Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™
Pools as an art form - the way it should be!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Is your Watershape Consulting firm out of touch?

Paolo Benedetti, the principal of the Watershape Consulting, Design and Construction firm of Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa, discusses why consultants need to be current practitioners of the trades they advise on.

Out of Touch
It's simple really... How can you respect the recommendations of any consultant if they have not actually practiced their craft in say five years, ten years, or even fifteen to twenty years?
The longer they haven't been active in the trades, the more that they become out of touch with the constant changing technologies and methodologies of the various sub-trades and standards.

Boilerplate Plans and Concepts
While a project design or set of construction documents may be thick and contain a lot of pages, do not begin to think for one moment that they are accurate, concise or even relevant. Most consulting firms deliver pages and pages of "boilerplate" specifications and notes. Many of these notations are self-contradicting or are not applicable to your specific project.

Instead of providing "project specific" notations, specifications and standards, these generic pages are delivered with every set of plans. They are not based upon your project's specific materials, details and requirements.

Because of the generic nature of these notations, there are no actual criteria, standards or guidelines for the contractor to follow when it is time for them to actually build your project. For instance, these notes may allow a number of means of providing waterproofing. But, they do not outline a specific program or course of action. Instead, they direct the contractor to "contact the consultant/engineer for approval of any admixtures or waterproofing methods." Guess why? Because they get to bill the client for these additional recommendations and requests for information (RFI).

Are your plans going to be developed & drawn by an "associate" who has never met you, visited your site, or built a pool?
Are the plans going to be a series of "cut and paste" schematics and details?
Is the principal of the firm actually going to proofread the plans? And cross check details?
Are the plans going to include an electrical loading & demand chart?
Are your plans going to include a listing of the various apparatus, manufacturers, model numbers and quantities?

The principals of most Watershape Consulting firms spend their time selling their firms services. Once the job is sold, a minor associate is assigned your project. Most of these associates have never built a pool. They are draftsmen who's job it is, is to churn out plans. Many do not even understand how a pump functions or a heater works, the principals behind ozone oxidation, or the applicable building, health, fire or electrical codes. They do not know the R.O.I. on the equipment and components, the durability of various materials or if you even care?

Is this how you want the plans and specifications for your project developed?

Material Take-Offs
Rarely is there a materials list, which outlines the components and equipment required for the project. Plumbing diagrams rarely contain identifiers as to a specific component. For instance, all shut-off valves labeled with a <3>, may merely refer the reader to a listing of valves. The <3> does not refer to a specific brand, model or size of valve. A pump labeled < P1> usually does not refer to a specific line item in a spreadsheet or equipment chart.

The generic notations of these firms are not reviewed, updated or modified on a regular basis. This oftentimes results in equipment or materials being specified in the notations that may have been discontinued, are incompatible or may contradict other details elsewhere in the plans.

Because of the generic nature of the notes, most consultants/engineers start with a disclaimer "It is the responsibility of the contractor to read and understand the pages contained herein. All errors shall be immediately be brought to the attention of the consultant/engineer. The consultant/engineer shall not be responsible for unapproved changed to the specifications contained herein."

What that means, is that the plans are very generic. The project specific details will be contradicted by the notations. It will be the contractors responsibility to proof read the plans for the consultant/engineer, and bring these errors to their attention. Doesn't that seem backwards?

Shouldn't the notes be specific for your project? Shouldn't the notations that are not applicable to your project should be stricken or at least crossed out?

These extraneous notes have been known to cause conflict between the contractors building a project and the building officials - because information in the plans contradict themselves.

Keep It Simple Stupid!

Let's face it - most consultants are trying to impress you with their complex plans and lots of information. But if a lot of the data in a set of construction plans is irrelevant, why confuse the contractor and building officials?

Plans need to be easy to read & follow, concise and project specific. The non-relevant information needs to be removed.

Various components need to be identified by a "line item number" that corresponds to a materials chart. The chart summarizes the item specifics (size, make, model number), electrical/gas demand and the quantity required. Not only does this make identification easy, it makes ordering materials error free.

Each valve should be identified by a unique identifier that corresponds to a chart that states it's purpose (e.g. surge tank modulation valve, main drain isolation valve, etc.), size, style, manufacturer and model number.

It is impractical to merely direct the reader to a paragraph that lists numerous sizes & model numbers. Lest the reader forget to note a diameter of the incoming plumbing line, they must refer back to the original diagram/page. Take-offs, ordering and installation errors abound as a result.

Though conceptual plumbing schematics ease in the understanding of the system's operation, they do not assist in the bidding, installation or construction of the project.

Plumbing lines, high voltage and low voltage electrical conduits need to be outlined on the project site plan. The various lines and conduits need to be identified by a unique character. Electrical conduits need to be identified by their size, type, purpose, number and size of the conductors. The locations of underground pull boxes, junction boxes and panel boards need to be clearly identified.

Equipment room schematics need to include both high and low voltage electrical schematics, as well as room receptacles and lighting circuits. A chart indicating the various conductor identifiers (id number), size (AWG), purpose (apparatus fed), and breaker sizes (amps) needs to be provided.

Plumbing schematics for equipment room gas lines, sump pumps, condensation drains, floor drains, faucet(s), eyewash stations and shut-offs need to be provided. Mechanical schematics need to outline exhaust gas ventilation as well as ensure there is adequate make-up air (fresh air). Code specific emergency apparatus for generating ozone within confined spaces (e.g. an equipment room) must be identified and placed.

Costly Detail Development
Because many consultants no longer actually build anything, some for decades, they oftentimes develop design details that specify methodologies, materials or costs far exceeding what is necessary.

For example, a consultant may develop a knife edge slot detail that specifies a costly custom manufactured stainless steel reinforcement of the knife edge and stainless steel support brackets for the coping stones. Because they are not "in the trenches," they are not aware of alternative methods of building the same details without the need for ANY custom stainless steel fabrication, brackets or masonry reinforcement.

Similarly, a consultant may attempt to design a debris collection system for an enclosed surge tank. Costly machining of one-of-a-kind stainless steel components may cost their client three to four thousand dollars (plus the consultants mark-up). Again, because they are not "in the field," they are not aware that a similar system can be field fabricated with off the shelf components for less than a thousand dollars!

A consultant may be specifying antiquated waterproofing materials (e.g. clay or cementitious based), wherein a modern elastomeric membrane may be more durable, economical and efficient. A specified tile thinset may not be performing to the liking of installation crews or contractors (e.g. it sags on vertical surfaces). Bu,t because they are not "on the front lines," they may never know of this product's flaw.

Many Watershape Consultants and Design Engineers have caused the needless expenditure of thousands of dollars of their clients wealth on materials and labor, that had simple and economical alternatives. Alternatives that were as or more durable, easier to install and less expensive.

Though other consultants may possess "book smarts" (engineering degrees) or experience from decades past, there is absolutely no substitution for the continuing experience gathered from being in the field, experimenting with new advancements in construction and materials technology, and innovating through trial and error.

Field experience allows the instantaneous response to under-performing equipment, substandard materials or the development of economical solutions to construction issues.

A consultant with on-going hands-on construction and project management experience, can save you months of construction time and tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your project.

Which would you rather have... a pencil pushing desk jockey or a hands-on, on-site, in-the-field, technological innovator?

Paolo Benedetti - Watershapes Consultant, Innovator, Designer, Builder
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa©