Setting Up Filters in Revit MEP

This is an article that will be in the May edition of AUGI magizine. Read it here first on RUGON!

The basic setup in Autodesk Revit MEP can be a bit cluttered without making a few modifications.  One of the biggest impacts that can be made to avoid confusion is by setting up filters.  Filters make a world of difference in terms of organization, and are relatively easy to set up with only a few basic steps.

Everyone that has already made the switch to the BIM world encounters one question; “I can do this in AutoCAD; so how do I do it in Revit.”  This one question seems to drive Revit users insane, myself included, particularly those coming from a CAD perspective.  Some are easy fixes and others need a bit more of a roundabout approach.

The latest dilemma I encountered was “how do I set up layers, ahem I mean filters in Revit MEP?”  Filters are, for arguments sake, are the same type of concept as layers.  You can manipulate, edit, change and drive filters the same way one might in AutoCAD.

Without filters, Revit drawings look like a jumbled mess of lines resembling a game of ‘Pick-Up Sticks’ then as set of plans a contractor would use to build off of.  Setting up filters in Revit allows for drawings to have a clear and concise method of breaking out systems within the project.  Visibility of each system and can be edited on a sheet-by-sheet basis with a click of a button.

There is an easy, yet slightly lengthy process for setting up the filters.  Once you set up your basic systems, savvy users can include them into their project templates and save a significant amount of their time in the future.  This article will cover how to add, change, and manipulate filters in Revit MEP.

Setting up Basic System Families

Out of the box Autodesk Revit MEP comes with a basic project template with families pre setup.  By default, three for mechanical HVAC (Mechanical – Supply, Mechanical – Return, and Mechanical – Exhaust) and two for plumbing piping (Domestic and Sanitary).

How are these created and how do you change them?  Deciding what will work best for different firms will take some careful consideration.  For this example, some of the basic filter categories that commonly get used in most projects are below.

In order to create these filters, start by clicking on the ‘Visibility/Graphics’ button from the ‘View’ tap on the ribbon.  This will bring up the ‘Visibility/Graphics’ dialog box.  Next, select the ‘Filters’ tab.  This view allows the user to edit and add new filters in that location.

The first step is to create the filter categories for each system from the previous image.  Select the “Edit/New…” button to open another filters dialog box.  This will be where the filter rules to what each system includes within the filter.  Click the ‘New’ button and enter the filter name.  It is essential to use a unique name that will be easy to follow for other users.  Once the filter name, select the categories to be associated with the filter.  Verify that all items that will be included in the filter are checked.  If items are left unchecked it will create problems later on.  The main problem that seems to slip my mind more often than not is the flex ducts and the flex pipes categories.

Now that one system type is created, click on the ‘Duplicate’ button and add the rest of the same filter types as shown below.  Repeat that process for the plumbing categories.

The next step is to set up some rules and parameters so you can determine how the filters will be controlled.  These rules establish how each item is displayed. To do this select the button with the 3 dots, ‘…’ in the filter rules section shown in the image above.  A Project Parameters window will appear.

Now is where some of the careful consideration comes into play.  Decide what type of parameter will work best for you and insert as the parameter.  I use an “Abbr. System Type” parameter, because this is the same name denotation that I use in my annotation families for piping and ductwork.  The name needs to be a simple and direct wording so other users know what the intent of the parameter is and click ‘OK’.

Now back to the Project Parameters dialog box, select the “Add…” button and create a parameter.  Make sure that “Project Parameter” and “Instance” hot buttons are selected.  For this example, use “Abbr. System Type”.  I prefer to group the ‘Discipline’ as ‘Common’ because I use this same parameter throughout the project not just for use inside the filters but also my annotation tags.  Group the parameter as ‘Text’ in the ‘Type of Parameter:’ and ‘Group Parameter Under:’ pull down menus as well.

Now that the basic information filled out, select the same categories to be included in the parameter.  Be sure to use the same categories that were selected previously.  The new parameter should look something like the example below.  Click ‘OK’ and ‘OK’ again until you are back to the Filters window.  By setting up the parameter, Revit creates an “Abbr. System Type” field in the properties browser. This will be what drives the categories into the filters.

With the Filters window open select the ‘Abbr. System Type’ parameter from the pull down menu in the ‘Filter by:’ column.  Set the second pull down to ‘Equals’ and in the third cell type in your system type abbreviation i.e. “SA” for HVAC – Supply.  Repeat that for each filter. Click ‘OK’ when finished.

All of that created the document filters that are defined in the project. Including all of the types of systems and the items associated with them.

The next step is to actually create the filters for each system type.  Go back to the original ‘Visibility/Graphic’ and ‘Filters’ screen from the beginning and click the ‘Add’ button.  Highlight all the filters to insert and click ‘OK’.  All the filters are now viewable in the project and can be edited from this window.  Go through and edit the ‘Lines’ graphics by clicking on the Override button.  The window that comes up allows you to edit the weight, color and pattern to each filter.  Use consideration when selecting the colors and line types for what works best for your firm.  Choose colors that will print well along with colors that show up the best visually with both the white background and the inverted black screen.

This all can be changed on a sheet-by-sheet basis.  From this screen you can toggle the on/off check box visibility of each system.  Normally I keep all the filters visible by default.  Doing this keeps the filter visibility from fighting with the workset settings.  I usually only use the visibility toggles to isolate say the supply air ductwork for coordination purposes only. Play around with what works the best for you.  Click ‘OK’.

Although this feels like a lot of steps, this can be included into your view template inside your initial project template to save time on future projects.


Using Filters Inside of a Project

To this point, we have created the filter types, the filter rules, the properties parameter for each filter, the actual filters, and modified how each filter will be viewed.  Now is the time to control that within each project.

For this example, supply air ductwork will be used.  Make sure all the windows are closed and you are back to your floor plan view.  Hover your mouse over the ductwork and tab until all of the connecting supply ductwork is highlighted and then click your mouse.  Go to the ‘Properties’ browser, scroll till the “Abbr. System Type” parameter that was created earlier.  If the parameter does not appear, use your ‘Filter’ button on the ribbon to remove items that were not included into the family type categories shown in the ‘Parameter Properties’ and the ‘Filter’ categories from earlier.  Most of the time the mechanical equipment or plumbing fixtures are what hinders the Abbr. System Type from appearing in the properties browser.  If it does appear, enter “SA” for the abbreviation.  For filters this is not a case sensitive item.  Repeat this step for the remaining system types and you are off and running.  The final product will look similar to this.

From Casey Eckhard. Casey Eckhard is the Revit Guru specializing in mechanical design for the Lincoln, NE office at MEGROUP. He can be contacted at