The tools used by design offices are WACK: here’s the proof!

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    The tools used by design offices are WACK: here’s the proof!

    At the beginning of this year, we received a long email from Elina, who expressed her dissatisfaction with the digital tools offered by the manufacturers and the SSIs to help the design offices to analyze and put a cost on technical specifications.

    We decided to publish it as is. So, do not hesitate to react by posting a comment in the dedicated section below!

    “Dear colleagues,

    My name is Elina, 31, an employee in an electrical engineering design office in Finland. I have 2 passions that fill my professional life with life: electricity and computers. I love testing software that help to decide on building management, on writing specifications, on drawing up quotes… and for several years, I’ve been observing something really upsetting:

    The tools at our disposal as a design office are mediocre! And I don’t think I am an isolated case.

    In order to demonstrate this statement the best that I can, I’ll explain how I work on my projects and point the loss of time and money generated by these tools at every step.

    First, I start with understanding the whole project in order to comprehend the specificities. At this stage, my skills and sharing with other colleagues is my only support.

    When the building type is similar to a previous project, I use these former plans and I make changes.

    Loss of time and money: lack of examples, models missing, and risks of making mistakes

    No tool on the market allows to start from a basic configuration or a type of building in order to customize it afterwards. By using previous projects, we increase the risk of human errors.

    Then, depending on the loads I have to calculate the needed equipment on 4 main levels:

    • General electrical needs
    • Electrical distribution systems
    • Lighting systems
    • Specific electrical supplies

    For this part, either I work with a generic calculation tool like MagiCad, or I use manufacturers’ tools (XLPro, Simaris) to be more precise on the compatibility and the way I should define the equipment. Some new building projects may have types of electrical equipment that require special electrical or mechanical circuits that only serve certain types of equipment. In this case, only tools from the manufacturers can guarantee compatibility and a choice adapted to the project. For instance, our network expert uses tools like HPE Proliant.

    Once all equipment is defined and calculated, I am committed to complete the whole design of the project and write the details of the spec. Usually, I use a previous project to complete the structure of the specifications; tools like EcoDial not covering all chapters.

    Loss of time and money: no compatibility between tools, using several expensive tools

    We have to manage different tools that are either not compatible and therefore force us to redo the work several times; either too specific and therefore related to one part of the project only.

    Today, we’re in the midst of a change in our profession, which – if you grant me – will facilitate our work when everyone is well trained. The arrival and democratization of BIM didn’t solve anything since, unfortunately, not all manufacturers provide enough data.

    If you work with tools like TraceSoftware, you save time during the design stage and the file transfer to your next suppliers. On the other hand, the data are either rare or poorly presented and you have to go hunting for information, libraries and useful features. The same applies to projects for which we’ve obliged to take the building’s energy performance into account.

    Loss of time and money: lack of data, resources, documentation, etc.

    No tool offers different solutions with architectures you can choose by level of efficiency and by investment cost.

    While they’re supposed to make us save time

    for our electrical calculations or the creation of electrical diagrams,

    these inefficient tools generate a considerable inertia,

    possible errors and hidden costs during the project construction


    However, in our business, we must be more efficient and deliver a solution that fits into the budget while being deliverable in time. Therefore, when I have to study a project and its specific aspects, I can only rely on my qualifications and on the opinion of the members of my team.

    This is a real waste of time and I have no other options!

    Well, that is what I observed. I feel from my experience to have gone through the issues encountered in a design office. However, I’m always looking for new solutions. So, I leave it up to you, to your electrical engineering community. Can you all help me?”

    Thank you in advance,


    This is it, so what do you all think?
    Are you in the same situation as Elina? If so, could you please tell us about your issues in the comments? What tools or features are you currently missing?

    Do you know about solutions or methods to meet Elina’s expectations and probably many other engineers’?

    Thank you for reading and especially for your comments.

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