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electrical design build services

Electrical Engineering Design Services

Design Build

Collins Electrical Design Build team is set apart by its extraordinary strength, excellence and creative design build services. Collins Electrical uses the latest in web-based design technology and highly experienced engineering and design personnel who are capable of coordinating the entire process from concept to completion.

Our design teams can work with other architectural and engineering firms to provide complete electrical design or coordinate the entire process from concept to completion.

Our design build teams can provide cost control and systematic reviews of the engineering process from blueprint through construction.

Design Assist

Collins Electrical, Inc. uses an experienced approach to Design Assist projects with our in-house design capabilities and expertise. Primary engineering and design remains the responsibility of an outside engineering team. CECI will offer review, suggestions, coordination, management and quality control/compliance. We also provide all CADD details and elevations for electrical rooms, specialty equipment rough-in, and special systems for approval and distribution to other trades. Collins Electrical design scope consists of the following:

  • Provide early review of the specifications and design narrative with appropriate questions and scope clarification
  • Provide analysis of all possible scope gray areas in terms of access, feasibility, and risk
  • Provide review of schematic design while offering suggestions and/or comments regarding past history of similar projects
  • Provide potential cost-savings analysis of design and layout of devices
  • Provide early coordination with other trades (mostly mechanical)
  • Provide light fixture specification analysis and alternatives with various manufacturers for review by the engineer, architect, and owner
  • Provide detailed layout and dimensions of electrical rooms and panel locations
  • Provide trade coordination and overlay drawings for all critical areas with power and special systems
  • Provide coordination with owners and owners consultants for all specialty equipment
  • Provide as-built drawings while maintaining updated sets throughout project

Corporate Headquarters

3412 Metro Drive
Stockton, CA 95215

Phone: 209-466-3691
Fax: 209-466-3146

CALCTP-AT Employer Certified

Design Build Leadership

Getting Started in Design Build by Susan M. Casey

From Electrical Contractor Magazine August 2005

collins-article-design-buildWe’ve always done design-build. Everybody’s done it. A customer calls you up and says, ‘We want to do this.’ They are usually doing remodels. That’s how it starts. Now we do complete projects, out of the ground. It’s a lucrative, competitive priced method that is fair to all,” said Jeffrey L. Withers, Stockton branch manager, Collins Electric Co. The company has more than 20 years of design-build project experience, including Raley Field AAA Baseball Stadium in Sacramento, Calif., and Stanislaus Surgery Center in Modesto, Calif.

“The first thing that is important to understand is the difference between design-bid and design-build,” Withers said. “Lots of times a contractor will come to us with a footprint for a building and some architectural plans and ask us to give them a bid on doing it as a design-build. They probably went to three other electrical contractors. We call that design-bid. It’s really a competitive bid situation. In true design-build, we go into partnership with a contractor, an architect and other subs. It is a team effort. Everybody understands costs and where they’re going. It’s pretty much an open book. You lay out your costs and markups then everybody negotiates that up front and works to a common goal. In a contracting sense, it is the best method for everybody.”

Design-build—as defined by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA)—is an integrated project delivery method, that can potentially be implemented by any contractor. For those electrical contractors just getting started or who want to expand their involvement in the design-build project delivery method, there are educational opportunities that make it possible to learn the specifics of incorporating design-build into business practices and ways to promote a design-build portfolio.

Design-build is a demanding method.

“You have to have engineering skills; it’s more than being an electrical contractor,” said Jim Mackey, president of Evergreen Power Systems, Seattle, who, with a degree in civil engineering, went to work years ago for an electrical contractor. “If you want to get into design-build and don’t have experience, rely on the old adage, ‘Hire someone who has experience.’ Find someone who has worked as a consultant on design-build projects and include their experience in your profile.”

Contractors can form liaisons with local engineering companies or electrical engineers and make associations with architects—all with the possibility that the contacts made can lead to future customer recommendations.

Electrical contractors going into design-build should research utility requirements, the jurisdiction of cities, state requirements and types of arrangements they can have with designers. They have to be aware of the subcontractors’ work requirements—for the HVAC, audio or fire alarm system—which can vary from city to city.

“Conference centers with sophisticated Internet connections are popular now,” Withers said. “We enlist quite a few voice-data or media subcontractors to help us.”

It is also important to consult an attorney.

“Electrical contractors will get subjected to design-build subcontracts from generals that have a lot of loopholes in them about indemnification as a designer,” Withers said. “You have to have things designers are required to have, like errors and omissions insurance. And you have a bit more responsibility in a [design-build] project, so having an attorney help with documents is a good idea.”

Sources of requirement information include state licensing boards for architects and engineers or the boards of technical professions.

“In some states, it may not be permissible for an engineer to work for the contractor,” said Thomas Glavinich, who designed and teaches Design-Build Methods, a seminar offered by the National Electrical Contractors Association’s (NECA) Management Education Institute (MEI) (

“It may be required to provide a professional engineers’ stamp on the drawings. These are the kinds of things electrical contractors need to know,” Glavinich said.

Anyone interested can take the one-day seminar available by request through NECA chapters. Cost of the seminar ranges from $225 to $295 per person, depending on the venue site and involvement of the local NECA chapter.

“Our design-build seminar is an excellent example of the customization of a course that covers the basic elements of design-build with specific examples and issues that are particularly germane to our members,” said Stuart Binstock, NECA, executive director, MEI.

The seminar provides a basic understanding of the design-build process and covers methods of procuring outside design services, design consideration and documentation, and the differences between design-build and traditional design-bid-build contracts.

It is also important for an electrical contractor to understand the importance of measurable performance criteria.

“With a bid contract, if the contractor installs per the plans and specifications, they are off the hook for performance. In design-build, they are responsible for both installation and performance. That’s the big difference between the two,” said Glavinich. “Let’s say the owner says, ‘I need a lighting system in this room.’ You need to have quantifiable performance criteria. I recommend that contractors go to the standards like those of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) that apply to the type of environment or room, to the system that will be used, to the age of the people using the room and so on.

“The standards list suggested foot-candle levels and the visual comfort probability index (VCPI). If the owner walks in at the end of the job and says, ‘It’s not what I thought I was going to get,’ the electrical contractor can point to the agreed-upon criteria. The contractor can then work with the customer to make changes, but they are not financially responsible for the changes.”

The DBIA also offers courses at various U.S. locations.

“Specialty contractors are critical to the design-build process, and many are already actively involved in DBIA,” said Lisa Washington, vice president, education and conferences, DBIA. “Electrical contractors are not only eligible to take the classes, but they are also eligible for our designation.”

The Designated Design-Build Professional is both for individuals in traditional careers (e.g., contractor, owner, design professional) and alternative careers (e.g., law, education, insurance). While it has education and experience requirements, the new Certificate of Mastery program does not. It is a way for individuals who take the courses to show that they have mastered the educational content of the courses.

Classes include Fundamentals of Project Delivery (1 day), Principles of Design-Build Project Delivery (1.5 days), and Design-Build Contract and Risk Management (1.5 days). Fees for the courses range from $325 to $450 for members. Nonmembers pay an additional $75 per course. Other fees apply for applications to programs and designations.

Some business practices can aid the design-build electrical contractor.

“You have to ask a lot of questions,” said Lewis Weinstock, president, NECA Northern New Jersey Chapter, and president, Linear Electric Co. Inc., Rockaway, N.J. His company has been doing design-build for more than 20 years.

“Someone has to take the concept to paper so you have to know the needs and wants. You need to listen. It’s a team effort—you, the client, and the engineer. I ask a lot of questions. I bring in catalogues to let them pick lighting fixtures. We recently did a job at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. There were standards in every building. Then there was a building that was unique and had other standards. So I had to ask lot of questions. Building the job is the easiest part.”

While most design-build projects may come to electrical contractors from existing clients, some contractors are beginning to brand and identify their companies as design-build firms in order to expand their business. They include their credentials in a company brochure or on a company Web site.

If your company doesn’t have a brochure or a Web site, and you want to develop one, do not fret. NECA’s latest effort is development of the Think NECA Marketing Toolkit. The member toolkit is available to NECA members through the online NECA store or supplied to workshop participants at half-day workshops offered through local NECA chapters. The kits include information about tools and strategies to expand business opportunities and marketing efforts, including prospect identification and Web site development. The toolkit was developed in a pilot project done by the Northern California NECA Chapter in Pleasanton, Calif., in conjunction with Collins Electric Co. Inc.

“We understand that our members aren’t marketing experts,” said Rob Colgan, executive director of marketing, NECA. “We’ve tried to provide tools that electrical contractors can use in a direct, step-by-step way to market their services and promote more profitable business for their companies.” EC

Lay of the Land:

BIM and Collaboration by Susan M. Casey

From Electrical Contractor Magazine August 2017

Most in the construction industry should be familiar with building information modeling (BIM).

Autodesk defines it as “an intelligent 3-D model-based process that equips architecture, engineering, and construction professionals with the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.”

These days, it’s a must-have process.

Creating a BIM model

“Basically, the whole concept behind the BIM modeling is that, if you build the job with a computer before you go out and build it in real life, you’re finding all the clashes,” said Jeremiah Nieman, preconstruction manager, Collins Electrical Co. Inc., Stockton, Calif. “The guys in the field don’t have to stop progress of the job and write [requests for information] all the time because all of that has been done up front. The huge thing is, once you’ve done your clashes and got a model that everyone is comfortable with, you can build off of that. It’s a really great tool for us as contractors. The only time we get the owners or architects involved is when we can’t resolve clashes between trades.”

That is one instance when the collaboration between members of a construction team related to the BIM process comes into play. It can be a complicated process. Each project is different, and team members take different paths. There are no hard-and-fast rules about who creates BIM documents on any given project or if there will be BIM models. Often, multiple models are merged. Coordination is vital for BIM to be successful.

“The BIM process is very similar to the way it used to be, but now we have computers, which speed up that coordination process,” Nieman said. “We can model true-to-life objects in a BIM model with every trade in the ceiling—where the majority of your coordination happens—because that’s where the majority of your infrastructure and ductwork and plumbing is. We can see exactly what we have. Then we can move the duct work over 8 inches to clear the cable tray or move the cable tray to the other side of the corridor to clear conduit racks or plumbing.

“The advantage of using BIM is it reveals most of the problem areas, which can then be fixed. A lot of times in the modeling, we get into little hallways or along corridors where the mechanical, the electrical conduits, the plumbing and cable trays are shown in a corridor. We know that stuff is not going to fit in a normal corridor, so when we start modeling, we can say the electricians are going to take the left side of the corridors and the mechanical will go in the rooms next to the corridor. We do that really fast on a computer compared to actually sitting with a group of guys and writing it out on paper like it used to be,” he said.

It is common for architects to take the lead in drawing up the initial model, which others then work from, but that’s not always the case.

“I have come across situations where the architect was paid to do the plans and then the general [contractor] wanted to model the rest, but sometimes the model is driven by the owner and the general contractor,” said Dave Ayars, virtual design and construction/building information modeling, Morrow-Meadows Corp., City of Industry, Calif.

For example, on one renovation project, the general contractor used scanners and lasers to do its own model.

“The building had different ceiling heights and not much space to locate all the equipment,” said Ryan A. Doyle, architect and program coordinator at the NOW Institute, Culver City, Calif. “So, they brought in their own team to build upon our architectural model. They then worked with individual subcontractors to locate the mechanical, plumbing, fire protection and electrical equipment for the building and the cellar.”

On that same project, BIM also was helpful in coordinating with an entirely different entity: The Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York City. At the time, Doyle was an associate with COOKFOX Architects.

“We also needed to convince the board that the updated design for the building fit the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “The project involved replacing existing steel sash frames with higher performance contemporary aluminum windows. We were able to use BIM to model the new profiles, which showed the community board how close the look is to the original design.”

Opinions vary as to which models matter most.

“One of the most important things is the steel model,” Nieman said. “It’s really hard to coordinate a job until you have an actual steel model of what is going to be built. Usually, the steel model from the architect is not 100 percent accurate to what’s being built, so it’s very important that the steel guys get their model done first so that everyone can work around that, because we can’t ask the steel guy to move a beam for us.”

Sometimes, coordination between the construction team, using BIM, averts what could be a problematic situation.

“We had a hospital project a few years ago where there was just absolutely no way it was going to work unless we made a few structural changes in the steel,” Ayars said. “Because we caught it early on, we were able to have the structural engineer make those modifications because they hadn’t released the steel for fabrication. Once the steel’s released, it’s very hard to change any of the structural steel.”

BIM was helpful in documenting the structure of a 15-story, 1940s hybrid steel-and-concrete building in New York City.

“It had concrete-encased steel beams, which are a little uncommon,” Doyle said. “The structure in the building changed just about every floor. Sometimes the beam would be in a slightly different position on each level, and that was important to keep track of as we were going to cut holes in the slab to run mechanical or plumbing piping. We used BIM to study these conditions and produce all of our presentation and construction documents.”

Clearly, having a starting point—an architectural model—benefits the whole construction team. But what if you don’t have a model? Morrow-Meadows had two jobs with no architectural model. One was a renovation, and the other was new construction.

“We were still required to BIM model the projects, so it was an effort between us and the mechanical contractors to coordinate the complete jobs without having an actual building to coordinate around,” Nieman said.

To do both, structural models were used, which were provided and worked around. The lead contractor in the coordination effort used the 2-D architectural plans and extruded walls so they could have walls in their models as well.


Some contractors use a model to construct a physical mockup of a part of a project. Those mockups can be large or small.

On a project for the University of California, Merced, Collins Electrical Co. created a model of a 10-by-24-foot section of the project, then created a physical mockup based on the design. It was basically a full-sized structural model built to scale chiefly for study, testing or display. The project included three different types of roofing with different finishes. Samples of each were included in the physical mockup.

“What we prefer when doing a mockup is to begin with a computer, get all the dimensions and boxes we need, put it together in a model, then take that data and tell the guys in the field, ‘This is what you need to build that mockup,’” Nieman said. “Once the mockup is created, we can see if there’s anything we missed and deal with remarks or concerns. For example, dimensions or finishes the owner doesn’t like. Then we can change our model to match exactly what the owner wants, what the architect wants. We were able to take any critiques related to rooms or areas in the mockup, fix anything quickly, then enter that data into our models and just run from there. We could then build the rest of the project and know the quality was there because of that coordination.”

A new, virtual reality mockup makes the experience even more sophisticated.

“We are starting to virtually model the computer project with software that projects the space on a green screen,” Ayars said. “Wearing goggles, you can come in and virtually walk through the room, feel like you’re actually there. It’s cutting edge.”


Use of BIM also can escalate the process of a project by making prefabrication of project elements easier.

“When we use the BIM process, we get 3-D representation to make sure everyone’s materials, for example, a piece of switchgear or a panel, to fit,” Ayars said. “Then our prefab department can make assemblies. The guys in the field can look at our drawings and know exactly where to put those assemblies. It’s what we do to stay up with schedules, which get very aggressive. On job sites, especially in downtown Los Angeles, we can’t store a lot of material, so when I deliver material, I have to get that job installed that day. Knowing exactly what’s needed and where it will go makes that expedited installation possible.”


The word “expedited” is heard on most projects. Because processes that previously weren’t computerized now are accelerated, BIM can speed up the schedule.

“With BIM, we’re able to preplan and install quicker because the problems have been solved earlier,” Ayars said. “In the past, though, I used to have a month on the floor, and I now have two weeks. I have to have time to do the BIM modeling and coordination before construction starts, but sometimes the two schedules start squeezing together. I have to move some of my efforts from the construction schedule over into the coordination, preplanning and prefab side of things. I’m modeling the information from the owner, the designers and the engineering team. If they don’t have that information, it can delay the process, though, it doesn’t extend the schedule. It just compresses it.”

There’s the rub. No matter how helpful the model is or how well the construction team coordinates, at the end of the day, the most coordination is required just to get the job done on time, just like it always has been.