by Bill Smith, president of Elite Software

More and more firms practicing plumbing design are recognizing the many benefits of computerizing the design process. Larry Lindsey is president of Lindsey Engineers, Inc., a MEP firm in Austin, Texas specializing in renovations, refits, and HVAC/plumbing trouble shooting. Lindsey Engineers is a good example of how computerization has streamlined the plumbing design process and improved productivity and profitability.

Larry Lindsey is well familiar with the old problems of manual design. He remembers, "we would go through the forms, filling in the blanks but we would still have to do the calculations. And, on a hand calculator, input errors such as transposing numbers, are very common. You never know where the errors are; all you know is there's a problem at the end. And, we increasingly felt that most jobs were not cost effective when we we did them manually."

Faced with a difficult upcoming project, Lindsey decided the time was right to begin the process of computerization. After purchasing SPIPE, Elite Software's program for plumbing service supply pipe sizing, Lindsey used it to great advantage on a recent project at the Army Residence Center in San Antonio, Texas. He explains, "it was a 25,000 square foot addition tied to a high rise nursing home with special plumbing problems. For this to work, we had to analyze their existing system with SPIPE and then analyze it with the new system to make sure everything would work properly. Pipe sizes had to be large enough to handle the existing system as well as the new. Done manually, it would take forever."

In addition, old pressure problems plagued the nursing home. "We were tying on to the existing water supply of the nursing home so what ever we added was going to compound these pressure problems," he recalls. "SPIPE allowed us to quickly analyze the existing water supply with the new addition on it and actually allowed us to simulate the performance of the new design. For example, it could tell us if the pressure drop was too great or the velocity was too high or we didn't have enough water flow. We could increase a pipe size and the program would show you right on the screen what happens to the system. In the old days, this kind of analysis would take many hours and now we do it in a few minutes. Best of all, we see all the problems before we install a system and eliminate a lot of time consuming guess work."

Lindsey notes that it was critical to maintain water temperature at 110 degrees for the nursing home's clients. "With SPIPE we can precisely calculate what kind of high and low hot water usage we'll have and thus we can properly size our mixing valve, a very important consideration on this project."

Computerization also offered the luxury of conducting "what if" scenarios. "For example, we wanted to see what would happen to velocity and pressure drop if we used a smaller pipe size," he recalls. "With the program, we could do it in a few minutes; manually, it would have taken four or five hours to see what effect it had on the rest of the system. Many times through the project, we were able to say, 'what if' and quickly analyze the effects of design changes using the computer. This is a tremendous advantage as we save a lot of time tracing errors while helping us avoid serious design problems."

"SPIPE paid for itself in only six weeks or less, an excellent return on investment," claims Lindsey. "In my experience, firms that don't computerize are open to gross errors and often have significant problems with their designs. They are going to have an increasingly difficult time; I don't know how they can be competitive without computerization."

He summarizes, "overall, SPIPE gives us great accuracy, helps eliminate errors, allows us to easily evaluate 'what if' scenarios and speeds the design process. It also makes us more competitive as we can negotiate a little tighter because we won't have to spend as much time as our competitors. Or, if we're even with them it'll just make us a little more profitable. In the end, we're selected on our professional abilities and computerization with SPIPE simply makes us more professional."

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