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Energy Vanguard - The Contractor's Fear of Third-Party HVAC Design

Greetings building science enthusiasts,

We've been reading Dr. Allison Bailes' newest blog post over at Energy Vanguard and it's too juicy not to share. You'll get the gist pretty quickly - why are installing contractors (generally) so fearful of an engineer's design?

Answer - well, it's complicated. 

What if a builder refused to build from plans drawn by an architect? What if a tile installer refused to implement designs handed to them and instead did their own thing? What if an HVAC contractor told a potential client they wouldn’t install a system designed by a third party to ACCA protocols? One of those questions is more real than the others. Of course builders build from architects’ plans and tile installers don’t throw out designs they’re asked to implement. But third-party HVAC design is a different animal.
— Dr. Allison Bailes III, PhD

There is some nuance to the situation he's bringing up. Installers may experience resistance due to the lack of quality third party design in their market or they may have had a poor experience previously with a third party designer. What this speaks to, at least from our perspective, is the need to integrate. From the architect to the GC and installer, the mechanical designer needs to have a mastery at navigating communications and facilitating productive conversations across the project team. 

Here at Positive Energy, that's our primary directive when we engage with firms to pull off successful Integrated Mechanical Designs. If we can't maintain fluid communication and establish clear goals across the team, our chances of experiencing a negative outcome go up. But it's solvable! And we work hard to make sure it's happening.

More thoughts from Allison: 

Where I’d like to see us get to is to have a relationship between third-party HVAC designers and HVAC contractors like that between architects and builders. Architects and builders are both licensed professionals, so one part of the answer may be to require licensing for third-party designers. I’m not convinced that would solve the problems, though. If licensing were the answer, the contractors — who have to be licensed in most places — would already be doing everything properly. And my friend Kristof Irwin of Positive Energy in Austin, Texas is a licensed engineer who faces the same kinds of problems.
— Dr. Allison Bailes III, PhD

Thanks for the shoutout, Allison! 

He's absolutely right. Licensing regulations exist for a reason and we take that very seriously. We've got a robust team here with many credentials, but the fundamental code of ethics by which we operate have to do with the professional engineering license. We are obligated to look out for the health and safety of the public and our clients. That's why our designs are so robust and detail oriented.

And we totally understand that robustness can be intimidating to an installer we've never worked with before. But we also understand that if the design isn't implemented correctly, all our hard work was just wishful thinking. And that encapsulates why we offer support to the GC and installer in the CA phase of our projects. As long as we're in fluid communication, the kinks work out pretty easily and we're definitely in the business of setting this precedent across the industry. We think we can all do a lot better and the world will benefit greatly for it. 

Moral of the story: Allison, once again, presents us with another set of great ideas. If you're not already following his blog, don't miss out. He's got a lot to say and he says it well. 


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