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Design Learned

Norwich, CT

January 2011

Zachary RohlfsDesign Learned, Inc. is an engineering design firm, specializing in the design of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Headquartered in Connecticut since 1991, their client base is nationwide.

While they engineer systems for all types of structures from historic buildings to industrial spaces, Design Learned focuses on animal care facilities, boarding kennels, shelters and veterinary hospitals. Designing these facilities brings special challenges because they include areas with differing requirements in close proximity, such as retail space, bathing/grooming areas, medical clinics, and animal training and boarding areas. Noise, odor and pathogen control, dehumidification, fire protection and emergency power systems are among the special requirements of many of these projects.

Design Learned originally purchased Design Master software in 2003, and currently use Design Master HVAC, Design Master Electrical and Design Master Plumbing. The company has four engineers and an office/project manager. According to Zachary Rohlfs, Staff Engineer, “Design Master allows us to remain relatively small because of the efficiency it offers. If we didn’t have Design Master, we’d probably need two or three additional people in the office who just drew in AutoCAD.”

Mr. Rohlfs has used Design Master since joining Design Learned in April 2008. “A requirement in my job description was to learn all three Design Master products – which took me all of about a week,” Mr. Rohlfs relates. “Design Master is very easy to use, but also very powerful. As you learn more and more you can really configure it for your needs, and take advantage of more and more features.”

"It allows us to charge less and give more to our clients: one of those beautiful things in life."
Zachary Rohlfs, Staff Engineer

Nearly all computer-based design work at Design Learned takes place in Design Master. “If I do a project I use all three Design Master products in the design. It makes life a lot easier. Calculations are done automatically and everything is right there so you can set the rooms up, put the diffusers in, work with different receptacle types, and so on. It draws the receptacles, draws the circuits, and puts all the schedules and panels and everything else up on the drawing quickly and expediently. It gives relatively accurate loads, too,” says Mr. Rohlfs.

“Another benefit of Design Master is that if you have comments or suggestions about the software, the company actually takes them seriously,” Mr. Rohlfs continues. “There have been several times where we’ve said, ‘It would be great if you guys added this,’ and a release or two later, it’s in the product.”

“For instance, I love the new ‘Global Update’ button. Often during a project a client will make a change and we’ll need to move or delete a couple of receptacles. Now everything updates with one click, and I don’t need to manually change a checklist, schedule, calculation spreadsheet or circuit diagram. I don’t have a bazillion macros to create and maintain, either.”

When he first came onboard, Mr. Rohlfs also tried learning AutoCAD MEP, “But after a few days I threw up my hands and gave up. It’s very counterintuitive, convoluted and time-consuming. Design Master is so easy by comparison.”

“Occasionally architects want something from us that they can input into their Revit model,” adds Mr. Rohlfs. “We’re doing a project now in Dallas with a firm that uses Revit. We’re supplying them with the HVAC ducting. We just exported that model using Design Master’s new ‘Export to Revit’ feature; they took it, put it in… Done. And they were very happy with it.”

Besides meeting the needs of architects, Design Master also helps Design Learned create a higher-quality design at lower cost to the client. As Mr. Rohlfs explains, “Oftentimes contractors will tell us that our drawings are very detailed and contain a lot of useful, supportive information. That stems from Design Master saving us the time it takes to put that information in there.

“Our firm still has to charge a bit more for our work, because inherently there are unique challenges when you’re designing animal or human health care facilities. But Design Master lets us keep our fees reasonable because it simplifies and speeds up so much of our process,” adds Mr. Rohlfs. “It allows us to charge less and give more to our clients: one of those beautiful things in life.”