Change is Inevitable, Progress is Optional

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

For someone in the building industry that quote from Tony Robbins could not ring more true. Let's be honest, architects have a difficult job. Hearing that spoken from a mechanical designer could seem surprising, I'll admit it I guess. Working with clients that constantly change their minds and want their spaces built yesterday is no easy task. Long gone are the days that an architect gets a plan well developed before bringing the engineering team in. Many design build projects break ground long before the design is finalized. The industry moving at such a blistering speed makes it extremely difficult for the engineering team to keep up with the changes in a continuously developing floor plan.

Designing buildings in Revit these days has become so commonplace it's hard to imagine how we got our work done without it for all those years. I spent a few years in the reseller market and one catch phrase we used to describe Revit is "a change anywhere is a change everywhere". That phrase speaks to the some of the power of Revit, anywhere an object is changed, all views that show that object are updated; whether the change is in the data or graphical. Like any other tool, Revit has it's shortcomings. One area that users struggle with is coordinating plumbing fixture locations that that seem to incessantly change in the architectural model. The domestic water and DWV piping in the plumbing model constantly need to be updated to reflect those changes as well.

One toolset to help keep up with the changes is Copy/Monitor. The Copy/Monitor toolset can be found on the Collaborate tab of the ribbon. One of the ways you can use the toolset is to establish relationships between the linked architectural model and your engineering model. You can Copy/Monitor levels, grids, columns, walls, floors, openings and MEP fixtures. If a change to the elements occur in the architectural model you are alerted to the change when you open your model. Covering the copy/monitoring off all element types is beyond the scope of this article. For this article we are going to focus on monitoring changes between plumbing fixtures.

There are two primary methods you can employ with the copy/monitor toolset, Copy & Monitor. Copy does just as you would expect and creates a copy of the item in your model and establishes a locational relationship between the linked model and the copied element. Using our plumbing fixture example, the fixture would be copied from the linked architectural model and placed in your model in the same location. If the architect moves the fixture you will be notified when you reopen your model or reload the linked model. The other method, Monitor, only establishes a relationship between two elements of the same type, it does not copy the element. Both methodologies have their place to be employed, I'll explain why soon. First, let's step through the process.

Above we see a basic partial floor plan of a residential bathroom. The architect has some schematic fixtures in their model. One key issue with most architectural plumbing fixtures is the absence of MEP connectors, if they do include connectors they are often in the wrong location. Without connectors in the fixtures you can not connect to them meaning you will not be able to inherit any data such as system, pipe size, flow data, etc. If you employ the Copy method here you will be copying a useless schematic plumbing fixture family to your model, don't do it.

You can still use the Copy method, but be sure to use it in conjunction with Fixture Mapping or don't use Copy at all. Fixture Mapping copies the location of an object in a linked model and places your specified content in lieu of that which is located in the linked file. To do this, start the Copy command from the Coordinate toolset on the Collaborate tab of the Ribbon.

Next click the link containing the elements you want to copy. If you hover over the link, the tool tip will help you confirm you are selecting the correct link. Once the link has been selected the Ribbon will switch to the Copy/Monitor contextual ribbon. Click the Coordination Settings button to open the Coordination Settings menu. You will find you can specify mapping behavior for a wide array of element types.

To specify the mapping behavior for plumbing fixtures, click plumbing fixtures. Next to Copy behavior you can choose from a drop-down list allowing you to select between allowing batch copy, copying the fixtures individually, or ignoring the category. Below that next to Mapping behavior is another drop-down list where you can select between copying the original or specifying type mapping.

Once you select Type Mapping the dialog will change as shown below. Your exact dialog appearance will vary based on what fixtures are in your linked model. The right side of the dialog is subdivided into two sections, the left side lists plumbing fixtures in the linked model and the right side lists how your model will handle copying those fixtures.

In the example below we are specifying the mapping behavior for a tank type water closet found in the linked architectural model. The family name Tank Type WC is shown to contain one type, "Standard". Next to that item in the row is a drop-down list where you can specify what plumbing fixture family to use when copying them to your model. The drop-down list will only list families and their types that are currently loaded in your model. If the type you wish to use is not currently loaded you will need to exit the dialog and load the family before it can be used for fixture mapping. Once you have specified your mapping behavior for the fixtures click Save & Close.

You are returned to the design window where you can now copy the fixtures and establish a relationship with the linked elements. To do so, click copy to copy fixtures one by one or click batch copy to copy all fixtures that have not been copied yet as well as those that have been added to the link since the last time you executed the tool. For this example we will copy a couple of the water closets one by one. As each one is clicked a small symbol appears indicating that a monitoring relationship has been established.

If for some reason you need to stop monitoring the fixtures or remove them from your model, do not just delete them. First stop monitoring them, then delete them. To do so, click the plumbing fixture then click Stop Monitoring.

Another way you can leverage the Copy/Monitor tool is to simply monitor elements. Monitor establishes a locational relationship between an element in the linked model and an element in the host model. This is a great approach to use when the hosting is different between the linked version and your version.

Architects tend to use plumbing fixture content somewhat symbolically. Often they may use a floor mounted water closet family when a wall mounted water closet is the actual fixture type to be installed. If you were to use fixture mapping in this case, the result would be a wall mounted water closet placed on the floor in your model. The error is pretty obvious and could make you look pretty silly. To avoid that blunder use the Monitor tool. Start by first placing the fixtures in your model and being careful to match the architect's locations. Then run the Monitor tool being sure to click your fixture first followed by the version in the linked model.

Now that this monitoring relationship is established, reacting to the ever changing plans will be far easier. Successful Revit implementations hinge on quality BIM content and sound modeling methodologies. Not having quality plumbing fixture to use for fixture mapping would greatly hinder the process described here. BIM Consulting Services specializes in BIM content development, Revit implementation and customized training solutions. If you are struggling to get over the hump designing MEP systems in Revit, give us a call, we would love to help. We offer a wide array of BIM related services in a variety of packages including hourly and retainer based service contracts.

Nick Fuller

BIM Consulting Services


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