1 Introduction

A question that is often asked is where South African companies may find existing BIM content to use in their projects. This is true across all the disciplines in Revit (Architectural, Structural and MEP). While Autodesk Revit has some great country specific content that can be downloaded, it is still necessary for designers to create content as they need it. To this end they should invest in software and training to skill up and consider employing someone to manage their content.

2 What is BIM?

Essentially Revit may be seen as a drawing interface to a database that may be queried for information. Having the project in BIM form has various advantages for everyone involved in the life-cycle of a project, from planning, designing, construction and management.


3 BIM Mandates

Scandinavia, America, Europe, the East and Middle East all have countries that mandate a BIM model as a deliverable for a project to get planning permission. While South Africa does not yet mandate BIM, it will most probably be implemented in the near future.

Since international companies often work in countries where BIM is mandated, their South African offices are often required to comply to BIM standards as well.

4 The BIM Manager

Large companies have the easier task in that they can employ BIM managers to manage and create content. Some international companies even have a Global BIM manager that oversees Regional BIM managers and the content they keep. Typically designers would request the BIM manager to create the relevant content and to add it to their database.

Smaller companies have the more difficult task in that they have to create content while not having the same resources (financial and technical) as larger firms.

5 Designers and BIM

In the general Architectural sense, it is not critical that models conform to reality. A family can easily be duplicated and the properties altered to reflect a component in the drawing database that has not been modeled. It should be realized that while this may be sufficient for the general 2D case, for visualization it would be insufficient.

Because Revit is so powerful in creating schedules a simple rectangular block may be used to represent a component while the parameters can be scheduled. Later the geometry of the model can be refined and then updated in projects that contain it without overwriting the type or instance parameters already assigned to it.

To anyone wanting to create a high-end visual representation of their design it is crucial they source or generate an accurate 3D model.

An added layer of complexity is present for creators of Revit Structure and MEP content. Structural components have a structural model. Electrical components have connectors that can be added to circuits. Lighting components may not only have electrical connectors, but also have an IES photometric web file to describe the distribution of light from the light source. HVAC components may have connections to air, fluid and electrical systems (Hydronic systems). Plumbing fixtures need to be connected to piping systems.

6 Manufacturers and BIM

Regardless of the size of firm that is creating the BIM project, it is an enormous advantage to have available the content as provided by manufacturers. While one may find relevant content for download on the Internet, the actual products may not be available for purchase in South Africa, or might be more expensive than locally manufactured products.

What is important for manufacturers to realize is that:

  • BIM is the new standard in the Architectural world and their products are increasingly being used in such projects.
  • If they are not supplying the BIM models of their products to designers, each designer has to model their products independently.
  • Designers may offset the cost of modeling their products against a more expensive alternative for which a BIM model exists.
  • Their BIM models are a marketing tool as they can refer a designer to their Website or email address for enquiries through the properties their models encapsulate.

To a manufacturer that would like to publish models for his products there are various options available.

  • An investment can be made in-house to
    • buy an Autodesk software solution that would suit their needs
    • skill-up their drafts people to use an Autodesk software solution most effectively
  • A 3rd party may be contacted to model their products from scratch or convert existing 3D models to BIM models.

In each of these cases Micrographics may be contacted and our services secured.

7 Native Revit Modeling

Revit has many family templates which allow a user to model various intelligent types of families. Some of them are discipline specific (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical or Plumbing).

Families may be hosted to system families, hosted to faces or reference planes or free standing.

When content is created in Revit it may be created parametrically so that the component may be flexed according to formulae set up by the designer.

8 Incorporating External CAD content

Families may be imported into Revit from a variety of external sources. For the best workflow it is recommended that this is done within the stable of Autodesk products. Typically a user would use AutoCAD (Building Design Suite Premium) and/or Inventor (Building Design Suite Ultimate) to create manufacturing models. It is a relatively simple process to bring solid geometry into Revit from these programs.

In the case of Solidworks (non-Autodesk) models they can be converted to DWG using Inventor and then brought into Revit and exploded into Revit solid geometry. If the DWG geometries are brought in on the basis that a layer represents a material, then one can do so successively for each layer and assign Revit materials to the solid geometry created.

Sketchup (non-Autodesk) models can be inserted into Revit as is (so long as they are saved in Version 7 or earlier), although they may not always explode into Revit solid geometry.

Various workflows exist to bring content into Revit from a variety of drafting platforms.

9 Updating Content to the Current Version of Revit

Files may also be updated one by one using Revit itself. In isolated instances there may be a conflict when a family is upgraded, but this is very rare.

If required micrographics can assist clients to run a batch file to update multiple families in one step.

https://apps.exchange.autodesk.com – Apps may also be sourced from Autodesk Exchange to bulk update Revit files.

BIM Content

The Revit API may also be programmed against using external applications and the process may be automated in this way.

10 Micrographics and South African BIM Content

Micrographics can assist our clients at a project level, using our knowledge and existing databases of information to assist them with content creation as needed. We offer 8GB Revit Content which clients may obtain from us.

There is a shortage of Revit knowledge in South Africa and to this end Micrographics offer courses to skill-up operators so they may begin creating content of their own.

Another recommendation we make is that contact be established between companies so that content may be traded between them, although the quality of the product would first have to be ascertained.

Further resources may be found on the Internet. Specifically one may have a look at:

  • http://www.specifile.co.za/ – Specfile is one of South Africa’s largest publishers of architectural, engineering and construction-related information.
  • http://www.autospec.co.za/ – Autospec have been providing 2D data for many years and started providing 3D (Revit) data a couple of years ago. It’s a service that many South African Architects subscribe to.
  • http://www.swartland.co.za – Subscribe to Swartland’s Specnet to get their window and door files for free.
  • Various sites abound on the net supplying Models but most of them are internationally focused.

Micrographics supply textbooks for those that would like a reference to consult when creating Revit content.