Adopting a New Load Modeling Tool
Change is difficult, but it can also be a deeply rewarding process.
In the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) Industry, there have been two major changes over the past several decades. Few of us who have practiced during this time would describe these as "smooth transitions." First, the change from hand drawing to computer aided design (CAD) was profoundly impactful on the profession. Following this change, the evolution of CAD to building information modeling (BIM) generated a lot of frustration, and with good reason. This has left many in the industry understandably hesitant to adopt yet another change.
Following is an overview of what a change in load modeling software might look like, along with recommendations for successful adoption. We will review what to do with projects completed in legacy software, training the team on the new platform, and what improvements new software will bring.
What to do with Projects in Legacy Software
Many of the legacy software available are built on proprietary simulation engines and file types. This makes it extremely difficult to translate models into modern tools, even if the new tool is open source. Here are some guidelines to help you maintain access to your legacy projects:
- Ask the legacy software vendor if they have a transition plan in place.
- Maintain at least one license for the legacy software.
- Archive all model files and store them in backed-up project folders.
- Export all available reports into PDF so your firm can access them without the source model.
Training Your Team and Preparing for Change
There is no single best means of training staff or onboarding new software. Each team member will have their own style of learning, level of comfort with technology, and desire for change. Here are some guidelines to help onboard and train your team on new software:
- Do not force change all at once. Create a roll out plan that transitions slowly.
- Identify champions who are most interested in exploring new tools or who have been having the most challenges with legacy tools.
- Use the tool on specific projects; record success stories and lessons learned.
- Share these successes and continue to roll out the new tool onto more projects.
- Provide formal and self-paced training that engineers can take as needed, while considering initiatives that motivate participation.
- Maintain engineers’ access to legacy projects and projects that have not made the switch.
Improvements with New Software
New software and technology should, at its core, make our lives easier. When making a change, it is important to identify and track expected improvements. This provides a reason for the change and a way to validate that the change is successful. Here are some improvements to look for and how to track each one:
- Reduced geometry time
- Track time from modeling start to first results produced. Create a metric of analysis that captures the operational impact, including costs associated with time savings.
- Reduced errors in the results
- Track number of comments each modeler receives when projects are reviewed. Survey current model reviews as a baseline and target a reduction to set goals for success.
- Reduced engineer fatigue
- Survey the team to understand their baseline experience. After adoption or initial review, survey the team again and look for improved moral, fewer overtime hours spent, or process improvements.
- Increased collaboration between team members
- Survey the time between questions "asked and answered." This is a significant challenge for many firms, especially when modeling and/or simulation takes days or weeks to produce an opportunity for innovation.
- Record how the adopted software or technology facilitates team collaboration and reduces the time associated with your client interactions and internal processes.
Finally, new software should allow for more flexibility than legacy AEC tools. Here are some items to prioritize in your analysis.
- Open Source Based Tools
- Software that is based on open-source engines will be readable by other tools. This means your team will not be locked into a single platform again.
- Multiple means of generating geometry.
- Buildings are unique and no single workflow will be perfect for every project. Software should provide varied and flexible means of creating geometry to meet the needs of different projects.
Check out our new E-Book, Understanding Thermal Load Modeling’s Impact on Cost and Time Savings, to learn more about how making the transition to a new HVAC design and load modeling software can impact your team’s performance.