New trend in equipment layout design, 3D/CAD imaging can be a helpful tool
Pool pad design is an intricate task for builders to create an optimally functional and aesthetically pleasing equipment layout. Increasingly, builders are turning to three-dimensional design programs to make this process easier.
“[Designing with 3D] has multiple perks,” says Rick Chafey, co-owner of Red Rock Pools and Spas in Chandler, Arizona. “It gives us additional tools to be able to truly build a project virtually so that we can find and eliminate minor and major conflicts. For tight spaces with lots of equipment, we are able to run through multiple iterations in order to get the most accessible and efficient layout. And, once modeled, we can provide infinite custom sections, perspective details and elevations.”
The most commonly used
systems within the pool industry are 3D AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Revit. In
addition to providing 3D layout imaging, these design resources expedite parts
of the building process, run simulations, document the process and in some
cases can provide cost estimates.
However, utilizing these
systems is not without barriers to entry.
If builders and technicians lack the computer and graphics skills to do these complex designs on their own, the process may require a subcontractor. Paolo Benedetti, principal of Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa in Morgan Hill, California, says his company uses a subcontractor for its CAD drafting and 3D modeling needs, and only sparingly.
The primary purpose for his
of the imaging is to provide plumbers and equipment installers a visual representation
of how everything is supposed to look, often in the form of printed copies.
“[Three-dimensional imaging] is most useful in
providing precise penetration locations through walls or identifying conflicts
with HVAC, sewer or other utilities,” Benedetti says. “Tight
spaces also warrant the efforts of 3D layouts. [Otherwise, 3D design] is an
unnecessary expense for 90% of our projects.”
While obtaining 3D
equipment files from manufacturers expedites the modeling process for the
builder, Benedetti says he’s encountered several manufacturers that don’t have these files available or are unwilling
to share them.
Cost is the largest
consideration for companies interested in utilizing 3D imaging technology.
First there is the cost of software or annual usage subscriptions for programs.
Comprehensive hardware will be needed to run these complex programs: Graphics
cards, memory, display resolutions and high processing CPU are all hardware
that must be up to the task. Training time will vary per individual or team.
time and training into utilizing these systems is another barrier many builders
may see as too large an undertaking. Alternatively, if you boast an individual
or team with the aptitude for it, it may be a solid investment for expediting
projects, cutting other costs and improving quality and accuracy in the
“SolidWorks is the most economical and easiest
to learn, as it integrates well with AutoCAD,” Benedetti says. “Revit,
while being very robust, requires a huge financial investment for software
licenses and thousands of hours of training to master its elements.”
A stark contrast from
Aquatic Technology, Red Rock Pools and Spas uses Revit for 90% of its design
processes Chafey says. The company has four drafters fully versed in Revit and
3D modeling of both pools and architectural projects.
“It allows us to clearly define exactly how we
want something installed and not have important decisions decided by others in
the field,” Chafey
For architects and
engineers, using these models from Red Rock Pools and Spas can help them spot
conflicts such as structural beams in the way or pipes running into each other.
Chafey says access to infinite perspectives on things like elevation
differences expedites the process substantially.
Also, while Aquatic
Technology struggles to get 3D equipment files from manufacturers, Chafey says
Red Rock has seen an increase in the availability of files, in addition to the
Red Rock drafters creating some on their own and even being tasked with doing
so for some manufacturers.
The polar opposite approaches to 3D imaging between Red Rocks and Aquatic Technology capture why the use of this technology is currently being debated in the industry. If you have the time and resources, it can be a worthwhile investment, but the return on investment will vary from company to company.
“Although there is a huge learning curve to be able to convert to a full Revit office,” Chafey says, “for us it was totally worth it and has made us that much more effective for our clients and our trade partners.”