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Limbach Holdings, Inc.

Using AutoCAD to help avoid collisions

AutoCAD Customer Success Story

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Courtesy of Carlos Castro.

Former valet attendant builds career from the ground up with AutoCAD

Over the past decade, Carlos Castro taught himself how to use AutoCAD and redirected his career from parking to piping. Today, he works for Limbach Holdings, Inc., an integrated building systems provider, as a BIM specialist using the Autodesk AEC Collection to create accurate mechanical and pressure pipe drawings for any projects that include plumbing.

From plumbing to mechanical pipe

Back in 2010, Carlos Castro was parking vehicles at a car dealership before quickly realizing he wanted a new career for himself. Through his brother, a construction superintendent, Castro walked onto his first job site as a plumber’s helper.

“We were starting from scratch, installing underground plumbing, so I learned the whole process from start to finish,” Castro recalls.

After two years, Castro realized he was more interested in a mechanical trade and subsequently made the switch from plumbing to piping. After a year and a half of welding pipes, Castro made another career move. “My supervisor asked, ‘Do you want to try this software, AutoCAD?’” With no previous AutoCAD experience, Castro received basic training from coworkers and turned to the internet to learn from video tutorials. He also has since attended two Autodesk University conferences to hone his skills.

Pipe system coordination model. Courtesy of Carlos Castro.

In 2016, Castro began working at Limbach Holdings, Inc., an integrated building systems provider that manages all components of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and control systems in both new and existing buildings for the private, not-for-profit, and public/government sectors. As a BIM specialist, Castro works out of its design engineering and innovation center, Limbach Engineering & Design Services in Orlando, Florida.

Using the Autodesk Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) Collection, Castro is equipped to meet any project challenge with BIM and CAD workflows enabled by a comprehensive set of software and services.

“My goal for every project is to effectively manage quality control within a fixed timeframe, and it’s having a tight workflow that allows me to keep projects moving without causing delays,” Castro says.

Coordination of models for clash tests

At Limbach, Castro produces AutoCAD drawings of pipe runs and systems for a variety of buildings in the eastern United States, including an ongoing project installing pipes at the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) Martin Building in Washington, D.C.

“Having worked with pipe in the field, I’m able to envision how to draw it properly, implementing my field experience into the drawings,” Castro says.

Courtesy of Carlos Castro.

Because all the different trades involved (e.g., electrical, plumbing, HVAC) need to be working from the same plan, there are weekly meetings to determine the most efficient design that minimizes materials and costs floor by floor.

“I study the whole building before drawing, comparing the contract documents’ floorplans to isometric views and ensuring the design doesn’t have discrepancy between pipe sizes,” he explains.

Without being at the jobsite in-person, Castro typically receives contract documents in a PDF. To ensure there is enough space for all the piping systems on each level of a building, he first draws piping using Autodesk Fabrication software and then appends it into Navisworks as a DWG or NWC format to visualize the pipe in 3D space.

“Before spending hours making changes in AutoCAD, I can move the pipe temporarily without affecting the AutoCAD file in Navisworks to look for a better alternative in coordination with other trades,” Castro says. “It's the only software we use to make sure everything is coordinated accordingly between trades and ourselves.”

I love working in AutoCAD—it's fun and I learn something new every day.

Carlos Castro, BIM specialist, Limbach Holdings, Inc.

Lessons from the field

It can take weeks to coordinate one floor, especially when there is a lot of discrepancy between pipe sizes and incomplete design—as was the case with the Martin Building. “We spent several months coordinating," Castro recalls.

Using Fabrication CADmep, which is included in the tool palette in AutoCAD, Castro can quickly download the proper fittings, size, and materials if they aren’t already in the pallet. They also download manufactured 3D equipment per submittals instead of drawing them from scratch.

Courtesy of Carlos Castro.

Castro’s drafting is heavily informed by his experience handling pipes in-person.

“The engineer only cares about size correction and building code compliance, so I never trace contract documents,” he says. “There are always better alternatives to minimize cost and staying within code, and you have to study the whole job before you start drawing.”

His advice for those looking to start a career in MEP drafting is simple. “If you get out of school, you only know how the software works, and you haven't stepped onto a job site, then get your hard hat, safety vest, and boots on. Go walk the job site—it offers lessons you can’t be taught.”

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