Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fudge Packing

On every project I have ever done (and there have been many), I have had to make certain assumptions.

I hate having to 'assume' anything due to the cheesy old adage of making an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'.  If I have to assume something, then I make sure that as many people that are involved with the project know I am making that assumption (and if possible - why I am making that assumption), so that hopefully if anyone has information that counters my assumption that they will bring it to my attention.

Unfortunately, this means that I often have to 'fudge' something on my drawings - hopefully just as a place holder for when more accurate information comes along, but in a lot of cases, it just ends up going out like that.  The biggest concern is that the contractor puts money in the job for whatever is necessary - and I end up with a lot of 'Cover Your Ass'(CYA) notes.

As I have mentioned about notes before - some of them sound retarded, but if I don't explicitly state that the contractor needs to verify, coordinate, field-verify, field-measure, etc. - they will ALWAYS come back looking for more money, and claiming that we didn't tell them about something (even though I know they knew).

Here's a typical scenario - project "A" has some piece of owner-supplied equipment that we are responsible for providing with power.  I am told about this piece of equipment when the project kicks-off, and informed that the owner will be supplying information about it.

Fast-forward to the due date - and I have received one or all of the following:

1) A brochure for the piece of equipment that has every single piece of information you could ever want to know about it - except for the electrical load.  This is usually because brochures don't get into specifics due to all of the various options, configurations, etc. for any given piece of equipment.

2) A scribbled piece of paper or hastily written e-mail with 'information' that the owner supposedly got from the equipment supplier, manufacturer, factory rep, or maybe just some guy they ran into in the hall.  This will almost always be incomplete, and suspect to begin with (in most cases this information has gone through several peoples hands, and like a game of 'telephone' degrades or becomes less factual each time it does so).

3) An out-dated cut sheet or catalog page on a piece of equipment that is no longer being manufactured.

And yet still not a single actual piece of information that I feel confident hanging my hat on, so I have to switch from ultra-specific (which is my normal mode 99.9% of the time) to ultra-vague mode so that they can't come back and say 'well, you said to do that, and so I did that - but I was actually supposed to do this'.

Repeated phone calls, e-mails, and even live meetings - always with promises of 'getting you that information', but it is never forthcoming.  I can't just 'pick something' (as the architect or project manager might suggest) since I am not the one ordering the piece of equipment, and whoever is responsible for selecting it is NEVER in contact with me (despite my attempts at making contact with them - and so it is fairly common for them to select equipment with voltages that aren't available - picking a 480V 3-Phase piece of equipment in a building that only has 208V 3-phase for example, or a piece of equipment that runs on residential 240V 1-Phase (I run into a lot of sewer lift pumps like that), or that needs some special voltage like 230V, 220V, etc.

Some pieces of equipment will function just fine (or at least function) with 208V, even if the nameplate calls for 240V/230V/220V, etc.  but some do not - especially equipment that comes from other countries.  This can necessitate buck-boost transformers or step-down transformers to derive the exact voltage listed on the piece of equipment.  Just in our own office we had a new plotter installed that asked for 230V, and were assured by the manufacturer (who we contacted prior to purchase and installation of the receptacle/wiring/breaker) that it was 'no problem'.  Several months of sheer hell trying to get the plotter to function properly later, they determined 'oh - it's not getting enough voltage', and installed a buck-boost transformer and got it up and running (the thing is still a piece of shit though - NEVER get a KIP plotter).

So, the project goes out - and rather than having a nice clear plan of action for 'use this panel, breaker size, disconnect size, wire size, receptacle size/type - and this how much load it puts on the panel, my drawing (or at least that portion of it) basically says 'Do Electrical Stuff Here - Ask Somebody What'.  I don't give a fuck if that's what ends up happening, at least as long as we don't get a fucking phone call when shit doesn't magically work properly.  The problem is, it will be months (or even years) later when we get that call, and then we have to figure out what the/who/when/where/why the fuck we didn't have specific information on our drawings (even then - still with a catch-all note in case they change their minds, use a different model or manufacturer, etc.).

My notes and e-mails usually cover my ass, because there will be 400 of them asking for the information, and informing them that the 'information' I have received so far has been total shit, but it still looks like I fucked up, which makes it look like my firm fucked up (and that's absolutely what the contractor will tell the owner - who won't have any recollection of almost purposefully preventing me from getting a few simple pieces of information).

Now - it's one thing if it's a piece of equipment or two.  Imagine (or recall - if you've been there) a whole building full of equipment (let's say a kitchen) where this game is being played.  Any kitchen equipment supplier (or restaurant franchise) worth two shits or even half a fuck will provide a detailed (excessively detailed in some cases) spreadsheet/schedule of equipment.  The best ones will take that schedule and distill it down to just electrical information for the pieces of equipment that require power (so I'm not having to sort through three pages of racks, tables, brackets, etc.).

This schedule is god - because it is the only sure fire way to make sure that every single piece of information regarding every single piece of equipment has been addressed - or there will be a glaring empty box where it should be.  I still want cut sheets too - because sometimes there is information that I need to know that exceeds the ability to easily be put on a schedule (and I sometimes catch errors, or things that weren't taken into consideration by the supplier).

Now, get some back-woods dumbass fuckhead who is 'helping' a school system select equipment for their kitchens - and you not only won't get a schedule, you will actually get bitched at for suggesting that it might be their responsibility.  By offering their 'help' they are either replacing (or getting in the way of) someone who can actually help - and then redefining what their role needs to be.  They don't have any liability - nobodies going to be calling their ass when the shit hits the fan.  Fuck them and the 6-burner grill they rode in on (as you can tell - I have had this happen on more than one occasions).

 HVAC equipment runs into similar problems, but at least I have mechanical engineers/designers whose responsibility it is to provide me with information (of course, this can also have mistakes/typos/missing bits).  While they try to get me the information as quickly as possible, it's still usually right at the end of a project - and it's the first time I find out what it looks like, how much power it needs, and where.

Elevators and powered doors are probably the worst, because these are the responsibility of the architect - and if the other people I've been describing are frustrating - architects can be downright murder-inducing.  An elevator affects everyone - architectural, structural, mechanical (cooling/ventilation), electrical - even civil if it is going to have a hydraulic piston that requires drilling.  There are a variety of manufacturers and models - each with different requirements, depending on speed, number of stops, finishes (adding special finishes can add weight), etc. - and the reps are usually very helpful with information (they want to sell them some elevator!), and yet - the elevator (and equipment room) is usually an afterthought for most architects - usually only getting selected when I come near to threatening them with physical violence if they don't stop fucking around.

So how does all of this relate to Revit?  Like I've mentioned before, if I go into a project and start trying to detail out things, only to realize that I don't have any of the information I need, then I'm at a dead end unless I can fudge something together (and I don't want anyone taking that shit as the gospel about where it is, what it looks like, etc).  I can sketch, doodle, move, redraw completely, try out things, show people what I'm trying out (pictures worth a thousand words and all), get feedback on what I've drawn (quickly - because I was able to draw it fast and get it to them, and then make the changes they asked for fast and get it back to them for approval. 

Hell - I had a file error require me to completely redo a (small, but still fairly elaborate) project just this morning - fortunately I had .pdf's of it, and while it took a few minutes to put back together, it would have taken 10 times as long in Revit as it took me to do it twice in ACAD - even for a seasoned Revit veteran.

I can represent ANYTHING in ACAD without being at the mercy of a stupid program and its users that don't give a fuck about my ability (and the necessity) of getting things done quickly, accurately, and without undue stress.  The users are the worst - none of them can agree to do things the same way, and you will have a half-ass model that is next to unusable due to tons of errors, but that I am expected to use (whether in Revit or in ACAD) - while dipshit sits there and details out a stair railing to the Nth degree (only to find out that despite the pretty model, it's at the wrong height, wrong distance from the wall, and isn't even the type of rail that's going to be used.

It's fucked, and it's getting worse.

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