Essex Homes

A Deeper Dive
LotSpec software helped this builder simplify plan sets and reduce the design workload. That put them in a better position to explore a full BIM system.

Essex Homes‘ options were causing big headaches. The company, which builds about 900 homes per year in North and South Carolina, had been sending 100-page plan sets with 30 to 40 pages of redlines, job-specific elevations, extensions and option additions to the field. The plans had markups on some pages telling trades what to build and on other pages telling them what not to build.

That started to change in 2015 when Patrick Bukszar was hired as Director of Construction Services and decided to make plan set simplification one of his first priorities. “We were deploying a huge stack of paper,” he recalls. “Contractors were flipping between pages trying to connect the dots and getting measurements wrong. Houses were being mis-framed and foundations incorrectly poured. We even had to jackhammer some porches off of homes.”

The blizzard of paper had also been burdening the office. “Our drafters were having to create everything and the front-office person was having to pull it all together into field books,” recalls Bukszar.

Although he knew that a building information management (BIM) system could solve this and other problems, implementation was proving a challenge. The company had purchased a license for Autodesk Revit but the design team estimated between two and three years to convert the 85-plus home plans over from AutoCAD at a time they were already over-extended.

Bukszar didn’t want to wait for full BIM to solve the plan confusion. So he decided on an intermediary step: a Simpson Strong-Tie app called LotSpec that helps builders manage design options, and that works with either AutoCAD or Revit.

With LotSpec the builder can create a master plan with all elevations and options, then import only the relevant ones into each lot-specific plan. This streamlines the drafting process and greatly reduces field errors.

Support from the Simpson Strong-Tie Technology group included training and assisting with Essex plan conversion into LotSpec. This enabled the builder to upload its top 10 plans to LotSpec within 60 days.

The results have been better plans, fewer field errors and better morale. LotSpec allowed the drafting team to consolidate job-specific information from 45 pages to an average of 10. It only takes about 10 minutes per plan to detail job-specific options from the master plan, a process that had previously required more than an hour or redlining work. “We can move elevations and extensions without having to redo drawings,” Bukszar says. “This has improved our drafting speed and eliminated the many mistakes we were experiencing in the field from unwieldy plan documents.”

The software has also eased the four-person design team’s workload, putting it in a stronger position make the changeover to Revit should the company choose to do so.

In addition, Bukszar says that morale has improved among subcontractors, who no longer have to manage cumbersome construction documents or decipher book-length plan sets. “We have made our subcontractors’ jobs easier and have had no issues with construction errors since we transitioned to LotSpec,” he says. “Mistakes and callbacks have been greatly reduced and we have not heard any complaints, issues, or problems on our LotSpec plans.”

In short, LotSpec has offered quick wins while Essex explores the transition from 2D drafting to 3D BIM. “While we have not gotten to the 3D level yet, we can now show customers a job-specific plan that helps them visualize their home without confusing them,” Bukszar says. “The 3D aspect will be nice when we get there, but the critical issue was getting an easy-to-understand, lot-specific plan done and priced out reasonably quickly without a huge learning curve. LotSpec answered the call on all of those and was the answer to all of our questions and all of our needs.”


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