article: BASIC MARKETING FOR BUSY AEC PROFESSIONALS
By Joan McQuaid
Did you know that putting a little time and energy toward some basic marketing communication efforts could shine a professional spotlight on you? Expand the awareness of your organization to a wider audience? Further your career? Ideally, bring dollars to your business?
The good news is that anyone – architects, engineers, contractors, manufacturer’s reps – can create some fundamental marketing communication pieces and garner positive results. Whether a seasoned professional or new to the AEC industry, you can write, give a presentation, or post on social media with topics that are informative for your clients to spur connections that could ultimately benefit your bottom line.
If you’re new to marketing, choose an approach that is manageable for you, and at least somewhat close to your comfort zone – so you can begin marketing without becoming overwhelmed while doing it.
Focus – it’s all about them
An easy, but often overlooked place to begin, is to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Take the time to consider the things that your clients think about. Where is their focus? What keeps them awake at night? What trends are happening in your clients’ worlds that could impact how they do their work?
If you’re new to the AEC industry or aren’t familiar enough with the topics that interest your clients, how could you find out what those topics are? It’s not hard. Place yourself in your clients’ universe. Read the publications and view the websites that they read. Have conversations with them and ask about their concerns. For more in-depth understanding, go to the local events where they gather. Attend a conference that your clients attend. You could even volunteer for a cause where your clients are also volunteering. Get to know them; simultaneously you’ll learn what matters to them.
Once you’ve narrowed down to some relevant topics, then prepare to communicate information that is in line with your clients’ focus. By doing this you’ll not only capture their attention with the pertinent information you provide, but also position yourself as a credible resource for them. And who doesn’t want to be helpful to a client?
There are several options for getting your words in front of your audience. Start simply with a small goal, like one written piece.
Write a brief three to five paragraph blog post for your company’s website. If your organization has an e-newsletter or e-magazine for clients, write an article for an upcoming issue. If these channels are not available to you, submit a more substantial article to the editors of client industry publications and/or online resources for the editors’ consideration to publish.
Regardless of the channel, be sure the piece you’re writing will be a valuable read for your clients. Offer content that is timely, educational, or newsworthy. For example, focus on real-world scenarios, give solutions to their problems, expand on ways to avoid pitfalls, or write about upcoming changes that could impact your clients’ work. When composing your piece, avoid using AEC industry jargon. Instead, use your clients’ vocabulary.
If you prefer being live and in-person before your client audience, then make an informative presentation to your clients. Better still, invite a client or colleague to co-present with you. Two presenters can split the work of creating and giving the presentation. Having a client presenter alongside you adds to your credibility as an expert. It also provides great exposure for both presenters.
Just as with a written piece, presentations should offer useful, timely, and helpful information.
If you have the resources, consider going a couple of steps further – offer your presentation as an online webinar and/or invite local clients to your office for your live presentation.
Social media posts are quick and easy ways to communicate with your client audience. Select the social media channel(s) that are most used by your clients. If possible, have several short posts ready so that you can post on a regular basis. Repetition and a consistent presence on social media help increase awareness of you and the communications you’re posting Whenever possible, post work you’ve written. Additionally, offer links to any other of your online article(s). Share announcements about upcoming events – especially if you’ll be a participant in those events.
Bonus: most social media channels have analytics available that track traffic and responses to your posts. Seeing a swirl of activity and positive comments on your posts are good motivation to do more of whatever you find is resonating well with your clients.
Once you’ve created a piece, look for ways to expand its reach. Condense full-length articles for a blog post. Your article can be inserted in a newsletter, submitted for publication in traditional print or e-magazines, turned into a presentation, used as the basis for a webinar, and placed across social media.
A small investment of your time, energy, and creativity can yield a larger return. Start gently. Build your confidence. Ask for assistance if you need it. Persist in your efforts and then try to expand coverage of every piece you create. Your clients will notice and appreciate what you’re providing to them. Ideally, they’ll reward you by doing more business with you.
Joan McQuaid is the Chief Marketing Officer at HP Engineering, Inc., in Rogers, Arkansas. Contact her at JMcQuaid@HPengineeringinc.com.
ARTICLE: NATATORIUM HVAC DESIGN
By Taloa Earnest
What is a natatorium? In Latin, cella natatoria denotes a swimming pool in its own building. Today natatorium refers to an indoor swimming pool.
When choosing an HVAC unit for a natatorium there are many considerations to ensure the equipment can provide adequate cooling/heating, proper ventilation, and adequate dehumidification to the space. Just as importantly, the corrosive environment of a natatorium presents special challenges relative to a standard HVAC design.
The HVAC unit must maintain proper temperature/humidity in the space to keep the dewpoint low enough to be comfortable, while preventing the natatorium from becoming a high humidity source to the rest of the building. The HVAC unit does this by providing powerful dehumidification sequencing (low dewpoint cooling with integral reheat) which is unique to natatorium equipment. It also treats outdoor ventilation air prior to entering the space to ensure proper ventilation for the occupants. Proper ventilation prevents the space from high levels of odor and CO2 concentration. This also prevents poor/odorous indoor air quality, chemical levels that could cause eyes and lungs to have burning sensations, and water dripping from indoor surfaces.
Chlorine is the most common disinfectant used in swimming pools — a powerful oxidizing agent which creates unique problems for all types of metals used in HVAC equipment and ductwork. The construction of a natatorium HVAC unit is completely different than a standard unit. An HVAC unit that is specific to indoor pool environments will have corrosion-resistant surfaces, sealed motors and bearings, and corrosion resistant electrical components, as well as integral reheat capability. Additionally, every component exposed to the airstream has a material or coating that will protect it from the corrosive environment. Aluminum and stainless steel are common materials that have excellent resistance to corrosion in a natatorium.
When designing HVAC for a natatorium, the following questions must be answered. Doing so will ensure that a mechanical system is selected properly.
1. What is the pool surface area?
2. What is the pool room volume?
3. Pool water temperature?
4. Desired air temperature? (Usually no less than 2°F above the pool water temperature.)
5. Number of occupants in the pool?
6. Activity use in the pool (recreational, competition, water aerobics, etc.)?
7. Number of spectators?
8. Air Purge or no purge (usually linked to chlorine dosing)?
9. Economizer or not?
10. Location of the pool HVAC unit?
11. Does the owner want to use the unit to help heat the pool water?
Unit controls for a competition pool will have two set points—one for normal operation and one for event mode. Occupancy rates are the reason for having two modes. In normal mode, the unit is only accounting for the pool occupancy, so it is bringing in the required outside air for a smaller number of people. In event mode, the unit accounts for pool and spectator occupancy, which in turn, increases the outside air brought in relative to normal mode.
Using the HVAC unit to heat the pool water is a great way to take some load off the main pool water heaters. Some of the heat from the compressor will be diverted to the pool water, which will help keep the pool heated when the unit is running. Though this option costs a little more up front, in the end it will help save money for the operation of the main pool heaters.
When designing HVAC for an indoor pool it is essential to choose the correct unit for the application. It’s not as simple as adding options to a standard HVAC unit. Proper natatorium HVAC design takes careful consideration and informed specifications for the equipment and ductwork selection. When given due consideration, a proper natatorium design will render a comfortable, healthy environment for both the occupants as well as the building itself.
Taloa Earnest is a Mechanical Designer at HP Engineering’s Tulsa, Oklahoma office.
ArticLe: Receptacle Outlet Requirements for Dwelling Units
By Reeba George
The requirements for laying out receptacle outlets for residential units are extensive. The intent of this article is to give an insight to Article 210.52 in the National Electrical Code (NEC) which includes specific requirements for dwelling units in terms of spacing, type, and locations of receptacle outlets.
Receptacle outlets specified in this section are the convenience outlets for circuits rated 125-volt, 15 and 20 amperes. This implies that any other receptacle outlet rated for higher voltage/ amperage (for example, a 30-ampere, 240-volt receptacle outlet dedicated for a kitchen appliance) will not be counted as a required outlet for spacing requirement. The spacing criteria is based on a general reasoning that one would never have to extend an electrical cord for appliance/ personal device more than its available cord length in either direction.
General Wall Space (Living Rooms, Bedrooms, Family Rooms etc.)
Receptacles must be installed such that no point measured horizontally along the floor line of any general wall space is more than 6 feet (ft.) from a receptacle outlet. In other words, the spacing between the receptacles could be a maximum of 12 ft. Doorways, door-side windows that extend to the floor, and similar openings are not considered wall space. A wall less than 24 inches (in.) does not require a receptacle outlet. (Figure 1.1)
Countertops and Work Surfaces (Kitchen)
A receptacle outlet must be installed at each wall countertop and work surface that is 12 in. or wider. They must be installed so that no point along the wall line is more than 24 in. measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet. In other words, the spacing between the outlets could be a maximum of 4 ft. However, a receptacle is not required on a wall directly behind a range, counter-mounted cooking unit, or sink. It must be located on or above, but not more than 20 in. above, the countertop or work surface. At least one receptacle must be installed at each island or peninsular countertop space with a long dimension of 24 in. or greater and a short dimension of 12 in. or greater. Countertop spaces separated by ranges, refrigerators, or sinks are considered as separate countertop spaces and all the above conditions apply. (Figure 1.2)
At least one receptacle outlet must be installed in bathrooms within 3 ft. of the outside edge of each basin. The receptacle outlet must be located on a wall or partition adjacent to the sink, located on the countertop, or installed on the side or face of the basin cabinet. In no case can the receptacle be located more than 12 in. below the top of the basin or basin countertop.
Hallways of 10 ft. or more in length must have at least one receptacle outlet. The hallway length is measured along the centerline of the hallway without passing through a doorway.
Foyers that are not part of a hallway and having an area greater than 60 sq. ft. must have a receptacle located in each wall space 3 ft. or more in width.
The code dictates many more dwelling unit requirements for different areas like laundry rooms, exterior receptacles, garages etc. It also explains the type of receptacles required in each space. It is typical that most of the design criteria is based on the minimum NEC requirements. But with the growing emergence of electronic gadgets/appliances, it is a good design practice to provide recommendations for increased convenience and functionality for the occupants by providing more-than-minimum receptacle outlets at convenient locations.
Reeba George is an Electrical Designer at HP Engineering’s Tulsa, Oklahoma office.
Real-world Tip — Correct Wiring for Lighting Control
By Dustin Anderson
This photo is a real-world example of incorrect low-voltage wiring for lighting control. The yellow 0-10V control wires are routed from the light switch through the conduit and then routed outside the junction box to splice the cables. This is a National Electrical Code (NEC) violation.
According to the NEC, there are two acceptable methods for a correct installation.
First Method: The control cabling can be routed inside the conduit with the 120V conductors. Once the cable reaches the junction box, the cabling is allowed to be spliced inside the box—as long as there is a barrier in place. From there, the cables may then be routed to the light fixtures.
Second Method: The control conductors can be routed from the light switch on the outside of the conduit up to the light fixtures. Note that the control cables must be strapped to the conduit through which the 120V conductors are routed.
Either method is acceptable, however, National Electrical Code does not allow for the two methods to be mixed, as shown above.
To correct this particular violation, the low voltage wiring should be routed outside the conduit, down inside the wall to the switch box with a bushing for entry and then connected to the light switch.
For additional reading, refer to NEC Sections 300.11B, 725.136(B), and 725.136(D)b for further information.
Dustin Anderson, PE, is a Sr. Vice President at HP Engineering, Inc. in Oklahoma City. In addition to leading the OKC office operations, his design focus is Electrical Engineering.
Article: With energy Conservation in mind…
By Bill Hodge
The building envelope has the largest impact on energy use—more impact than HVAC efficiency, more than site orientation, and even more than the building’s geometry. Here, I’ll focus on the windows, walls, and roof.
ASHRAE 90.1 is the most widely used design resource for architects who want to comply with the Energy Codes in your respective regions. The 90.1 manual is exhaustive, but once you get a feel for it how it works, it becomes pretty straightforward.
I highly recommend you use ComCheck, a web-based program with extensive information on local and state building energy codes. ComCheck is a free program (yes, absolutely free) that allows you to vary the building envelope components to compare your proposed building envelope against the code reference you choose. Find ComCheck at https://energycode.pnl.gov/COMcheckWeb/index.html.
As an example, you may choose to compare your building against the 2007 version of 90.1, or the 2009 version, or the 2013 version, or the latest 2016 version. You may also choose different versions of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC.) ComCheck even has some other state codes such as Florida, Oregon, Vermont, etc. An appealing feature of this program is the instant feedback you get as you input your building envelope components.
Once you’ve entered which code you want to compare your building against, start modeling your building using the Envelope tab, then add walls, roofs, windows, doors, etc. No need to worry about the other tabs, such as Interior Lighting, Exterior Lighting, and Mechanical requirements, because your favorite MEPF consultant (for example, HP Engineering) will complete those sections for you when you send your file. As you add walls, doors, windows, and roofing, you’ll get feedback on how you’re doing against the code you’ve chosen; it will tell indicate not only if you “pass” or “fail” but also by what percentage you passed or failed.
The beauty is that you can mix and match the U-values of the different components to get an “overall” score for the building envelope. For example, you can use better roof insulation if you want to use a more economical glass. You can upgrade the wall insulation and use more cost-effective roof insulation. You can use premium glass windows in conjunction with basic doors. If at first you don’t succeed, keep playing with different wall insulation values, roof insulation, and window factors until you pass or exceed the code minimums for the overall building envelope. You could find that you can beef up the roof insulation or use wood stud walls so that you may not need continuous rigid insulation on the walls in addition to the typical wall cavity insulation. What?!? You’re welcome!
For more complicated buildings, where you want to trade off the HVAC efficiency or lighting for building envelope components, you’ll have to perform a full-blown computer energy simulation. (By the way, I can recommend a good engineering firm to do that for you.)
If you would like to schedule an AIA approved lunch-and-learn on how to use 90.1 properly, please contact me. HP Engineering has a presentation that is accredited for one Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW) credit. Or feel free to call your local HP Engineering office or the central office at 479-899-6370.