Mechanical System Architect

In our role as Mechanical System Architects (MSA’s), we are generally retained by owners to work with their already established Engineering teams to enhance the project end result. We work with the other Engineering firms in our areas of expertise, acting as mentors as well as overall HVAC system conceptual design engineers.

In this role, we collaborate with the owners design team and maintenance/operations staff to determine the best combination of equipment, systems and designs to meet the owners needs and short and long term goals.

Our Scope can be as limited as coordinating and attending initial brainstorming
sessions with the appropriate parties involved, and as broad ranging as complete
system redesign, working with the local utilities to obtain incentive co-funding,
submitting the projects for energy conservation awards, and writing press releases and
news articles for the ownership and their PR firm.

Typically, the owner retains us to work with their in-house or consultant staff. We work
with their team to determine the owners desired end results, then have brainstorming
sessions to flesh out multiple ideas and potential system designs. Together with the
other team members, we determine the best course of action. We then select the
proper refrigeration equipment, design the hydraulic configuration, size the piping and
pumping systems, select the proper air distribution equipment, and develop a criteria
for the production engineering team to follow. In many cases, we completely design
the DDC control system for the retrofit, including detailed sequences of operation.

On a recent 320,000 square foot mid-rise project for a major California owner, the
HVAC design had been completed by the Architects Mechanical Engineering firm, and
had in fact been bid by two design build contractors. The bids were separated by
$500,000, with the low bid at $2,000,000 and the higher bid being $2,500,000, a 25%
spread.

The owner had substantial experience with the higher priced firm and knew their bid
could not be off by that much, so they suspected that the lower priced firm had
engineered the value out of the system (known by some as “value engineering”).
The owner requested that we develop a bid package for this building that would beat
the bid document energy consumption standards developed by the Architects team by
a minimum of 40%, and have them in the contractors hands in a maximum of three
weeks, to eliminate potential project delays.

Our alternate design package was in the contractors’ hands three weeks later, and the
energy savings potential should be approximately 50% compared to the original
package. The bids were received two weeks later – the original low bid contractor
raised his price to $2,520,000, while the original high bid contractor bid stayed at
$2,500,000.

The bid gap had been reduced from 25% to less than 1% when detailed information
and rigorous design criteria was provided to both contractors and the playing field had
been leveled.

The owner did not receive the cheapest system, they received the most cost effective
system for their role as a long term owner. By the Owner’s own estimates, the
operating cost of the facility will be reduced by over $0.80 per square foot for the new
design compared to the “cheap” design, resulting in a simple payback of less than two
years.