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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Paul F. Aubin, Darryl A. McClelland, Martin Schmid and Gregg Stanley

AB222-4 Join the authors of the new book Mastering AutoCAD MEP for an informative Q&A
session. Do you have a burning question about AutoCAD MEP? Come to this panel session and ask!
The panel will include veteran author Paul F. Aubin, and industry experts and co-authors Darryl A.
McClelland, Martin Schmid, and Gregg Stanley. Together they have nearly 80 years of building industry,
architectural, and engineering experience. If these guys don't know the answer to your AutoCAD MEP
question, who will?

About the Speakers:


Paul F. Aubin is the author of several books on Revit Architecture and AutoCAD Architecture including
Paul F. Aubin’s Mastering Revit Architecture, Mastering AutoCAD Architecture and Autodesk Architectural
Desktop: An Advanced Implementation Guide. Paul is also the co-author of an all new title: Mastering
AutoCAD MEP 2010. Paul has a background in the architectural profession spanning nearly 20 years.
These experiences include architectural design and production, CAD management, mentoring and
training. Paul is an independent consultant offering training and implementation services to architectural
firms using Revit Architecture and AutoCAD Architecture. He is the moderator for Cadalyst magazine’s
online CAD questions forum and has spoken at Autodesk University (Autodesk's annual convention for
users) for many years. The combination of his experiences in architectural practice—as a CAD manager
and an instructor—give his writing and his classroom instruction a fresh and credible focus. Paul is an
associate member of the AIA and is based in Chicago.
Visit Paul’s Website: www.paulaubin.com
Visit Paul’s Blog: paulfaubin.blogspot.com
Email Paul at: paubin@paulaubin.com
Darryl McClelland has 24 years of practical design in MEP engineering. Although his primary focus was
the design of mechanical systems, he spent 11 of those 24 years designing electrical and plumbing
Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

systems as well. He also ran his own engineering business for eight years. His design experience ranges
from complex research laboratories and institutional facilities to medical and professional office buildings,
and everything in between. He is a graduate of Purdue University and an active member of ASHRAE,
ASPE and a LEED AP.
Martin J. Schmid, P.E. has worked with Autodesk for the past four years, working on-site with customers
to implement best practices using AutoCAD MEP and Revit MEP. Prior to joining Autodesk, Martin
worked in a variety of roles in a number of architecture and engineering firms, including electrical
designer, engineering coordinator, and application developer. Martin has a Master’s Degree in
Architectural Engineering from Kansas State University and a Master’s in Business Management of
Technology from the University of Texas in San Antonio. Martin has used AutoCAD since version 10, and
has developed custom applications built on top of AutoCAD MEP extending the capability to suit the
specific niche needs of customer applications. Martin has a beautiful wife and two daughters, and works
from his home in San Antonio, TX.
Gregg Stanley has over 22 years experience in Mechanical Process Design focused on Water
Wastewater treatment systems using AutoCAD based solutions since Release 1.1. Gregg has also been
in the position of a CAD Manager responsible for developing and instituting company-specific customized
applications, CAD standards and training. He has written and presented several training classes on
AutoCAD and AutoCAD MEP both internally to coworkers and as an independent consultant and at
Autodesk University. Gregg’s current position is at Autodesk as a Quality Assurance Analyst and with
Product design as a Piping Subject Matter Expert for AutoCAD MEP focused on the Piping application.
Gregg is responsible for working with the larger development team and a Usability/Interaction Designer to
redesign the 3D piping application, and for quality assurance and quality control of several AutoCAD MEP
features.

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Introduction
To accompany our panel discussion today, we have compiled this class paper. The first portion of the
paper has questions solicited from the attendees here in attendance before the session. We also have
questions compiled from common customer questions and requests to the MEP team at Autodesk.
Finally, we have a complete Hanger tutorial at the end of the paper that did not make it into our book.
Consider it the “missing book chapter” exclusively available to AU attendees! Hope you enjoy the session.

Questions from our Studio Audience:


The following questions were solicited to the attendees signed up for the session as of September 21,
2009. If your question was used, thank you very much. Our answers are provided after the questions.
Question From: Lorne Cooper:
In MEP, the electrical conduit tool does not create conduit at the actual outer diameter of the different
types of conduit. For instance, 4" EMT actually has a 4 1/2" outer diameter. When we pick to draw a 4"
EMT in the electrical tool pallet, it draws a conduit that has a 4" outer diameter. This has caused some
headache for us in coordination with other trades. We have had to create our own catalogue based on the
Plumbing Piping catalogue to create conduit with actual outer diameters when drawn. Will Autodesk be
able to fix this problem?
Answer: When Conduit functionality in AutoCAD MEP (previously Autodesk Building Systems and
Autodesk Building Electrical) were designed and developed, requirements around physical modeling
and detailed accuracy were very different than they are today. Many areas of AutoCAD MEP have
evolved over the years to adjust to changing needs. Technically, having objects such as Conduit with
different nominal and actual diameter is a solvable problem – as indicated, Piping has such
functionality. The best we can offer as a response here is to keep your eye out for such changes in
future releases. Perhaps, sign up at http://beta.autodesk.com to get an early sneak peek if/when such
functionality is on the horizon.

Questions From: Joe Reilly:


1. I know you can calculate plumbing loads, but are there some tips to setting up your design so your
system is calculated properly and there is confidence in the results? Is the calculation output placed in a
schedule?
Answer: Addressing this question requires diving into the expectations for what the plumbing tools
do. Generally, the Plumbing Line functionality is designed to facilitate tracking fixture units within
discrete areas of a building, and is generally limited to a single floor since flow can’t be tabulated for
risers that span multiple floors. This is because the nature of the Plumbing Line tools is two-
dimensional. As the question inquires, it is possible to sum fixture units for an entire building using a
schedule to help compare to the otherwise manually tabulated totals for each floor.
2. Based on an AUGI forum message, I notice there are two sets of buttweld elbows in the Piping
Catalog. You need to set up your Piping Preferences correctly so you get “proper” 45 degree elbows in
you pipe runs, with the correct center-to-end dimensions.

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Answer: The Long Radius Buttwelded Elbow supports 45 and 90 Degree Elbows. You can edit this
part to change the CtoE dimensions to support Short Radius Elbows. The existing SR Elbow is not
built to support additional Angles.
3. I stated previously that my AutoCAD MEP work is for one client and projects are at a low point right
now. I am always trying to keep my skills current and fluid. What tips or methods would you recommend
to keep skills current when project time with the program is limited?
Answer: Identify the low hanging fruit with the product, and always use that functionality. I.e.,
certainly there are tools within the application that accelerate drafting functionality, even if full 3D
coordination modeling isn’t the goal. Continue to use such tools, even where client requirements don’t
require a 3D model. There is functionality within every discipline that provides benefit over and above
traditional 2D AutoCAD. Stick with it, and such tools will likely become the tool of choice over
maintaining and developing your own LISP or other custom application based on AutoCAD primitives.
In addition, increasing your knowledge with Property Sets, Tags and Schedules will help you mine
information from your 3D models and will minimize the amount of time spent annotating and
scheduling items. AutoCAD MEP provides many additional Schedules and Tags. These are located in
the Style Folder, in the Electrical Equipment Tags & Schedules (US Imperial).dwg for Electrical and
Mechanical Equipment Tags & Schedules (US Imperial).dwg for Mechanical.

Question From: Kevin Vaughn


When I switched from AutoCAD to MEP, I used to use the delete key on the keyboard to delete objects.
In MEP this does not work. I tried to look it up in the help files to no avail. I am sure there is a setting to
turn it on, but I can't find it.
Answer: Sounds like the Noun/verb selection mode is turned off. This can be found under Options,
Selection tab, Selection modes group.

Customer Questions:
The following questions have been compiled from questions that reach the Autodesk QA and support
teams. The questions presented here were selected for their overall value to the group.
Question:
We are having issues when we create a sheet. The gap in the piping seems to get bigger as we create a
view and a sheet, but when we get to sheet it is very large, and piping looks like it is not connected. What
are we doing wrong?
Answer: You may want to check your gap settings and see if they are set the same across all the
drawings. You may be using Annotation Scale to Gap with the value of 1″ so the gap size for 1/8″
scale would be 8 ft (see Figure 1).

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Figure 1 – Check Gap settings on the MEP Display Control tab of Options

Question:
I want a Rise symbol to appear without the squiggly line, how do I change this?
Answer: Go to Style Manager (Manage tab), Piping Objects, Pipe System Definitions, Select the
System in the list and then click the Rise Drop tab. This will help you determine the correct Rise Drop
Style.
Next, under Piping objects, select the Pipe Rise Drop Styles and then select the one listed in the
System, for example, Pipe Break Patterned Rise Only (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – In Style Manager, determine the correct Rise Drop Style and select it

Select the Circular Rise for 2 line for 2 Line Pipe and 1 Line for Single Line displayed pipe. Notice the
Block name listed. You can choose another from the list or edit the block using block editor once you
exit Style Manager.

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Question:
Where do I find the Structural commands in the new Ribbon?
Answer: Switch to the Architectural workspace. Structural tools are on the Home tab, Build panel
(see Figure 3).

Figure 3 – Structural tools are located in the Architectural Workspace on the Build ribbon tab

To find commands / locations, open the Application menu (the big “A” button). There is a search box
at the top; just type in what you want to find (See Figure 4).

Figure 4 – Use the search field on the Application Menu to find commands

Finally, you can also use the “Where is my command” item on the help menu (top right side of the
application frame).

Question:
1. How do I display the Elbow Centerlines like I used to in 2D with the intersection instead of the radius of
the elbow?
Answer: There is a command line only command called: DisplayStraightCenterline that will allow you
to change all elbows or domain specific elbow’s centerlines.
Type: DisplayStraightCenterlines and then press ENTER.
The prompt will read the following:

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Centerline display for elbows. Select domain to change setting


[Conduit/Duct/Pipe/All]:
2. How do I control the centerlines for the different Duct Shapes?
Answer: Go to Options and click the MEP Display Control Tab.
You can determine Centerline by shape and also access display by elevation (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 – Edit the Center Line Display on the MEP Display Control tab of Options

General Tips
The following are a brief collection of tips we wanted to share with you. These are a collection of items
should be aware of when working with AutoCAD MEP.
Display System:
When changing settings in Display Manager, editing the Global Cut Plane or turning on Display By
Elevation please be aware that the changes need to be made to all drawings that reference the model
such as the Construct, View and Sheet Files to ensure that the model will display correctly when it is time
to print.
Custom Catalog:
You can create new catalogs that contain your custom content. AutoCAD MEP supports multiple catalogs.
To create a catalog, on the Manage Tab, on Content Panel click the Catalog Editor button (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 – Access the Content Editor on the Manage tab

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

In the Catalog Editor, click the New icon. In the “New Catalog” dialog, choose the Catalog Domain, type a
Catalog Name and a Description that you want to appear inside AutoCAD MEP. Also point the Catalog
Root Directory to the correct folder (see Figure 7).

Figure 7 – Add a New Catlog

To add a Chapter Right-click on the Catalog Name and select Insert > Chapter (see Figure 8).

Figure 8 – Add a Chapter

Click Save to complete the catalog. This will create an APC file for the catalog, but you still need to copy
at least 1 part into the catalog for it to become a valid.
At this point you can copy an existing part into the catalog, this is the easiest way. To do this browse to an
existing catalog and select a part (DWG, XML and BMP) and copy them into the New Chapter. Once this
is completed you can regenerate your catalog and add it to AutoCAD MEP so you can begin building new
parts and saving them to your custom catalog.
To add a catalog to AutoCAD MEP go to Options and click the MEP Catalog Tab. Select the Domain and
click Add. Browse to your catalog and then click OK.
This catalog will now be an available option when creating parts in Content Builder.
If you have existing parts, simply copy all the relevant files to the appropriate folders under your catalog
and regenerate the catalog either using the Catalog Regen command inside Catalog Editor or the Catalog
Regen Command inside AutoCAD MEP.

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

AutoCAD MEP Hanger Tutorial


Here is a little bonus tutorial. On a few occasions, we have been asked about creating Hangers in
AutoCAD MEP. Since this isn't frequently used, we always have to go back and review the
documentation, and look up command names since they aren't visible in the US Imperial Workspace.

Figure 9 – Hanger in Plan (left) and 3D (right)

Hangers, like other elements in AutoCAD MEP, are based on styles. Similarly, their display is controlled
by the display system in AutoCAD MEP. There are no hanger styles provided in the US Imperial
templates (i.e., "Aecb Model (US Imperial Ctb).dwt"). Additionally, the template is configured to not
display Hangers.
In this simple tutorial, we will first place a pipe, then layout some Hangers on a Pipe, and finally we will
tweak the necessary settings to make them appear reasonably.

Place a Pipe (refer to Figure 10)


1. Create a new drawing based on Aecb Model (US Imperial Ctb).dwt.
2. Set your workspace to HVAC.
3. On the Home tab, Build panel, click Pipe.
4. On the Properties palette, under Dimensions, set the Routing preference to Standard, and set
the Nominal size to 8"
5. Pick a couple of points to define a pipe, approximately 100' long.
6. Right-click, and choose Cancel to end the Pipe command.

Figure 10 – Place a Pipe (this should be the easy part)

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Place Some Hangers


The next few steps will result in your placing some Hangers that are not visible. Don't fret, we will make
them appear in the subsequent steps (and, you may learn something about the Display System in the
process).
1. At the command line, type: HangerAdd and then press ENTER.
2. The “Add Hangers” appears. Verify the settings per Figure 11, and then click OK.

Figure 11 – The Add Hangers window

The settings above will place hangers every 5'-0" along the length of the selected Pipe. Refer to Figure 12
for the following steps:
3. Click to select the pipe created previously.
4. Click near the Pipe end to specify the start of the hanger run.
5. Click a point towards the other end of the Pipe to specify the layout direction.

Figure 12 – Pick to specify layout along the pipe

After you specify the points, the command will end, and you will be staring at a Pipe that appears to have
no Hangers, as per Figure 13. The next steps will setup four views for Top, Front, Right, and SE
Isometric.

Figure 13 – Resulting pipe - where're the Hangers?

Setup Four Views


1. On the View tab, Viewports panel, click the Viewport Configuration List drop-down, and then
select Four: Right (see Figure 14 next page).

OK, easy enough, but still no Hangers.

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Figure 14 – Four viewports looking at the Pipe

Modify Display Settings


In the next few steps, we will make the Hangers visible in the Plan and Model views.
1. On the Manage tab, Style & Display panel, click Display Manager (see Figure 15).

Figure 15 – Display Manager on the Manage ribbon, Style & Display panel

2. Under the current drawing (in this case Drawing2.dwg), expand Representations by Object, and
then select Hanger (see Figure 16).

Figure 16 – Select the Display Representations for the Display Sets

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

3. In the grid on the right, in the Model row, check the box in the MEP Design - Model column.
Similarly, for the Plan row, check the box in the MEP Design - Model column.
4. Click OK to close the Display Manager.

The results are shown on the left in Figure 17. Note in the Right view (lower right view), the Hanger is
pretty 'boxy' looking, and doesn't really make sense. This is because the "Standard" Hanger Style in the
drawing is configured with the "Standard" Structural Member Style. In the next topic, we will create
Structural Member Styles, and then apply them to our Hanger Style.

Figure 17 – Resulting display of Hangers in the MEP Design Display Configuration. The Hanger Style is
made up of a Rod and a Channel

Note, we are only affecting the MEP Design Display Configuration; the hangers will still be invisible in the
other Display Configurations (Mechanical, Electrical, MEP Basic 2-Line, etc.)
5. Set the Display Configuration to MEP Basic 2-Line, then to Electrical, then back to MEP Design
(see the right side of Figure 17).

Of course, if you like, in Display Manager you can turn on (check) the Display Representations for the
sets associated with the other Display Configurations as well.

Generate Structural Member Styles


For the Hanger, we need two Structural Member Styles, one for the Rod and one for the Channel. To
create these, we will use the command MemberStyleWizard.

1. At the command line, type: MemberStyleWizard and then press ENTER.


2. In the Structural Member Style Wizard - 1 of 3 dialog, under Steel, select Channel, and then click
Next.
3. In the Enter Dimensions for selected Member Shape box, specify the following values, and then
click Next:
a. 1.5"
b. 1.5"
c. 1/16"
d. 1/16"

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e. 0"
f. 0"
4. In the Enter style name: box, type: 1.5in x 1.5in Hanger Channel, and then click Finish.
5. Re-start the MemberStyleWizard, and this time select Circular Column under Concrete.

What? Concrete? Well, my intent is to create something like a threaded rod. The other option is to use a
Steel Circular Pipe; however, the pipe requires an inside diameter, which is completely unnecessary.
Since there doesn't appear to actually be any concrete material information associated with the Structural
Member Style, I'm fine with the Concrete Circular Column standing in for the rod.
6. Specify the diameter as 1/8", and then click Next.
7. In the Enter style name: box, type: 0.125in Hanger Rod, and then click Finish.

The created Structural Member Styles show up in Style Manager, under Architectural Objects, Structural
Member Styles. Each style is associated with a Structural Member Shape Definition that also appears in
Style Manager, as shown on the left in Figure 18.

Figure 18 – Structural Member Shape Definitions and Styles (on left), Hanger right-click menu (on right)

8. Select one of the Hangers in the drawing, right-click, and then select Edit Hanger Style (see the
right side of Figure 18).

Note, also on this right-click menu is "Edit Parameters". We will get to that later.
9. In the Hanger Style Properties window, on the Hangers tab, specify the following, and then click
OK:
a. Channel Style: 1.5in x 1.5in Hanger Channel
b. Rod Style: 0.125in Hanger Rod
c. Rod Offset: 1"
d. Rod Overrun: 2"

The views should update as shown in Figure 19 (next page).

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

Figure 19 – Updated hangers, with the Offset and Overrun indicated

Direct Manipulation of the Hanger


Each Hanger instance has a few parameters that can be modified to adjust the Hanger geometry (see
Figure 20). To display the grips on a Hanger, you need to select Edit Parameters from the selected
Hanger's right-click menu. Note that the Left side is the side with the Height grip. Inspect the parameters
and grips, and get a feel for what happens when you modify the values. The Rotate Hanger button on the
Properties palette rotates the Hanger in 90 degree increments. Note, however, to see the Hanger update,
you need to move your cursor away from the palette. The Support Orientation menu item (see the right
side of Figure 18 above) provides another way to rotate the Hanger about the pipe.

Figure 20 – Hanger parameters on the Properties palette, and via Grips

Note that hangers are anchored to the objects they are associated with, i.e., if you move the Pipe, the
Hangers will move with it. Using the Hanger location grip, you can move the Hanger along the length of
the object it is anchored to.

Wrap up
If you want to save the hanger created here, you can add it to your templates or library files. We hope you
find some of the information in this paper useful. Your authors are conducting several other classes here
at AU. Be sure to check them out!

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Mastering AutoCAD® MEP: Ask the Experts

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