Last week I found out about a standards project for foodservice equipment Revit families. Having just completed a couple food service equipment families for a customer, I thought it would be good to dig into the standard and see if I could apply it in the future. I checked out their Foodservice Industry Revit Task Force and began reading their published standard for foodservice equipment families. The standard looks like a great first step and one I hope other industry groups will follow. It builds on top of Autodesk’s Revit Model Content Style Guide available through Seek, which is a good place to start. As I reflected on the food service families I’d just delivered, however, I found a few areas that I think miss the mark when it comes to manufacturer-sponsored content. I thought I’d share those here as I think they could apply to many other industries as well.
1. Revit Architecture vs. Revit MEP
“Food Service Equipment Industry content can be created successfully in Revit Architecture or Revit MEP. In general, since some content might include System Family Types for architectural objects like Walls, it is recommended that you use Revit Architecture unless the equipment you are creating has specific needs only available in Revit MEP.”
To my knowledge, there is nothing in the Revit Architecture family editor that can’t be done in the Revit MEP family editor. Connectors are one thing that you can only do in the MEP family editor.corr And while there are plenty of families in the Foodservice Industry that don’t need connectors, I think it makes more sense to use a broadest case standard here. Given the audience at which the standard is aimed, namely manufacturers – who have multiple products to model for their customers – and content creators – who need to model various kinds of products for different manufacturers or projects – there is bound to be a need for connectors. In fact, both of the food service families I just delivered had electrical connectors required by the customer. So if this standard must recommend any version of the software, it should be Revit MEP.
2. Modeling Levels of Detail
“It is possible to include all three levels of detail in a single Component Family. An alternative approach is to include the Coarse and Medium detail levels in one Family for use in design development and construction document drawing sets and create a separate high detail Family for use in rendering and visualization.”
The key assumption here is that good visual detail will make a family heavy, and so you’ll gain performance by isolating that geometry in its own family. This is a misconception that leads to unnecessary work. Not to mention that it would force you to break a project model whenever you need to do a rendering. Families can be made small and perform well while still looking really nice at a fine level of detail and covering 80%, if not more, of your rendering needs. I know because that’s what we sell here at Andekan!
But more importantly, by keeping all levels of detail in the same family, you save yourself time and effort. Again, the customer who ordered the Zumex and Imbera families required the coarse geometry to match the medium geometry, which isn’t necessarily a common scenario. But if all levels of detail are already in the same family, making this happen is a matter of clicking a few checkboxes rather than moving geometry between files and keeping track of versions. Plus Revit keeps improving when it comes to performance, as do computers in general, so the outlier cases where performance actually requires separate geometry will disappear over time.
3. Coarse View Geometry
Here we’re looking at a family in coarse view and being told to use extrusions to create the 2D geometry. Instead we should be using masking regions, which require less of the application and will improve the family’s performance in this view. Extrusions in coarse views are a shortcut for the content creator, but, like any thing in software, the user doesn’t care if the programmer (or modeler in this case) has to spend an extra half-hour on the family, if that means the product is easier to use and more effective. In general, the parts of the standards document covering levels of detail could be made clearer by breaking them into 3D levels of detail and 2D levels of detail.
4. Who’s Using the Standard?
“The type and size of the project that a family is intended for use in is a critical point to consider when deciding what representations should be included in the family and what level of detail each representation should have.”
The above text appears under the “Design and Performance Considerations” section header. This section seems taken from a tutorial about the family editor intended for the general user, and it doesn’t quite fit when you take into account who this standard is meant to serve: foodservice equipment manufacturers. The above guideline makes sense from the architect’s or engineer’s point of view, because they are most concerned with their particular project requirements. For a manufacturer, however, this would mean having to rebuild families for every customer that wants to use them.
If a manufacturer sees enough consistency in their customers’ use of Revit over time — say 90% of customers only need 2D linework — perhaps then it would make sense to incorporate some of those shared project criteria into their families, but that’s not a situation that I believe should be suggested as a guideline for all manufacturers. I would suggest instead that families include all representations and views that might reasonably be required by anyone working on a project that includes their family. Again, there’s no reason this can’t be done while keeping families light and smoothly functioning. If the standard is also meant to cover the needs of architects and engineers building their own families, then having separate sections for each audience would be best.
So those are a few of the things that have stood out to me so far. There were many good things that caught my eye as well, and I encourage you to check out the project even if you don’t work with foodservice equipment families. Developing family standards is critical for Revit’s potential. Industry-level collaboration and iterative definition are definite requirements for success, and those seem to be happening with the Foodservice Industry Revit Task Force. In fact I saw today that they updated their shared parameters file and naming convention standards! So I’ll be joining in the discussion there and continue to share any key updates through our blog.
- UPDATE 05/16/2011: Under Revit Architecture vs. Revit MEP I wrongly stated that Revit Architecture can’t create connectors. I seldom open the Revit Architecture family editor, preferring to work in the Revit MEP one, and wrongly assumed connectors were still only an option under Revit MEP. Even so, adding shared parameters with units set for MEP services, e.g. volts, still can’t be done in Revit Architecture without a substantial workaround.↩