Why Use Union Detailers Blog Feature Image

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 14.6 million American union workers and that many organizations continue to make union workers a key component of their success. BIM Designs, Inc. maintains relationships with over 18 Unions, ensuring the highest quality and constructibility for our BIM projects and clients. While it’s true that utilizing unions might have a higher upfront cost, the long term results are well worth the investment.

“Union detailers are simply the most qualified individuals to be designing plumbing and piping systems. In addition to 10,000 hours of training during their five-year apprenticeship, they are also required to know city and state construction codes, be able to read and interpret plans and blueprints of all disciplines, and have years of experience in the field installing the very systems they are now detailing.”

Aaron Butler, Business Manager UA Local 469

Why Trust Unions for Greater Constructibility?

Given the potential higher cost, decision makers may wonder about the benefits of choosing union workers for their projects. There are several key advantages that come with hiring union workers, regardless of the discipline, and they hold especially true for BIM detailers as well, whether the job is big or small.



Superior Technical Training and Experience

Hiring union labor is truly an investment in a quality product. In many construction disciplines, almost anyone can claim to be a professional, make a nice website, and start booking jobs. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the in-depth skills or training needed to provide the best possible end-product. In the end, this approach could hurt the overall constructibility of a project. However, with the right union detailers on your team, you can rest assured that you will have a concept that both looks great and of sound constructibility while conforming to all applicable codes and regulations.

Union workers have to both establish their skillset and continue to prove their expertise to maintain their union status. As an example, Journeyperson Sheet Metal and Plumbing/Piping Detailers are required to complete a four to five year apprenticeship program before they can earn the title of Journeyperson. This rigorous curriculum consists of safety training, trade-specific class room learning, mentor-driven training in the field by an experienced tradesperson, and a final certification exam.

To make it through the training successfully, the apprentice has to consistently produce work on par with industry standards and meet a well defined standard of excellence. Otherwise, their mentor will not certify their performance and they can be exited from the program. The constant effort to meet the stringent standards results in higher quality training for the Journeyperson. The years of training it takes to earn their spot in the union gives members a solid foundation of experience from which they can draw when faced with challenges on the job.

How Using Union Detailers Helps in Constructibility

Often, minute details can make the difference between a constructible concept and an infeasible idea. What looks beautiful in the model may be impossible to build in the field due to building codes or job site conditions. Having this hands on experience and performed the onsite construction work is paramount for union detailers to create an effective design.

Specialized Experience

When hiring a Plumbing Detailer you would like to work with someone that can create models that incorporate not just the plumbing system but the interior and exterior architectural elements of a building. Furthermore, a Plumbing Detailer has to design models that can be solutions for problems posed by a contractor and has to collaborate with other detailers and contractors. In addition, they have to coordinate field inspections then apply any necessary changes to their plans.

Plumbing and Piping detailing requires a lot more than sitting in front of a computer. A Journeyperson Plumbing Detailer from a union will have years of experience collaborating with others and working in a professional team atmosphere. They will also have experience coordinating critical tasks during multiple phases of the construction process. In the end, with a union detailer, you get a feasible project, efficiently designed, with higher constructibility because both skill, experience, and teamwork supported the process.


Constructibility Safety

One of the primary concerns when it comes to constructibility is safety. Hiring union workers help ensure the final plans are safe and in accordance with code. Also, union workers have their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30 certification. To earn their OSHA 30 certificate, they undergo extensive training regarding how to maintain a safe workplace for themselves, other workers, clients, and visitors. Therefore, a job site with union detailers improves the overall safety of the project, making it a healthier place to work and visit.

A fire protection detailer, for instance, needs to perform hydraulic calculations for sprinkler systems while designing it to fit both new and existing structures. They also need to have a working knowledge of the National Fire Protection Association NFPA standards and the International Fire Code (IFC). This is all used to create 4D simulations that will be used to build the actual fire protection system.

A Journeyperson fire protection detailer has to maintain knowledge of NFPA and IFC regulations in order to maintain their position in the union. Therefore, they bring this knowledge to the job. An investment in a union fire protection detailer enhances the constructibility of the project, particularly because they bring the kind of knowledge you need to conform to code and obtain a stamp of approval from inspectors.

Union vs. Non-Union: Cost Differences

According to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers salaries are, on average, 19% more than non-union workers. Many project managers still choose to hire union workers because the benefits often outweigh—and justify—the upfront costs. 

For example, with a Journeyperson plumber/pipefitter detailer, you get someone with Level 400 detailing skills. At Level 400, models can be used for exact pricing. A union detailer can, therefore, give you an accurate price, saving you from paying for costly work orders in an attempt to fix mistakes. In this way, a union detailer both improves constructibility and helps keep the project on-budget.

Union workers add quality, safety, and efficiency to a variety of BIM-related projects. With BIM, you can draft plans with the highest level of detail, specifying elements that will make the final product more efficient, stronger, and aesthetically appealing. With union workers, you can turn the plans into reality without sacrificing craftsmanship or safety. At the same time, you help support hardworking people and the communities they call home.

About BIM Designs, Inc.

BIM Designs, Inc. is an agile BIM design, modeling, consulting, and coordination service provider for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) contractors and developers that desire experienced journeymen detailers and engineers for Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection (MEPF) modeling, Laser Scanning, and Virtual Design Construction (VDC) projects.

If you need 3D BIM modeling, design, and MEP detailing services, BIM Designs, Inc. (BDI) has the expert tradesmen who know how to precisely design and model your systems. Contact us today for a free estimate or to discuss your project needs.


Mark Oden

About the Author

Mark, CEO, joined the BIM Designs team with over 10 years of experience working with Silicon Valley tech companies in product management, business development, mergers and acquisitions, and CxO roles. Mark leads the growth, strategy and execution of the company; his acute ability to develop and implement strategic processes that scale the company's capabilities drives efficient service delivery, increases client satisfaction, and builds cross-functional teams.