Jason Tapia, AIA, founded Building Center No. 3 as a process-driven, design-oriented, interdisciplinary architecture firm in 2010. His eight-person team has continually worked to make its design processes as comprehensive as possible, whether through in-house design and fabrication using CNC routers and 3D printers, or performing electrical engineering and photometric studies using Design Master Electrical.
Jason’s firm has always made a point of working on a broad spectrum of residential and commercial projects, from historic home additions to large corporate spaces. He initially relied on outside consultants for all of the engineering work; unfortunately, that reliance made it harder to tackle small projects profitably. When he switched to engineering those small projects himself, he initially worked, as he puts it, “the dumb way”: manual drafting and simple table calculators that saved him money, but at the expense of time. “What are these other engineers using, they’re not using the dumb tools that I’m using,” he reflected. After some research, he found Design Master Electrical was just what he needed: an electrical design “sweet spot” that was easy-to-use, relevant to his needs, and affordable. During his free trial, he says he also “found that the customer service was very good — I would get answers the same day, next day.”
Two years later, Jason confidently uses Design Master to calculate loads, size wires and breakers, generate panel schedules, and occasionally perform photometrics for simpler projects. Being able to switch quickly from one load calculation to another has been especially helpful, along with the ability to customize blocks. He gives the example that his panel schedules “needed to include wire sizes. The skeleton panel schedule doesn’t offer that, so I had to be able to add that. I created a custom template for us, and we were able to add that layer of information. ... Once I was able to customize [the schedule], I got everything that I needed: my panel schedules were looking like the engineer’s, it had wire sizes, it had phases, it had calculations at the bottom, and I could trust those numbers.”
Design Master Electrical allows Jason and his team to bring more of the design process under their control and, as he puts it, “Having more control over different parts of the project is always going to be beneficial for us as the architectural designers.” Rather than having to adjust their design, workflow, and timetable to work with a consultant, they can integrate the engineering into their process. Jason says that, when he talks to architects with a similar interest for taking more control, “all of them are fascinated by the fact that I generate my MEP in-house; a few have started to follow suit. One friend, in particular, sent me his drawings ... he’s using the old tools that I used.” In his opinion, it’s only a matter of time before smaller firms like Building Center No. 3 realize the value of taking back control with tools like Design Master Electrical.
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