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4/5/2018 Electrical Families in Revit - Modelical


1. Classifying an electrical and communication family

2. Hosting families properly.

3. Creating types of symbology.
4. Creating light source.
5. Understanding Connectors.

1. User will be using revit 2015 or later versions.
2. The should be familiar with real-life electrical solutions.

Configuration / Description
1. Category Classification.

1. Part Type.
2. Use of Types.

2. Hosting / Slope /Tilt.

3. Geometry and clearance.
4. Annotation Symbols.

5. Light-source.
6. Connectors.

1. System Type
2. Number of Poles
3. Power Factor State
4. Load Classifications
5. Electrical Parameters.
6. Utility and Connector description. 1/22
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1 Category Classification.
Families must be ordered and organized correctly in the model. The first level in Revit hierarchy is the
Category. The program distinguishes family function according to their Category. The categorization changes
the way families interact with the MEP model. Moreover, choosing a Category has an impact on native
template parameters that will be available when working with those families.
Among others, following categories of electrical and communication devices related this document can be
found in Revit MEP:

Electrical Equipment.
Electrical Fixture.
Lighting Fixture.
Fire Alarm Devices.
Lighting Devices.
Telephone Devices.
Nurse Call Devices.
Communication Devices.
Data Devices.
Security Devices.

Equipment Revit Category

Electrical Equipment
Lighting Fixture

Electrical Fixture
Electrical Devices
Lighting Devices

Other Devices Communication Devices

Fire Alarm Devices 2/22
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Nurse Call Devices

Telephone Devices

Data Devices

Security Devices

There is a category called “Specialty Equipment” that does not fall under the MEP Categories, so , try not to use
it when creating any electrical family for  E&C Mep projects. (See: Tips and Tricks).

Part Type in Families

The Part Type parameter provides additional sub-classification of a family category, and determines the
behaviour for the family.
This options are available in the Family Category and Parameters Menu in the family environment: 3/22
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If a family category provides a Part Type parameter, the Part Type values available depend on the family
category. Regarding the categories above, you would be classified as follows:

Family Category Part type associated

Electrical Equipment Panelboard, other
Panel, equipment

Electrical Fixture, Lighting

Switch, junction box,
Devices, Nurse Call Devices,
Security Devices,  

Communication Fixtures, Data

Devices, Fire Alarm Devices,
Junction box, Normal.
Lighting Fixtures, Telephone

Use of Types in MEP Families

When you are creating Lighting fixtures, you need to decide first what parameters are
going to be used to determine the family definition. Additionally you have to decide which of those parameters
will drive the different types within the family (Type parameters), and which will be instance parameters.
Because of the variety of families within the electrical section, we named the most common practices to define

Use parameters based on Dimensions.

Use parameters based on Equipment or Fixture Performance: this is the most common and most
Use parameters based on Number of Elements. (e.g. Number of lamps)

Lighting fixture types based on Performance: Watage, Material and Voltage . 4/22
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2 Hosting / Slope / Tilt.

How the family will be hosted in your model is the first thing to consider when we start creating an electrical
Each hosting option determines how the geometry of the fixture will be oriented in the family.

Non-hosted electrical Family

Usually non-hosted families are used when there are no architecture elements for hosting them, that is, MEP
projects where the Architecture, Structure and Facilities models are totally independent.
Aspects to consider with these families:

Insertion Point
As with any family you create, the insertion point is an important consideration when building
the geometry of a lighting fixture. you can proceed in two different ways to create it:

1. The first one is to model the geometry in a reference plane that adjusts its location depending on the
system Offset parameter value.

2. Create geometry with a fixed offset. If the family is correctly created, the fixed offset value will add to the
system offset value, so be careful with that.

The use of non-hosted families can lead to greater coordination work in later phases of the project because
they do not adjust their position automatically when architectural or structural elements change.
But at the same time is because of that independency that they are most of the times more suitable for
modelling, because they do not rely on not controlled architectural or structural elements.

Slope / Tilt
One of the problems encountered in the use of non-hosted families is modifying its inclination to follow the
slope of a surface such as a sloped ceiling.
It can be done in two ways:

WithIn Family Category and parameter, disable parameter family: “Always vertical”. In that case, elements
will take the slope of their hosts if they are actually hosted in a floor, level (cannot be sloped), or surface.

4/5/2018 Electrical Families in Revit - Modelical

        View1: Always vertical unselected

        View 2:Always vertical selected

We can also create  a sloped reference line in the family that can be controlled by a an angle parameter
parameter that can be modified  later within the project.

This can be useful in some cases when we want to be free to rotate the object at any angle that not depends
on the surface that it is place on.
But in other cases can be a bit impractical if we have to measure the specific angle of a surface any time we
have to place an object.

Option 2: Slopped Reference plane

Hosted electrical Family

The family moves with its associated host. To have this type of families is necessary to create them based on
specific family templates or features. The different options are:
Families based on work planes 6/22
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In any family category you can activate the workplane based parameter in the Opening Family and Category
Parameters menu.

Options when you create new instance

Option when you select an instance
This meaning that when you place the family in the model you will have to select the placement option (face or
work plane) and choose then the host of the family.

Face-hosted (ceiling/floor/roof/wall hosted families)

Creating face-hosted fixture families adds another level of coordination to your projects because the families
move with their associated hosts. This keeps your fixtures at the correct elevations when ceiling heights
Fixtures mounted to vertical host faces, such as walls, also move with changes to the vertical host locations.
To create a lighting fixture family that is face-hosted, you can use the Generic Model face
based.rft family template. Once you’ve opened it, you can change the category of the family. 7/22
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Anyway, you have to be careful with hosted families because when host elements disappear or move we can
have unexpected results with the hosted elements.

3 Geometry for Connectors and Clearance

One of the main features of MEP families are the connectors. Connectors enable the capability that MEP
elements have to connect to each other creating interconnected systems where calculations can happen.

Geometry for Connectors

Connectors in families can be placed using two methods:

1. Positioning them on one face of the existing geometry of the family. In this case the connector will be
place and will remain at the center of that face. This means that what we control in the family with
parameters is the position of the geometry that hosts the connector.
2.  We can also associate the connector with a work plane within the family.

When you associate a connector with a work plane, it can be moved along the surface of the plane and be
controlled by parameters like any other elements. 8/22
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Creating Clearance Spaces

We can create auxiliary, faux volumes to demark the clearance requirements around families.

1. Create an extrusion with the shape and minimum dimensions established by the equipment
To restrict the extrusion with parameters so that this clearance volume can be later adapted depends on
the decision of the user or BIM manager.

2. Apply visibility options to the reserve volume:

1. Apply a material and its properties, such as color, transparency, etc ...
2. Apply a subcategory: For instance Hidden lines subcategory, or better create a new one named
“Clearance”.  This way we can control the visibility in views of the clearance volume independently from
the rest of the geometry in the family. 9/22
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The subcategory has associated even a line pattern to the geometry’s plan view/representation.

4 Annotation Symbols
The symbolism in families can be incorporated directly by adding  “Symbolic lines” to which we can associate a
separate sub-category and visibility (yes/no parameter) options depending on the level of detail and how we
want to play with symbols.
If we use this option, we will have to take into account that:

the resulting symbol will adjust according to the scale although they are symbolic lines. Dimensionally
these elements will have model elements behaviour.
if we just add symbolic lines we will have to make sure that they are also restricted so that they flex
correctly as the family does.

That is why it is recommended to nest families to represent the annotation. There are two options to nest
symbolic families depending on what we want to achieve:

1. Nest a Detail component        Family template: Detail items

2. Nest an Annotation Symbol:   Family template: Generic Annotations

Change Shows real

Classification with drawings
Scale dimensions

Annotation Generic
Symbols Annotations
They have a printing size.

Detail Item
Component* They have model
dimensions 10/22
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E.g.  Symbolic Annotation

E.g. Detail Component

How to create and set up a nested Generic Annotation Family

Generic Annotation families are made up of detail lines that form the symbol which represent the family.
We can create each symbols:

each in a single family of Generic Annotation

or create a family that consists of different symbols that are driven by the type properties.

If we go for the second option we can afterwards associate each nested symbol types to each Electrical Fixture
family types. We will see that in the following steps:

1. Create the shape of the first symbol that we want to represent with detail lines. Create a new Generic
Annotation Family > Create Tab > Line

2. Select the lines and filled regions that form one symbol, and nest their visibility parameter to a family
visibility parameter. 11/22
4/5/2018 Electrical Families in Revit - Modelical

To have a better control over the lines that we are creating, it is recommended to group the lines and filled
regions that form each symbol, so that we can select them at once, because all symbols are going to be one on
top of another.

 All overlapping symbols on a generic annotation family.

3. Once we have all the detail lines created and their visibility parameters  linked to the family parameters,
we create symbol types within the family, checking for each type the corresponding parameters that
determine which symbol will be visible for each family type. 12/22
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Family type 1                                                

Family type 2

4. Save and name correctly the Symbol Family.

5. Create/open the electrical family into the Symbol family is to be nested.
6. Load the symbol family into the electrical model family.
7. Place the symbol family at the desired location in the electrical model family.
8. Then select the annotation symbol  and apply a type parameter: Generic Annotation in  "Label"
parameter. 13/22
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6. In the “Value” column of the new parameter we associate the symbol type to each family types created
within the electrical fixture family.

7. That way whenever you choose a electrical family type, the corresponding annotation changes within the
family and therefore, the desired symbol is displayed. 14/22
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Family Type 1

Family type 2

Text and Labels

As said previously to create a symbol you can do it by directly using symbolic lines in an electrical model family,
or you can use a nested generic annotation family.
When we want to insert a symbol that includes a Text (or a parametric text called Label), there is only one
option to proceed and be successful: use a nested generic annotation family. 15/22
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Then if you place a text object into your family, it is important to consider that once the family is placed in the
model, it could have different orientations or even be mirrored.
That is why if in an annotation family we open the Family Category and Parameters menu, there is an option
called “Keep Text Readable” that allows us to fix the orientation of the text in order to read it always from the
left to right and bottom to top, no matter how the family is actually oriented.

Option 1                                                Option 2

How to create and set up a nested Detail Item Family

Nested Detail Items work exactly the same as nested Generic Annotation families. We would follow the same
workflow to use them, just keeping in mind that their dimensions are model related unlike those in generic
annotations that are print related.

5 Light-Source
Lighting Fixture families require a light source if they are going to be used for rendering or
lighting calculations. A light source is a unique feature of a lighting fixture family that acts 16/22
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as the part that emits light.

It is possible to have a fixture family with multiple light sources, such as track lights
or a chandelier. This requires creating a separate family that defines the light source, and then nesting it into
your fixture family.
The nested family must be shared in order to act as an effective light source.

Make a family a shared family

You can set a family to be shared by selecting the Shared box in the Family Category And Parameters dialog

Light source objects have axes that allow you to align and lock them to the fixture geometry or
to a reference plane.The light source can be located on the face of your fixture geometry, or it can be located
within a void inside the geometry for a more realistic representation of the fixture. 17/22
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Light Source Definitions and Parameters

You can define the shape and distribution pattern of the light source by clicking the Light
Source Definition button on the Lighting panel of the contextual tab that appears when you
select the light source.

For more information about Light Source Definitions and parameters, take a look The lighting Analysis

6 Connectors
The connectors allow to create logical systems within the model, that is, create a relationship between
parametric elements which can draw calculations and technical information of the electrical system.
Connectors, especially in Revit, are key in the usefulness of an MEP component because they define the
usability and calculations associated with the object, and set the uses and information the engineer will be able
to do with it.
The connectors that you add to electrical equipment, devices and fixtures families will be (in most cases)
electrical connectors.

Electrical connectors are classified depending on the system of which they will be part: 18/22
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Power - Balanced
Power - Unbalanced
Fire Alarm
Nurse Call

If the project required a physical connection between the electrical families, or between electrical families and
panels, we could incorporate Conduits and Cable Trays connectors in the family and of course control their
dimensions with parameters.

Existing parameters in the connectors are shown as follows.

The sample shows the parameters of an electrical connector. 19/22
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As for parametrization connectors are like any other elements in families.

We could set some values for the connector properties and they will remain fixed in the family, or we can
associate the connector properties to family parameters so that we can change them depending on the
settings of each type or instance of the family.
Some connector parameters cannot be parameterised, they are fixed in families and if we want to change
them we should create a new family with new properties for the connector:  

System type: Switch between the different types of systems available in the project.
Power factor Stale: The ratio of the real power flowing to the load to the apparent power in the circuit.
Lagging or Leading

Other connector properties can be normally be linked to family parameters:

Number of poles: They relate to the physical slot locations on a panel.

Load Classification: it allows to classify each type of electrical load connected to a panel.
Load Sub-Classification Motor: Add the ability to have a 2nd "nested" demand factor.
Voltage: Specified the electrical tension
Apparent load: is the product of voltage and current.
Power Factor: The ratio of the real power flowing to the load to the apparent power in the circuit.
Utility: Family Utility Description
Connector description: Text parameter to connector description.

Using Non-hosted Families

It allows us to individualize our model and make it independent.

Are useful in areas that do not have a ceiling or for freestanding lights. They can be given an offset to the
level at which they are inserted to show them above the floor.
It is necessary a greater degree of coordination.

Not Using Specialty equipment Category

Specialty Equipment do not belong to MEP Family Categories.
When a mechanical, plumbing and electrical discipline template is activated, the graphics display of this family
will be totally different from the rest of the project. 20/22
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It can be seen that Specialty equipment Category does not appear within the classification

Electrical and Communication family Classification. Families must be ordered and organized correctly in the
model. The first level in Revit hierarchy is the Category.
Compare and evaluate hosting options for electrical fixtures / families.How the family will be hosted in your
model is the first thing to consider. Each hosting option determines how the geometry of the fixture will be
oriented in the model and if it needs a host to be placed.
Create Symbolic Annotations and Detail components for electrical families.Generic Annotation families are
made up of detail lines that form the symbol which represent the family.
Understanding Connectors and way to install within a Family. The connectors allow to create logical systems
within the model, that is, create a relationship between parametric elements which can draw calculations and
technical information of the electrical system.

Associated Files
Custom and Current Library families
Guideline - Modelling Families
Guideline - Nested Families
Guideline - Complex Families
Guideline - Lighting Analysis


George says:
27 of November, 2017 at 01:50 AM

this is a great article. It helped me so much. I have one question.
There are a lot of Part types in Revit. Most of the electrical categories include Normal and Junction box Part type. Is there any 21/22
4/5/2018 Electrical Families in Revit - Modelical

difference between them? (calculation or visibility)

Thank you

Julio Garcia says:
27 of November, 2017 at 01:08 PM

Hi George,
Good question
Whenever I have any doubt with the part type application I check how Autodesk implement them in Revit OOTB
families, unfortunately I haven’t found anyone with the Junction box part type applied. We have to seek more in order
to find information from the use of this particular part type.
From Autodesk documentation, you can use this part type when you’re documenting wires in your project for making
multiple branches, check this link:
“Junction Box: Wire management devices through which wiring is generally drawn through the device. As indicated in
the image, the automatically generated wiring branches through the junction box.”
I usually don’t document wires by the Revit way, so I don’t use it 
If you find any other intelligent way to use it, please share it with me!
Thanks for your comment!
Reply 22/22