  • Tendency to have too much detail leading to inflated file sizes and unnecessary girth
  • AND, most often seen, your families may not schedule properly in a consultant/design-dealer’s schedule

So where do you start? Gathering the Information

Are your spec sheets up to date, including adding more information as recommended in the recently updated NAFEM/FCSI Spec Sheet Standards. https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/fcsi.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/Spec_Sheet_guidelines_revise.pdf

For each of the bullets below, there is a shared parameter available.  Frequently missing:

  • CFM/Exhaust Volume
  • Refrigerant VOLUME/CHARGE (extremely important for LEED, everything more than ½# counts. Many refrigeration companies only put this in their service manuals and on equipment tags, but that does not help the specifier.
  • Refrigerant TYPE  (Missing from the drawing below)

refrigerant-volume-type-missing

 

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The refrigerated drop in’s are missing their refrigerant type and charge.  In the lower pic, hot well, no PSI is listed and discharge temperature is inaccurate.  This would imply that the wells would be filled with water manually, and no water line run for them. Because the parameters are there, they can be changed, as long as they ARE!

  • Water QUALITY requirements. If soft water is recommended, make sure you say so. Filtered water is a shared parameter, and it is often overlooked.
  • Water DISCHARGE temperature. Drain water tempering is becoming more common.
  • Incoming hot water or chilled water requirements, both temperature and gpm
  • Water CONSUMPTION in gallons as well as water FLOW to the equipment
  • Clearances (typically designated for view as a subcategory)
  • Materials-utilize the FCSI library file. http://www.fcsi.org/about-fcsi/divisions/the-americas/revit-standards/
  • Do you have at least current 2D AutoCAD symbols, .dwg’s? This will save time and money.  Even more if what you have has utilities attached that schedule.  Those 2D’s from your library as they appear on KCL often do.  Do you also have symbols for any visible accessories that would be included as options?  Options that are visible are important, but those that are not but typically forgotten should be included.
  • Do you have an engineering contact available to answer questions? Keep in mind that content creators are not experts in your product, not all spec sheets scale properly, and verbiage can be confusing, not to mention utility requirements.

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Choosing a Content Creator

When Revit usage became popular in the consultant community, a new field emerged—food equipment-specific content creators.  While there are many content creators who freelance or are in of themselves large firms, it is important that your creator have knowledge of food service equipment, layout/design, and understand typical clearances that exist.  They will also have knowledge of the FCSI Shared parameters to be included.

The funny thing about getting bids/quotations from content creators is that they often have to actually build a family to determine how long it will take then price accordingly.  Some equipment is more complicated than others, and if it is from the same manufacturer, tiers for difficulty should be calculated.  Also, some geography will work for multiple products, where the differentiation may only be the data, or at most a shelving type, door/drawer option but everything else is the same.  This will involve creating a “type catalog.”  That’s a good thing because it is significantly easier for a designer to get the right piece when a type catalog exists.  It also becomes equally easy to switch if the voltage changes because it is only a matter of re-loading.

Evaluating Content Creators

It pays to at least select two contenders.  If you have a particularly large library it may be necessary to split the business, making some of the steps below absolutely mandatory.  Here goes:

  1. Ask your consultant/design dealers whose content is particularly easy to work with and find out who did it.
  2. Most creators will post their customers so find a manufacturer in the same product category and review their work. You can see thumbnails in KCL’s mobile app, which is free to download in the APP Store or Google Play.
  3. Be sure that the creator gets ALL of the relevant information that you’ve pulled together because it will impact pricing if they have to ‘dig’ or draw from scratch.
  4. Get a sample family of a piece of your equipment. Do not accept anything but a new family, in your equipment, with features, accessories and fully scheduled.  Note what VERSION it is created in. Creators should be using Revit versions no earlier than 2014-2015.
  5. If you have a desktop or laptop computer with a decent processor, download a trial version of Revit or Revit LT. Typically if you don’t buy the software, it becomes a viewer and there is a separate shortcut for the actual viewer. http://www.autodesk.com/products/revit-family/free-trial   If the family was made in an earlier version than what you download to try, DO NOT SAVE IT. Revit is not backwards-compatible. See the screenshots below regarding what to look for.
  6. If your families will be made in the current version of Revit, you can upload them here: https://a360.autodesk.com/viewer/ Your creator will need to send you the sample in PROJECT form, (.rvt rather than .rfa) which will allow you to see it schedule if you use this online viewer.
  7. If impractical to view the family in Revit, ask your creator for a PDF with a schedule in project mode. That is the preferred method for a manufacturer to check families before they are posted in online third party libraries or will be available on your website. Many creators also have software to create a 3D PDF.    It is a very cool way to review products in Revit because the utilities are reflected, you can look at them as solid, wireframe/transparent as well as shaded illustration.
  8. Make sure that the data associated with the family is actually “in” the family and not supplied by an external database. While an external database is by far the easiest way to get your Revit families updated quickly, you want the family to be usable in any third party program as well as standalone on your website.
  9. If your equipment has an Energy Star category, consider adding “Green Building Properties” to the parameters. This will be helpful in LEED projects.

windows-category-in-the-revit-master-parameter-list

FCSI/NAFEM has not yet added Green Building Properties to the Shared Parameter list but it is available via the Autodesk standards.  It is recommended at minimum for LEED projects in Retail, Hospitality, Schools, Healthcare & Commercial Interiors. Just because a parameter is in a family doesn’t require the user to use it, but it sure saves a step looking for it on an Energy Star listing.

  1. Ask the creator to also render the family.  This will have to be done in “project” mode, and it saves as an image file.
  2. Naming conventions.   Foodservice equipment is part of “Specialty Equipment.” QF specifically identifies it as foodservice equipment. Be sure the creator is using the Specialty Equipment template, names families properly (so they will schedule), and that no new families are “hosted.”

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FCSI/NAFEM has not yet added Green Building Properties to the Shared Parameter list but it is available via the Autodesk standards.  It is recommended at minimum for LEED projects in Retail, Hospitality, Schools, Healthcare & Commercial Interiors. Just because a parameter is in a family doesn’t require the user to use it, but it sure saves a step looking for it on an Energy Star listing.

 

  1. Ask the creator to also render the family.  This will have to be done in “project” mode, and it saves as an image file.
  2. Naming conventions.   Foodservice equipment is part of “Specialty Equipment.” QF specifically identifies it as foodservice equipment. Be sure the creator is using the Specialty Equipment template, names families properly (so they will schedule), and that no new families are “hosted.”

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Using Your Revit Families+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you distribute your families through a third party library, most content creators will offer to work directly with them by sending your approved families.  Those libraries will typically add links to spec sheets on THEIR sites.  So if you also want to have a link to it on your site, ask for that and supply your content creator with the URL’s.

If you wish to distribute your library on your website, here’s some tips:

  • Separate them into FOLDERS with descriptive names to make what the designer wants easier to find. Consider sub-folders, example, Door-Type Dishwashers, with subfolders for high temp, low temp, fill and dump.  If your product is hot food wells, for instance, “Hot Food Wells” with subcategories for the number of wells, and perhaps a further subcategory if there are wattage choices.
  • Create a .zip file for easy download. If you have a varied product line, consider separate .zip files by category.  Example:  some designers may use only your combi ovens and that’s what they need immediately, so save them time by allowing them to select those without taking the whole library.

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Navigating your Revit library

You want the user to be able to quickly identify the product they need.  Consider links from your online brochures, or an online catalog.  You may also wish to add an interactive menu to automatically get you to the folder you want. The menu will often have thumbnails making it super-easy.   (Shameless plug)

Finally, be aware that long term, you will need a way to update your library to a later version.  Ask your creator about costs for that.  Many (including me) have a bulk upgrader tool.   Here’s what’s involved in upgrading by version, and what happens when you do.

http://help.autodesk.com/view/RVTLT/2017/ENU/?guid=GUID-B3112DE3-A923-4950-B547-3A83A30CDD38

If you decide to invest in a Revit subscription, which is the only way you can buy it, and monthly plans are available, Revit will automatically upgrade the file version to the current version and you can do it yourself.  Be advised that it would mean opening each family and saving it, which can be cumbersome.  If you go that way, be aware that if Autodesk added features in that later version that are pertinent to your products, such as the recently added “cut with void,” you won’t automatically get that and the family will need to be remade.

Cool uses for Your Revit Library

  • Competitive comparisons among your models or competitive brands
  • Custom “spec sheets.” Example, a flight type dishwasher is a custom piece and a picture of what the customer will actually get could be a plus in a proposal. Same with serving counters.
  • Investigate how well your families will render. Your content creator can do that for you, or if you purchase Revit, there is a means for that as well.
  • Create a virtual showroom and put it on your website. This would be made in Revit and would be a walk-through.  An example might be your trade show booth.
  • Presentations/explanations-you can show your products in context with other products the customer is using, so they can visualize it in the room. This is particularly useful if your sales team is selling replacement equipment.  It is also great for budget purposes because the finance or purchasing teams may not understand the product like your end user customer will.
  • Fabrication budgeting. What better way to calculate ductwork extensions, tabling, counters, etc.?

Feel free to contact me for more ideas using Revit for Sales and Marketing via the contact form on this site, or seesolutions@cox.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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