Revit RANTS… Top Issues with Food Equipment Manufacturer Content & What it takes to Fix them Yourself (If you have to)

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

Your latest kitchen design is humming along nicely.  Then, BAM.  You hit a wall and it all comes to a screeching halt.  Why?  Because the manufacturers’ Revit family libraries you are pulling from are not to NAFEM/FCSI standards.   Or maybe, not to your firm’s standards either.  What do you do?  Do you call the offending ‘perp’ manufacturer or rep, send a ‘nasty-gram’ or will that take too long? The options:  explain the issue to a non-Revit using manufacturer or rep which most often draws blank faces & watering eyes, starts an endless waiting game of ‘telephone’, runarounds to find the ‘right person’ or ‘the person who does that.’  Then, they may have to issue a PO to a content creator!  And you needed it ‘yesterday.’ Translation? MORE wasted time.  More time than what it would have taken you to fix it yourself and save it in your firm’s library.  As the old saying goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself. “

Manufacturers want their products specified, but if it costs you time, it’s moneyYour $$$.  Could be simple but irritating things like not being able to number the product in your equipment schedule, or making a material adjustment.  While those corrections are easy and quick and you won’t need to call anyone, they STAY wrong in the third party library or manufacturer’s content site.  So what about other people in your firm also accessing those libraries?

If the family is face-based it not only ticks you off, it means a complete do-over of that family to fix.  But the worst sins of all, it is incorrect utilities, insufficient /incomplete utilities, clearances, as well as inconsistent subcategories & views.  Those missing elements could affect how your project is communicated to other stakeholders,  your like mechanical engineers, even owners, who are relying on that built-in data to service the equipment, to heat/chill/treat water, spot electrical panels, run hot or cold waterlines and spot drains.   Common offenders-dishwasher booster heaters, number of connections, water temperature and quality required-very necessary for dishwasher heat recovery; cold food drop-in wells (air circulation) even chilled water dispensers that also require air circulation or risk component failure not covered under warranty.

The best manufacturer content helps avoid mistakes while respecting your billable time.  It should be EASY to find content enriched with all the data you need to get your kitchen built with correct utilities that will actually connect, water heaters sized correctly, treated water where necessary, water temperatures inbound, even drain water temperatures, which due to changing codes are more important than ever.  Clearances should not only be properly identified, they should be named PROPERLY and set up in specific views so the designer can turn on/off the subcategory or change the view in the project to impact all elements regardless of origin.

A built-in booster heater with its own connection needs to schedule.  Too often, only the machine schedules, so it doesn’t matter what the written spec says if the engineers don’t see it. Many designers pick this up and handle it manually by splitting a schedule line, but why should they have to? What if someone else in the firm is handling Revit and doesn’t catch this?  Expensive mistake to pay for a utility run not planned for.

Today’s low water use dishwashers have smaller final rinse nozzles, making treated water more important than ever.  But only ONE manufacturer makes that known on their spec sheet.  Now that heat recovery has legs, you are now treating COLD as well as hot water. You need both because hot is the initial fill, but the machine’s continuous water usage is actually cold water, that comes in within a specific temperature range. Many engineers aren’t used to treating cold water that isn’t consumed.   It is too late for this information if it is only in the manual.  It needs to be available at the time of design.

Not one ice machine manufacturer puts water requirements in their Revit families, even though they sell filter systems.  Yet most all of them can recall eating warranty calls when all the machine needed was to be de-scaled, but the customer is screaming.

What about COFFEE?  Remarkably, no beverage families convey water quality requirements or recommended incoming temperatures.

Nice to have?  Energy Star status, LEED Credit application, plus asset management parameters for the end user facility manager wanting to use software but dreads the massive order entry required. (BIM/Revit is a DATABASE so it can be imported directly, potentially saving weeks of tedium.)  The graphics that follow highlight some common irritations.

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Food Service Industry Has Standards. So do design firms!

Some mechanical engineers have confided that they “never” use manufacturer content because they don’t trust it, or because some use brand-specific subcategories that don’t play nicely with others, and the drawing looks like crap.

But in commercial kitchen design, FCSI & NAFEM have STANDARDS for Revit content designed to nip these issues in the bud, and proactively prevent costly errors.  So why aren’t they being used by EVERYONE?

Back in 2011, there wasn’t an approved material library, or clearance material, for instance.  Plus newer features in Revit are foodservice-friendly.  Couple that with Revit 2018 having just launched.  Those 2011-constructed families will at minimum, take forever to load because they are updating, or at worst, ‘break,’ making them unusable.

Where did the $$ go?

If your studio employs Revit operators, and you notice a bottleneck in production, it is highly likely that your firm’s billable time is being spent fixing content that was supposed to be “free” and to work.

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Subcategories include clearances for doors/drawers, per code (mandatory), surface details, etc.  Materials, including stainless steel also have standards.  Only items 3, 6 & 7 adhere to these standards as of 4/20/17.

So in no particular order, here’s the list, along with the average time it takes to fix each.  Send links to this blog to the offending manufacturers.  Ask why they shouldn’t be charged back for your time.  Since foodservice consultants have been actively using Revit for more than 5 years, would it not make sense for each manufacturer to have a staff member who knows how to at minimum fix their content, including minor updates, upgrades and other changes? Granted, they aren’t architects, but it is good customer service after all and would allow corrections to be made quickly. Videos of these fixes are available upon request.

      1. Cannot input an item number. (Under a minute. Change ‘item number’ to ‘instance, make sure it is in Specialty Equipment category.)
      2. File size too large. RFA’s should be no more than 1 mb for anything complex, best practice, under 700k. Depending on complexity, trial/error, it could take up to an hour to fix or may need to be done over.  Hint: try to get rid of voids and use model lines where possible.
      3. Items that should “cut” because they are dropped in, such as a soup, hot or cold well, even sinks, should actually cut the family it goes in.   (Under 2 minutes-using my time and money-saving technique shown here.)  Otherwise, each affected family would have to be opened and cut individually, tracing the equipment, then removing the equipment, load in project, add equipment in the opening.  Putting it into the counter family, it won’t schedule.
      4. Wrong category or template used, including face-based. (Scream-inducing).  Should be using “Specialty Equipment” with a family-naming convention of QF_MFR_Model. Changing from ‘generic’ to Specialty Equipment is simple, but face-based has to be re-done.
      5. Naming conventions-period—subcategories & shared parameters. (Under a minute per subcategory, a bit more for shared parameter. But there are third party tools available to rename parameters in bulk.)
      6. Proper utilities are “in” the family, but they won’t schedule in your project.  (About a minute per parameter, but those changes are made in each individual family. There are some third party software add in’s that can speed up the process.)
      7. Missing Information. Water quality, supply temperature, missing clearances, often for products that require air circulation or transfer heat, CFM, refrigerant charge, some of which are not on spec sheets and would require a phone call.

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In this schedule, ONLY items 3, 6 & 7 contain ALL of the relevant information a designer needs, including all utilities, connections, water temps and quality, Energy Star & LEED Credit information.  Asset management schedule also includes warranty.  Notable missing data from the other products:  water quality, cold water for heat recovery, required water temperatures, proper labeling with utilities for tank wattage. Item 1 is a single point connection. While it is not spelled out, utilities reflect it.
Item 3 identifies in two areas that a booster is by others, in notes and in incoming water temp. Item 6 shows and schedules two connections; Item 7 is a single point connection and is clear by wattage and amperage.  LEED Credits and Energy Star status are bonuses.

How to Fix

A manufacturer can learn what he/she needs to know to fix families in-house, or  hire a third party content evaluator/fixer/provider to do it for them.  In most cases, geometry is salvageable, so lower cost than round 1. Where it becomes a problem is if data is also missing from spec sheets, so if you get an evaluator/fixer/provider who also KNOWS the equipment, they will know to ask for information not shown or proactively check manuals. So having an engineering contact for the content creator is essential.

And YOU, manufacturers-don’t rule out learning Revit yourself, at least enough to be dangerous.  Or arrange for a savvy staff member to learn it. The price for a Revit subscription has gone down considerably and can even be purchased on a monthly basis.  Each issue listed above can be fixed using Revit LT, which is less money than the full version of Revit or a suite.

Bottom line: commercial kitchen designers specifying your products deserve better.  Why not help them out and at the same time, make your library the best and most user-friendly in the business?

Revit is a Design-Build Tool, But What About AFTER the Building is Built?

What’s in it for the OWNER is more than you may think.

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

Design.  Build.  Operate.  As food service facility designers, whether design only or design/build, who is actually the client, and who in the channel controls the end-user (client) relationship?

Particularly with larger facilities (over 5000 sq. ft.,) or those which are publicly funded, the guy paying the bill initially isn’t always the owner.  While many believe that the “Golden Rule” applies, as in he with the gold makes the rules, an operator without a voice in the design or build process may not be heard, and it may only come to light when he takes the keys and (tries to) operate his new commercial kitchen.

Too often, channel members can be information silos, and elements easy to add during design end up a real time-consuming pain after the fact.  Revit works because it is collaborative among trades, thus avoiding errors or catching them before ground is broken.

Foodservice dealer designers & consultants have been transitioning to Revit since 2011-2012.  But the equipment manufacturer providing content may ONLY know what the designer needs, and the eventual end user, owner, operator gets lost in the shuffle. It is more than 3D and visualization.


So what about that OWNER?  After all, it’s his/her money.  Presumably, the building model is in his hands once the building is built & turned over, but how useful, depends on how well it was built.  LEED credits can even be tracked.  Space management (flexible space for future repurposing) is a hot topic right now, maximizing $$ per square foot, as is Life Cycle Cost Assessment. (Link to NAFEM’s Tool)

LEED credits relating to water and energy can be cited here.  Green Building Properties parameters are in the Autodesk Master Parameter list. There is space for asset management information as well.
For more information,

Revit is a Database

How cool would it be to filter equipment by warranty expiry date, depreciate assets, and budget for maintenance, replace equipment older than X years old?  How about production year to get a specific manual later in life,  several staff members ago?  Manufacturers need to consider how their information is used in the field by their customers.

When a content provider (of Revit families) creates families, his primary source of information is the manufacturer’s spec sheet, and they are almost never experts on the equipment to the extent the manufacturer’s engineers are.  Forget valuable asset information for a moment.   Too often, vital information to successfully operate is missing, including:

  • Water Quality Requirements (For both hot and cold, particularly with the advent of low water usage appliances requiring filter/scale assemblies)
  • Incoming water temperature requirements
  • Warranty length
  • BTUh/heat load
  • Refrigerant Charge—sometimes not in any manual or spec sheet, appearing only on a serial number tag
  • Energy Star™ Status
Great to provide water quality information, but how about sooner than the installation manual?

LEED V4 has set water and energy standards for process equipment, which is what food equipment is known as.  (see Appendix 3.)

Can you imagine an owner or staff having to plow through drawing sets & spec sheets to extract what was not included in Revit families?

Message to Content Creators & Commercial Kitchen Designers:  Just because it doesn’t appear on a schedule doesn’t mean that the information isn’t vital to a stakeholder at some point in time.  Adding Revit parameters designed to track and maintain assets are vital to equipment longevity & proper operation.  Providing it upfront reduces data entry, and also makes warranty service easier to claim, and makes scheduling maintenance easier.  This gets it off the ground at the get-go.

The Asset Management Schedule

Imagine being able to sort equipment by what needs X months’ maintenance, or a filter, “O” ring or belt replacement?  Chart when warranties expire?  What about LEED Credit & Energy Star™ reference, even process improvement?

More consultants are writing Energy Star™ information into product requirements and cite water usage and the LEED Credit/Standard attempted, undeniably a great way to hold spec. Building products manufacturers have been doing this for years.

Jackson WWS, a major manufacturer of commercial ware washers (owned by Hoshizaki, who is one of the largest food equipment companies worldwide), has taken a leadership position for foodservice equipment by including asset management parameters in their upgraded Revit library, out soon.

Post-Installation Software/Facility Management + Revit Shared Parameters

Thankfully, software packages now available to owners and asset/facility managers make equipment tracking easier.  Some have mobile platforms and real-time information. So what if those packages could ‘talk’ to the BIM model in some form through a user-friendly pipeline?  With asset management data in-hand, an operator can manage maintenance schedules and budget for replacement. Yes, there is a “service life” parameter as well.

Note that this information was among the Revit Parameters seen above.  Imagine how much time is saved on data entry alone.

Maintenance example:  Ice maker & steamer manufacturers recommend filter changes & typically define the TYPE of filter and replacement frequency.  This is also typically done as part of cleaning and other preventative maintenance.

Some consultants specify a years’ worth of filters for products that need them, but the value goes away if those are not noted (type/make/model) and tracked.

The low-tech way – the installer or service agent dates the filter cartridge with a Sharpie™.  Asset management software keeps these records in real-time and make it available to those who need it.

What’s a Commercial Kitchen Consultant to Do?

Foodservice consultants & design/build dealers are uniquely qualified as well as influential in the information-gathering process, because they have clout with manufacturers.  Providing asset management framework during design puts valuable information with significant post-construction value to the owner.

C’mon, Manufacturers.  Quit Using up the Consultant’s Billable Time!!

Design jobs have upwards of several hundred -even thousands of products, making data entry annoyingly time-consuming.  Each family has to be opened up, parameters added one at a time, (don’t shoot the messenger, that’s what Revit makes you do) then saved into a folder you can access again as needed. Add that to the plethora of what’s MISSING or scattered among other documents, that need to be researched.  But a content creator can easily add these parameters into their templates which are repeatable.

????$$$$$ Now what??

 The Foodservice Consultant Society International (FCSI) adopted a shared parameters file to establish uniformity and quality standards for BIM content provided by manufacturers.  FCSI The Americas has done a good job promoting this and appointed a task force.

Last year, FCSI Worldwide (thank you Roberto Assi,  Unox, who shouldered this) made noise about Global Parameters, and William Taunton, at the FCSI/NAFEM Liaison Meeting in April reminded everyone that he specifies products from all over the world so the industry’s  need for Global Parameters was underscored.

Here’s the difference. EAME parameters: Warranty Duration/Start Date, Production date, Agency Approvals, Bar Code, Serial Number, etc.  More attention was paid to hot/cold water quality and incoming water temperatures.  Easier to populate an equipment database to create maintenance schedules, track warranty end dates, or when replacing equipment.

A consultant designing a school cafeteria, could decide to re-use existing equipment, and such records can be helpful, so it’s an insurance policy should spec sheets are no longer available & agency listings don’t go far back enough to extract information like water usage (NSF, ETL, UL, ARI/ARHI.)  Having this information easily at hand can also help when applying for utility rebates and you need comparative data.

YOU—Hey Operator This Is For YOU, after all, YOU are the customer!

If you have any say in how your kitchen design is produced, ask for BIM.  Make sure the content library from which your designer pulls, (Autoquotes, KCL & Specifi are three suppliers of food equipment content libraries) has a procedure for keeping it up to date.

Also be sure that the library (s) your designer uses was built using FCSI/NAFEM shared parameters, particularly important if they created content prior to the standards.  Ask for an asset management schedule and for them to build their content to include those parameters.  It can be exported into Excel.

Finally, when researching facility management software or if you already use it, check to see if it is compatible with Revit, and that kitchen equipment can be added to it.  While Autodesk has its own software for this as described but there are third party solutions that work with BIM models and/or BIM data can be exported into database files like Access & Excel.

For more information,  look for this white paper.


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!