Design-Build Project Success: Early Collaboration Between Engineers, Contractors, Resellers and Manufacturers is Key

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When an industrial HVAC system is installed, it is definitely a team operation, made up of journeymen (or installers), technicians, contractors, distributors, salespeople, managers and mechanical engineers. The process begins and ends with the mechanical engineer and there are certain things that can be done to ensure that everything is engineer-ready so the installation process runs smoothly.

Two common HVAC project designations are Design-Build and Plan-Spec. Design-Build projects usually have short sales cycles, no bidding process and fewer parties involved in the final decision-making. In contrast, Plan-Spec projects are comprised of a large number of decision-makers and require more collaboration between all parties involved in order to finalize project specifications. Typical Plan-Spec projects include larger, more complex HVAC systems for new construction or major renovations.

For the sake of this article, we’ll be discussing the Plan-Spec approach, the steps involved, and how best to ensure all your i’s are dotted and t’s crossed so you can eliminate any unnecessary delays for the engineer.

The Life Cycle of a Typical Plan-Spec HVAC Project

Pre Installation

  • The owner (or owner’s representative) hires an architect or engineering firm to develop specifications for the building’s HVAC system. The engineer writes specifications for the project, indicating the equipment types, minimum performance requirements, and system controls best suited for use in the building.
  • A manufacturer’s reseller (representatives) meets with the engineer to assist with the project design and explain which of Titan’s products will work best for the project.
  • The engineer writes a completed “spec” for the job and the contractor will bid the equipment based on that spec for supply equipment and installation services.
  • The contractor takes the spec to the reseller and asks for an equipment quote. For example, at Titan Air we use an online quote form that lists out all the various options available, such as:
  • Temperature Rise or BTU Requirement (how much heating is required)
    • External Static Pressure (existing due to jobsite ductwork, this consists of items external to what Titan Air is providing)
    • Discharge Arrangement (end, down, or up discharge; left or right handed)
    • CFM Required (required for sizing the unit)
    • Voltage Available (required to source the correct motor)
    • Gas Pressure Available (determines how the gas train is constructed/designed)
    • Indoor or Outdoor Mount (determines unit construction; for example: roof top, vertical alongside building, inside of building)
    • Finish Options (G90 galvanized, painted, epoxy or heresite coated, stainless steel – based on unique jobsite requirements)
    • Agency:(STD, IRI, FM, etc.) “gas train” design based on the underwriting agency
    • Control Scheme: (discharge temperature, discharge temperature with room override, room control and tying the unit to building control/automation)
    • Accessories: (hoods, filters, dampers, diffusers, curbs, cooling coils, evaporative cooling, etc.)

Note: In order for Titan Air to provide an accurate quote, all of this information is required. It is also the time for the contractor to ensure that all other components required for the project such as ducts, fittings, piping and other accessories are accounted for.

  • The reseller asks the manufacturer for a submittal.
  • The manufacturer puts together a submittal for the reseller who after reviewing, then forwards it to the contractor.
  • The contractor also reviews the submittal and then sends it to the engineer.
  • The engineer reviews the submittal to ensure it meets the specification. If not, it’s marked as “unapproved” and gets sent back to the manufacturer for revisions. After the revisions are remade it is then resubmitted by the reseller.
  • The engineer continues to review the submittal until it meets their requirements, at which time it is approved and released for production.


When it’s time to begin the installation process, the installer should have a copy of the installation manual available along with all necessary tools to do the job. The installation manual should be included with the equipment and will cover all aspects of the installation.

In addition, a packet of reference materials for a specific unit (tracked by its serial number) is generally included with the operating and service manuals. The reference materials include unit specifications, part lists, gas train and burner specifications, electrical schematic, and a sequence of operation.

A startup checklist is also included in this packet. Review the reference materials for a specific unit and note any optional equipment or controls which are not specifically addressed in the manual prior to attempting start-up or service work. A complete startup should be performed by following the startup procedure that is part of the owner’s manual.

For ease of reference, Titan Air stores generic manuals online that provide installation, operating and service information.

Post Installation

Once the equipment has been installed, follow these steps to button up the job:

  • After equipment is installed and the job complete, the engineer or architect will give a final inspection and make a punch list of anything that needs to be fixed.
  • The contractor must fix everything until it is up to spec. If necessary the contractor will contact the reseller about any equipment changes/fixes.
  • The engineer or architect will continue to review the changes/fixes until satisfied, at which time he/she will give a final sign off.
  • Once the engineer gives a final signoff, the building owner cuts the checks for appropriate parties.
  • After the installation, the building owner or manager should complete any necessary warranty cards to ensure an extended warranty is active. For example, Titan Air has a warranty card/start-up checklist that is required to be completed to obtain the full two year warranty.

While you can’t guarantee a perfect HVAC installation every time, for every project, you can save yourself and your client a lot of trouble by solving issues before they become a problem. Preemptive planning means that you can prevent setbacks and keep your installation schedule on time and the cost within budget.