With BIM on the rise, MEP engineers around the world are taking the step from AutoCAD to Revit to work alongside their construction partners. But what is the difference between these two design platforms? Is Revit better? And how do you work with it? We talked with Revit specialist and product manager Coert de Jong from MEPcontent to get the details.
What is the difference between AutoCAD and Revit?
Revit and AutoCAD are both flagship products of Autodesk. AutoCAD is primarily a drafting tool to create basic geometry that represents the real world. Revit is known as the BIM software that can be used by architects, engineers, contractors and designers. There is actually a comparison between Revit and AutoCAD available online where you see what the differences exactly are.
What about Revit MEP?
Revit has a history in architecture, which means that the needs of MEP engineers weren’t fully satisfied with the original offering of Revit. Therefore Revit MEP was developed. Revit MEP is geared towards mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors and design firms. It gives users access to additional content libraries and functionalities that are relevant to MEP engineers.
Why do MEP engineers want to work with Revit?
The platform is ideal for designing technical installations in 3D. This is not only because of the functionalities in Revit, but also because of the large content libraries available. It’s the combination of content and functionalities that make the platform so valuable. The good thing about Revit is that all points in your model are interrelated. When one thing is changed, the rest of the model will change accordingly. You cannot change something in your model without seeing an adjustment in your material list for example. The multiple views in Revit give you a sense of control in a way that’s not possible in AutoCAD. You can directly see what you are doing and check if it makes sense or not. A content platform such as MEPcontent makes this sense of control even stronger, because of the realistic models provided by manufacturers who partner with MEPcontent.
Are there any challenges with the Revit platform?
In addition to giving MEP engineers more control over their design, Revit offers great basic functionalities like sectioning, viewing, (auto)routing and connecting elements. But at the same time, working in the platform can get very complex. For example, it can be quite time-consuming to connect elements or to create a realistic representation of two pipes and flanges. Or to connect a ball valve to a pipe, you’d need to know all specific sub-parts in order to create a solid connection. It can be challenging to achieve the desired level of detail in Revit because of the more generic working environment. Detailed technical situations are complicated to achieve within Revit.
How do MEP engineers overcome these challenges?
There are several custom add-ins developed by Revit specialists that can be used to overcome these challenges. There are different tools available that enhance existing Revit functionalities. At MEPcontent we call them Apps, others also talk about add-ins, plugins or Revit add-ons. These Apps are more user-centered and allow you as a user to take control. With these Apps, you can easily create the model that you need, based on your preferred specifications instead of default auto-routing functionalities in Revit. There are for example Apps available to easily exchange openings in Revit and other tools that enhance your design speed.
Manufacturer specific jobs are hard to achieve with just Revit if you’re not sure whether you can trust the source of your content. There are Apps available that allow users to work more flexible with content without having to search all kinds of content from all over the internet, allowing for a more consistent level of quality. Our free MEPcontent browser is a great example of this.
How to make sure you have the right content in your project?
Depending on the goal of your model, you’ll need to work with manufacturer specific content. Sometimes it is enough to work with generic content to make estimates of the needed products and their associated dimensions. It’s not always necessary to have the exact product data available in order to calculate an estimate. But if you want to avoid failure costs and have full confidence in your project, you’ll need an accurate digital representation of the building project before actual construction takes off. A digital model that accurately represents the real deal, allows you to understand the complexity and potential conflicts in your project. Therefore, you need manufacturer specific content. This way you can create an exact copy of the building you want to realize in the actual world. If done properly, you can use your Revit model to work with prefab, connect it to pricing information, coordinate tasks and much more. Manufacturer specific content allows you to get the most out of your investment in BIM.
Who should you take into account during your Revit project?
There are different stakeholders to take into account. Firstly, there is the construction engineer. He’s the primary stakeholder. Secondly, there is the facility manager, who needs to understand the maintenance costs that will be involved. Thirdly, there is the wholesaler or distributor who needs to know which materials must be delivered for the project. Key here is to only involve the information that is relevant for the stakeholders. Make sure that you agree with your partners on what information is needed and what information will be left out of the model. This can differ per project.
Finally, how can you share your Revit project with partners not using Revit?
IFC based solutions and Revit based solutions are most commonly used. The downside of using IFC is that you risk data being lost when exporting your Revit model to IFC, which is not desirable when it comes to sharing information. However, the benefit of IFC is that the entire BIM model can be shared using different software.
Which solution you use, depends on the partners you are working with and which platforms they use. However, it can also work the other way around: the way you’d wish to share your project can influence which teams you decide to partner up with. In some cases, one party will deliver the model and determine what software needs to be used by the other parties.
But it’s not just external parties you need to exchange information with. Also within your own organization, you may need to share information from your model with people not using Revit. For example, when creating a bill of materials for the purchasing department. In that case, you can use tools that allow you to quickly export Revit data to Excel to share information quickly with those not using Revit. This way, you can collaborate successfully in BIM, while working with the tools that each party is comfortable with.