Balancing the Revit Ecosystem

By Helen Gorina and Christopher Coscia for Autodesk University

Revit projects, templates, and content require BIM (Building Information Modeling) managers to connect the dots playing several roles: researcher — collecting and analyzing performance of Revit projects; investigator — uncovering underlying problems; and janitor — facilitating clean-up and fixes. To keep your Revit projects at peak performance, it is vital to identify performance concerns early, anticipate problems, and understand underlying issues.

This article focuses on automation of reporting and maintenance of the Revit ecosystem as a whole. We will explain how to holistically analyze your Revit environment, and implement practical steps toward its improvement and fine-tuning.

Projects

Many factors contribute to BIM project success, and many documents and workflows comprise BIM projects. We’ll focus on the Revit component of a BIM project here. Let’s first analyze how parts of the Revit ecosystem are interconnected and how they contribute to project success. As with sustainable ecosystems in nature, the key is to find balance between its parts.

What is a KPI of a Revit project? It is the happiness of the project team, and their ability to leverage technology to be efficient in their work. Some gauges of team happiness are:

  • Open and sync times
  • Navigation and editing speed
  • Ease of authoring

The elements that lead to well-run projects (at least from the technology point of view) are:

  • Project planning
  • Project maintenance
  • Good project templates
  • Easy availability of appropriate content
  • Team skills and training matching project tasks
  • Disaster prevention (toxic actions prevention)
  • Automation of repetitive processes

Most of us have constraints so you must know where to focus your limited resources. Dashboards help us to proactively focus on a Revit project’s performance and increase team happiness.

Dashboards

Look at different points of interest:

  • File size
  • Project data structure
  • Elements contained in the project (views, groups, in-place families)
  • Warnings (number, severity)
  • Open and sync times
  • Red flag (WAN alerts, 20-mile)
  • Hardware info and free space on the disk
  • Trends over time
  • Additional considerations (connectivity, Revit server and accelerators, cloud)

Model dashboarding is the beginning of the conversation; not everything can be gleaned from dashboards. Some tools to help you in data collecting include:

  • CTC Data Suite + PAL plugin
  • Clarity + plugin (can also run Macros or Dynamo) and Clarity dashboards
  • RTV + macros + Dynamo (Dynamo can collect information about what is in the files)
  • Unifi plugin
  • Custom plugins to capture events
  • Harvesting, parsing, and analyzing journals and slogs
  • Manual macros and Dynamo

Data collected by these tools can then be uploaded into the database, or on a smaller scale, you can process the data using business intelligence applications such as Power BI, Tableau, or even Excel.

When planning your dashboards, in addition to data collection and processing, you will need to think about delivery of the right amount of information to the right people just in time. Perkins+Will has several complimentary dashboards delivered to desktop or mobile. At Perkins+Will we use a dashboard that show trends, which can allow you to be preemptive.

Some known offenders for Revit performance are:

  • Unnecessary views
  • Model groups
  • View clipping depth
  • Any warnings that have to do with rooms (walls overlap, walls and room separation lines overlap, any room bounding elements overlap)
  • Elements affecting room calculations

There are also outside factors such as resource-hungry apps that may be running on the machine that can affect your performance. You should look for variations and hardware and software, different build numbers. You should consider your organizational structure to design an alert system most efficient for your situation. It may include:

  • In-project: view setups like schedules and performance gauges
  • Helpdesk ticket systems which may generate emails
  • Windows alerts
  • Slack channels

Revit Corruption

Corruption can stop a project in its tracks is. We are constantly fighting corruption. There are many types of Revit corruption. Perhaps the most effective tool to help is the journal file after an audit. It is also a good idea to proactively collect (and even parse) journal files so when the corruption happens, you will be well equipped to start your analysis rather than try to figure out where the journal files of different team members might be. After corruption has been repaired, use Bluebeam to compare PDFs of all sheets generated before and after repair. We at Perkins+Will collect all journal files nightly from all user profiles.

Templates

Good templates are the start of a healthy project. Revit templates establish a foundation that project teams need to collaborate and build their workflows. At a minimum, templates must include foundational standards like graphics, line styles, line patterns, text styles, dim styles, arrows tags, and annotations.

Minimum standards for compatibility reasons are:

  • Line weights
  • User subcategories
  • Shared parameters

When planning your templates, think about what is the best fit for your office or organization. Here are some questions you may need to consider:

  • How often to rebuild?
  • Size of your template? Is it an all-encompassing Big Kahuna or is it a lightweight agile template?
  • Do you custom build templates, per project, for the office or each market sector?
  • Do you automate the template customization?
  • Do you have any ways to document and monitor your templates?

At Perkins+Will we rebuild periodically one base template, and then use it as a starting point to build many flavors as needed for our multiple offices and market sectors. To share knowledge and still be consistent, we add popular workflows to firm-wide plus templates, then each office builds on this base. Periodically we will run reports and do a baseline comparison. We try to learn from successful projects and publish best workflows.

Revit Content and Libraries

Once you have decided on a template you have to think about high-quality content, which is easy to find and maintain. There are three major parts to good content management systems:

  • High-quality assets
  • Good content delivery systems
  • Feedback and analytics

To maintain quality assets you often need to process and clean families. You are looking to filter out toxic elements including:

  • Broken families — crash
  • Families with imports
  • Families with warnings
  • Not categorized correctly
  • No 3D when expected
  • Just broken/over-modeled

Other considerations when cleaning families:

  • Nesting
  • Sharing
  • Parameters (shared and not, Instance and Type)
  • User subcategories
  • Materials, parametric or by category
  • Unused stuff that can be purged
  • Unused stuff that cannot be purged(line patterns, empty subcategories, etc.)

There are many tools on the market to help clean families. Perkins+Will utilizes several techniques and tools to clean and process families:

1. The first step is In + Out.

Create a template from — None and batch load families, then batch export families. We use CTC Family Exporter and Family Importer tools or JOTools Mass save and Mass Load. You can also use and Export to Library and drag and drop from File Explorer to Revit project. Corrupted families will glitch out, and families with broken constrains may generate warnings. You may end up with more families out than you initially went in with because of shared nested content.

2. The second step for us is usually BIM Helper Library Analysis. The result is a concise report, documentation of nesting and sharing and other indicators, which allow us to set priorities for publishing and clean-up.

3. Depending on what we find in the triage report produced by Library Analysis, we may use other tools:

CTC Revit Express Tools — BIM Manager Suite

  • Family Processor
  • Family Tools

Iconic BIM

  • Guardian
  • P.I.G. — to generate good previews

Be aware that Iconic BIM Tools may inject its own information using Extensible storage element. When it comes to Revit assets other than loadable families, it is best to develop them in a container consistent with your template. Your distribution system needs to handle:

  • System families “sandwiches” (walls, roofs, floors…)
  • Other system families (stairs, railings, ramps…)
  • Schedules
  • Drafting views
  • Sheets with drafting views
  • Legends and sheets with legends and drafting views (wishful thinking?)

These elements can bring other undesirable contamination such as hatch patterns, text styles, project parameters — Guardian and/or a macro report generator will help you to combat the pollution. You also have to keep in mind transformation of expectations.

  • Content data for documentation can change through the phase with different LOD.
  • When it comes to clash detection, you need families with modelled clearances.
  • For visualization, virtual reality and augmented reality there are expectations for realistic materials.
  • There are thermal and daylighting tools used for analysis that would require these assets to contain specific parameters and information.

You need to think and plan for nondisruptive workflows where you can swap families as your project develops without having to manually replace them. The keys to that are:

  • Consistent parameters (geometry)
  • Consistent subcategories
  • Consistent insertion points
  • Parametric or by category materials
  • Hosting
  • Sharing and nesting, etc.

After you develop good assets, you need to deliver that content in an effective and efficient manner. When planning your content delivery system you must think about the perspective of different stakeholders.

Interface

  • Intuitive, dock-able/floating, constant presence
  • Search and sorting features
  • Approved and not-approved content
  • Loadable and system families, drafting views, schedules, legends, sheets
  • Multiple libraries/packages with global and granular search
  • Drag and drop
  • Good previews

Workflows

  • Content request tool
  • Content publishing process, with approval
  • Source, author(s), and approver(s)
  • Content rating system

From a content manager’s perspective:

  • Security and version control — granular
  • AD integration
  • Reporting — usage, user feedback, assets performance, etc.
  • Metadata
  • Type catalogs
  • Content grouping and multi-grouping; packages
  • Pull — approval — reject process
  • Content harvesting and submission process

You should also consider business issues:

  • Cost and licensing
  • Cloud versus WAN
  • Installation and scalability
  • Access to internal and external content (managed)
  • Migrate out of the system issues
  • Flexibility in adding more features

You may also look into content factories, like CTC SuperDoor Tool and others.

Project Teams

Perhaps the most important part of project success is the team. There could be a lot of different software used on any project; however, Revit is a very team-oriented environment. It is important to understand staff’s Revit skills and have a way to asses, monitor, and elevate these skills. Three different aspects that can guide you in planning and delivering the most efficient training are:

Institutional

  • How many years of Revit practice in your office
  • Type and scale of projects
  • Proprietary workflows; staff turnover

Individual

  • Plan group or individual training
  • OOTB assessment tools
  • Self-assessment
  • BIM manager-assisted assessment
  • Part of hiring/onboarding process?
  • Keeping it current — update as users’ skills develop
  • Support from top

Team skill assessment for a project:

  • To form functional teams based on project tasks
  • To plan JIT (Just In Time) training for teams

Perkins+Will is in the mature BIM phase where we have built a high level of institutional knowledge. Our ongoing Revit training focuses on filling the gaps, promoting best workflows, and keeping the skills sharp.

Perkins + Will Training

  • Onboarding
  • Skill assessment and training as needed
  • P+W processes
  • P+W resources
  • P+W Revit Project Guide
  • Lynda.com
  • P+W microKnowledge site (multiple apps, FAQ, best practices, workflows)
  • Monthly digital practice newsletter (new technology, sharpen your tools)

To focus our effort on where it is most efficient, we have developed a process of forming functional teams where we match the teams’ skills to the project needs. It is based on a Revit skill matrix that each team member updates as they learn new skills. It allows us to quickly evaluate the whole team and plan JIT training. Of course, the most challenging part of it is to update every member’s information.

Project Teams

Every office or company is a unique environment, and you need to be able to evaluate what works best for your company based on your situation. We shared some thoughts, tools, and techniques to help you in balancing your own unique Revit ecosystem.

Helen Gorina’s knowledge and experience span multiple BIM and CAD platforms, architecture and engineering, information technology, and change management. She has more than 20 years of experience in BIM and CAD management for multidiscipline, multioffice environments.

Chris Coscia has 23 years of experience in architecture, focused primarily on the integration and successful delivery of projects utilizing all digital and BIM platforms. Working with multidisciplinary teams of architects, engineers, and specialty consultants, his goal is to establish and maintain a high level of technological standards in service of the project and in service of the client’s team.

Learn more with the full class at the Autodesk University website: Balancing the Revit Ecosystem.

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