I'll admit it. I've been leery of using electrical design software for years. Having grown up doing most of my electrical calculations by hand, it's hard for me to put my trust into a machine. There are no step-by-step calculations for me to go back over and review. I can't lay the papers across my desk and see the flow of my thoughts, scrutinizing each step for error. Heck, I can't even find a use for my trusty old No. 2 pencil. But I think the time has come to take a leap of faith, putting my trust into the power and accuracy of the special software packages currently on the market.
Why have I finally changed my mind? I'm basing this decision on several factors: speed of calculations; simplified analysis of multiple design scenarios; assurance of adherence to codes and standards; interoperability with other programs and systems; price point; and most importantly, accuracy of calculations.
Many of these programs have come a long way since their initial launch. Similar to most computer hardware product lines, the competition among software vendors is equally fierce — so fierce that each one knows that in order to grow or maintain market share they must continue to add new bells and whistles in addition to bulletproofing their tried and true features. If they don't, they'll quickly be pushed out of the market. That's good news for you and me because it means these powerful programs are more affordable — and accurate — than ever before.
What I find most intriguing is how these software packages are now compatible with other software programs and design disciplines. The upside of this development is the elimination or avoidance of design and installation conflicts in the virtual world rather than the real one. This push to share data with others fits in well with the building information modeling (BIM) tool, which offers a digital representation of the entire building process, including the processes of construction and facility operation. These efforts should lead to a more efficient construction process for all involved.
To learn more about the advancements currently being made on the software and technology front in the electrical industry, turn to page 34 and check out our cover story, “Inside Information.” Follow this up by reading “Software Simplifies System Design,” on page 42, focusing on the latest trends in electrical design software. These two stories will bring you up to speed on how electrical designers are leveraging the strengths of powerful computers and software, and paint a picture of new trends on the horizon.
By embracing current and future changes in computer and software technology, all of us electrical types can begin to shake some of the stereotypes we've earned over the years. You know the ones — we're literal people, resistant to change, slow to adapt, and skeptical of any kind of new technology that hasn't been proven by years of documented analysis and results. With so many new technology gadgets and tools to choose from today, the future looks very bright for the AEC community. Who knows, in addition to my acceptance and adoption of electrical design software, maybe my fellow editors will finally convince me to start editing copy on screen instead of on paper — but I doubt it.