What Makes Good Revit Content…And Who is Judging?

By Suzanne Painter-Supplee, LEED AP+ID&C, MHS, CFSP
A Revit library is a considerable investment in time and money for a manufacturer of commercial kitchen equipment. Hardly a one-time deal, upkeep is ongoing as new products are added, discontinued, exported to other countries, Revit version and/or FCSI standards change. More than 3D modeling, problematic content irritates the user or worse, uncorrected errors can find their way to installations where costs could be incurred to field-fix. Until content is correct, errors can multiply across numerous projects and geographies and the manufacturer has fewer options for alternative use of the library.

Sneeze Guards on the Floor?  Sideways airpot? Red Box Clearances?
I’ve seen sneeze guards on the floor, improper placement, countertop equipment embedded in counters, drop-in wells in counters so you can’t see the well, cooking equipment placed too close to other pieces, dishwashers so close to the wall that service would have to be done by the Thin Man, or if placed in another direction, scrap screens would be harder to remove. A real barrel of laughs, countertop equipment that lands on top of a sneeze guard because it was created as face-based. They often land on the floor. While some content libraries allow the consultant to name the insertion height, most do not.

Placement issues are minor because they are easy to catch in other views, IF the designer looks at all views, so fixable in the project rather than having to fix each family. Content is upgraded to the current version as the consultant uses it, but it will load more slowly stalling the drawing, or ‘break’ in such a way it cannot be used at all.
It’s what you DON’T see in the content that should have you worried. Worse, you must have Revit to see or fix the issues, and most manufacturers don’t because they aren’t architects.

So, MANUFACTURERS,  why are you just finding this out NOW? Why didn’t anyone using your Revit library say anything? Because the user either misses the problem, particularly if new to foodservice, OR, more likely, they don’t have time to wait for YOU to fix it, or for that matter, just get back to them, and when you do,  you don’t understand the issue anyway. Would you even know HOW to fix it or even direct someone to do so? Do you have to issue a PO? What perils small and large await if you don’t make corrections?
Testing Your Revit Library
While content creators test the work, and present PDF’s for engineering review, they are not experts in YOUR product. Nor are the Revit operators working for consultants. Consider how user-friendly your library is and what you can do to make your products easier to specify.

In a recent review of multiple brands, other than most not updated since Revit 2012, here are the most frequent catches:(
• Missing utility information when the product requires a utility (gas, water, drain, boosters, voltages, amps)
• Missing data specific to dishwashers, incoming water temperature requirement (important for building hot water heater sizing and distance)
• Missing door swings, or drawer clearance
• Wrong ‘material’ used for clearances. One major manufacturer’s clearance for a countertop item actually cut a hole in my counter!
• Face-based families (a royal pain to work with)
• Too much detail that increases file size over 1mb
• Improper naming conventions. Approved: QF_Brand_Model. QF identifies the equipment as Foodservice-Specific in the broad Autodesk category of “Specialty Equipment”. Some have mistakenly used ‘generic’ equipment and found those products wouldn’t schedule.
• Inability to schedule an item number (wrong parameter used)
• Inability to ‘tag’ because the family template used was wrong
• Cold water incoming temperature & water quality requirements, exhaust clearances for ‘breathing’ (ice makers)
• Not using FCSI/NAFEM approved material library & in some cases naming materials using brand
• Not assigning materials at all (ok if not named)
• Sub-categories improperly named resulting in multiples showing up in the project
• Descriptions-all over the place & inconsistent with other manufacturers
• Drop-in equipment that does not ‘cut’ its host. (was not available for Specialty Equipment until Revit 2014)
• Incomplete or unclear use or lack of use altogether of type catalogs. (Item 1 had a very descriptive type catalog so finding my model & knowing it was correct was very easy.)


In the sample below, I sought an electric 44” conveyor dishwasher, 208/3 with a built-in 70 degree rise booster. Easy, right? I used the same library to retrieve all but one of the dishwashers and lo and behold, the booster utilities were missing from five of them. So who pays for the utility run to support 25-30KW? Someone not familiar with food equipment might not have the knowledge of what is typical. What about the connections? Is the booster on its own?

If the designer has to pull a cut sheet for every single piece of equipment that goes into his drawing, it takes time away from his project. Worse, changing manufacturer-supplied families could result in errors that the consultant now owns. You may think this is extreme, but I’ve witnessed it and a manufacturer could be charged back for such errors.
Worse but not uncommon, rather than ‘hide’ clearances and other annotations, in use, the Revit operator deletes them purely for aesthetics.

Despite specifically searching for models with built-in boosters, selections were correct based on spec sheet information. As per foodservice equipment Revit standards, machine guts like internal boosters aren’t shown, although the connections for them should be and they aren’t. Not all show clearances: height, distance from wall, etc.

In the generated schedule, based on data in the families, no model or brand had all elements correct or depicted, and only items 1 & 7 account for the booster, a 15-30 watt mistake, and have the correct incoming water temperature. Only items 2, 7 & 8 have a parameter assigned for GPM, critical for dishwashers, nor are any of these referenced in “comments.” I’ve seen projects with two booster heaters as a result. Consultant specifying a unit with a built-in booster, its utilities not scheduled, so a booster gets added!

Don’t try to read the detailed schedule, just look for the yellow indicating missing, but necessary information. If I was using this for a competitive comparison, this would be a lot of work to fix, IF I decided to fix it. Or I could just make the manufacturer look BAD. Regardless, it reflects a manufacturer’s product: if you miss the small stuff, what about the big stuff?

Blue arrows indicate where clearances were shown in families. Only two showed door clearances (ceiling height, door swing if doors are hinged.) Three show NO clearances!

Billable Time Spent Correcting Manufacturer Content
Designers finding deficiencies, can usually make the corrections themselves, but it involves leaving the project, pulling a spec sheet, and opening up each model family. TIME! BUT, when information is missing from the spec sheet, a consultant nor content creator won’t, nor be expected to catch it.
Deficiencies including inconsistent naming of subcategories, requires checking every family to find the ‘perps’ and eliminating the subcategory. Why is this important? If you want to hide clearances for the purpose of a render or realistic view presentation piece, just like they do to hide walls and ceilings should be able to with one click, not several. Multiple names clutter the project too, vexing some designers. Deference to layering as is done in AutoCAD is up for debate.
If a manufacturer expects to repurpose content in sales drawings and competitive comparisons, the data needs to be there. Often considered “just 3D, higher LOD (Level of Detail), the geometry could all be boxes as long as the data is there because “You” will tell that box what it is.


What’s the Next Move?

Perhaps the worst thing that could happen is that you’ve made significant changes in a model (manufacturer), enough to affect a schedule or dimensions. The consultant specifies that the “newest model be the one supplied.”  Who  PAYS?

How can we all do better? If you are a manufacturer, follow this advice:
• Learn Revit or appoint someone in your organization to learn it at the very least to police your content, possibly update content, make sales drawings, make minor corrections. Some instructors offer foodservice-specific or Customized- To- Your -Product or Category training. (Shameless plug!)
• Hire a third-party Revit reporter (Shameless plug!) to run version reports, object styles, materials, file sizes (under 1 mb.) and test in several types of projects & Revit versions, with assorted scheduling fields, using FCSI Shared parameters. Review the report with others in your company. For the FIRST FIVE manufacturers who contact me regarding this matter, I will review five of their models free, but it might not be happy talk you get back.
• Ask your Revit reporter to pull similar products from competitors to see side by side. To test stainless, do a drawing with products & brands likely to be in a lineup with your products, i.e. dishwashers & dish TABLES.
• Upgrade/Update your content, first to Revit 2014 or 2015, then to correct and enhance it. The best content is easy to identify quickly the right model for the job, in categories that are recognized, not proprietary to YOU. In most cases, geometry is reusable as long as the correct template was initially used.
• Keep it up to date per FCSI/NAFEM Revit standard to be no more than 2 versions behind Autodesk’s current version. Only in rare instances would a complete do-over be necessary.
If you are a consultant, architect, contractor or dealer-designer:
• Share with reps whose content works best for them and why. Is it easier to use, correctly formatted and named per standards, with clearances, door swings, cut outs and other details affecting installation included.
• If there is a problem with a library in general or families, TELL the manufacturer, even if you fix it to use in your project, or their library won’t get better.
• If you can, demonstrate content problems for your factory representatives. Let them see what kind of time you spend to specify their products using their library. Empathy Sells!

Avoid Design & Install Disasters By Starting with Revit

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

Field fix.  Change Order.  Two phrases you don’t want to hear on YOUR projects. Fortunately, they are entirely preventable because a side benefit to Revit is the ability to ‘clash-detect’ and avoid these issues, not to mention the visual impact of 3D and accurate utility scheduling.

In 2011 when I was getting Revit content creation budgeted, as far as management was concerned, I was speaking a foreign language.  But finding additional value for Revit content to a manufacturer was worth investing my time.  A well-thought out Revit library could prevent errors, and make our products easier and safer to specify, even get us specified in the first place.  Correctly.

Recently, I was asked by a combi-oven manufacturer if he could use Revit to see if his rack would fit into someone else’s blast chiller.  Easier than shipping the carts to the customer and taking them back, right?

Whether it is for size, function, energy usage, codes & compliance, manufacturers often write the check$ to field-fix what i$ entirely preventable.  For the kitchen designer, Revit also offers a way to look before leaping—even create  ‘what if’/if you don’t scenarios.

Off the Board & Onto the Screen

When consultants came off the board to design in AutoCAD, they cried for content and for manufacturers to provide it.  Often heard, “If I want to specify your product, I should not have to pay for your symbols or have to spend MY time to `make them myself.”  The 2D  symbols were comparatively ‘dumb’ as opposed to the information-rich 3D Revit families of today.  Consider: 3D is the part we see, but the data is where errors and omissions lie in wait.  Worse, spec sheets are often cluttered with microscopic text, have every possible variation,  accessories, options, and all utility types.  A consultant sees hundreds of them on every project so it makes sense to help them extract information efficiently.  Every time their eyes leave the screen to search is dollars wasted.


A consultant through intelligent content in his design tells mechanical engineers to soften water, heat water, filter water, chill water, likely spots for panels, establishing flow rate requirements, sizing hot water heaters, air conditioning and heating loads for the entire facility. Setting products up to succeed by ensuring they are adequately supplied by the facility equals a working design.  Clash tests in Revit can point out errors such as pipes going through ducts, even when ceiling heights need to be re-evaluated.

Often Missing, Need for LEED, Need to Succeed

It isn’t a given that all of the data needed for design is on spec sheets or other literature.  Example, refrigerant volume.    A LEED project, for instance, counts every piece of refrigeration using more than 8 oz. of charge.  That’s like almost everything larger than your old dormitory beer refrigerator.  It’s that cold well, salad bar, ice maker, etc.  It’s not enough that it is on the serial number tag because a designer won’t see it.  Content creators are not manufacturers, and cannot be expected to know your products like you do, (consider it a bonus if whom you hire does) but it isn’t on their watch to ask for extra information.   Heat gain, CFM, water quality requirements, drain water discharge temperatures, maximum line runs, clearances in all directions, including service access—if they aren’t on your spec sheets, they won’t make it into Revit content and that’s a problem that you own if your product fails in the field.

Clearances: Performance, “What if’s, Service, Reach & Common Sense

Not just the obvious, like how close to a wall your dishwasher can get or the swing in a refrigerator door, clearances exist for space, safety, service, sanitation, operations, or practical application.   Clearances below a tray slide can keep you from adding a door to the counter, that won’t open when the slide is folded down.  Service clearances, so you can access condenser coils for cleaning & locate an access door,  pull scrap screens out of dishwasher, designate a heat barrier, even where to leave room to install a water filter assembly.

Even seemingly simple products like ice makers aren’t exempt.  While some of the most troublesome post-installation nightmares you can have with ice makers are directly attributable to water, forgetting that ice makers “breathe” can mean melted candy bars in the vending or lower machine capacities due to excess heat buildup if ventilation isn’t considered.   This is an example of entirely preventable mishaps that could have been caught in Revit, with the proper information in the Revit families.




Finally, what about that seemingly simple salad bar?  The manufacturer of the refrigerated drop-in’s may not be supplying counters, and may have no idea what a fabricator might do to ‘save space’ sacrificing ventilation needs for the condenser.  Think about how hot a kitchen can get, then go stand next to some of the appliances that generate it.  Now think about what data might have been supplied that could have prevented improper equipment placement.  Initially, I used Revit for showing customers you can’t put 10 lbs. of stuff in a 5 lb. bag, or for dish room and serving line layouts—even before and afters.




So there it is:  the ‘eureka’ moment.  What can you build into your Revit content to proactively prevent mistakes and better, how can you use it to actually sell your products?

Revit helps avoid building mistakes by allowing you to catch them before the first nail is hammered so why not build that prevention in?    When mistakes are caught, particularly before the fact, costs are reduced.  Period.  Same goes for layouts.

So use your new Revit content to also update your spec sheets, brochures, tech and operations manuals, signage, and make sure the right information makes it into the project.  For even more potential cost savings, consider photorealistic renders instead of building a piece of equipment just for a brochure glamour shot.

Anyone with field experience can vouch for these points, so don’t wait to correct your content.  Protect your customers, protect yourselves.

Next Up:  Multi-part: A non-AutoCAD User’s Guide to Learning JUST ENOUGH Revit to be dangerous…to your COMPETITION, that is!






Multi-Task Your Revit Library

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

At least 150 foodservice equipment manufacturers have made Revit content for their products available to commercial kitchen designers and design/build dealers since 2011. That’s also when Revit standards were developed by the FCSI/NAFEM Revit Task Force which were updated in December, 2015. The advantage of those standards is to provide uniformity in how content is created so that a design doesn’t look like a patchwork quilt.
Your Revit Library Today & What Is Involved in Upgrading
So if you’ve only distributed it and otherwise just sat on it, you are missing out. While it isn’t common for a manufacturer to be trained in Revit or even have a license, there is an advantage to having someone in your organization know how to use it. Below you will find ideas to get alterative use out of your library INSIDE your organization for sales and marketing, and they are all do-able in-house.
As pointed out in previous articles, all content created in 2011-12 needs to be upgraded, but the money paid out to do so in the first place drew a Botox-worthy scowl from Finance departments industry-wide.
While you won’t be starting from scratch, now is a good time to examine it by getting a third party to evaluate it, screenshot issues and provide a roadmap to get errors corrected, files upgraded including adjusting materials to coincide with the latest Revit standards for foodservice to make them uniform with other products likely to make it into a project, and investigate making content render-ready. If you will use content for sales/marketing, what elements can you add that are specific to your brand/models? Is there something special about your control panel that makes it identifiable? What choices can you add for in-family configuration? You also want to make sure utilities schedule COMPLETELY and correctly.
So while you may have ORIGINALLY spent anywhere from $50-$200 for EACH family, you won’t be charged that today, particularly if existing geometry can be reused.. Besides, aren’t their new products to introduce with NAFEM just 6 months away?
Here’s what you can do to make that library ‘multi-task’ enough to justify the cost of upgrading it beyond making it easier for your CUSTOMERS to use.
Virtual Walk Through of Your NAFEM/Trade Show Booth
NAFEM is 3 days and there are 500 manufacturers. Even if attending all three days, your customers can realistically spend meaningful time with fewer than 75. How do YOU, as a manufacturer, ensure that you are among those getting a visit? The answer: a virtual walk-through of your booth, made in Revit and accessible to designers before the event, to make your booth and products a “must see”. Product details for download can also be included. Putting your products into a Revit project, showing how they schedule in projects also proves the worth of your library and why you should be specified. Tell the story, sell your product, while at the same time providing access to your newer products to those who could not attend the show.
Alternative Configurations for your Product, Even Market Segment-Specific
Every day, reps come across customers who want your product configured very specifically and wants to see it. If you don’t have any installed nearby or anywhere, a Revit drawing configured properly can save the sale. Example: a flight-type dishwasher with a longer load end or prewash. A serving or chef’s counter, even storage shelving. Why not create a starting point that can be modified?

two dishwaswhers

Custom spec sheets can be made for use when the project goes out for bid making it easier for consultants and owners to hold specs. Those sheets can be set up in advance so when you need them, it is a matter of dragging and dropping what you want in them.

type catalog

Prior Approval Requests for Bid Jobs/Holding your own Specs
Most consultants & architects have a procedure for approving alternates. What better and faster way than to put specified, including “pick 3” and your products into a project side by side, schedule them, dimension them, prove that they will or won’t work with surrounding products. Then, using a third party add-in, print off the spec sheets which will automatically be pulled, and numbered for you. Not only is it a spot check to make sure your products will work in the job, have comparable utilities, rather than pour over spec sheets, it makes it easy for a consultant to review because the essentials are right in front of him. Just doing the exercise yourself can keep you from submitting your products when they won’t work. Many consultants cannot charge to review alternates so the faster you can make the process for them, the better.

competitive comparison
Also helpful, put the ‘pick 3’s’ side by side. Dealers need to understand that often, pre-approved products are by brand and they are still expected to meet/exceed the written specs.

Competitive Comparisons and Choices
Most reps want them if for no other reason than to learn, but often, an end user will expect to know differences among products and brands. What a better way to start is via a Revit drawing showing these products side by side. You can even show the SAME product but configured in a number of ways. Before/after scenarios are also easily done using Revit.

Update, Enhance Existing Content
• Older content might not schedule or may not have been constructed properly. Revit is also case & space-sensitive. As a result, duplicate elements can show up.
• You’ve added/discontinued or changed products.
• FCSI/NAFEM Revit Task Force has designed a material library & you need to incorporate it.

bunn render


• Older content can “break” in newer versions of Revit. (This happens when Revit attempts to upgrade the Revit file, and that file was built using criteria not contained in later versions.) When content breaks, it cannot enter the project, so a designer has to drop everything and call the rep or factory.

face based

• New foodservice-friendly features including a universal materials library and the ability to “cut with void” which means a drop-in or control panel will ‘cut’ the counter as it enters the project.

cut with void side by side


• Add missing information. Commonly missing: refrigerant charge, filtered water parameters/temperatures, drain water discharge temperatures, clearances.
• Add color and material CHOICES.

Combi compare
• Check out Steven Shell’s AU presentation for more tips on using GREAT content! http://blog.bradleycorp.com/bradleybim//2013/08/28/5-revit-presentation-tips-steven-shell-architect-csrw-class/
Next Up: Preventing Design/Installation Disasters; Using Revit content for sales/marketing tools; The ‘Art’ of the Competitive Comparison