Early in my career I would often get tasked with setting up the “cartoon set” for a new project, and it always felt tedious to me. As I copied CAD files over from a previous project into our new one, renamed them, opened them to link the current base plan and title block, it just … felt like a waste of time. It was mindless and I knew my time could be better spent developing the sheets themselves, specific to the project, beginning to detail, draw wall sections or coordinate with consultants. We did use Revit on occasion, and those projects were always my favorite. Because they started with a template, my time early in the project was spent figuring out how to construct the building in 3D, which made me better at detailing and even better at visualizing. I was not hum drumming along while copying linework from file-to-file anymore. I was actively becoming thoroughly invested in the project and invested in taking ownership and seeing tasks through. As each new Revit project came into my lap, I realized that if used correctly, having Revit standards can greatly impact project success, and I have thus advocated for Revit ever since.
At first, I did not realize when starting on my Revit Template Quest that I would quickly become immersed in the tiny details of drawing standards. What line weight is most appropriate for the grid lines? How about the room tag size? Do we want numbers and titles on the bottom right? Bottom left? Oh, what about the thickness of the ground line on elevations? Or the keynote numbering system? Or the exact column order of the door schedule? Or this, that and the other thing? I have learned that Revit standards and drawing standards go hand-in-hand. You cannot have Revit standards without drawing standards, and you cannot enforce Revit standards without a strong template.
By utilizing a Revit template, the task of my aforementioned “cartooning” is already done before the project even starts. There is no need to start with a blank page—copying titles, keynotes, legends and general notes from other projects. The cartoon set is there as a jumping off point, so one can more quickly start project-related development. One does not have to determine how to name xrefs, what the sheet numbering standard is or ask a seasoned employee, “where is that one legend file again?” There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Use the wheel the firm has invested in developing, get in the car and start driving! The sheets are named, the line weights are figured out and the views are on the sheets. By starting with a template, we can include notes to help the user—road signs if you will—to guide them through developing the set before the first PDF for redlines even has to be printed for review.
As a side note, I often hear the concern that “Revit takes longer to do.” And while it is true that building a 3D model takes longer than drawing 2D plans (especially when a schematic design plan in CAD is already drawn), with a Revit template established, the cartooning phase is essentially gone. And, all future wall sections, conceptual 3D views and color visualization are at the ready—just waiting to be made and waiting to be used. Knowing these features are available to us, we have successfully used Revit during client meetings, making 3D views instantaneously of specific areas or rooms they want to see. In a Hamilton parody called “Drafting Battle #1” we might say …
If we create worksets with no regrets,
Coordinate and edit,
We’ll know why it’s called Revit.
How do you not get it?
If we’re aggressive and competitive,
The office gets a boost,
You’d rather give it a sedative?”
So, while Revit does take more time on the front end, on the back end we have a file that is easily coordinated throughout, that is ready to be wielded like a sword in 3D battle and quite honestly, sometimes feels like a video game.
I must stress though, this template is not just a one-time investment, it is a living file. If it sits stagnant for too long, the firm will outgrow it with each new project that is completed. At a former employer, a co-worker had a sign at their desk which read, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” It stuck with me and imparted to me that staying relevant means being open to change. So, I encourage those in my office that have recently gone through a DSA approval process to let me know if any changes could be applied to the template to improve it. Or let me know if a standard detail needs an edit or a code reference has been updated. I want to utilize the abundance of knowledge we have as a firm, both existing and new. If a new hire has a recommendation, I want to hear it and I want to see if we can use it to improve our processes and template. Which leads to the next item of business …
Keeping the template up-to-date requires time, and having time requires the company to support this process and this living template. Budgeting time to work on it means they value the effort we put into the template and regard it as a measure of company success. The ultimate goal is to make our drawing process more efficient over time so we can provide a better service to our clients and consultants. Drawings, after all, are not an afterthought in our industry. They do not sit as window dressing, an accent paint or a tacked-on outrigger. They are the window, the main paint color, the supporting structure of what we provide. It might take a few minutes to make code edits, revise a general note and change a screw size in the template, but that time spent means fewer DSA comments on all future projects. It means we have a coordinated drawing that has been proven to work in the field, and it means we have paid attention to the details. That is a win-win for us, the client, consultants and the contractor. But what does this mean for the staff that use the template on a day-to-day basis?
Our office has three locations and if it were not for a template with drawing standards it would be difficult to share staff across offices. Having the template means sharing staff resources is easier, because no matter to which project a staff member gets assigned, the drawing order will always be the same, the floor plan sheet will always be set up the same and the keynote list is always started from the same master list. I do not have to guess and remember that if I work with Person A, they speak Drawing Language A and if I work with Person B, they speak Drawing Language B. Person A likes this symbol and Person B likes that one. Instead, we are all striving to use the same language. In crunch time, I know that I can work with staff from any of our offices, and they will have a familiarity with my project because it is laid out the same as theirs.
We could dig our heels in the sand and rely on what we already know. We could run around with our pitchfork of old arguments and refuse to change. But what kind of talent can you keep (or gain) with that thinking? What are future architects and designers going to be looking for when coming out of school? Although there is a certain je ne sais quoi that comes with remembering blueprints and building physical models, the next generation is already starting to have these same feelings about 2D drafting and going back to 2D after being knee deep in 3D can feel as though someone is asking us to roll out vellum, dust off our Micron pens and tighten up our Mayline. Having Revit standards means we do not have to reinvent the wheel, we do not have wasted set up time, we stay relevant, efficient and we are speaking the same unified drawing language as a firm. These items stack up to a measure of success that I am excited about. Who knows, maybe one day I will be lamenting about the days of Revit past while the next generation is onto something else. But for now, I will keep liking change.
Blog post authored by Adriana Mouser, Project Architect