Classification of Revit Families
Michael Anonuevo posted on November 16, 2015 |
Part 1 in a series explaining and demystifying the Revit family creation process.
The universe of Revit families. (Image courtesy of the author.)

The universe of Revit families. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Over the last decade, we have seen the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry shifting to building information modeling (BIM). Worldwide, Autodesk Revit Architecture has become one of the most popular BIM software tools. Most users favor the program because it works well with AutoCAD. Numerous architectural companies embrace Revit because it works extremely well in coordinating various areas of project administration.

Autodesk Revit logo. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
Autodesk Revit logo. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Nowadays, most job postings for architectural professionals require knowledge or expertise in Revit. But as popular as it is in the industry, it is still hard to find qualified and experienced Revit users. In my 10 years of experience as a Revit user, I’ve observed that the problem lies in any of the following factors:

  • Lack of knowledge: New users have knowledge of the software but don’t know how to put a building together.
  • Aversion to change: Users of CAD software (AutoCAD, Vectorworks, Sketchup, etc.) are reluctant to change or don’t want to change. AutoCAD has been around since 1982; by 1986, it became the standard for computer-aided design used in the AEC industry before the advent of BIM software. As such, users of the program have a hard time transitioning to Revit because they are so used to AutoCAD’s fast redraws, quick drawing methods and typed commands. They tend to compare AutoCAD with Revit.
  • 3D aptitude: Users who want to change but don’t have the aptitude for 3D. I’ve observed that certain users, no matter how much you train them, simply cannot grasp the Revit 3D concepts. They are not able to visualize in 3D. Training time takes longer for these individuals.
  • Time: Users who don’t want to invest time in training themselves.
  • Impatience: Users being impatient in the learning process; those who think they can browse through the learning process quickly, thereby resulting in errors (e.g., carelessly deleting an entire floor or link). By contrast, those who study the software, take notes, practice and experiment, tend to grasp the software very easily.
  • Lack of training: Previous users of other CAD software who have migrated and transitioned to Revit with minimal or no training at all.
  • Low mastery: Users who are thrust into learning the software (in a workplace, on an actual project) face a surplus of mistakes, errors and confusion as they don’t practice and experiment at home or in their spare time. They don’t master the program and are just barely able to apply what they’ve learned from their training. Most of the time, actual work involves creating new walls, annotations, revisions and more relatively simple stuff. As a result, there is no time for studying and learning Design Options, Phasing, creating families, etc.

Having worked with large architectural firms, I’ve observed that unless you are specifically hired to be a project manager, designer, or project coordinator with Revit experience, you will be thrown into generating CDs. In the CDs phase, maybe 10 percent of effort, if even that, is devoted to family creation. This is because the company already has a collection of families or there is a Revit guru who handles the families. Thus, when given the task, family creation becomes a nerve-wracking and arduous task. In this series, I will go over the process of family creation and how to study and create them in a methodical way. This series will consist of:

Part 1  Classification of Revit Families

Part 2  The Family Editor User Interface

  • Includes Properties Palette, Project Browser, Viewcube, Navigation Bar, Steering Wheel and View Control Bar

Part 3  The Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, Keyboard Shortcuts and Snaps

Part 4 Work Planes

Part 5 Dimensions

Part 6  Modifying and Editing Tools

  • Includes the Draw panel

Part 7  Modeling

  • Includes tutorials, samples, etc.
  • Parameters

Part 8  Materials

Part 9  Introduction to Conceptual Massing

Part 10 How to Practice Revit Family Modeling

Part 1 — Classification of Revit Families

Families are classified into three types:

Figure 1. System families. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Figure 1. System families. (Image courtesy of the author.)

System Families

These are basic components used to create a building project. Examples are ceilings, walls, floors, stairs, railings, ramps and topo surfaces (see Figure 1).

They are also elements used in documentation such as levels, grids, callouts, tags and detail components. System families are built into the software and cannot be deleted. Their types, properties and behavior are predefined by Revit and cannot be changed. They can, however, be duplicated to form new types with editable parameters. They also host component families that are hosted in other families, such as doors and windows.

Figure 2. Component family examples. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Figure 2. Component family examples. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Component Families

These are models created outside the project environment using the Family Editor (Figure 2). They are loadable families that can be placed, duplicated, deleted and modified. They can be host-based or freestanding.

Host-based families are components that attach or host to system families such as walls, ceilings, floors or any surface in the project environment. Creating component families is the main focus of this article.

  • In-Place FamiliesThese families are components created in a project environment. The creation process is the same as creating a loadable family from scratch in the Family Editor. This process is accessed by clicking the Model In-Place command (Architecture>Build>Component) in a Project file. This feature is provided so users can create unique families specific to a project such as custom parapets, roof elements and casework. See the curved shelf in Figure 3.
Figure 3. In-place family example, curved shelf. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Figure 3. In-place family example, curved shelf. (Image courtesy of the author.)

In-place families can be copied and pasted from project to project. When grouped, they can be saved outside the project as a loadable Revit family. This is how it is done:

  1. Create your in-place family (Architecture>Build>Component>Model In-Place)

  2. While in the editing mode, select and group your in-place components. (Create>Create Group).

  3. While still in the editing mode, select the grouped components then click the Application button (the R Revit logo on the top left); click Save As>Library>Group.

  4. In the Save Group dialog box, you have the option to rename the group or keep the group name. Notice that the file type is .rfa (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Saving an in-place family. (Image courtesy of the author.)
Figure 4: Saving an in-place family. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Note: Do not choose Library>Family. That function is for saving all the families (in the current project you’re working on) in a designated folder on your computer.

Figure 5 A and B: Left: initial design stages using massing tools, right: refined design as system components. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Figure 5 A and B: Left: initial design stages using massing tools, right: refined design as system components. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Conceptual Massing Families

The massing environment in Revit is where the design begins. In the initial stages of a project, conceptualization can be done using Revit’s massing tools. The building modeling tools and system families in the project environment can also be used for design concepts. However, they are limited because they lack the tools for creating abstract mass forms. By using the massing tools, flexible and organic shapes can be created (Figure 5 A). The final mass form can then be turned into Revit system components such as curtain walls, floors and roofs (Figure 5 B). Mass Forms can be created as In-Place or Loadable mass families.


In the two eBooks I released in 2012 and 2015, I emphasized the following:

Being proficient in Revit family modeling is like learning how to play a musical instrument. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, a prodigy, or a seasoned musician. You have to do the time. By this, I mean practicing for countless number of hours, learning how to read music, doing the boring scales, getting to know the instrument intimately, joining a band, etc. No amount of Revit tutorials, theoretical knowledge, research and literature will make you a good Revit modeler unless you actually sit down and create as much families as you can. There is no shortcut.

Figure 6. Revit properties pallet and toolbar. (Image courtesy of the author.)

Figure 6. Revit properties pallet and toolbar. (Image courtesy of the author.)

The key to learning how to create quality Revit families is to understand the Family Editor modeling concepts and component creation process. New users tend to dive in and browse through the myriad of tools available in the ribbon menu without understanding how things work in Revit. The software is user-friendly in the sense that certain functions are obvious. However, unlike other BIM software, some Revit functions are buried within its Properties Palette and tool bar options (Figure 6). This can be confusing and frustrating for beginners or those trying to transition to BIM. However, when the concepts and methodology are grasped, Revit family creation is not that difficult. By learning how to use the Form making tools properly in combination with the Modifying tools, complex shapes can be created and put together to form a family. They can be a one-of-a-kind family with only a material parameter such as a stool (Figure 7 A), or a complex family such as the saxophone (Figure 7 B).
Figure 7 A and B. One-of-a-kind families. (Image courtesy of the author.)
Figure 7 A and B. One-of-a-kind families. (Image courtesy of the author.)

This is Part 1 in a 10-part series on Creating Loadable Revit Families. For more information, see:

  • Part 1: Classification of Revit Families
  • Part 2: The Revit Family Editor User Interface
  • Part 3: The Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, Keyboard Shortcuts and Snaps
  • Part 4: How to Use Work Planes in Revit
  • Part 5: How to Dimension with Revit
  • Part 6: Using Revit Draw and Modify Tools
  • Part 7.1: Modeling Basics: The Family Editor Modeling Tools
  • Part 7.2: Modeling Basics: How to Create Simple Parameters in Revit
  • Part 8: Applying Materials in Revit
  • Part 9: Introduction to Revit Conceptual Massing
  • Part 10: How to Practice Revit Family Modeling

About the Author

Michael Anonuevo currently works for YWS Design & Architecture located in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a technical writer, published author, BIM modeler and musician who owns and runs Founded in 2009, his website specializes in unique and highly detailed Revit families created in native Autodesk Revit Architecture geometry. Anonuevo is an Autodesk Revit Architecture Certified Professional. He is also an Autodesk beta tester for Revit Architecture. At, he regularly writes articles pertaining to Revit families. He also writes product reviews and is a contributing author at AUGIWorld, AECbytes, CAD Digest, and He is a member of AUGI, Club Revit, UK Revit Register, Los Angeles Revit Users Group and Southern California Revit Users Group.

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