Importing RFA content into OpenBuildings Designer

OpenBuildings Designer is a multidisciplinary building design application that enables BIM workflows to provide information-rich models for the design, analysis, simulation, and documentation of buildings. The application has the largest catalog of manufacturing content. OpenBuildings Designer shares its own catalog of design components across the project team as well as incorporates building components stored in other formats like RFA.

Incorporating OpenBuildings Designer into your workflow is easy as the application supports numerous industry standard formats for graphics and data consolidation, as well as exchange with other BIM and CAD products. Files created from any version of Revit back to 2010 can be imported. OpenBuildings Designer allows you to place RFA (Revit Family) file content.

There are two methods of importing RFA into OpenBuildings Designer:

1. Import to File
2. Import to Catalog

Let’s look at how these two methods are different from each other and the advantages of using these methods.

1. Import to File

For a rapid upload, an RFA file can be directly imported to OpenBuildings Designer as a RFA cell. The supported file types are *.rfa, *.paz and *.pac. Follow the steps below to complete the import.

Access from Backstage: File > Import > Exchange File Types > RFA (*.rfa)

Select the RFA file. Click on OK.

The RFA cell will be placed near the ACS after the import. However, only one element will be placed at a time, and you will not get the choice to select the different variables within the RFA file.

2. Import to Catalog

When RFA files are brought into OpenBuildings Designer using this method, the RFA Interpreter Wizard creates catalog entries that represent each type defined in the RFA and stores the mapping settings that are used for each RFA file. Here are the advantages of using the application’s Wizard:

  • The Wizard creates catalog entries for each Type defined in each RFA that is selected. The Wizard lets you select which Types are translated into catalog entries and optionally renames them.
  • The Wizard allows interpreted RFAs to be integrated into existing OpenBuildings Designer tools.
  • The Wizard converts 2D symbols of RFAs into constructions.
  • The Wizard copies RFAs to the dataset that is selected at the beginning.
  • The Wizard creates two folders, one for attributes and the other for properties, at the directory location \<dataset name>\setting\rfawizard. There is one XML file in the folders for each category that has previously defined mappings.
  • The Wizard enhances the Compress command to remove unused RFAs from the active DGN.
  • The Wizard supports Revit 2009 through 2020.

You can access the Wizard from Backstage: File > Import > 3D Modeling File Types > Import RFA to Catalog.

Once the RFA Interpreter Wizard opens, follow the steps listed below.

Step 1: Select Files

As you begin, note the commands in the left panel that indicate the current wizard state. They are highlighted in sequence as you move in the workflow of wizard settings. For each command, the dialog controls on the right panel vary.

The Select Files command sets the destination for RFA files and selected files or folders to be added in the list. It includes the following options:

  • Destination – Sets the destination for RFA entries to be created. The drop-down menu options determine whether you want the Workset, Workspace catalog, or Organization catalog.
  • Select RFAs – Lists the files selected for conversion. It includes the following sub-options:

    • Add from Component Content – Opens the Components Center Explorer Dialog. Here, you can browse RFA components available in the ProjectWise Project repository and create a new parametric catalog item from the selected RFA.
    • Note: Compound Cells and PAZ cells are not supported by Components Center.

    • Add Files – Adds selective files in the Select RFAs list box. When clicked, this option opens the Select RFA Files dialog, where you can navigate to the directory containing the RFA files, select the RFA file(s) that you want to translate, and click Open.

    • Add Folder – Adds a selected file folder. When clicked, this option opens the Browse for Folder dialog, where you can select the folder that you want to translate and confirm by clicking OK.

    • Remove – This is activated once one or more RFA files are added in the list. When clicked, the currently selected file is removed.

The list box displays the selected RFA files added to the Bentley RFA Interpreter.

Step 2: Map Categories

After selecting one or more RFA files and pressing the Next button, you can begin mapping RFA categories with Building Designer categories or the Mechanical category, then apply valid disciplines to each RFA.

The screen also lists errors, if any, that are encountered in reading RFA data.

The list box has the following columns:

  • RFA File – Displays the name of RFA files. Clicking the checkbox of a highlighted row enables Add Category and Add Discipline buttons.
  • RFA Category – Displays the name of the RFA category associated with the RFA file. The category can be altered by clicking Apply Category to selected RFA files. Use Apply Mechanical category to selected RFA files to assign a Mechanical category.
  • Discipline – Displays the discipline associated with the RFA file. The discipline can be altered by clicking Apply Discipline to selected RFA files or by clicking the Discipline field, opening the drop-down list of disciplines available.
  • Building Designer Category – Displays the Building Designer category mapped internally for the RFA file. The category can be altered by clicking the Building Designer Category field and picking a category from the drop-down list provided.

Checking one or more RFA file entries enables the following buttons:

  • Apply Category to selected RFA files – Opens a secondary dialog where an alternate category can be picked from the drop-down list. Category options, such as Door, Window, Base Plate, Casework, and Escalator are available.
  • Apply Discipline to selected RFA files – Opens a secondary dialog where an alternate discipline, such as Architectural and Plumbing, can be picked from the drop-down list.
  • Apply Mechanical category to selected RFA files – Opens a secondary dialog where an alternate discipline can be picked from the drop-down list. Mechanical categories, such as Accessories, Fixtures, Pumps, and Valves are available.

All RFA files must have a Building Designer/Mechanical category and discipline assigned to them. The Wizard helps you by automatically assigning the best possible category and discipline to each RFA.

Step 3: Select Types

Now it is time to select the types to include in DataGroup Catalog. You can rename the items to suit your Workset requirements.

  • RFA Family and Types – Displays the pre-defined family and types of names for RFA and children family types.
  • Name in Building Designer – Displays the Building Designer family name for the RFA mapped with RFA family. You can rename the family name if needed. As the child family name follows the same string, you can overwrite the child family name if needed.

At this point, you will receive warnings that state “already imported” for RFA files that were imported in a past session.

Step 4: Map Attributes

Next, you can map RFA object attributes including Building Designer Part and Family, then assign RFA materials if needed.

Sort By — Sorts the object list in the order of Category or Family. For each RFA, the list has the following fields:

  • RFA Object Styles – Displays the list of the RFA Object Styles in the active RFA file.
  • Graphics – Displays whether an RFA object is 2D or 3D.
  • Building Designer Part and Family – Displays the Building Designer Part and Family assignment to a given object. Clicking in the field opens a list of parts and families available, which can be further filtered to narrow down and select a desired part and family from the resulted options.
  • Use RFA Materials – Keeps the RFA materials instead of the materials defined by the part and family. The Use RFA Materials option will only apply to 3D solid surfaces and not 2D symbology.

The Next button becomes available once all RFA object styles are mapped.

Step 5: Map Property Names

This screen maps Building Designer Properties with that of RFA properties. The empty or missing Building Designer Properties can be set manually.

  • RFA Parameters – Displays the name of the RFA parameters for the active RFA.
  • Building Designer Properties – Displays the name of the Building Designer Properties mapped for the RFA parameter. Clicking in the field opens a list of Building Designer Properties available. These properties can be further filtered to narrow down and select a desired property from the resulted options, which maps the entries labeled Not mapped.

The Create Catalog Entries button appears in place of Next.

Step 6: Create Catalog Entries

In this step, the Wizard automatically interprets and translates the RFA files and reports the result after DataGroup entries are created.

NoteYou can, of course, change mapped property settings whenever another window or RFA file is imported. Mappings that are changed from the default are displayed in bold type.

Mapped property settings are stored here:  directory \Worksets\<template>\support\dataset\setting\rfawizard.

Step 7: Back/Next

The Back button remains activated, allowing you to revise the settings in the previous screen as required. The Next button turns active in each state when valid settings are finished, and you can move you to the final screen.  

Step 8: Finish

Lastly, after the Create Catalog Entries step is finished, the Finish screen appears and lists the result of the interpretation.

In addition to the dataset root directory path, the result also includes list of RFA files processed, and the resultant catalogs being created. Clicking Finish dismisses the dialog.

Step 9: Cancel

This option closes the RFA Interpreter Wizard, prompting a confirmation that you want to exit. No cancellation is permitted after the Create Catalog Entries are progressed.

Step 10: Place RFA Content

Lastly, to access your RFA material, go to Ribbon: Place Mechanical / Plumbing Systems > Respective category type.

Click to select the respective RFA catalog items in the category.

About the Author

Sanchayan Chatterjee is a product success manager for Virtuosity, a Bentley Company. He is an expert with Bentley’s MicroStation, OpenBuildings Designer, LEGION, and LumenRT applications. Sanchayan has trained people from AECOM, WSP, Manipal University, and Singapore Polytechnique University. He is a trained architect and worked with Christopher Charles Benninger Architects as a project architect in the IIM Calcutta and IIT Hyderabad projects.

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