Save Time, Wow Your Boss – Build a Flexible Revit Family Without Losing Your Mind

revit family 3d image
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This blog will show you how to build a family and then add family types to change its size in a project.  


In this example we will build a cylindrical tank. This is a simple shape defined by two parameters, length and radius. We will add a parameter to represent how high it is from the floor. 


First, open a new family. I always start with a “Generic Model” and then change it when I’m finished. I avoid hosted families. This gives me more flexibility in placement. 

Revit Family New
Revit Family Model Templates

Then we define parameters length and radius.  These are both dimension parameters, and you have a lot of choices how to define them. Revit went nuts with the OOB parameters and groups them under the following disciplines: 

Revit parameter disciplines

Each of these disciplines has one or more dimension parameters, and any of them can be used to represent length.  For our example, we chose “Length” under the “Common” discipline. 


Create these parameters by selecting the “Family Types” icon, followed by the “New Parameter” icon: 

Revit Family Types Parameters
Set up parameter

Do this for both Length and Radius. 


Other parameters we may consider are elevation and color. Add the elevation parameter as above. 


For the color parameter, choose “Common” and “Material”. Revit will suggest that you group color under “Materials and Finishes”. You can group parameters however you want them grouped. Grouping helps you find them easier when you want to modify them. 


Your “Family Types” dialog window should now look like this: 

Revit Family Types Dialog Window

We will address the “COLOR” parameter at the end. 


Use reference planes to define length, radius, and elevation. I typically use the “Ref. Level” and “Front” views to work with reference planes. You are free to use more or less, as needed. 

Reference Plane Tool

It is located on the Create ribbon in the Datum panel. I put it in my Quick Access toolbar because I use it frequently. 


Revit families are pre-loaded with three reference planes: “Center (Front/Back)”, “Center (Left/Right)”, and “Reference Plane”.  The Reference Plane is placed at the “Ref. Level”.  All three planes are locked in place and cannot be moved without unlocking. 

Center Left Right Front Back Reference Plane
Reference Level

Place two reference planes on either side of the “Center (Front/Back)” and “Center (Left/Right)” planes. In the front view, place a reference plane above the Ref. Level. 

Reference Planes
Revit reference plane

Dimension your reference planes and assign these to parameters. Use the EQ toggle to make the new reference planes equidistant from the center reference planes. 


After dimensioning, your planes should look like these: 

Revit reference planes plan view
Revit reference plane front view

Assign your dimensions to parameters by selecting the dimension and chooling the “Label” dropdown: 

Revit associate dimension

In the Ref. Level view, assign the dimension at the top to the diameter and the one on the side to length.  It should look like this: 

Revit Length and Diameter

Use the “Family Types” icon and change the values of the parameters. Make sure the reference planes and dimensions change with these values. 


Construct your family using one of the “Forms” tools. Any one of these can be used for this shape. We will use the “Revolve” in our example. 

Revit revolve tool

Use the tools in the “Draw” panel to create the shape and the axis of revolution. The shape must be a closed loop and it cannot cross the axis of revolution. 

Revit tools

We have a simple shape, so we’ll use the rectangle tool for the following shape: 

Revit rectangle tool
Revit revolve shape

Select the Center (Left/Right) reference plane as the axis and you have the following shape: 

revit family 3d image

Open the Front view and you will notice that the family is not above the floor: 

Revit family on the floor

We must associate our shape with the reference planes to be able follow changes in the family type parameters. Select the reference plane and name it “HGT”. You can edit the name in the Properties Palette or directly in the view. 

Revit associate work plane

Open the Ref. Level and select the Revolve. Select the “Edit Revolve” icon. 

Revit edit revolve

Use the Align tool to align and lock the shape to the reference planes. 

Revit align tool
Revit lock text

Before closing the Revolve editor, select the Work Plane icon, and choose “HGT” as the work plane. 

Revit set work plane
Revit work plane name

The family is now constrained to the reference planes and should change shape as you change the type parameters. Test it and see. If something looks amiss, edit the shape to ensure everything is locked to a reference plane. 


Create new family types by selecting the “Family Types” icon and selecting the “New” icon. 

Revit new family type

When prompted for a name, hit “Enter” to accept the default “Type 1” or give it a different name. Do this again to create a second Type. Change the parameters of one of the types toggle between them with the drop down. Click “Apply” to see the changes between the types. 


To add color to your family, select the <By Category> value in the Family Types list, and select the small “choose” button: 

Revit material

This opens the “Material Browser”: 

Revit material browser

There are a host of materials available to add color and texture to your family. Feel free to use different materials for different types in your family. For more on materials, see this video by The Revit Kid: Revit Tutorial – A Simple Material Change to Add Realism in Revit Renderings 

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