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Building Homes as an Integrated System

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In the past, architects, engineers and builders collaborated on residential homebuilding projects without giving much thought to MEP requirements. HVAC design was a necessary component to building and selling a home, but it was not a main focus. Sound design and installation principles were often compromised in the name of “making an HVAC system fit since HVAC Professionals were not participating in the entire design process. Technology provides new ways for all team members to improve how they plan, communicate and collaborate on projects. We know the AEC industry prioritizes three goals: maximizing profits, keeping home prices affordable, and fulfilling homeowner expectations. They have already started to embrace technology to ensure attaining these goals is achievable going forward. The HVAC industry just needs to follow suit.

Avoiding Mistakes & Costly Repairs

Pictured: When framers cut roof trusses to make space for ductwork, the result is the need for costly structural repair.

John Galinski, Director of Engineering Operations for Truss Connectors at MiTek USA, recently gathered pertinent data for building homes as an integrated system. He says, “MiTek’s structural engineers are constantly working to provide designs to customers with roof trusses in need of repair. Approximately 8% of the 10,000 truss repairs my department designs each month are due to builders failing to properly plan for the space required to accommodate MEP systems. As a result, framers tend to cut into the trusses to create space, thus affecting their structural integrity, and leading to the need for costly repairs.

Imagine how many trusses are compromised each year, but somehow slide through the inspection process unnoticed? The numbers are potentially staggering. The cost for repairs depends on how extreme the case. Errors can potentially add a few hundred to thousands of extra dollars per new home. Schedules may be compromised adding even more unnecessary costs. It’s easy to see how profits suffer. A knowledge and execution gap must be bridged to get all team members on the same page so mistakes can be reduced or eliminated.

JL Schwieters, a large framing company serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul markets since 1980, started using Mitek’s Sapphire Suite software to design and build wall panels, floor trusses/panels, and roof trusses in order to streamline the production process. Blake Schwieters, Plant Manager, says,We find using components is more efficient on jobsites

and creates a safer work environment for framers. Floor trusses/panels also provide the space necessary for MEP services to be installed properly, which creates a better quality end result. Sapphire Structure 3-D BIM allows our team to view all structural elements in one place, eliminating clashes and ensuring the building is designed correctly. The bottom line is, by spending more time on the initial design phase, we reduce costly mistakes during construction.”

Be Proactive with 3D Duct Design Software

While the issues builders experience might seem of little importance to HVAC designers, becoming an indispensable member of an integrated team is only achievable by jumping wholeheartedly into technology. Providing CAD-quality, 3D duct designs is one avenue for

proactively reducing costly mistakes. In the past, HVAC Professionals found it difficult to persuade their AEC partners to share master CAD files. MiTek-Wrightsoft designed Right-CAD® specifically to combat this issue. Right-CAD® enables HVAC designers to produce 3D, CAD-quality files without learning to use a new program like AutoCAD or Revit, and without asking an AEC teammate to share a CAD file. The best part: Right-CAD® is much more affordable when compared to Revit or AutoCAD. All the major roadblocks to collaborating and communicating on a higher level have been eliminated.

Overcome Challenges with Solutions

HVAC Professionals often mention one of their biggest challenges is dealing with pressure to compromise HVAC design to appease homebuilders looking to reduce costs. Providing a comfortable environment for homeowners should be the aim of each member of the homebuilding team, yet HVAC is often sacrificed to provide the features homebuyers readily notice, such as granite countertops or stainless steel appliances.

MiTek-Wrightsoft’s Senior HVAC Designer, Stephen Platka, says, “Homebuilders and contractors occasionally fail to factor heat rise into multi-level home designs. This leads to homeowners complaining about the 2nd level being warmer than the 1st level. Designing a zoned system will require using two thermostats (instead of one), and a little extra ductwork. The extra expenditures will be minimal, but the design will go a long way towards keeping homeowners happy.

Low-quality designs usually result in excessive call backs and might even lead to negative reviews online. As an industry, HVAC Professionals may be able to influence homebuilders if they start speaking in a language builders understand. It usually starts with ROI. Demonstrating the cost associated with repairs to trusses, call backs, and complaints will educate builders and help them see the value in high-quality HVAC design.

Technology Pushes Everyone to Think About Building Differently

Image: BIM 3D open web floor truss design integrated with HVAC system designed with Right – CAD.

Suggesting architects and builders try using alternative building solutions will prove you are knowledgeable and worthy of collaborating on building projects as part of an integrated team. Using open-web floor trusses or chases designed to accommodate MEP systems have proven to consistently reduce mistakes (like the cost of repairing structurally compromised roof trusses), control labor costs (by shortening the installation time), reduce material costs, and maximize ROI. MiTek is at the forefront of integrating the entire homebuilding operation into a single unified system where all team members can collaborate online, in real-time, and manage workflow with computer software. To learn more about where technology is taking the homebuilding industry, visit

MiTek-Wrightsoft Special Contributor: Stephen Platka, Senior HVAC Designer.

MiTek Special Contributors: John Galinski, Director of Engineering Operations for Truss Connectors; Micah Dawson, Product Portfolio Manager, HVAC; Scott Reichensperger, V.P. Global, Residential Business Technology.

Lisa Newhouse
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Residential Buildings, Uncategorized

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