Triskaidekaphobia – the fear of 13. you may not have heard of the word, but are probably familiar with famous movies surrounding this. Movies such as the Friday the 13th series and 13 Ghosts, just to name a few. Even most public buildings avoid floor 13 on high-rise buildings. It’s just bad luck.

This week, Autodesk OFFICIALLY announced and showcased some features of its new Revit MEP 2013. I’m sorry, but every time I hear of 13-anything on software, I am transported back in time to the year 1996; when Autodesk released their ill-fated AutoCAD release 13. So, when I heard that Autodesk was calling their newest releases 2013, part of me was stuck with horror that it might be as ill-fated as the AutoCAD 13 was. In all fairness, AutoCAD release 13 was actually AC1009. 🙂

There have been many good blog posts on the new features of Revit MEP 2013, and since I have no real hands-on experience with it, I cannot rightfully say whether it is good or bad or meh.

But some of the highlights of the new release include:

  • ASHRAE Duct fitting catalog integration
  • Photo-realistic views
  • Duct/Pipe Pressure and flow calculations
  • Bentley import/export
  • Enhancements with Revit Server
  • Revit Exchange App Store

Sounds like a nice roundup of features. I hope that work will be getting the release so I can play with it first-hand. It is probably way early in the release, but let’s hope that we don’t have a recurring Triskaidekaphobia.


It’s so good that its bad

Continuing from my previous post (well, along the same thought lines), I have come to the conclusion that Revit MEP is so good that it can actually be bad! Let me explain.

With Revit MEP, I can design ductwork with its insulation, and while coordinating with structural and architectural, I see that the duct is banging right through a joist. It is at this point that I need to make a value determination; do I fix it or let it go through? Let’s look at both:

Fix it
I need to get the duct through the space given me from the architectural plans and the structural. Oh, we can’t forget about electrical and their lights and cable trays. If the duct is a large duct carrying lots of cfm, then I really have to worry how to get that darn duct through the maze presented to me. One choice would be to throw it back to the architect and tell them that they need to give me more space. This might mean raising the roof, or lowering the ceilings. None of which the architects (in my experience) cherish doing. 🙂 We can go to the structural engineer and tell them they need to give me more room, which means they have to spend more time re-designing and evaluating. Rarely, have I seen structural engineers willing to make their steel members shorter. I mean in both the architects, and structural  engineers minds, they are designing for certain criteria; whether it be photo metrics or the clients desired ceiling heights. And the steel is sized to make sure the building doesn’t fall down when they get that record 3 feet of wet snow on top of their roof. I get it. So, we all are pretty stubborn in our minds. 🙂 And we absolutely cannot forget the biggest factor that prevails: we all have a budget and time allotted towards the project. And it is our common goal to come away from this project with a profit. If that were not so, I would no longer exist in my company because they could not afford to keep me. So, lets talk about if the duct is a small little thing and I am presented with the same issues, the solution would be easier in my mind – let it go.

Let it go
I know we all glory and revel in the wondrous achievement of BIM and Revit, and love to spin that 3D model around to see our handiwork. C’mon, admit it you DO like that! 🙂 But sometimes if it s a small issue, like the smaller duct, then I feel that we leave that judgement to the contractor. After all, the endgame of our design is a 2D REPRESENTATION OF OUR INTENT. We all know that in most cases, the contractor is going to look at our plans, roll them up and put it up the way that they feel that will make their process shorter. The drawings and the engineers stamp indicate that we have a set of plans that we present and that they are there to show the contractor that this is the route we want the duct to go. The more important things for the contractor (where they WILL take a closer look), is the equipment, controls, and balancing requirements. If you are lucky to have a competent contractor that you have worked with before on project, then the project flow is almost zen-like. They know the intent. They have done this kind of work before and there will be very few RFI’s. I know, I’m speaking about the ideal situation. But let’s get serious. The bottom line is that everybody is doing their thing to make money. So if Lowbid Contractor gets the job and you have not worked with them before, then your drawings have to spell out all the p’s and q’s otherwise you will be nickel and dimed for every change. So back to Revit. Sometimes, letting it go is easier on you and your company but COULD come back to bite you later.

Pipe Blobs
So, another scenario where Revit is so good that it is bad is in pipes. I am amused at the various tutorials showing all your pipes doubled up on a rack in real sizes, real spacing. umm, have you even tried to plot that out on your 1/8″ = 1′-0″ plan? Do you also get a large black blob on your screen where all those pipes are? So, we have to go back to the ‘old school’ CAD drafting and space all the piping out so that when it is plotted one can clearly see the pipes. Yes, one could cut all kinds of sections to show the intended pipe configuration (and it is desirable to do that). But Revit is so good at what it does that it slows you down in that aspect. Think about a pump room and the all the suction and return piping in the pump room. If you designed your piping the way that it actually WANTS to look, on a plan (even a large-scale plan, it will be totally unreadable/un-understood. The bottom line in this case is that one would have to design multiple view sections of the pump room to clearly show the intent. Once again, the goal is to produce a set of 2D plans to the contractor to show them the desired layout scheme.

Home-Run, baby!
I stole that line from a co-worker. 🙂 We are experimenting with an idea that we borrowed from electrical, that should meet all the demands  of the above mentioned. Here it is: For congested areas, such as lavatories and situations where we need to run hydronic supply and return to VAV boxes, we simply – home run it. We run the main pipes to the particular rooms and stop there. We give a detail of a common layout. We keynote all the equipment. We provide a schedule for the keynoted items with the required pipe sizes. DONE! What does this do? It saves US time. We no longer have to run that 3/4″ water line all around to each fixture. We have to give all the information to the contractor to FIGURE IT OUT FOR THEMSELVES. We don’t need (or shouldn’t need) to hold their hands on the exact routing of the VAV hydronic piping.

We are trying this process out, and hope that the authors will smile upon this and that the architects won’t be tho upset that we didn’t show every tiny little pipe, fitting, valve, etc. We feel it is a win situation, and unlike the architect that must show the clocks models on the walls, blackboards, etc. We don’t need to go to that level of detail UNLESS the client wants a super-cool 3D model where they can virtually go in each room, above the ceiling, in pipe chases to see everything. If that is the case, then we will need to discuss more money! 🙂

Let me know how your company deals with these situations and perhaps we can collectively help each other out. Hope this long dissertation was of a benefit.

Annotating Duct Sizes – Really!

After completing my first project in MEP 2012, I now have a little “free time” before the next deadline hits. This blog post is about duct sizing. No, not the Revit MEP automatic sizing, rather the good old fashioned duct sizing using your favorite duct wheel, or app (yes, there are MANY apps for that).

I don’t know about other firms, but our firm likes to annotate the actual duct opening; as in the size that the required CFM is needed. When you draw ducts and give it a size, it faithfully draws the duct to the size you specified.

Our little hypothetical duct has an initial requirement of 2400 cfm. Using our handy duct sizer, we confirm that a 30″ x 14″ duct will do it nicely for us. The problem lies that we want to abate some noise from this duct, so we line it with 1″ of duct liner. So now, our actual free space for air to travel is reduced: 30″ – 1″ – 1″ = 28″. And 14″ = 1″ – 1″ = 12″. Using our duct sizer, we now see that the free area is about 1925 cfm! So, we would oversize the duct to make allowance for the duct liner. (32″ x 16″).

Now to the crux of this blog. When we add duct liner, it shows it as shown below.

Now we resize the duct to make allowances for the duct liner.

What we ACTUALLY want to see is the duct free space (30″ x 14″). In order to get this, we need to dig a little deeper into Revit MEP. We will first make a copy of the family (so we don’t destroy the original) and then will modify a parameter or two:

  • Click on the duct label.
  • From the Modify | Duct Tags ribbon, select the Edit Family tool.

  • Your screen will change and you will see a large SIZE on your screen. You are now in the editor. So, the first thing we want to do is MAKE A COPY. From the R on the upper left of your screen, go to Save As > Family.

  • Call the file whatever makes sense to you. I called mine “Duct Size Free Area Tag”.
  • Click on the large SIZE in your editor and select Edit Label. The Edit Label dialog box will appear

  • Notice on the right-hand side, you see the parameter called SIZE, but also take not on the left-hand side of the dialog box in the long list of category parameters, you see a parameter called FREE SIZE. This is the one we want to use!

  • We want to replace the SIZE parameter with the FREE SIZE parameter. Click on the FREE SIZE parameter on the left-hand side and use the right arrow tool to transfer it to the right-hand side.

  • Now select the SIZE parameter on the right-hand size and transfer back over to the left-hand side using the left arrow tool. You will be left with just the FREE SIZE parameter on the right-hand side. This is want we want! Click OK.
  • So, we now have a big FREE SIZE label on our screen.
  • Click the Load into Project tool on the ribbon.


  • In the Load into Projects dialog, select the project that you want the new label to be loaded into. In this case, it is our only project. Click OK to dismiss that dialog.


  • Your duct now indicates that it is a 32″ x 16″ duct, but the annotation indicates that it is a 30″ x 14″ duct. That is what we wanted to accomplish.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this is how our firm does it. Your firm may be different. Hope this helped someone out there. If for nothing, I now have it documented should I need to recreate that family again. 🙂




I want to hear from you!

Hello to all my readers/followers. Sorry that I haven’t written any new and juicy information lately. It’s just that work has been (and still is) very busy. I have been putting in on the average of 60 hour work weeks including Saturday. But its all good as it is getting my feet more immersed in the Revit MEP pond.

While at work, a comment was raised that led to other pondering about Revit, and specifically Revit MEP. The comment was to his boss that we as a company can be more profitable by using plain AutoCAD over Revit on projects. Historically, according to the employee, we have ‘lost our shirt’ on Revit projects. When I talk Revit projects, I am talking about 100% use of Revit MEP. Our firm is a consulting engineer type firm; we do not have Architectural, Structural in-house, and our deliverables go to contractors. I am looking for all types of firms, but am really interested in hearing from the latter.

So, this is the genesis of a study that I would like to conduct. If you have time, I would appreciate your honest feedback. I am looking for user in the MEP field; those who use Revit 100%, and those who have used Revit, but either use it on a mixed basis with AutoCAD. Please cut and paste what follows below, and email the results to I PROMISE you that your email will not be used for anything other than the vessel for your comments. It will not go any further. When I have received a sufficient amount of feedback, I will compile it and release my findings here on this blog. And if you want, I will keep your identity anonymous.

I think you in advance for the time you have taken to respond. Please pass this to anyone that you feel would be a good fir for this study.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  1. I have been using Revit MEP for _________ years (months).
  2. I have been using AutoCAD for ________ years (months).
  3. Thinking about my company, we are involved more with __________ for a final product: (check as many as applicable or add your own)
    A. contractors
    B. owners
    C. agencies
  4. Thinking about your company as a whole, how skilled is your company in Revit MEP? AutoCAD?
  5.  If you are in a mixed environment, what is your companies’ productivity gain/loss using 100% Revit MEP? AutoCAD?
  6. Was your company Revit training:
    A. from an outside vendor (you travelled to their place for training)
    B. from an outside vendor (they came in-house)
    C. in-house formal training from an in-house employee
    D. online training
    E. from a supplied book
    F. from a book or materials you had to purchase
    G. I learned it on my own
    H. What training?
  7. What is your companies’  main reason for using Revit MEP?
  8. What is your companies’ main reason for NOT using Revit MEP?
  9. What is the biggest pitfall for your company using Revit MEP?
  10. What is the biggest pitfall for your company using AutoCAD in an MEP environment?
  11. If using Revit MEP 100%, do you use the 3D feature to:
    A. Impress the client/owner
    B. Impress yourself/other co-workers
    C. Coordination between disciplines
    D. Other
  12. Do you use the engineered calculations (such as loads) in Revit MEP?
  13. If #12 above is yes, do you TRUST those calculations in Revit MEP?
  14. How many times a week does Revit malfunction or you find unknown reasons why it does what it does for you?
  15. How many times a week does AutoCAD malfunction or you find unknown reasons what it does what it does  for you?
  16. If using AutoCAD for MEP work, does your company use specialized lisp routines that aid the design?
  17. Do you use ‘the cloud’ for your MEP work?
  18. What is your opinion on the future of AutoCAD in a BIM world?
  19. What improvements to Revit would you like to see as a company?
  20. Any other comments

It’s all in the clicks!

I have to give credit to a workmate for this tip. When I have windows tiled, I want to see certain windows in certain places. Take for example, the following screen:


This is nice, but MY preference is to have the plan view on the larger window. So, I tried to physically move the windows around.


It’s not elegant and take A LOT more mouse clicks, drags to get it the way you want. Plus, if you type the keyboard shortcut for Window Tile (WT), you STILL get the undesirable result


Grrrrr! @#$!!!, etc.! So what does one do? The answer is quite simple and once you figure it out, you will have one of those “Why couldn’t I figure it out myself” moments. The secret is in clicking! 🙂 The FIRST click is what will appear in the right-most window, the NEXT click is the one that will appear on the BOTTOM LEFT window, and the last click will appear on the UPPER LEFT window.


After you have clicked the windows in the REVERSE order as shown above, type WT (Windows Tile), annnnnnnnnd VOILA!!!

I performed a Zoom Extents (ZE) on each window, but it sure is better than move, drag, click,click, drag, resize, etc. Hope this helps!

Keyboard shortcuts – Addendum 1 of ?

I knew that once I hit the publish key that I forgot to add something. So rather than edit the other post, I decided to make a new, er addendum post.

The scenarios are this: You have customized your keyboard shortcuts with every command you desire using the shortcuts that you know and make you uber-productive.

You are using someone else’s computer to run Revit and notice right away that your keyboard shortcuts are not loaded. Or someone needs to jump on your computer while you are vacationing in Tahiti. They proceed to modify your keyboard shortcuts. You return from your dream vacation all tanned, sit down at your computer and start to type your beloved commands and find that they aren’t working! Now you ate beyond tanned – you are burning mad.

Well, if you look at the bottom of the keyboard shortcut dialog box, you will see two very useful options; namely IMPORT and EXPORT! Yes, folks your short term tantrum can be alleviated if you first EXPORT your keyboard shortcuts and place the file on your trusty thumb drive which you carry around with you all the time. Then when such things like the above scenario occur, you can simply insert your thumb drive into your USB port and Click the IMPORT button. Life is good once again.

The keyboard shortcut is basically an XML file that you COULD modify using your favorite XML editor, but this blogger recommends that you let Revit do it, which is much easier!

Hope this addendum may be of use you some people.

Adventures in Typing

There are some old habits that will probably never die with me. The one I want to blog about this time is typing. If you are an old-timer in AutoCAD (back in the pre-Windows era) you will remember that the two popular ways of getting a command into AutoCAD involved either this:

or this:


For you who don’t know what the latter one is, I refer you to this article.

I personally liked the first one UNLESS it involved a lisp routine or some other multi-chain of events that did something. It is beyond the scope of this blog to explain that! 🙂 The keyboard coupled with the command line was my biggest pal. As a matter of fact, for those still unsung AutoCAD, I would HIGHLY recommend looking at the command line. It tells you what it expects. And especially with release 12, you just start typing in something that autocomplete/lookup function will do the rest for you! I have fond memories in AutoCAD of typing in L for Line, CO for copy, etc. One of my AutoCAD pet peaves was when a user would sit there staring at the toolbars, ribbons, whatever to draw a line for an inordinate amount of time. For goodness sake, type L!!!!!

ANYWAYS, When  I jumped over to Revit, one of the first things that I looked for was good old L for Line. OOPS! Not there! Or is it? Revit DOES come with a keyboard shortcut set, but it might not be what you are expecting if you are looking for the same keyboard shortcuts as AutoCAD.

In Revit, if you type KS from the keyboard, you will see a window pop up with all kinds of useful information:

In this dialog box, you will see the commands filtered  by how they appear on the ribbon. So, to find out how to draw a line in Revit, type LINE in the search bar. It will find all occurrences of line based on the filter. I found the one that I use a lot using the Annotate filter. DL for Detail Line. Of course, if you are a die-hard AutoCAD user, you can change the DL to L. But! Here is one thing that you AutoCAD faithful-converts-to-Revit need to know:

Remember when I said to type KS above? What would be the very next thing you AutoCADies would do? I’ll give you a pictorial hint 🙂

DON’T DO IT!!! You will become frustrated wondering why your command doesn’t work. In Revit, pretty much all of the keyboard shortcuts are two letters.When you press enter, you are effectively canceling out that typed in command. And Revit knows what you are typing, so when you type the second letter it knows. Like a filter, if you will. But, once again, if you REALLY want to change the DL to L, you can. You WILL have to hit the return key for single letter commands.

While we’re taking about good old days using AutoCAD, here is something else that is missing from Revit:

The Command line! Or is it?? It is there, but not really as you would expect it to work. Look at the bottom left of your Revit screen. While using a command; in my case placing a duct, look at the bottom and observe what it is asking you to do? Isn’t that what a command line does?

So, I hope this helps you as it did for me.