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!






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