Revit Structural Connections are not ready for production.
When I speak to clients switching from 2D CAD software to Revit, or Clients that want to improve their productivity with smarter Revit Families, I discuss the Revit OOTB Families functionality and if they are suited for the Client's needs. Typically, the OOTB content is very vanilla, more of an indication or starting point of what can be done. For example, Type Name Tags comes with OOTB Revit but for the general user it will be more productive if there is 1 tag that has 4 rotated Instances with an invisible line insert point and invisible alignment lines above and below the text. Simple ideas that improve daily functionality, but not available with Revit OOTB.
Structural Connections are not exactly what we anticipated.
In April 2016 Autodesk gave us Structural Connections. The improvements to modelling, consistency, accuracy in order to make Revit Modelling easier for Level 2 BIM (UK) and projects with LOD 350 in Oz are fantastic. Right?
After seeing the Autodesk promotion, I was prepared to show Clients the new features the following week, but I was left feeling disappointed. At a minimum it feels like leaked footage of an upcoming Star Wars film, it gets you excited, but you still can't see (use) it. To put it simply, in Oz, the functionality and the customisation for Structural Connections is not there, and it will not work with any of your beloved existing
pre-2016 Revit Steel Framing Families.
Firstly, Steel Connections do not come automatically loaded. There is a good post on LinkedIn post from Deepak Maini that will guide you. If you are new to Structural Connections then make sure you have a full read, there are some subtle things to look out for. Now that you have it running, unless you know how to access the database, you will not be able to control or edit the connection parameters which control the bolt size, spacing and plate, coping, etc. They can be edited in the Modify Parameters, but without real project experience using this new tool, I am not confident that it will be enough. Knowing that Steel connections can get complicated, will OOTB be enough?
I hear that more connections are on the way, but there is no guarantee. But if your planned workflow is to create them in Advance Steel then send the new, tricky connections back. Unfortunately, if that type of connection is not available in Revit, it will simply not come into the Revit project, not even as a Mass. I have been told of Linking the .dwg connections back into Revit. But I hadn't had the time to test that out. Besides, I am a little over work-arounds.
As far as Engineering detailing in Oz, we are unable to Tag or Schedule anything in relation to a Structural Connections. No Bolts, no Plate thicknesses nothing… All you get is a pretty 3D picture. So I don’t understand the purpose of the Structural Connections for Engineering and the general BIM space if we resolve to use text to explain the connection.
The copy function is great, but if there are 25 columns with the incorrect base plate, selecting all 25 will disable the Modify Parameters button. That’s a workflow killer right there. Typically, I love the fact that I can model TBC beams, then update an entire run at a later date. I had hoped connections would function the same. And Match Properties does not work either, ahh!
So just use the new Steel Families Right? Wrong!
Just to make sure we all understand, Structural Connections will not work on your existing pre-2016 standard update, Revit Families. They are reading a new Parameter Section Name Key. But I can't find how we get access to it and then incorporate it into old families. The Captain welcomes feedback on this.
The intention here is to improve the interoperability between Revit and Advance Steel, and that is a good thing for sure. But it feels like Apple’s Lightning Connector, essentially the same thing but only the new toys will connect to it! Let's ignore Lightning adaptors, it ruins my point. The real point here is that if you want to use Steel Connections, you will need to use the new Steel Families.
As part of Revit 2016 R2 release, we were given new OOTB Steel Framing Families (I do also mean Steel Columns). I say given, but the Australian sizes didn’t automatically show up in our Libraries.
Another point to make is that you can’t create custom shared parameters to manipulate the geometry of the member. The reason being, Connections essentially re-draws the member when you place a connection so that the coping is correctly applied, so no custom rotation or member mirroring parameters will work, too bad if this is part of your current modelling workflow. The only geometry manipulation that can be done is through the Geometry Position parameters associated with individual members once placed in a project through the Properties Palette.
And there are a lot more Parameters in general to the new Steel Families, here are the 2015 vs 2017 versions.
Australian Steel Sizes are not correct!
One of our Clients picked up the fact that RHS's don’t have sizes larger than 125x75x3, where are all the other sizes? Furthermore, if you edit the .txt file to add all the sizes, sure they will model up fine in the project, but Structural Connections will not recognise them. And be warned, there is another Database (C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\Revit Steel Connections 2017\en-US – Depend on whether you want to use the US / EUR / FR / PL) that also has these sizes. We have also found that some of the member sizes contained within the Steelwork Connection Access Database are different to that of the family types. i.e. The Family type might read 200x4.5, but the database thinks it’s a 200x5, I have not had a chance to see how this will work when imported to Advance Steel. And I hope that there is no truth to the rumour that the Steel Weights are not correct, I will update this blog if I find out that that is true.
But there is so much good in moving forward.
I don’t feel like this wouldn't be a very balanced blog if I didn’t point out the advantages of this upgrade. The Revit to Advance Steel workflow looks terrific, and long term will improve 3D modelling and bring BIM into a bigger construction community. My challenge to Structural Engineering Companies is that you are possibly modelling mm accurate buildings in Revit and asked to go to LOD 350. So how much harder would it be to incorporate a Steel Detailing arm to the business? I am aware that in the past it was avoiding legalities because Australian standard for Engineering Companies was to show the correct size, not necessarily the correct location. But the deeper you go into BIM, the opportunity for inaccuracy is reduced. Just a thought. Modelling Structural Connections accurately and quickly is good in anyone's book, this alone should reduce production time and also minimise bad modelling and incorrect details.
The Captains closing words.
Ultimately this is going to be a good feature in Revit, but it possibly rolled out too early for a Global deployment. It's very clear to see where this is going, but with the results that we have on hand (I am saying for the Australian users) just hold off for a while and keep using your beloved existing Steel Families. Autodesk has put out the call for Beta Testers for Structural Connections. Is it a backlash from the changes to the Steel Families and the lack of functionality for Steel Connections? Or just Autodesk wanting crowd input? I don’t mind what the reason is, I'm just looking forward to a highly functional product.
Big thank you to Phil Corbett for big contribution to this post
and Adrian Worboys for your continued diligence and persistent emails.
Fair winds and following seas,