Revit Families: Explanation and Guidelines

revit families guidelinesThe Revit families feature in Autodesk Revit Architecture allows users to broaden various design concepts according to the parameters they establish for different family types. Creation, editing, and deletion are all done through the Family Editor which is a graphical mode in the software that opens access to the three types of families supported in its configuration: in-place families, system families, and standard component families. The main aim is to facilitate the creation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional representations while also taking into consideration the need for parametric aspects.

Designers or engineers who are interested in using this feature, must first fully understand the basic concepts of Revit Architecture and some important definitions. Some of these areas are covered in the course Revit Architecture for Beginners which uses the 2014 version of the software. Fortunately, there is also the Learning Autodesk Revit Architecture 2013 course for those who have an earlier version.

What is a Revit Family?

In a nutshell, a family is any related graphical representation of elements that share particular definitions through established parameters that distinguish certain values. The family type parameters are used to define the set of values to identify each family. To better understand this, a family can be bathroom fixtures and family type can be bathtubs, sinks, toilets, shower, shower boxes and so on. The family defines the kind of element that the user wants to use, while the family type essentially specifies the detail that will be used in any particular element of the family. In other words, the family type provides the specifics, while the family provides the general description of the element. There are four levels that can be used when creating an element in a family. The levels include the element category, family, family type and instance.

Managing Families

As mentioned earlier, there are three kinds of families within Autodesk Revit Architecture: in-place families, system families, and standard component families. Each family has specific characteristics that should be carefully studied to understand the features and possibilities when using them in a design. Below is a short description of each and applicability.

  • System Families

This type of family is predefined and comes loaded in the software. The configuration features available make it possible to duplicate system families to incorporate specific features according to the guidelines of a project. These family types cannot be loaded into the software and it is not necessary to export for use elsewhere; they are already pre-loaded. The Transfer Projects standards command allows the user to transfer system family design between projects. This command is located in the file menu.

  • In-place Families

Projects that have specific requirements that cannot be addressed with system families or standard component families can be resolved with in-place families. This family category is created by the user according to tailored specifications. It can include anything from specific materials to project-specific components. The Transfer Projects standards command is not applicable to in-place families and if the need arises the user can simply cut and paste to be able to use in another project. The software also allows the user to upload as groups as well.

  • Standard Component Families

Standard component families are customizable families used to create building components and/or annotation elements. They are different from the system family category because they can be created by the user. The software also comes with predefined component families and allows the user to include designs from a Revit Web Library anyway from the manufacturer’s website. These type of families can be saved in external .rfa files which can be loaded into any project. It should be noted that once this is done these are project-specific.

The Family Editor

The Family Editor uses reference planes to guide the user when creating different family types. These reference planes take into consideration a coordinated system that makes it easy to create designs in two-and-three dimensions. By varying the length, height, and width of an element the user specify the family type which can be done using the Family Type Editor. This editor is a pop-up area that can be used to establish the constraints and parameters that define the characteristics of the geometry which will eventually be used in a project. Constraints should be fixed to avoid changes to particular characteristics when editing designs within a family.

The key is to make all families parametric so that designs can be modified when needed. These is also the option to create semi-parametric families which is considerably different from parametric families and should be carefully thought out when used. With semi-parametric families only specific features on the design can be changed as opposed to fully parametric designs in which the entire design can be changed. So for example with a semi-parametric design of a chair where the legs are parametric, only the parameters on the legs can be changed. The seat, handle, or any other feature that is not established as parametric cannot be changed.

When selecting which types of families to work with, a generic family template can easily be used use for different creations. This applies to both engineers and architectures who use the software. For construction professionals who want to enhance their skills in Revit Architecture, the course Autodesk Revit MEP 2013 comes with pipe and pipe system family examples as well as cable tray and cable tray system families among other useful titbits of information.

Revit Architecture is a popular software that is used by hundreds of companies worldwide. The blog post Revit Tutorial: Quick Start Tips To Master Revit looks at the key aspects of mastering the software and points to take into consideration when using it as a tool. People who are considering career change are strong candidates for vacancies once they master the core concepts.

For advanced users who have in-depth knowledge of .Net and C# programming they can easily modify the software’s API to tailor it according to their specific needs based on the guidelines in the course Learn to program the Revit API by Boost Your BIM.