Vortex Engineering & Architecture, Inc. (VEAI) is a consulting firm specializing in civil land development engineering and architectural services. From concept planning through completion, VEAI manages, maintains, plans and designs all types of residential, commercial and industrial projects with an emphasis on commercial and residential land developments.
VEAI purchased Design Master Photometrics to efficiently create photometric lighting plans for a nationwide client with projects in different states and municipalities across the US.
According to Jim Bell, Senior Designer/Project Manager: “I was looking for software that lives inside of AutoCAD Civil 3D and would let me evaluate existing outdoor lighting conditions and come up with a variety of options for the client to bring their site up to their demanding specs.
“We had been outsourcing this outdoor photometric work to MEP firms, usually local to the sites. It was very time-consuming and expensive to manage all these remote engineers and design in conjunction with them. Also, every municipality had its own submittal requirements, which made the task even more complex.
“Design Master lets me handle everything in-house,” Mr. Bell continues. “Now I can do everything right at my desk: meet the criteria for all the different municipalities, put the product out, make all the changes – all while meeting the client’s need for consistency across the plan sets. This saves us a huge amount of time and money.
“Another reason Design Master is very, very important to us is that it fits right into our existing process. I can run Design Master in conjunction with high-end options within AutoCAD Civil 3D and there’s never a problem,” adds Mr. Bell.
“Another thing I love about Design Master is it makes it so easy to create a multitude of ‘what-if” scenarios for one site,” Mr. Bell explains. “I can start with existing conditions and assumptions, and then make adjustments on the fly.
“Say I want to bring more light in around the entrance gate. What if I power up just these two devices? What if I drop these fixtures? What if I raise them? It’s all very, very easy and accurate.
“Often I review scenarios with the client and they like a combination of several options. Back at my desk, I can combine ideas very smoothly and simply to make the product look however I want, with no impact on the underlying data.
“Right now I’m working on thirty-six sites, every one of which is in a different town or county across multiple states. Each of these municipalities wants to see the data in a different format. With Design Master it’s easy to customize drawings to meet specific submittal requirements for Colorado versus Tennessee.
“Design Master doesn’t force me to make my drawings look a certain way. This is critical for our client because it streamlines the permitting/approval process,” Mr. Bell clarifies.
“Many of the sites I’m working on are basically similar,” says Mr. Bell. “The acreage is the same, the buildings and parking areas are in similar locations, and so on.
“The way Design Master manages data, I can copy a previous design and drop it right down on a new site. This saves me a lot of time, because I can just re-use specific techniques I applied at other sites.
“This allows us to quickly make whatever changes are needed, such as raising or lowering fixtures to conform to local codes – all of which is very easy in Design Master. It is not necessary to import devices, set up a project schedule or reload IES files… we just query a device, update it and keep moving on.
“Design Master is also very ‘intelligent’ and intuitive in that it stores data with minimal redundancy and maximum safety. It’s easy to make updates without impacting the parent project. But if you want to maintain that linkage, it propagates seamlessly across all affected drawings. So I don’t need to be the ‘AutoCAD keeper’ – Design Master makes it easy for us to reuse design drawings without introducing errors,” summarizes Mr. Bell.
“We’re so dedicated to the quality of our products with Design Master, that we purchased handheld light meters to check the software’s accuracy,” Mr. Bell states. “At two different sites we evaluated the existing conditions and then the as-built conditions after the upgrade.
“We were very pleased at the accuracy of Design Master. Now, when I do a plot showing footcandle levels all over a site, I know the software is accurate,” asserts Mr. Bell.
“Design Master’s support has been nothing but awesome,” Mr. Bell exclaims. “I downloaded the 30-day free trial and made it through the tutorial on outdoor photometrics in about an hour. We were working in the software within a few hours and producing lighting plans by the end of that first day.
“Design Master connected with me at the outset and proactively asked me how I liked the software and whether I’d like to see any changes, and that’s continued right along. Our conversations are never about trying to sell me something. I’m going to their upcoming user conference and am looking forward to offering some more feedback.
“It’s a two-way partnership,” Mr. Bell offers. “They really care about their product, how it works in the real world and how it affects companies’ costs.”