Saturday, July 18, 2009

Take My Families, please!

As a consulting engineers and a Revit MEP users, there are some things we have to live with. I am interested in what others think about this situation.

I work for a firm that performs MEP engineering. That's mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. It should be common knowledge that any MEP firm that has been using Revit has created a great deal of content. What may not be common knowledge is that sometimes a MEP firm bids on a project, but is only awarded part. I may win the electrical and loose the mechanical. This means that a different MEP firm is doing that work. In the past I was sad because I didn't get all the work, but I went on and worked with the competition as best I could.

Now things could be a little more awkward. In a situation where the project is being completed in Revit, my families are now subject to be shared with a direct competitor. Especially now, I may feel my families give me an advantage. I most likely have quite a bit more information in a Revit family than I would ever have in an AutoCAD block. How and what I schedule, work flow and simple intellectual property is now in the position of being compromised. The whole idea of BIM is to share. That didn't sound bad until I thought of it this way.

I brought this up while speaking at the Revit User group of Nebraska a couple weeks ago. Some people suggested only sharing a 3D DWF. There is no real way to lock down a family like a lisp. It seems like you are in or your are out.

For me, take my families... please. It doesn't matter how awesome they are, they won't make me any more creative in my design. They don't listen to the client, I do. They don't establish relationships and build trust, the team does. Families are wonderful, for those of us who have created them, we hold them very dear. But just like children, at some point you are going to have to let them go. If you haven't thought about it yet, you might want to, they are growing up fast.

Like I said, I am very curious to hear from you. Please post a comment.


Robin Capper said...

IP protection of Family, and before that ACA styles, is something that Autodesk should, and seemingly refuse, to address.

You should be able to share design data with some sort of protection against re-use or even unauthorised changes to your design.

Erik said...

So far, we haven't had to deal with this (we have just about everything in-house, being Design Build.) One thing I have noticed, as I add intelligence and useability to families, they may become less intuitive for the user to modify (or even use (funny to say that after "adding useability".))

An example would be a 2D family I created that is used to take-off steel decking and represent it in plan. It works great, but if someone not familiar with our family (and doesn't have access to the READ ME) will wonder how to get them to schedule (since they have a "Security Device" family category.)

So, for the most part, I don't worry about even the simplest of our families falling into the competitors hands. I guess that makes sense, given that I have been know to share my personal creations on AUGI etc.

Michele Bousquet said...

Hi Todd, it's a small world because here I am in the Revit world too. I work for Revit Market, part of TurboSquid, where users can buy and sell Revit families. We check them all to make sure they work. So of course I'd like to get my hands on all those families of yours. When would you like to post them for sale? :)


Anonymous said...

You bring up a very interesting concept. I share your thoughts that we just share the content and we all benefit from it. But I know a few 'old timers' that would only want to issue PDF, DWG or DWF files. Interesting problem you have brought to the forefront. Let us all know what people think.

Kevin Billings

Ab said...

Wow, I never thought of that. If you had some families you worked exceptionally hard on it would be challenging to let them's almost like giving your competitor a leg up on the situation. But as a person who likes to help and share info with thers...that puts me in split decision mode.

Todd M. Shackelford said...


You can come get my families at AU if you want. They are not for sell, but you can have them for free.


Daryl Gregoire said...

I see no way around it. It's data and it's meant to be shared. It's only because we are in the infancy stages that we care. Give it a few years. Soon everyone will understand how connectors work and be able to build their own families and it won't be such a big deal.

On the other hand someone could make some $$$ if they could create an RFA wrapper of some sort.

fishandchips said...

Speaking of families, ponder this. Say I created a fourth type of duct system, call it Other. (Supply, return and exhaust being the first three, all supplied with Revit MEP)
Model a family called energy recovery ventilator with four duct connectors, two called exhaust and two called other. Connect the Outdoor air to a duct system required to bring outside air into the building. Now it is impossible to set the symbology for duct rise and drop for the outdoor air ducts, Revit makes no provision for adding a fourth or more types. Would I be correct in saying that instead of creating "Other", I should have made the outdoor air connectors type "Supply" and set up my color using the filters in graphic visibility overrides?