Thursday, November 6, 2014


Why do I care what a toilet looks like ?  It's just a functional object ... right ?  An interesting question from various points of view.  Freud would have something to say I'm sure.  But it's clear that we do care a great deal about the appearance of our bathrooms.  Check out the websites of Duravit, Hansgrohe, Ideal Standard ... The whole "health & wellbeing" thing is very big when it comes to toilets.  People want to feel like they are going into an oriental spa to cleanse their spirit.

But we are just putting toilets on our drawings, aren't we ?  All we need is a symbol to say "put the toilet here" and a code to say "find more details under this spec reference".  Wrong again.  We have always cared what our drawings look like.  They should be crisp & clean with just a dash of style & verve.  It's been that way ever since we drew by hand, we cared about drawing style when we switched to CAD & we still care now that we are using BIM.

So this is (another) appeal for better sanitary ware families.  Where is the good looking BIM content to help us sell our bathroom designs to our clients ?  We could moan at Autodesk for not providing better generic families.  And I have shown before that this is not so hard.

But ultimately content is up to the end users.  Not just the designers,  I'm talking about the global construction industry.  Architects & Interior Designers can set the direction, Clients & Contractors can create the demand.  Manufacturers & Suppliers are beginning to grasp how they can participate in the BIM initiative.

Take a look at office furniture.  People like Haworth, Steelcase & Herman Miller have been working on their Revit families for a while now.  They are into the second & third generation versions of their content, listening to feedback, improving quality & thinking hard about how best to deliver this.  Just check out their websites.  I'm not saying they have achieved perfection.  Some will say that they want more lightweight content (2.5d perhaps) but you can't deny that they are trying hard.

Over a year ago I took a look at some plumbing families available on the internet. (link) 

Now we don't really use American Standard in our work.  Clients tend to go for the European brands.  But I looked at their stuff because, unlike Duravit or Roca, they do have BIM content for download.  I was hoping that by now they would have added more content & corrected some of the obvious shortcomings in their collection, but sadly no.  It seems that someone at American Standard took an interest in BIM 4 or 5 years ago, got a few families made and then lost interest. 

That's probably our fault.  Has anyone been giving them feedback or sending in requests ?

So here is my "open letter" to them.  It is offered in a spirit of positive criticism as a "neutral observer".  I believe it would be quite easy for American Standard to offer really good Revit content and I hope to motivate them to do so.  They are on the bus, but they need to start talking to the other passengers, maybe get a bit of a party going, turn it into a magic bus.

Point 1.  Please use symbolic representation in plan views.  This is an abstraction, like any other graphic symbol.  We need just enough detail to capture the spirit of the design and to look good at a variety of scales. 

Point 2 Please think carefully about the origin.  This is done by setting 3 reference planes to "defines origin".  If the fitting is wall mounted, the "centre front/back" should be the face of the wall.  The "centre left/right" is usually straightforward.  The horizontal origin plane could be finished floor level, or it could be the rim in the case of a sink.  It should not be the underside of a sink where the waste connects.  When the family is placed in a project, it

Point 3.  The 3d CAD inserts that occur in about half your current content can now be exploded to native Revit geometry.  This is a feature of Revit 2014.  I have tested this, and it so happens that it works really well with your existing families.  The advantage of this is that you can now assign a material parameter and subcategory directly to that geometry.  Also many end users object to embedded CAD objects within Revit, so you will make those people happy.

As an added bonus, exploding the geometry removes many unwanted edges & seams, giving a smoother appearance in shaded views.  Revit users will be now able to create very nice visuals for their clients.

Point 4.  Create collections.  You could load all your sinks into a single Revit project and make this available for download.  End users open the collection and select the product they want based on user-friendly visual information.  Copy-paste and you're done.  Let people know when the collection has been updated and they can download the whole thing again to stay current.  Easy.

Point 5.  Set up sheets in your collections.  Make it easy for the end user to see what your families look like:  in plan, front elevation, side elevation, 3d shaded view, 3d rendered view.  By setting up these views you can also do some basic Quality Control.  Are you happy with the way they look ?  Maybe you can also provide some examples of how your fittings can be tagged and scheduled.  Make people aware of the wealth of information in your BIM content.  Check that this is coming out the way you want it to.

So that's my open letter, ostensibly to American Standard, but potentially to any Sanitary Ware manufacturer/supplier in the whole wide world.  Some hits on how to "do better" on the BIM front. 

In the next post I'll take a look at Duravit who don't do BIM content, but do have some very tasty products up their sleeves.


  1. File naming from manufacturers is (IMO) a big issue as well. Using the American Standard library as an example the files are all named with just a number and if I remember correctly a very large spreadsheet to find what you need. Quite a few manufacturers have wisely started naming their families with something logical: Lavatory-Style-Model Number or something similarly easy to figure out.

  2. Check BIMObject ...

  3. Thanks guys. I agree that naming is an issue, and there's a bigger issue behind that in how best to manage huge inventories of content. Trawling through vast lists and downloading objects one by one is surely not the long term solution. I began to address this in a recent post "It's the Information Stupid"

    And yes, I am aware of BIM Object and appreciate the excellent contribution they are making. I will probably comment on some of their content in a future post.

  4. hi - i liked the idea of these sheets and collections - is it being done ?

  5. Hi Michael
    Thanks for the reminder. I really do want to get back to this, tidy up a bit and share some decent sanitary ware families. Time is the killer. Too many things on my to do list, but I will get there.


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