Is Manufacturer BIM Content Usable?

Manufacturers are beginning to provide more and more content of their product lines for Autodesk Revit® and other Building Information Modeling (BIM) users, but is the content really usable?  I applaud their willingness to spend the money and effort to provide BIM users with this content, but the content must be usable or it is useless.

I realize that “usable” is a bit of a subjective term, so let me explain.  I recently went to seek.autodesk.com and downloaded a Revit® door family that was a specific model from a door manufacturer.  I was unable to use the door family due to inherent problems with the door family.  I don’t mean perceived problems, but actual problems that I truly believe made the door family useless to me and most other designers.

First, the door family was detailed to such an extreme level that it was a very large file and displayed too much information in the plan view.  When looking at the door in plan view, every component of the door was displayed.  This includes all of the accurate internal extrusions of both the door frame and the door panel.  It appeared that it was the actual 3D model that was used to manufacture the product.  A building designer using Revit to design a building does not need or desire that level of detail.  We really don’t care about showing every extruded detail of the interior portion of the door assembly.  All that extra detail does is bloat the Revit model file and make it so large that the model cannot be modified with anything but a super computer.  It also displays so much detail that the door will just plot as a large “blob” with none of that detail actually distinguishable.  The only time we desire that level of detail is on an enlarged door jamb or head detail at either 1-1/2″ or 3″=1′-0″ detail, and for those we generally just desire a 2D drafting view to utilize.

Another problem was that the door was not capable of being displayed in an open position in a plan view.  The only option for displaying the door was in the closed position, regardless of the view.  As an architect, I want to show the door panel in the open position in plans so that I can display the proper orientation of the door swing.  I could have edited the door family to add the swing designation, but I didn’t feel like modifying the family to make it “correct”.  I say “correct” as I really don’t know of an architect that does not desire the swing, so I do not consider the door without swing capability to be correct.  That was an issue that the manufacturer should have foreseen and corrected before providing the content to the end user.

My recommendation is that manufacturers work with designers actually using BIM software to determine the needs of the designer.  Manufacturers’ content is very useful to designers, contractors, and owners, but only if it is in a usable format.

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One thought on “Is Manufacturer BIM Content Usable?

  1. Hi Doug,

    I like your recommendation here! I’m with an unusual Autodesk & Solidworks VAR, and we get questions about BIM from manufacturers all the time. We have our architectural and building systems clients and staff talking to our manufacturing clients and staff as much as possible to avoid the issues you’re discussing here! BIM and integrated project delivery are all about getting everyone involved on the same page from the get-go, and manufacturers are an import piece of the puzzle.

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