PART 1 BUDGET REVIT FAMILIES

BIMBOOMBAM_Revit_GoldclubThis post is the first of a 3 PART SERIES where I discuss the concept of budget Revit Families that are currently available for purchase on the web.

  •  In this blog post (Part 1) I want to begin the discuss budget Revit families, in general terms, and reflect on what might be fair to expect from a Revit family that can cost as little as $3 or $5, up to $25 per family.
  • Part 2 – I will outline the technical considerations that budget Revit families should take into account in my view.
  • Part 3 – In the last post of this series I will review a specific range of budget Revit content that is currently available for purchase on the web.
  • I will release the entire 3 PART BLOG POST SERIES over a period of about 4-6 weeks to allow readers to have time to read and digest the content of each post before publishing the next associated blog post.

BIMBOOMBAM_Revit_Dissapointed

CONTEXT
So how has this topic come about in that sweet busy head of mine?
Recently we purchased a large batch of Revit content from a company that specializes in budget Revit content that are in fact Manufacture specific. It was certainly not the first range of budget content that I had come across over the years, nor would it be the last. I saw a lot of room for improvement across a range of more than 250 families and it got me thinking…..

How do I review a batch of content on my blog that is so cheap to purchase without coming across as an absolute tyrant? After all, most of the Revit families that we had purchased had cost the same as a single hamburger.

Initially I felt bad for my noticeable irritation as I started to audit some of the budget families that we had purchased. Most of my frustration stemmed from the time-consuming ramification and unnecessary re-work that would be needed to integrate these families into our library. There was a lot of clean-up to be done simply because these families were made in a way that seemed to suggest that the content creator/s had not been not aware of the subtleties of the Revit system integration process.

I noticed myself justifying the possible reasons why some short cuts might have been taken. “Don’t be so harsh, after all it only cost $5 Michelle!” I thought. I knew full well that some families would have taken an hour or perhaps even a few hours to make so $5 was still great value. But how much work would it take to get them up to our company standard?

I reflected some more as I cleaned up yet another family….BimBoomBam_Revit_Burger

IS BUYING A $5 REVIT FAMILY THE SAME AS BUYING A HAMBURGER?
Comparing a budget Revit family purchase with a hamburger was perhaps a gross simplification on my part. After all the burger could only be sold once and my comparison did not take into consideration the true income potential of selling the same Revit family multiple times to different clients.

HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU SELL A $5 REVIT FAMILY?
I appreciate that with this type of business model the content creator assumes all the risk. He or she has no idea if they will in fact sell their family 1, 5, 20 or 100 times.
I thought to myself ,“I imagine that the trick of course is to secure repeat business and social media could be used to boost sales if your content is well made and cheap”. 
Don’t get me wrong – I am not proposing that it’s a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact I suspect that the effort in building a website and making the Revit content under such conditions of risk might not always be worth it. But perhaps it could be lucrative – if your product was renowned for being consistent, excellent quality and offering good value and benefits for integration?

BIMBOOMBAM_Revit_Onlinesales

So, if I take into account the fact that these families can be re-sold multiple times – can I then justify my personal expectation that even budget Revit families must meet a bare minimum quality/ benchmark or standard?

I feel that it is safe for me to suggest that if a content creator becomes known for consistent quality content  then there should be enough money to be made, per family, over time to warrant to additional time that may be required in creating a professionally made product. After all buying something that has been well made and at a cheap price can be more time efficient and cost-effective (most of the time) than having staff create the content themselves in the midst of project deadlines. But if the budget content is made with little understanding of how Revit system design is actually meant to work then the process of buying such cheap content might potentially become counter-productive.

Part of my frustration about the quality of budget Revit content arises from the fact that many of the details that take time to repair on budget families would take very little extra time for the content creators to do ‘right’, the first time round. ( E.g. Defining a Subcategory, Material or Family Type name takes as long regardless if you name it poorly or not.) In my experience the time that it takes to make a Revit Family half heartedly is not much less than making a Revit family well. BUT if a Revit family has been made with competence and Revit System empathy the added value to the consumer is ENORMOUS!

MY POTENTIALLY CONTROVERSIAL ‘TRUTH’
So, I would like to declare that I think ANY Revit content sold should at least meet a minimum quality standard regardless of price per unit.

BIMBOOMBAM_REvit_UhmmmNotGood

WHAT IS FAIR TO EXPECT FROM A BUDGET REVIT FAMILY?
So you ask… “Michelle, what do you think is a bare minimum that any content should have in order to be a product of professional integrity and great value?”

In PART 2 of this blog post series I will try to cover some of the basics of what I would consider my personal bare-minimum-benchmark for any content that is said to be professionally made – regardless of the purchase or commission price that is paid. It is my hope that more industry experts will begin to realize that they can secure commercial leverage from creating Revit content that is consistently made that is specifically designed to be easy to integrate into customized company Revit systems.

“As I see it Design, Documentation and Engineering firms are becoming more informed about how to customize their own company Revit and BIM standards. They are becoming increasingly selective about the content that they allow into their projects and libraries. Sure – we still have many Revit cowboys in the industry who are ‘just winging it’ and allowing any quality families into their projects and libraries.

BUT….THE GAP between the Revit cowboys and informed Revit/Bim firms (who are investing in customized Revit systems)  is INCREASING.

And in my view: It is that ever-increasing GAP that will give high performance Revit/BIM firms commercial leverage in years to come.  ”

~ Michelle Van Kolck

It is for this reason very reason that I believe that is becoming more important that Manufacturers and Professional Content Creators educate themselves about what the industry truly needs in terms of Revit family functionality. Overcomplicated content that is problematic to use or integrate is simply not what our industry needs or wants in terms of representing Manufacture specific content in our project models. Professional content creators that are paid to create content that will be publicly available should focus on improving the speed and efficiency with which Design and Engineering firms can integrate and tweak their content into their company specific Revit/BIM systems.

BIMBOOMBAM_Revit_Mime_grassLet’s see if the grass is greener in my next post…..

Cheers, Michelle

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IT FINALLY HAPPENED !

It’s not often that I am truly pleased by what I see when I open up Manufacture made Revit content, but this time I was pleasantly caught off guard, to say the least. This batch of content is the best manufacturer content that I have ever seen to date in terms of the measures that I consider important.

BBB_Comic_Surprise

Now before I go into detail in terms of my review please note that this post only covers the specific ranges listed below. The Capral Aluminium family ranges that we recently integrated into our Global library include:

  • CAPRAL_419-Flushline_DG-100mm
  • CAPRAL_419-Flushline_DG-150mm
  • CAPRAL_419-Flushline_DG-150mm_50Pocket
  • CAPRAL_R1406_400-Narrowline
  • CAPRAL_R1409_CurtainWall_CW-150 (Single and Double Glazed)
  • CAPRAL_R1411_600-Narrowline

So why was I so impressed? It’s simple. When I look at Manufacturer’s content that may be suitable for Regional or Global library integration I always look at the amount of work that it is going to take to convert the content to a customized company standard. At Woods Bagot we spend a lot of time investing in Revit System Development and as a result we always need to adjust line weights, pen patterns, subcategories, materials and key data fields to ensure the new content does not disrupt our current documentation system.

Here are the top features that made this content specifically easy to update to our company standards.

TIDY REFERENCE PLANES

  • The Reference Planes were all appropriate, extremely tidy and there were not too many of them, especially for non-parametric content.
  • One of my few criticisms of this range was that the default Centre Left/Right and Centre Front/Back were left to be their original family template length. This is generally not a good idea because it causes all thumbnail views to zoom out to extents and the thumbnail reference becomes meaningless.
  • This meant that I had to tidy the Centre Left/Right and Centre Front/Back reference planes in every family but considering the neat state of everything else it really was a minor inconvenience.

BBB_Capral_Ref Planes1

AUTODESK LINE WORK TIDIED UP

BBB_Capral_Linework1

  • All unused Autodesk default line patterns had been removed from all the family files. (This means that no Autodesk default line work would contaminate our projects.)
  • I also appreciate that they used the Autodesk default line work where they needed to and that they did not create their own custom line patterns. (That way if a company did forget to swop out the line patterns at least they only end up with two Autodesk default line patterns in their project files.)

PERFECT FILL PATTERN MANAGEMENT

BBB_Capral_Fill pattens

  • All unused default Autodesk filled regions and fill patterns had been removed.
  • The fill patterns that remained were consistently named across all the families in the various ranges and the fill pattern naming was simple and appropriate. There was no excessive or needless use of dashes, underscores and manufacturer references in the naming.
  • I renamed the filled regions to match our company standard but this was reasonably quick and easy to do and it was a delight not to have to step over unused filled regions.

SUBLIME SUBCATEGORIES

BBB_Capral_Subcategories

  • The subcategory naming was clear, well-considered, consistent and SIMPLE !
  • The way that these subcategories have been named shows that they have taken into consideration how their clients might need to control the line weights and visibility of the elements within the project environment. They have taken a high-level approach in defining the subcategories in terms of items that are visible in section (They called “Extrusion”) as opposed to item that would display uncut and as “Elevations” elements. I do not mind their naming strategy since I think it allowed them to keep the number of subcategories across the various ranges to a minimum.
  • All the families had only 3-4 custom subcategories which I think is an excellent benchmark to aim for with Manufacturer’s content. It allows some range of graphical control without being excessive. With 4 custom subcategories in each family it was reasonably quick to update to our company standards.
  • It was magnificent not to see any Manufacturer names in the subcategory naming. (My pet hate…. e.g. “Capral Glazing” etc.) It shows that whoever made this content actually understands how View Templates are used in a project environment. (How refreshing!)
  • I converted their subcategories to match our company standards but I believe that it is very reasonable for BIM or Content Managers to expect to do that when adjusting Manufacture content to their Revit/BIM system standard.

AUTODESK MATERIALS REMOVED FROM ALMOST ALL THE FAMILIES

BBB_Capral_Materials

  • A few families were missed in the auditing process but overall these Revit families had no used default Autodesk materials in the families. This was great to see and saved me a few hours of clean-up.
  • In the few cases where the materials had snuck through the families had used nested families and I imagine that the re-loading of the nested family at some stage of the auditing process might have caused the materials the sneak back in. (Since the Detail Item Family template does not start off with materials loaded.)
  • On the whole a great effort though, and the effort was much appreciated.

TIP

  • Since these families are Detail Items it makes no sense to have materials in the file but unfortunately Autodesk Revit will automatically add the default materials, fill patterns and line patterns back into any file that is nested and edited directly from the family. So beware of this trap.
  • Always save out your nested families onto your server and edit them directly. This will avoid all the Autodesk shrapnel from being pushed back into crisp, clean Revit families.

PROPERTIES MENU

BBB_Capral_Properties

  • This was the best surprise of all. There was no excessive data and needless parameters that overloaded the menu. All the data was simple, easy to understand and relevant.
  • I definitely prefer the concise approach taken with this Manufacturer. I appreciate that Manufacturer’s want their products specified in projects but I think that Manufacturer’s sometimes mistake overloading Revit families with excess data as an act of service. I think this is inaccurate perception of added value. In my experience excess use of data and parameters in Manufacturer’s content usually results in drafter’s getting irritated by the excess visual noise/ data that they have to fall over for the remainder of the project life-cycle.
  • A product website URL that is kept live and up to date is far more useful than rows and rows product data parameters that are forced into our Revit project files and libraries.
  • Room for improvement: A few families had their family Type name missing but almost all the families had a type name defined.

NEST NAMING

BBB_Capral_Nest naming1

  • All nested Family File names were well named. There were a few nested families that had Family Type names that were the same as the family name but in general most nested families had a type name of “Type 1” or similar, which is recommended best practice in my view.
  • Some of the families did use family nesting. It did not bother me that much since all the nested families were only one level deep, they were simple, very tidy and it was less than 15-20% of range from memory that had much nesting.
  • I think there were a handful of families in the one range that had up to 4 simple and clean nested families (this is a bit much for my preferences, generally) but the host families still worked well and the file size was not excessive.
  • I would naturally prefer that Revit families have as little nesting as possible, if practical of course.
  • Any nesting choices that I make are always subject to the “future editability rule”. I.e. “How hard is it going to be for me to fix, tweak or edit a family (that was not made by me, or that was made by a Manufacturer) if it’s too complex and if no nesting is used?”

TIP

The Family Type name get’s duplicated (as shown in image above) when a nested family is added to a host family BEFORE the Family Type name has been defined in the nested family file. Simply rename the Family Type name of the nested family in the host family and remember to save a copy of the nested family onto your server for quick and efficient future editing and reloading.

“RVT” – SYSTEM FAMILY FILES

BBB_Capral_RVT files

I have not integrated these Curtain Wall (system families) into our library or company sample files yet because we will probably go the extra step and test importing the details directly into the system families for automatic detailing functionality in the Project environment. That being said these sample files are made with the same attentiveness as all their detail files and I feel certain that the same quality will follow through all their RVT sample files. We will most likely invest the time to go the extra step but I have a few other things to juggle for a few weeks ;-)

BimBoomBam_Revit_Comic_Wink

IN SUMMARY

  • This content was immaculately audited. It was professionally made and I am pleased with the result.
  • The content was not overly complicated or smothered in endless and inappropriate Manufacturer labels. (E.g. where subcategories, fill patterns, line work patterns and parameter naming actually contain the Manufacturer’s name.)
  • We don’t expect a Manufacturer to be able to guess our preferred naming in terms of subcategories but keeping it simple and non-branded shows class and suggests that the Manufacturer understands the nature of our documentation and design workflows/ data management and Revit modeling business.
  • It is apparent to me that whoever made this range made an effort to ensure that their Revit content would solve more problems than they would create. I imagine their content creator/s either have experience documenting on projects or make a concerted effort to understand the context within which their Revit content would be used.

Well done Capral Aluminum. We would love to integrate all your content in to our Revit Library if the quality stays this high and consistent!

QUICK LINK FOR CONTENT DOWNLOAD

Print

http://www.capral.com.au/CAD-Drawing-Library

HMMM…. SO WHAT’S NEXT?

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Till next time….. I trust this review was helpful
Cheers, Michelle