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two computer screens showing schematic design of pneumatic tube system

Design Assist: More Than a Pre-Construction Chore

Design Assist is The Pre-Construction Step That Can Make All The Difference

Jeff Erbert | 19 October, 2023

Design-Assist & Where it Falls In The Construction Process

Constructing a new building, whether it’s a manufacturing facility or a new hospital, requires a lot of coordination, planning, and the understanding of that delays are inevitable.

Design Assist is the act of engaging a system expert early in the planning process to help mitigate these delays, prevent costly design errors, and ensure the smooth execution of the hospital construction project. 

With that said, the construction process typically occurs in four main phases, sometimes named differently but consistently sequential like this: 

Phase 1: Pre-Design

The pre-design phase of a project is the deliberation and conceptualization that takes place before designs are drafted e.g. (i.e., determining the number of tube system stations needed). Ideally, Design Assist services begin here

Phase 2: Drafting-and-Design 

This is when the architect and owners collaborate to create a building plan. This includes both:  

- Schematic Design: the initial design phase.   

- Design Development: when the design process has begun and is in process.  

Phase 3: Bid 

Once the design is hashed out, the general contractor can start receiving bids.  

Phase 4: Construction Document

This is when the general contractor and owner collaborate to begin making the design a reality.  

Understanding the design process and bringing experts on board early on can significantly minimize the risk of costly holdups now and years down the line.  

How Design Assist Differs From  “Pre-Construction” Services

The ideas are similar. In many cases, the pre-selected construction manager or general contractor will offer their expertise, billed as “pre-construction services,” where they’ll give insights in terms of draft plans, constructability, material costs, estimating, labor, systems, etc.

Trade subcontractors, or system experts, generally aren’t included in this process so it can lack the unique expertise that makes design assist a smart move — especially when dealing with sophisticated, computerized, high-traffic tube systems like ours.

By electing to go through with Design Assist, experts are engaged far earlier and more extensively in the design process resulting in a far better outcome.

What Happens if a Design has Already Been Started?

If a licensed professional designer has begun drafting a design, this would mean the project has entered the “design development” stage — the latter of the drafting-and-design phase. Design Assist services are still possible and encouraged during this stage, though more changes may be required.

In this stage, we actively engage ongoing hospital construction projects by providing design specifications for station locations, above ceiling equipment, general pipe routings, riser points, and general infrastructure in new and existing hospital construction.

This can also include performance evaluations and associated simulation reports, specification development, and technology considerations (i.e., RFID, WhoTube, etc.).

How it Differs From “Design Delegation”

In many instances, when design origination — or design modification during construction — is handed off to the general contractor, that’s referred to as “design delegation”.

Since the general contractor may assume added liability by deciding on the final design or they don’t have experience working with a certain system, they may seek a qualified design professional or subcontracted expert to help them design and construct what the client is looking for.

In any case, the key defining aspect of “design delegation” is that the general contractor has control over the final design, not a licensed design professional.
translogic transfer unit
TransLogic Transfer Unit - One of Many Components Considered in Tube System Design

Construction Document Phase: Ready to Execute the Plan

The construction document phase is where the design plans take physical form. Ideally, the design phase has been thoroughly flushed out before construction documentation, as this is when the general contractor or subcontractor begins executing their intended job(s), ordering materials, managing their timelines, documenting their processes, and seeing things through to completion.

Why Investing in Design Assist is a Win-Win

Once the general contractor begins construction, major modifications to the design can result in serious logistical hurdles that can kick off a chain-reaction of unintended delays, permitting issues, material waste, and costly down time. Involving our experts early in the design process gives us the opportunity to use our 100+ years of experience (not to mention the experience of many of our long-tenured experts) and our unique ability to run computer-based simulations to truly make an impact.

The result is a design that streamlines the system implementation process while maximizing performance, efficiency, and reliability — saving thousands, if not more, for all parties involved.