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Starting a design business

Starting a design business

Starting a design business

Hey guys,

I am in my penultimate year of my Mechanical engineering degree. I am particularly enjoying my HVAC and thermodynamics subjects and is probably the only section that I really like doing. I actually find the subjects fun.

Now upon graduating, I hope to work as a HVAC designer for a company for 5-10years to gain vital industry experience. However after this I would like to run my own operation. I have no idea about how the HVAC industry works, but here is a description of what I would like to do.

A client/customer who needs an air conditioning or heating system for an existing building or one that is being designed comes to me, I do all the calculations, design layout of ducts, choose all components (from a manufacturers catalogue). However I do not do the installation, maintenance or repairs to the system. Would I be able to start a business that does only that, or does an engineering firm have to be responsible for coordinating installation and repairs?

Sorry if this is a silly question, I just want to gain an understanding of how industry works!

RE: Starting a design business

You say you intend to work in the industry for 5-10 years before striking out on your own... this is an excellent attitude/idea.  But if that's the case, why ask the question of how industry works?  You'll see for yourself in a year or so, and that's better than anything we can tell you...

Dan - Owner

RE: Starting a design business

I worked as an air balance technician while in college.  I have known individuals who do this on a contract basis.

HVAC, like most building contracting, is very competitive and commoditized.  It will challenge your business talents far more than your engineering skills.

If you are indeed truly gifted at thermodynamics, you can set your sights much higher than HVAC contracting.  There are far bigger challenges out there than counting BTUs.  The power generation comes to mind.  If you really want your thermo chops to grow a pair, try the navy nuclear program as an officer.

RE: Starting a design business


Congrats on finishing up the MechE, wish you luck on your final term in school. Look at this guys site. He has lots of good information and design examples for hvac types.


RE: Starting a design business

I would like to throw in too about getting your PE License.  If you are in your senior year, I think you can take the first part right now.  If not , take it once you graduate.  I think for Mechanicals, this is the field you would need it.  


"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."  

RE: Starting a design business

There is one small problem with HVAC.
You will not be in the money - i.e. no direct relation between you and the real client (the building owner).

Your client will be the cheap architect who does not pay his subs (architetcs are notorious for not paying at all or paying really late).

When someone needs a building, he looks for an architect, not for an HVAC engineer. You will always be begging for work from architects. That is NOT fun at all. Imagine, you will be working for those in your class who could not be accepted to any engineering school when you came out of high school.

If I were you, I'd look into that power generation thing suggested to you by TICK.

I've been in HVAC for over 20 years, and I am still unable to recommend this trade to anyone.

RE: Starting a design business

What cry22 describes is accurate of consultants working to support the building industry.  Not only will you be working for architects, in some cases you will also be working for contractors, and it is true that in both cases you will be working for those in your class that could not be accepted to any engineering school.  That is a challenge that CAN be successfully managed, but it takes much individual effort.

In my opinion the engineering societies, and State Boards of registration have done a very poor job of properly supporting the image and needs of engineers.   

RE: Starting a design business

Just remember that in Architectural school, Architectural students are taught that the anacronysm "HVAC" stands for "Highly Visual Architectural Constraints".  

Expect the unexpected.  bigglasses

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Starting a design business


You mean like wanting power outlets halfway up a glass wall?  Oh, and let's not forget the requirement that no wires should show...

Dan - Owner

RE: Starting a design business

Among other things, yup.  That's a prime example.

Isn't Engineering fun?  

I wish there was a barf emoticon...  Keith?

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

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