This is a follow-up post to Immaterial? from almost a year ago. I promised to write about a new method we’re employing in one of my comments but got too busy. Finally I’m getting around to it. Be warned: it’s long.
I originally held off posting to see whether 2012 would bring any solutions on this front but that didn’t happen. At least now the bottom of the Custom Parameters section adjusts with the Materials dialog…hurray!
The least-worst solution I prefer is ugly workaround #1 as mentioned in the previous post. I hit a serious snag while experimenting but finally got through it. I like to refer to this methodology as the Materials sample board concept. Think about your office for a minute: you probably have a vast library of samples. This is analogous to the Materials dialog in your Revit project file. You don’t use all materials in your library in every project, nor do you schedule all materials used in your finish schedule (Ex: insulation, gypsum board, etc.). The same applies to Revit projects. Even assuming every material was actually used in some form or fashion, you’d want to only schedule a select few as finishes, which requires some filtering mechanism.
When crafting office-wide workflows, you have to be careful to keep things simple. This is a hard thing to do when the tools don’t do exactly what you want. So compromise is absolutely necessary in order to arrive to the best-possible solution. It won’t be perfect or satisfy every requirement, but will result in an improvement over how things are done today.
We all understand materials sample boards: designers pick paints, flooring materials, ceilings, glass, cladding, masonry & brick finishes etc. and present them on a board to get client approval. Those materials then find their place in the project, usually within room finish schedules, tagged elevations, etc. So my goal was to extend that concept into Revit. Presentation of those materials was not at all considered as you just cannot achieve that through print.
As discussed before, Revit will only schedule a material if it is used on a placed object. So the starting idea was to place “material swatches” in the project template and make them very difficult/impossible to delete by mistake, without resorting to obtuse ways of concealment such as through worksets, phasing or design options. This was a very important requirement so everything could be pre-set in the template, including the finish schedules. It was also very important to have the same materials used in the material finish schedule as materials in the objects themselves and utilize built-in & custom material parameters to store information that we want to see scheduled such as Manufacturer, Color, Pattern, etc. This would open up possibilities of building material libraries per client and/or project type to be re-used in the future.
Another important requirement was grouping of finishes by surface/object, such as Floor, Walls, etc. Since various materials (such as paints) could be used on different surfaces, it was also essential to have the ability to add unique schedule notes to each material in each application, which meant that this information could not be stored within the material itself. This issue, coupled with concealment methods, turned out to be a head-scratcher.
The starting point was a simple generic model family that was to be placed multiple times in the template. After several iterations and reasons, it became clear that shared and nested families were required. Each shared “swatch” was nested multiple times into a base family that would represent the application/surface of those materials.
Multiple types were then placed in the template and editing these family types becomes the UI when building the finishes information. Type Comments is used for the schedule sub-headers and Schedule Order is for defining which application order is displayed in the material schedule.
In this example, I have 5 placeholder materials for each application but of course you could add more to suit your needs. Since we have 8 applications, 8 instances were placed in the template. The solid geometry of the swatch family was then set to not be visible and finally reloaded, making them completely invisible and unselectable.
Here are some interesting family facts that made all this possible:
- If family geometry is made to not be visible, material take-off schedules still pick up the materials used and properly report quantities (volumes/areas of materials on non-visible solids are excluded). Hence the use of this technique will not skew your take-offs.
- Families are selectable in-canvas even with no visible geometry unless all reference planes are set to “Not a Reference”.
These are the key elements needed to let us place “swatches” to host finish materials and prevent accidental deletion. Note that one can still pick the family in the browser and delete it, but you also get a warning that you’re about to delete “x families”, so it would be a deliberate mistake or done purposefully and not accidentally.
As mentioned in the other post, only the material name can be used in room schedules. Revit does not permit duplicate names so this can be used very effectively as a “Type Mark” since duplication cannot occur. The only hitch is that you cannot rename a material in the schedule: you have to rename it in the Materials dialog.
By using the Material Class, you can isolate the materials that represent finishes to make navigation easier.
In the above picture I’m also highlighting a big shortfall in Revit: the inexistence of multi-value parameters. For example walls in certain rooms often receive multiple finishes: a paint and ceramic tile or FRP panels. My workaround is to create materials whose name represents a group of multiple finishes. This is solely used in room schedules. For the record, this is not something I’m happy about! However there’s no other way to achieve this and when using text parameters, we’re essentially doing the same thing.
The Finishes Schedule
To build a material take-off schedule (for Generic Models) to filter only the materials in the “material sample board”, I simply filtered for shared parameter “Schedule Order” as “parameter exists”, which is also used for sorting the application order (Floors, Base, etc.).
So why all this pain you ask? Well, keep in mind that once this is set in your project template, all it takes is for users to pick the materials and edit as necessary or create new ones. It also opens up the possibility to save material libraries rich with information that can be re-used. Not to mention that with material tags that read the material name, you’ll have flawless coordination with the “type marks” used in your finish material schedule. Room finishes can also utilize these materials in lieu of text parameters, although for multiple finishes you have to resort to the workaround mentioned above. Finally, we also have to make another check: that each finish that shows up in the finish material schedule is actually used in the project since these are manually added. For this purpose we also set up a “checking sheet” that contains a series of filtered schedules to make sure no finishes have been missed or added. Obviously it would be great if things were all automatic, but at this point this is as good as it’s going to get.