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Any advice on learning the Piping Industry?


Roe
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Hi guys,

Ive been a CAD designer for about 17 years. Ive had various types of jobs. Most jobs needed someone who could draw in CAD and they would teach me to draw what ever it was they wanted. (parts or lite guage steel sections or building layouts) None of which were "Diciplin oriented" untill i landed at my current job which i have been at for the last 5 years. It is basically glorified red line correction but its for a large company and pays well. Now that ive had a taste for it, i really love HVAC and plumbing/piping!! I wish i would have gone to school for it when i was younger. (in my 40's now )

Well my contract is ending and i want to market myself as a piping drafter. Im learning Revit AND Autocad MEP, ut knowing the software doesn’t tell me WHY i need a gate value in this spot or WHY i need a temperature gauge in another spot, or what to do about pressure drop and all that. Im looking and doing my homework and soaking up all i can but some of this stuff must be under government lock and key!!

I just need suggestions on where i can get the most information other than enrolling in a school. Im taking the CAD learning courses, and I LOVE LEARNING dont get me wrong, but the family and time and money wont permit me to pay for something like that. I dont mean to sound like im just looking for the short cut way either. Just need a little direction. What should i be looking at other than the software? Where can i get some real life answers as to what a new piping designer should be studying?

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The "why" questions you're asking are actually the mechanical engineering part of it. There's no real way to just download or bookmark general information for how laws of thermodynamics work. You have two options... get a degree in mechanical engineering (I know, out of the question but still), or when you land your job, start utilizing the experience and minds there to understand plumbing, piping and HVAC systems. Ask to be apart of the loads and calculation process. Ask for a ductulator and size CFMs. Ask for Trane Trace 700 and run loads for the engineer. Etc.... this is the only way to learn it, because now you're wanting to get into the science behind it.

 

Valves are easy. It's a point of on/off and usually driven by code requirements or accessibility in zoning off a system. So, best thing to do in my opinion, and from someone who's been in this industry since before I was old enough to buy beer, get good and stay good at drafting in AutoCAD and modeling in Revit for the MEP discipline. If you do this, you're an asset that can be used at any company. Then, you can gain the knowledge of the science behind it, and know WHY you're doing things, and eventually design your own systems, although since you're not a licensed engineer you'll never be able to stamp drawings, but that's another story.

 

And one last word of advice. I'd drop AutoCAD and focus solely on Revit. This is where the market is at, and headed, and in some areas of the economy in the US, there's not enough Revit designers to meet the demand. Best bet IMHO.

 

- Tannar

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Yea, that’s kinda what im doing now as well. The building manager for one of our lab buildings is going to walk me through the piping elements for the building and let me pic his brain. AutoCAD MEP WAS different but the longer i persisted at learning the easier it is becoming. ITS A MONSTER!! I’m going through AMEP first because i interviewed with a company that uses it and even though they know i haven’t done piping LAYOUTS im still being considered for that job because they feel im a strong designer. But from what i have seen the MAIN difference between Revet MEP and AMEP is the use of Revit Architecture in conjunction with Revit MEP?

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But from what i have seen the MAIN difference between Revet MEP and AMEP is the use of Revit Architecture in conjunction with Revit MEP?
This is not the main different. The main difference is that Revit is a completely parametric environment, where as AutoCAD is not. In Revit, a wall is a wall, a pipe is a pipe, and every object has a known relationship with all other objects in the environment. All Revit objects are information-rich. AutoCAD is lines, circles, splines, etc. The 3D portion of AutoCAD are all free form geometry with no true relationship between all other objects. Most AutoCAD objects are not information-rich. Basically, you "model" in Revit with virtual real world items. You "draw" in AutoCAD or AutoCAD MEP. The mindset is that you do not "draw" in Revit. To put it in short, AutoCAD is a powerful extension of the drafting board, and Revit is a powerful design and engineering application for the AEC industry.

 

AutoCAD MEP can be described as an "in-house 3rd party add-on" to AutoCAD, with tools and objects that give you much more added functionality that is discipline specific. This is where AEC Objects come in, which gives you pipes, ducts, walls, structural members, etc. AutoCAD MEP is plenty powerful, but there hasn't been much advancement in the software in quite some time. Some people have suspected that support for AMEP will finally be pulled, since Revit is gaining huge momentum in the AEC Industry.

 

BIM is becoming standard in today's world with initial concept engineering design all the way through to hand offs of O&M's to the building owner once construction is complete. Revit is seen as the core application for the design work during the BIM process. Now with new standards coming out with IFC and COBie, AutoCAD Verticals are about to be left behind.

 

This is why I am informing most people to look into sticking with Revit only. I've been in the industry a while now and have seen the shifts. I have personal friends who are in the know with all the new strategies in design software and procedures, and Revit is apart of them all. AutoCAD Verticals are not.

 

Hope this helps. :)

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10-4 Styk i feel you. Like i said, I was only studying Autocad MEP was because a large company is considering hiring me for a piping possision and i wanted to brush up, but per your advice, Im head and shoulders deep into Revit MEP now.

 

More companies are using Revit MEP than A-MEP. Im doing it, but i will admit, it is a HUGE program with ALOT of information. But once again, my issue isnt (so much) the software, its LEARNING the discipline. Im consistantly being asked if I LAY OUT HVAC or piping systems and not DO I KNOW REVIT. Im just wondering is there was a source in which gives the baisics or "rule of thumb" on general layout design for a drafter on a piping or HVAC job. Because what sucks is these employers EXPECT you to already know because they are explaining to me (and other co-workers) that they dont want or dont have the time to train or have someone learn on the job. Also if they find a designer who can do layouts, they dont have to pay an engineer to do it and the contracting company is required to provide that servise. Sot thats kinda where im comming from or going.

 

So im just learning REVIT MEP as quickly as i can AND studying HVAC and PIPING videos and baisics.

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I agree with Styk, that to learn the discipline you need to either go to school or start picking the minds of the people that do your layouts.

 

I used to be in your position, just drawing what people gave me. I didn't stay there long as I always sat down with the person and asked why they put things where they did, and how the different equipment worked and worked together. It got me where I am now (besides BIM Manager) where the engineer will give me loads from Trane Trace and I do almost the entire layout (I still haven't learned steam/ammonia piping). Very minimal changes after the fact.

 

Ask why...ask everyone why. At first I got funny looks, but then I'd just say, "I don't want to just draw lines, I want to know what I'm drawing so I make sure to get it right the first time." They usually then sit down and explain it to me.

 

Ask to go on site trips, ask the supers why they did something one way instead of what they drawings said to do (IMPORTANT); explain that you're asking so you can learn and grow so their next set of drawings will be better or more informative. When you get as-builts back ask why things were run in different spots. Better yet, ask to go to the site to do the as-builts yourself! That's an experience that helped me a LOT!

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Roe, unfortunately there's nothing that I know of that'll give you the information you're after. It only comes from experience - period. The reason being, you're taking physics, and pairing them with human demands, and it's up to an engineer to connect the two.

 

  • Human Demand = I need a building with 75 degree zones at 50% relative humidity, with independently controlled cooling and heated spaces.
  • Engineer = Okie dokie, here's my fee and I'll design it.

 

 

  • Human Demand = I need a data center building with a cooling system that will keep all the electrical and server equipment cool, and can never have downtime if there's ever a failure in the cooling system, as the servers retain millions of dollars worth of data for my customers.
  • Engineer = Okie dokie, here's my fee and I'll design it.

 

There's simply no "book" or "blog" that will give you the very detailed reasoning behind why a system works the way it does. Every one is hand crafted by an engineer, or someone who isn't a licensed engineer but knows how to design a system, then pays an engineer to approve it. Sure, you have your basic common knowledge. Valves are a way to isolate equipment, pipes or systems; a chiller is what extracts heat from a piping system, a boiler is what adds heat to a piping system, condensers is what condenses heated vapor back into liquid, etc. List goes on.

 

But if an employer asks you if you know how to lay out a system, the answer is no and it should be. However, you can use this to your advantage too. Tell the employer that you know MEP design as far as CAD goes, and you want to also learn how to lay out a system. The employer already sees that you're an asset with the drawing portion of it, which is a demand in this market, but the fact you're willing to learn the nuts and bolts shows that you're ready to take it to the next level. It'll be simple things, like taking the sq footage of zones and running loads for the engineer, or applying CFM's to diffusers, etc. Just like Lee Roy said, it'll be totally up to you to put yourself out there to ask questions and gain the knowledge. Revit will greatly help with this, because if you start using it for calculations it'll force you to understand things that you need to know for the knowledge you're wanting to acquire.

 

Hope this helps.

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Roe:

With due respect for the opinions you have received, I tend to disagree with them. In my opinion, if you are committed to learning piping and fluid flow, it is not beyond the grasp of someone who has not been formally educated in school. In fact, a huge percentage of the class time in an engineering major is totally useless BS. Also, most newly graduated engineers couldn't engineer their way out of a paper bag. The main thing school provides is the exposure to methods for solving problems and then practice solving them. Most of the problems encountered in an engineering program are neatly packaged to work out cleanly and within a reasonable time frame. I think a mannequin in a k-mart is a better approximation of an actual person than a text book engineering problem is of physical reality. But, you will need to drive yourself toward your goal and learn how to ask your own questions. And I don't mean pestering everyone with questions because in a busy office most engineers don't have the time to sit down with you for hours. Learn to ask the why's then figure out how to find your own answers. Study existing plans and look for patterns. Contrary to popular belief, most plans use a lot of the design from other plans. This means their are common elements. You should become perspicacious and search out the common elements.

As far as calculating, pressure losses, heat transfer losses, pump operating points, this stuff is all "Plug and Chug". If an equation with x's, y's and greek lettters doesn't scare you then you can learn to plug in the correct values as easily as any engineer. I know very few engineers that, after a few years in practice, can calculate anything anyway. They all use software packages, spreadsheets, mathcad etc. Perhaps one of the most important skills for completing calculatons is the ability to convert units. Equations may be dimensional, which means if you use the stated units for inputs, your answer will be in a specific unit. This simple equation for calculating water flow through an orifice is one example Q(gal/min)=11.79*h^0.5(ft) *d^2(inch) Enter the pressure in ft and the diameter of the orifice in inches and you will get the flow through it in Gal/min. Any equation an be made to work like this but you will need to be able to convert, for example, Gal/min to ft^3/second to L/hour. Get the idea? I would be happy to recommend some elementary texts for you.

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Roe:

With due respect for the opinions you have received, I tend to disagree with them. In my opinion, if you are committed to learning piping and fluid flow, it is not beyond the grasp of someone who has not been formally educated in school.

We never said it was beyond his grasp, we stated there's not a "book for dummies" that he can read to become suddenly able put on a resume that he knows how to design HVAC and piping systems.

 

In fact, a huge percentage of the class time in an engineering major is totally useless BS. Also, most newly graduated engineers couldn't engineer their way out of a paper bag.
This statement is a little condescending. There's a reason why new engineering graduates can't "engineer" - because they go to school to learn the theory of engineering, not how to directly design HVAC or piping systems. That part comes later, which is why you work as an EIT during a prerequisite period to obtain the knowledge on engineering your way out of a paper bag.

 

;)

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I am sorry if I insulted you. I am simply speaking from experience. That said, I don't want to be drawn off the topic toward the theory of engineering programs and licensure laws.

I was interested in Roe's post because he wants to learn something and is not sure how to go about gathering thenecessary information. And, there are lots of very useful, direct texts that may give him exactly what he needs to get started. For instance, he might look at PE study guides. These have hundreds of simple examples covering a variety of topics with explanation and answers.

99% of all engineering calculations can be done with a four-function calculator. The point to be taken from this is you don't need high level mathmatics or calculus to do most of the day to day work. And the idea that all engineering is all math, is what scares most people off.

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You did not insult me at all. I definitely know where you're coming from. Trust me, I'm in the industry. Actually, I've been on both sides... mechanical contracting and design/build engineering, and now consulting engineering firm. Lee Roy and I both understand you don't need "high level of mathematics or calculus" and we did not present our responses in that manner, either. We simply said it's all about experience, which is the best teacher.

 

Also be aware that he's been presented with the direct question of "can you design a system" from employers. If I'm an employer and someone tells me that they don't have direct experience in designing systems, but have read all the books, then (no offense to anyone) as a hiring personnel, that will not fly as acceptable in stating that you can design a system.

 

My response to you, TKall, was simply that I think you might have misinterpreted or misunderstood Lee Roy's and my own response to Roe, and I wanted to place our intentions back in the rightful spot. That was all. 8)

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in a busy office most engineers don't have the time to sit down with you for hours.

 

We didn't say to spend hours with engineers. As I said above, if you let them know that you're wanting to grow and make your drawings better, I've yet to be turned down...ever. If you think for a second that my workplace is not "busy", you'd be terribly wrong.

 

I've worked side by side with a person who I watched graduate, go through EIT and is now one of our engineers that I work very closely with. I've been involved with almost all aspects of his job with the exceptions of specs and Trace, only because I have no desire. He's said to me multiple times that as hard as school tries, a LOT of his knowledge is learned on-the-job; school merely gave him the formulas and taught him to learn better and faster. I watched him go from book-smart to SMART as he/we mentored/trained under an engineer with 40+ years experience.

 

Again, I still stress that if you want to learn, start asking questions. They don't require long answers, engineers usually don't give long answers, but they will answer you.

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WELL I do love a stimulating conversation!! Thanks a lot for all the opinions and advice guys. Styk and TKall I totally understand where both of you guys are coming from. I have started taking the time to talk to some of the engineers here in the office, but I went over to one of the campus buildings and spent an few hours with the building manager and he walked me through the piping systems in the larges building we had and it was VERRY insightful the see it from his vantage point.

I do not plan on going to school to get a mechanical degree. (Im 41) not that its out of the question, but I DON’T feel like I need to do that to become good in BIM. I do plan on continuing taking Revit classes in the future and connecting with field experts who do this for a living.

I also spoke to a mechanical engineer who also instructed me NOT to get too bogged down with “details”. Being the nerd that I am, he listened and advised me to “KNOW” what the chillers DOES, but I don’t need to actually know HOW it works, because there are sooooo many kinds and they work differently. Which to his point, that’s kinda what was doing. He suggested I get a good reference book for HVAC and piping. I found

The Piping Guide: For the Design and Drafting of Industrial Piping Systems

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0962419761/ref=ox_sc_act_title_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Which got a lot of good reviews. And maybe one of these 2 for HVAC. I may actually get all 3, im not sure.

Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (CourseSmart) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0470195657/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A2E860LL6S293K

Or HVAC Design Sourcebook http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0071753036/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

I REALLY appreciate all the passionate interaction guys for real. I work with 8 other CAD people here, and only 1 or 2 of them like Revit and the other 5 honestly don’t wish to go into revit design at all. So this is me trying to move my career in a different direction, thankx again for the commentary!! Im sure I will have other questions sometime in the future. lol

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LOL

 

I mentioned this thread to one of our mechanical engineers. His eyes got wide when I mentioned not bothering engineers. He said, "Read all the ASHRAE books, then talk to engineers for real-world application. Saying engineers don't like sharing knowledge is ludicrous."

 

Good luck!

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LOL Speaking of which "wink"...

Yea im looking at it all. I was talking to an engineer today, and was wanting to know how common is it for an mep designer to know how to calculate heating and cooling loads? The engineer told me that was something he would do and that he wouldn't expect me do it much less know it. He was surprised to know employers were "requiring" this on job postings. Granted this guy is maybe 51 and he doenst know CAD well, and said he WILL NOT be learning Revit. Im just trying to understand what may be expected of me in the job market or in an interview. Like i said earlier, most postings for revit mep is they want a mechanical engineer, or they want the designer to know how to layout and design the entire system from start to finnish. i have engineers who tell me they use a program to figure out loads but i figured i may as well add this to the "need to know" list.

 

Styk your right, several of the CAD people working with me are younger than me (41) but are so opposed to moving to Revit, they are either looking for a "plain ol CAD job" or considering doing something else entirely!! So you are right about moving in the Revit direction. Believe me dude, im learning as fast as i can.

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Revit can do loads for you. ;)
Engineers question the validity of Revit's load calculation tools. Even top non-Autodesk big name Revit users agree that it's not quite there yet.

 

FWIW. 8)

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Engineers question the validity of Revit's load calculation tools. Even top non-Autodesk big name Revit users agree that it's not quite there yet.

 

FWIW. 8)

 

We've tested it side-by-side with Trane Trace with almost identical results. The difference was small enough that it was moot. Some [of our] engineers don't like Revit, but the ones that do get similar results from Revit-based load calcs as those that use Trace.

 

The only way for Revit to really gain validity or support is for users/engineers to use it, compare it, and trust it. I'm sure Trace was met with skepticism when it first came about as well.

 

My point was that he has Revit, Revit can do loads, it gives him exposure to the variables in the process.

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