AEC MEP Family Creation Tips: Keep It Simple, Real & Large

IMG_4657It’s interesting how Good Practices for real family and Revit family creation have a lot in common.


Keep things simple is another way of saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Instead, focus on the critical inches. In the case of a Revit Family, don’t bother to include such a high level of detail in your families, that they could be used for Manufacturing purposes. Let the manufacturer do their own shop drawings for manufacturing. Only include the level of detail essential for your Design and Construction Documentation purposes.

Model the rough shape of the object, as well as the connections points required to interact with other components. Going beyond is overkill.

A nice method to keep things simple is to use a photograph instead of modeling 3D geometry. That way your family will look great, at only the expense of a raster image or picture. Put the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” to work for you.


CAD and BIM aren’t fiction. Indeed, what makes Computer-Aided Design great is how it can be a Dress Rehearsal or Virtual Representation or Simulation (but cheaper and faster) of reality. This is an area where fantasy isn’t helpful. To create good quality families get a copy of the manufacturer’s cut sheets and model the geometry based on exact measurements.

statue father mother sonIf parts come in discrete sizes, for example, 40 or 50 gallon tanks, then create specific types for each one. This is better than creating a smart part that will flex into an infinite number of configurations, but will require the user to provide specific dimensions.

Furthermore, having specific and realistic types is a teaching tool for new users to learn what the options are. It will make your Revit Families feel like order catalogs. Before you create a family from scratch, see if the manufacturer has created one AND make sure there isn’t something already available for free in the Internet.


If you must err, do it on the side of large. It’s usually better to find out that something was actually smaller than you thought, and have it fit in place, than to start small and run out of space in the field. If you decide to omit features such as small fillet radii, make sure the resulting volume isn’t any smaller than the original piece.

Fotolia_265209_XLRemember to model minimum required access, venting and similar clearances. Yes, it’s true that a knowledgeable and experienced contractor can make things work. But there is a limit to what they can do in the field, if they run out of space. Don’t count on the field crew to save you from incomplete research, planning and thinking. The maintenance people will thank you, or at least will not curse you, “Who was the clown that placed this piece of equipment in such tight quarters?!” What a great world it would be if every AEC Design Professional performed some installation and maintenance work at some early point in their careers.


Creating great families, real and Revit, is an art because it has both a theory and practice. The original act of creating a family is pretty simple and even enjoyable. But, as in life, you end up having to deal with a lot more issues than you originally signed up for. The secret to success is to focus on the critical inches. That’s something we learn with practice, either through the school of hard knocks or by learning from others. Now go be fruitful and multiply by creating Smart Revit families that can save you a lot of work and increase the quality of your #AEC designs. You will create them once and use them many times. Proceed with caution and wisdom.

Explore posts in the same categories: 3D BIM CAD, 3D Modeling, Basic Essential CAD, Education, Training

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