Tricks of the Trade: Hip Rafters

Tricks of the Trade: Hip Rafters

One way I try to continue to grow as a designer is by observing my employer, co-workers, and my clients. In order to constantly learn, I must continually ask myself the following questions:

  • How do they design their projects?
  • What method do they use for time-saving shortcuts?
  • How do they arrange their days to maximize productivity?
  • How do they tackle with various problems that come up?

There isn’t a handbook that covers every single problem we might run into, so it’s important to take what we know and apply it with creative solutions.

At Gould Design, Inc. we are an extension of our clients’ design team in every possible way. As such, we must be able to adopt the design style of that particular team so that there isn’t a variance between our work and that of the in-house design staff. We simply cannot allow either the shop or the end-customer to be able to see the difference in our designs. There are often multiple ways to “skin a cat” and today I want to tell you about one I learned recently that I really like.

On California hip sets, the hipmaster or #1 hip is setback 6′ or 8′ from the wall edge (in most applications). Some kind of corner rafter is typically used, either stacked or a single rafter or a diagonal hip girder. This particular client uses a single rafter which at first glance it would seem like we would be asking for deflection troubles. The first image shows our typical California hip set with our main focus being on R01 and J02.


Here is J02 as it comes in by default:


The R01 is a single 2×4 Corner Rafter and clear spans (from the wall to the hipmaster) and supporting the top chords of J01, J02, J11, and J12. We can see that we are having issues with deflection:


The solution is as simple as this. We will first remove the bearing from the top chord of J2 that is being applied to the corner rafter. I like to do this in MiTek Sapphire before importing the truss.


We’ve adjusted J02 to remove the bearing condition at the end of the top chord. We’ve added a diagonal web with a level “seat” cut to support the corner rafter and added a point load for the corner rafter.


Finally, we manually add the bearing that J02 now provides the corner rafter. It runs just fine. The point load being shown is just from J12, as J02 is now supporting the rafter.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this creative approach at solving this particular problem. How do you all handle corner rafter deflection issues?

Tim Hoke – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.

The (Unfortunately) Never-Ending Plight of the Truss and Panel Industry

The (Unfortunately) Never-Ending Plight of the Truss & Panel Industry

In construction, many different skill sets are required. Builders, roofers, designers, engineers, and etcetera come together to form a cohesive finished product. Whenever people from different factions come together on a project, there are challenges that must be overcome. Communication is key; however, the concept of give and take isn’t without it’s merit. Every group has their niche to fill, each of equal importance to the end result. Unfortunately, the importance of the integrity of one group to another gets hazy when it comes down to the “all-mighty dollar”. Greed and disrespect can sometimes create a hostile atmosphere while doing business in the construction world. Component manufacturers are usually left take the brunt of the hostility in their professional dealings due to the fact that they supply a pre-fabricated product.

To get a feeling for just how far this goes, please take the time to view the following video: Pay attention to the dynamic between the two parties. Take note of how far each side is willing to go and where there allegiances lie. Take note of the integrity of each party.


Throughout the scenario presented in the video, the truss & panel industry is represented by “Mr. Non-Profit Lumber” (Mr. NPL). The first thing Mr. NPL heard was “Go Away!” Generally speaking, acquiring a new customer can be much the same way. Resilience is a required quality. Like Mr. NPL, the component manufacturer tries again and again by offering a bid or price quote. At this point the customer may reconsider. Though “Mr. Builder” (Mr. B) did just that, his list of stipulations was appalling. So much so, in fact, that during my first viewing of this video, laughter was rendered as this scenario was perceived to be a cynical and cheeky joke. However, when Mr. NPL said that he wanted to make a commission and his request was declined, the reality of the situation set in.

Mr. B goes on to say that not only will he not pay Mr. NPL a commission but that his intentions are to backcharge Mr. NPL. Truss designers assume a great degree of responsibility. We are tasked with catching architectural mistakes, pre-planning the build, and accounting for cost efficiency all while satisfying the demands of both the homeowner and their customer. Back charges, late payments, and fruitless labor were guaranteed by the customer in the video. Mr. NPL’s response was grateful in nature. Because the truss design industry accepts so much responsibility, we humbly appreciate the terms in a very similar fashion. We drive ourselves to perfection and attempt to cover any potential hiccups that may occur should a build commence. We look out for the architect, the manufacturer, the builder, and the customer. We strive to avoid back charges through precision. But who looks out for us?


The aforementioned late payments are a constant battle. There is a bit of a double standard in the area of payment. The customer creates a due date for the truss design. The component manufacturer strives to meet the deadline and resolve all the issues that may be present. However, it seems that once the product has been exchanged, the payment for services rendered isn’t quite as urgent as the due date the customer proposed. Still, the truss industry remains patient and considerate.

During the second session of demands, Mr. B is basically asking Mr. NPL to do the job without actually giving it to him. Mr. NPL is asked to put in the time and money as if though the job was his and still advised that he wouldn’t be paid for his efforts. For component manufacturers, this is called a bid or quote. Time is spent doing the leg work, knowing that there is a possibility that the job will be under-bid and be lost altogether. How many times have you been asked to match a competitor’s layout? Like Mr. NPL, again we agree to the terms.

The word “customer” has been used extensively up to this point. There is purpose in this action. According to Merriam-Webster, a customer is “someone who buys goods or services from a business”. Mr. B asks for customer treatment without being a customer. Mr. NPL concedes to putting himself out more by including all of Mr. B’s employees in a “customer” dining event and providing a vacation for Mr. B via a trip to a trade show, though Mr. B is not a customer. Another request for commission is declined. Greed and disrespect are very evident at this point. Integrity and maturity are absent. Win-Win is nowhere to be seen. Win-Lose is in full effect. As Dr. Covey relates in Habit 4:


By this point, the apparent “customer” has revealed their true colors and has exploited every angle of this transaction. Mr. NPL is still agreeing to the requests even though they are multiplying like crazy and remains willing to do the job even though his actions aren’t reciprocated.

The truss industry exhibits the same type of commitment as Mr. NPL!!! Truss companies and design firms go to trade shows, industry events and conventions where they try to strengthen and build relationships, hoping to drum up new business. We wine and dine potential and current customers, hoping to obtain or maintain their loyalties. We remain kind and thankful to the customer throughout the transaction, regardless of our potential for loss. It is difficult to get ahead in a reality like this, but the truss industry continues to thrive. We take care of our responsibility and compensate in any way possible. We provide a valuable service and we stand by our product. We have integrity.

Conclusively, we need to collectively grow a backbone. Just kidding! In reality, people just need to learn to treat each other better. They need to practice Habit 4. Don’t expect something for nothing. There is no need to gain at the expense of others. The component manufacturing industry will soldier on this way without too much complaint, but try to imagine how far we would get if we amicably sought the same goals. The sky would be the limit!!

How have you handled this experience in your profession? Please leave your comments below.

Go for the GOLD!

Go for the GOLD!


The 31st Summer Olympic Games have come to a close.  I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of the Olympic Games.  I have always enjoyed watching both the summer and winter games.  I believe the first one I really remember and paid attention to were the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY (OK – dating myself a bit here). This was the games that included the “Miracle on Ice” US men’s hockey team gold medal victory.  That may have started my interest in the games – not sure – but it was something about the Olympics that made me look forward to the next time the games would roll around.

What are some things that we can learn from watching the games and how can that can translate to everyday life for those of us that are not Olympic athletes?

Being successful takes time and effort

The athletes that you see performing in the games make things look easy. I’m amazed at watching sports like gymnastics where you see athletes flying through air, twisting and flipping and landing perfectly.  And in some cases, they are doing this while on a 4” wide balance beam.  You see athletes like Michal Phelps who has amassed a record 28 Olympic swimming medals over the 5 games that he has completed in.  Truly amazing to be able to compete and win at that level for all those years.


But what people don’t see is the hard work and sacrifice that is required to be able to accomplish these feats. The amount of time they dedicate on the track, in the gym or in the pool is amazing.  And the sacrifices that they make to get to this level can be significant.

This is not only true for athletes, but for anyone that wants to be successful and perform at a high level in whatever endeavors they pursue.  You see people who have achieved a certain level of success.  What you don’t see are the long hours, sacrifices and dedication to get there  (See 2 of our blog articles on hard work  here and here).  You may have heard about the 10,000 hour rule.  That it takes 10,000 hours of “practice” to achieve mastery in a field.  Whether that is true or not is a discussion for another time.  Either way, there is effort and time required to become proficient and successful.

Pain is temporary………Gold is forever

Sports can be grueling, testing your physical and mental toughness. Athletes push themselves to the limit to get to the finish line.  The pain they feel is nothing compared to the feeling of achieving their goals and winning an Olympic medal.

I have run a few mini-marathons in my day. Certainly not trying to compare myself to an Olympic athlete, but nonetheless, the experience of going through the training and having that goal in mind of getting to the finish line was rewarding.  Those last few miles of each race were tough, but I did my best to push through and get to the end.  The feeling of seeing the finish line, people cheering you on and finally crossing the line is something that I will always remember.  And I did get a medal too (everyone gets a medal J)  I can look at those medals as a reminder of what it took to get them and know that the journey to get them was worth it.

Life a can be challenging. Everyone goes through “stuff” (fell free to add your own four letter word here).  Can you push through the pain to get to the other side?  Can you see the finish line?  That is a question that everyone needs to ask themselves.  There will be hard times along the road, but we hope that we get to where we want to be, thru it all, and get our medal in the end.

When you fail………keep striving to reach your goal

One of things I enjoy most about the Olympics are the stories behind the athletes and their journey to get to the games. In particular, it’s the stories of athletes who have dedicated so much to get to the Olympics and have high expectations of getting on the medal stand, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t happen.  They fail.  You see the anguish and pain on their face and the realization that their dreams have been shattered and knowing that it will be another four years before they can even have a chance to try again.  Yet they take their failure and disappointment and focus it on getting back to the games to try again.  And then to see those athletes return and able to deliver and reach their goal of a medal in the Olympics is just great see.  You can see the complete joy and relief and satisfaction that their hard work has paid off.

One story that comes to mind is Dan Jansen, a speed skater for the US.  His first Olympics were the 1984 games as an 18 year old.  He narrowly missed a bronze in the 500m and his Olympic career looked to be very promising for future games.  Dan came to the 1988 winter games as a favorite in both the 500 and 1000m. Early in the morning on the day of the 500m he was informed that his sister had passed away after a battle with leukemia.  After his mother urged him to compete in the 500m, Dan would fall in the first turn and not finish.  He would also fall in the 1000m.  Four years later in the 1992 games Dan would again come to the games as a favorite.  He had been performing well in World Championships and setting records.  The games would prove to be a disappointment, finishing 4th in the 500m and 26th in the 1000m.  The next games would held in 1994 due to a change by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to allow for a winter or summer games to occur every two years.   So this was Dan’s last chance to finally get the Olympic medal that he had been striving for all these years.  During his first race, the 500m, he had a slight slip which caused him to touch the ice and, therefore, deny him a medal.  It all came down to the 1000m.  Dan got out to a world record pace through 600m.  Despite a small slip during the race, Dan would finish the race with a world record time and secure the gold medal.  Truly an amazing journey of accomplishment, disappointment, failure, determination, hard work, sacrifice and a will to succeed.

There are going to be times in your life that you may fail or get knocked down. It is what we do after that which will make a difference in our lives.  Do you quit or do you continue towards your goal like Dan Jansen?


Whether you are an Olympic fan or not, I hope you can find some benefit from what I have gleaned from watching the games over the years. I hope you can take some of these points and go for your own personal GOLD!!

Bill Hoover – Design Manager

Gould Design, Inc.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 4)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 4)

In the last few articles, we have investigated the ideal uses for 4k monitors and how to decide if they are appropriate for you or not. We also made a distinction between monitor resolution and monitor size, which often trips folks up.  Today we’ll make a few more subtle distinctions in the hope of setting you up for an equipment purchase (or perhaps purchases!) that you won’t regret.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Color gamut


Different brands & models of monitor use panel technologies which vary in the way they represent color.  It doesn’t seem like color reproduction would be of importance to a truss designer, as opposed to, say a photographer or a graphics professional.  We are judging quantitative data on our screens, not qualitative appearance; yet take a quick look at the comparison between two panel technologies shown above, and decide which would be more pleasant for you to gaze into for upwards of 8 hours per day, 5 days a week – the majority of your waking hours?

The most inexpensive panels, known as “TN” technology (shown on the right), tend to have a narrow color gamut, or range of depth, between bright and dark.  These are the favorite of management, as they can be had in large screen sizes at low prices.  The most expensive are “IPS” panels favored by digital photographers, shown on the left.  In the middle are a variety of “VA” panel types, such as MVA; these are not favored by gamers as they don’t have the lightning-fast response time that video games require – but the colors are lovely and rich, roughly on par with an IPS panel – and are easier on the wallet than IPS. VA panels are recommended for truss designers.

The gamut shown by these panels are typically expressed as a percentage of the “Adobe RGB” theoretical color spectrum.  When comparing two monitor models, say, from two comparable manufacturers, try to choose the one with the highest percentage rating of the Adobe RGB color space.

Brightness & Contrast

It is also worth comparing monitor models based on the number of brightness nits they can reproduce.  A high contrast ratio will allow you to control the darkness of your black levels, and whiteness of your whites, relative to each other.  Particularly if you are in a very bright or well-lit office, a bright monitor will allow you to bring the screen brightness up to the level of ambient light in the room.

Similar screen size

Unless you can convince your IT department to completely replace all your monitors at once, it is common to end up with a mismatched assortment of screen sizes. If your coworker quits and you inherit a 27” monitor, matched with the 30” you already have, and in the interest of gaining more screen real estate you add the 22” that was gathering dust in the back of the stock room, you may think you have achieved a sort of nirvana, with more pixels on your desk than you ever thought possible!

But not so fast; as you move your mouse around in your new digital playground you become irritated at the awkward transition of the cursor between the upper edge of the tiny monitor – the short one – and the upper edge of your 27” monitor, which will be proportionally higher up in your field of view. If the two are mismatched in resolution, you now find the mouse even more unpredictable as the difference in pixel density between the two will mean that the top of one screen might only correspond with the middle of the next screen, making it quite frustrating to navigate quickly from one screen to the next, say, to change a “Yes” tally to “No” in the Properties menu.  Love for all your screen real estate quickly morphs into a game of ‘whack-a-cursor’ where you dread moving from one screen to the next, lest you have to motorboat your mouse around on the desk in giant, overstated circles, just trying to locate the cursor on a monitor, any monitor!  Upgrading one of the monitors to 4k resolution exacerbates this problem to the extreme, as the 4k engulfs the resolution of the smaller HD monitor by a factor of four; the smaller one always will feel out of balance.

So, I recommend if at all possible, try to at least keep the physical size of your main monitors equal, if not the resolution.  Maintaining alignment between the upper and lower margins of your screen will at least keep the cursor roughly aligned at the mid-point as it jumps from one monitor to the next, thus saving you from having your concentration broken perhaps five hundred times a day; and we all know the importance of maintaining concentration!

Mouse velocity

Along these lines, a caveat to weigh carefully before purchasing a 4k monitor is the issue of mouse velocity.  Basically, your mouse and computer currently have a setting where a one-inch movement of the mouse on your mousepad corresponds to a certain number of pixels on the screen; if you are using an old, large-ish monitor with low resolution (ie, with large individual pixels), the cursor will appear to move quite quickly across the screen.  But be aware that with the addition of a 4k monitor, after transitioning from the old screen to the new, that the cursor will all of a sudden appear to have donned a pair of lead shoes, slowing to a crawl across the 4k landscape.

When I first worked with a high-definition monitor, my mouse settings were such that occasionally I had to physically pick up my mouse and make several “swipes” of it across the desktop to traverse from one border of the screen to another. This can be quite annoying, and is an ergonomic price paid for commanding such an incredible number of pixels in one screen.  This is also the reason I did not recommend using a 4k monitor for tasks that require a constant stream of fast, cross-screen movements of the mouse, such as the Engineering software; the canvas at 4k resolution is simply so enormous that an expert user of Engineering will immediately to feel that he is swimming slowly against a tide of thick gravy.

As I became accustomed to the quirks of my 4k screen, I position it away from the center of my desk; it is now the outer monitor (on my left, as it happens), so as to be most convenient for reference to PDF plans, but clear of the “high speed traffic area” which is at the center of my vision.  I love the 4k screen for its density, its ability to present me with a phenomenal amount of visual information without panning or zooming; but the effect it has on my mouse velocity limits its use to information intake, rather than high-speed work.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Thanks for reading this series. I hope it has provided you with a few things to consider for your next monitor purchase from a design point of view. Please chime in below and leave some comments on how this may or may not affect your design efficiency.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 3)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 3)

The last 2 weeks we explained details and definitions of 4k monitors and introduced the idea for their use in component design. Before reading this week’s article, please click here to review Part 1 and here to review Part 2 in this series so that you can follow along in this article coherently.


Working Distance

We learned from the last installment in this series that not all truss design tasks are optimally suited for high-resolution monitors. We made a distinction between the resolution of the monitor, which is a literal count of the number of pixels built into the screen; and the size of the monitor, measured in inches.  I had suggested grouping a designers’ tasks into three categories, with the following recommended ideal monitor resolutions – of course, with design software other than MiTek, your mileage may vary:

  1. Plan reading – 4k. This would be for examining architectural or structural drawings, normally in PDF or CAD format.
  2. Layout – QHD or WQXGA. Something in the 2560×1600 neighborhood seems feels pretty natural for laying out a building’s worth of trusses
  3. Engineering – HD. A standard, inexpensive HD monitor seems to play pretty nicely with MiTek’s Engineering software.

We also learned that humans can only resolve a certain level of detail, and that with a good set of contact lenses or glasses your eyes will be ready to perform at their greatest potential, like they were looking at an optometrist’s chart on a far-away wall. When considering monitor resolution and visual resolution as two sides of the same coin, the new variable we will consider today is the working distance between your eyeballs and the center of each monitor that feels most comfortable to you.

While it may seem natural to jump to the question of “how large a monitor can I buy?” the truth is that working distance is a more important question to consider before going shopping for a new screen, because a high-resolution monitor won’t help you if you can’t visually take in that many tiny pixels from long distance.  Conversely, if you prefer to work close to a screen, a large monitor will actually work against you because it will take up a significant amount of real estate on your desk, requiring you to swivel your head around unnecessarily to view a second monitor – when a much smaller monitor at extremely high pixel density would be sufficient for your needs, assuming your eyesight is up to the task.

So take a moment to move backward and forward in your chair right now, and ask ourselves a few different questions:

  • First: quite subjectively, “Am I enjoying being this close, or this far, from my screen? Do I feel that this this is the best working distance?
  • Second: “Am I working at an uncomfortable distance because my desk is poorly designed, or a bad fit for my needs? Are the arms of my chair hitting the desk edge? Or is it that if I sit too far back I get glare from the window?” Etcetera. There are a multitude of reasons that we feel forced to sit in a non-optimal position in relation to the screens.
  • Third: “If I feel like I would prefer to be closer or farther from the screen, and nothing else seems to be stopping me, is it perhaps that the screen is too dark and dim or too bright to handle at that distance?”

Take the time to resolve any of these issues which might prevent you from working at a comfortable viewing distance. If your desk constrains you into working in an ineffective manner, stop now – put the funds you would have spent on a new monitor into a more flexible desk setup which gets your aligned more effectively with your screens.  We all like new electronics and a new desk may feel a bit dull, but truthfully, no replacement monitor will help you if the desk it sits on forces you to locate it in an awkward way – and larger monitors are even more unwieldy and hard to position than small ones.

Having settled our desk or workspace questions, we can now measure the distance that feels most comfortable to us. I like to hold a folding rule (remember those?) next to my skull and extend it straight out in line with my vision, measuring from a spot in the center of my monitor to a point on the rule which is exactly in line with my eye.  I find that 30” works pretty well for me; I don’t feel any significant ‘strain’ or tension in my eyes when I work at this distance for long hours.  Your results might be different.

Horizontal arc

Having settled on a working distance, we need to now settle on what I call, for lack of a better term, “horizontal arc”. This is a circle segment in which you should imagine yourself, more particularly your head, at the center.  Sitting in your desk chair, start by turning your head left and right; as you swing your head from side to side, find a maximum amount of “swiveling” in your neck that you feel comfortable with.  Some folks are fine with craning their neck every-which-way; others prefer to keep their heads absolutely still, or nearly still.  Keep in mind that a horizontal arc that initially feels comfortable might not feel so comfortable when you have to repeat this motion every five or seven seconds.

Next, without turning your head from side-to-side, simply look back and forth, trying to determine the area of your vision in which you are actually comfortable working. The portion of your vision which includes the highest density of optical receptors is actually rather modest, compared to your peripheral vision, and the boundary between the two is less of a dividing line and more of a long, smooth transition.  Think for a moment about where you want to effectively draw the line between your central (working) vision, and the more peripheral (useless, for our purposes) portion.

Now combine both motions, both turning your head and swiveling your eyes, not further than the limits you just set for yourself, for both.  This is your horizontal arc in which all important monitor information needs to be placed in order to be useful to you.

Monitor size

As you may have guessed, your correct monitor size is now one which, when placed next to your other monitors to create this rough semi-circle at the proper working distance, falls within your horizontal arc.  Experience has taught me that screen area which falls outside this area is almost useless to me; I cannot force myself to put important information in these areas, since my mind and body don’t want to look there.  As you might imagine, very large screens become difficult to fit into the horizontal arc, unless you are blessed with extraordinary eyesight and prefer a very large working distance – and have an enormously deep and wide desk surface to work with!

When shopping for monitors, look for the physical width of the screen you are considering purchasing; many monitors have a thick band (bezel) around the screen which adds bulk and takes up some of your horizontal arc. Also, realize that the listed size of a monitor is a diagonal dimension, measured from corner-to-corner.  Even with thick bezels, a 28” monitor might only take up 25” actual width.


To summarize, we have distanced ourselves from our screens as much as is comfortable, settled on a maximum horizontal “zone” in which we feel comfortable working, and divided up this zone into “segments” which each represent the maximum monitor size we can purchase.  For myself, I have found that two 32” monitors, with an additional 27-28” screen, maximizes my horizontal arc.  As you might imagine, the monitor I dedicate to plan reading is a 4k monitor, my layout monitor is WQXGA, and my Engineering monitor is HD, with the added bonus of touchscreen functionality.  So far this has been the most satisfactory combination of the many I’ve experimented with, and I would recommend it to anyone who had similar preferences.

The 4k resolution has been a worthy purchase – but with a few caveats, and in the final installment of this series, we will examine some monitor-related issues which should be thought through prior to purchasing a 4k monitor, a word about mouse movements, and some budget ideas for how cash-strapped design departments can cheaply outfit old PCs with a third monitor.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Stay tuned for Part 4, the final article in this series.

Has this brought to mind some new considerations for your desktop setup? Please leave your comments below.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 2)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 2)

Last week we explained details and definitions of 4k monitors and introduced the idea for their use in component design. Before reading this week’s article, please click here to review Part 1 in this series so that you can follow along in this article coherently.


Fact or Fiction?

One might infer that more information is always better than less, and that therefore the highest resolution possible should be used at all times. This is true in the abstract, but 3 (three) practical considerations cause us to reconsider:

  1. First, the human eye is only capable of capturing a certain level of detail. You’ve become aware of your natural limitations at an eye checkup, right? You know the one where the optometrist challenged you to read successively smaller lines of type on a distant wall. At a certain point you gave up; your eyes simply couldn’t resolve the optical detail of the tiny letters, so far away.
  2. Second, you only have one pair of eyes. Their health should be the deciding factor in the choice. Until you know the status of their health from a professional, the monitor choice should NOT be made. If your eyesight fails, you will be looking for a new line of work.
  3. Third, cost should not be the deciding factor. Can you put a monetary value on your eyesight? The deciding factor should be based around what is best for your eyesight.

A word from your optometrist

The place for any designer to start is actually with their eyesight. What good is a fine-pitched monitor if you can’t make out the details?  You may not have considered it lately, but when were your eyes last checked?  The American Optometric Association recommends that adults between the age of 19-60 get an examination every two years, and annually past age 61.

Your eyes are constantly changing, and each eye changes independent of the other. Since one eye is normally stronger than the other, constant and heavy workloads in front of a computer will not stress them both equally unless you have a proper prescription.

Once you are satisfied that your prescription is correct, or that your eyesight is satisfactory, I would highly encourage you to invest in quality eyewear, and to keep your glasses scrupulously clean and free from scratches.  If you wear contact lenses like some do, read the manufacturer’s instructions on your contact lens fluid and follow them to the letter.  Remember #2 above!

Contrary to common practice, you do not “clean” your contacts by simply storing them in saline! It is amazing how complacent some people are in this area. Buy high-quality name brand cleansing fluid and scrub/de-protein your lenses daily for the recommended amount of time.  Rinse them very thoroughly.  If you suffer from slightly red eyes at the end of the day, it may be time to re-examine your contact lens hygiene. You will find that “new lens” clarity of vision lasts a lot longer with each pair.

Task Categories that Factor in the Final Decision

For truss and panel designers, we have (3) fairly discrete categories of tasks which are best looked at individually:

1. Plan reading

Back in the “day”, some of us had the dubious honor of working off ARCH “D” sized building plans. These were commonly printed on a substance called “paper”, and in special cases of quasi-religious significance, on a vaguely disturbing substance called “vellum” which may or may not have involved the harming animals in manufacture.

These paper plans were not only large, they were sharp and easy to read. These were plotted at 300 dots per inch resolution.  If “dots” sounds like “pixels” to you, it should.  The entire architectural drafting industry was based off this size, and all modern CAD standards such as text size and scale of leader arrows are based off 24 x 36” drawings.  So in the interest of understanding the scope of the issue, let’s look at the effective resolution of a 24×36” sheet of paper:

24” x 36” x 300 dpi = 77,760,000 pixels

Yes, you read that right. 77.8 million pixels!  Let that sink in for a second.  The next time your nephew goes on excitedly about his new gaming “high definition monitor” at 2.1 million pixels, patiently explain to him that those old blueprints in the rack, the one with the rubber band around them, has his monitor beat by a multiplying factor of thirty-seven.

Of course times have changed, nobody wants to roll out a large set of plans, or turn the pages (how annoying was that?), not to mention store them.  What we want, what we need, is a monitor up to the task of replacing these plans and doing the same job, preferably better, because, well, technology demands it, right?

If you took a sneak peek back at the first chart showing monitor resolutions, you may have been a little disheartened.  Because truthfully, nothing will ever compete with a good plotted set of plans for communicating written information.  They simply are the best.  But it should be clear that for plan reading purposes, a monitor should be the highest resolution you can possibly afford, and that your graphics card can handle without physically melting.

2. Layout

Whatever your choice of truss software, a truss or panel layout can become a very complex drawing, with lots of detail to keep an eye on (pardon the pun). As a proportion of a 24×36” set of plans, I estimate that a proper commercial-scale truss layout might incorporate perhaps half the detail of a dense, 1/8” = 1-0” architectural drawing.  After some experimentation, I believe that at double the resolution of HD, a solid QHD or WQXGA monitor at 2560 x 1440 or 2560 x 1600 resolution is probably your best bet for this task (see note about Mouse Velocity in Part 3).

3. Engineering

Under the current MiTek regime, the truss design software package is pretty well optimized for an HD resolution monitor.  There is a tiny fraction of information presented by the Engineering software, compared with the detail on an architectural plan.  Unless you change the display settings to display dimensions at insanely small size, there is probably no need for a resolution higher than HD.  If the option is available, I would highly recommend the slight upgrade to 1920 x 1200 which affords a little more vertical height but can be resolved by most commonly available (inexpensive) graphics cards.  In fact, you may find that your speed may actually be hindered by an unnecessarily high-resolution monitor in this application, for reasons which we will explore next time in Part 3.

When we publish Part 3 next week, we will give you things to consider from a totally different viewpoint.

Read Part 1 here.

Please leave your comments below.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 1)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 1)


The last five years have been very, very good times for anyone interested in flat-screen computer monitors. If you are a truss designer interested in gaining maximum, military-general style visibility into all the inner workings of your computer, exploiting the potential of your graphics hardware to the maximum and pumping as many LED-generated, pixel-popping light waves into your sore and bloodshot eyes, this has truly been a good time to be alive!

Here is why:

  1. The size of available monitors has increased. Not too long ago, Apple was astonishing the world with very expensive, beautiful 30” (!) monitors which exceeded the budget of most non-graphics-oriented professionals by probably a factor of 4x. For PC users, 27’-28” was essentially the maximum screen size available. These days, 30” and 32” monitors are pretty common, with hybrid TV and computer-monitor models available in 40”, 50” and even 60” neighborhood for those interested in upgrading their cubicle footprint to the area of a small aircraft hanger.
  2. The variety of large-sized monitors has exploded. From cheap, gray-market Korean makers like Crossover and Achieva, to high-end makers Samsung and NEC, there is a wide and smoothly segregated set of price points for each size of monitor larger than the (formerly standard) 24” screen size. 28” is no longer considered a “specialty” size by most makers; 30” and 32” is now fairly standard as a top-tier diagonal dimension and most every major maker has models (or even several models) in these categories: each offers units meant for gamers, casual users, business professionals, and expensive color calibrated screens targeted toward photographers and video editors. No longer is a buyer stuck with an “all or nothing” option – we can all pick our price vs. quality point.
  3. Panel technologies have diversified. In former days large-scale monitors were only offered in a very basic “TN” technology which offered quite flat color, boring low contrast and limited viewing angles. Today, you can walk out of any well-equipped electronics store with a huge monitor in your choice of TN, VA, MVA, S-PVA, or any one of several high-dollar IPS flavors, depending on your taste in color quality and on the heat of your wallet.
  4. The features and color quality of large flat-screens have improved drastically. It wasn’t long ago that CRT monitors were the gold-standard in color fidelity and ability to reproduce close to full Adobe RGB color space. No longer. The newest panels, especially the MVA, PLS, AHVA and IPS designs, have incredibly wide color range and impressively dense black/white contrast ratios. They are engaging to look at and make the old CRT technology seem impossibly dated, even for critical applications like photography. Also, the old “faded edges” of large screens, where the brightness varied significantly across the expanse of the monitor, has disappeared, as manufacturers seemed to have worked out all those kinks.
  5. Lastly, and most importantly for this article, the resolution of monitors has increased. For many years we bumped against the limits of so-called “HD” resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, with some business-class monitors at the slightly taller 1920 x 1200 resolution. Today HD is still the standard resolution, but within the last two years there has been a huge increase in availability of the following resolutions which should interest design professionals the most:


As a truss/panel designer, what size & resolution monitor should I buy?

What a great question! With so many choices, I’ll share my approach to choosing a size & resolution combination, because this is the critical question.  Realize that monitors of a certain resolution which work well for a certain task, at a given monitor size, may not work as well in a smaller/larger scale.  With this in mind, there is a proper approach, which is to start by establishing the task, find the proper resolution for that task, and then choose a screen size which is appropriate for that resolution.

Choose task -> Match with resolution -> Establish distance -> Select screen size

Finally, a little background definition of terms and concepts:

  • Pixels are individual points of light on a screen which can render any number of colors
  • Resolution is the actual number of pixels (width x height) the monitor is made with.

The “visual information” a monitor is capable of conveying to the user is directly related to the resolution (pixel count). This directly affect the quality of the picture and the stress on your eyesight.

When we publish Part 2 next week, we will give you specific things to consider from the truss/panel design (and your doctor’s) standpoint. See you next week!

Please leave your comments below.

Temporary vs. Permanent Bracing: What You Need To Know

Temporary vs. Permanent Bracing: What You Need To Know

Unfortunately, we have witnessed some collapsed buildings lately. As usual, the cause was improper bracing. Does the builder simply not understand that the bracing is keeping the building together while construction is going on? Protecting it against wind loads? Solidifying the structure to make engineered components work as a whole system? Is it hard to know where and how to brace a building? Is it not understood that trusses ONLY work as a system, not as individual entities?

Perhaps we should start by the definition:

brac·ing (brāsiNG): “(of a support) serving to brace a structure

So far pretty simple, right? There are 2 types of bracing, Permanent & Temporary, so why is this so confusing? Does not a Building Component Safety Information (BCSI) document from the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) accompany each and every truss package? Why then are we omitting some bracing on new structures?

Let’s take a look and see the differences between the two bracing types:

  • Temporary Bracing: Bracing used to hold framework in a safe condition during construction until enough permanent construction has been put in place to provide complete stability.


  • Permanent Bracing: Bracing must be provided to enable the roof, wall and floor framework to resist the horizontal forces. An appropriate connection is needed to transfer these forces through the framework and sub-floor structure to the building’s foundation. When required, bracing within the building is to be constructed into walls or sub-floor supports and distributed evenly throughout. This bracing is normally in vertical planes. Where buildings are more than one story in height, wall bracing has to be designed for each story.


Consider this: If so much bracing is required for simply a roof, can you imagine when you add the walls and floor bracing too! To make sure your building is properly braced, you must:

  • Check local and national building codes where your structure is being erected
  • Review and understand component supplier’s bracing notes
  • Comply with the project engineer’s notes & recommendations
  • Use your own common sense and past experience

Failure to do so can have tremendous consequences that could resemble something like this:


Adequate bracing not only makes sure your building can resist the forces of:

  • Horizontal loads
  • Vertical loads
  • Seismic loads
  • Wind forces

Proper bracing also ensures that (just to name a few):

  • Your connections are square
  • Protects worker present on the job site
  • Will ensure a better end product

Bracing is NOT a suggestion, it’s the rule. It is truly disheartening to see how many folks out there truly understand the necessity of bracing and end up walking out to this on the jobsite:


Is bracing as simple as you thought? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Remember to “brace” yourself for what happens should you not fully adhere to this simple, yet widely misunderstood requirement!

Professional Development – Truss Design: A Trick My Day Job Never Taught Me – Part 20

Professional Development – Truss Design: A Trick My Day Job Never Taught Me – Part 20

With almost 24 years truss design experience, I felt I had become pretty confident in my field. From designing large custom homes, to commercial jobs to multi-family, you learn a few tricks but can also fall into a rut or a way that is comfortable to us until shown something else. At that point, one can become open-minded and attempt that new approach or become closed-minded and continue on as if nothing ever happened.

Since joining Gould Design, Inc. (GDI) earlier this year, I have found a company that takes training and mentoring each team member very seriously, because your success is their success.


I want to share a few that stand out that GDI does that a lot of jobs may or may not teach you.

Open mindedness and Teach-ability: In a number of conversations with Christopher Gould, President of Gould Design Inc., he has stated “The key to your success with GDI is twofold, 1. An open mind, 2. Teach-ability. With these two traits, the sky is the limit! We are designing components, but we are building entrepreneurs.” This speaks to me of attitude. As many of us have probably heard “Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude.” And this falls into many areas. Easy to talk about but harder to practice.

Finding out my strengths: Using the Clifton Strengths Finder test, GDI wanted to know and focus on my strengths, not my weaknesses. This was encouraging because no company that I have ever worked for had done this! They might have known about a strength I had but chose to use me in another area and left me frustrated. GDI’s goal is to build on these strengths and use them to the fullest.


Mentorship: With every phase of GDI’s Professional Development program that I have been exposed to, a mentor has been assigned to me, whose main role is to shadow and assist. It may not be someone who has more experience, but it certainly will be an individual who has expertise in an area I know nothing or very little about in the day-to-day operations of the company. But it can easily turn into a two-way street, as I was working on a specific job during my PD, when I heard my mentor say, “Hey, how did you do that? I’ve never seen that before” and I was able to share some of my expertise at that moment. This mentoring program has been very valuable to me, as it has helped to build camaraderie, a thing not always encouraged in a job environment.

Learning to become more efficient: Sure, I can have a state of the art computer with a fast processor, m/b and lots of RAM, but if I don’t know how to use shortcuts in the software or other little tricks, how efficient am I? 5 key strokes suddenly become 20, multiply that by x and time adds up. At GDI, a lot of tools are available at our fingertips and sometimes it’s as simple as putting a question out on Skype and then watching as team members come forward to share their expertise and knowledge. One word – Invaluable.

Has stepping into the Professional Development program always been easy? No it has not! Yet I have learned that as long as I am willing to learn, I can still be taught a thing or two and even get better. Is that your story? Give us your feedback please. Tell us your story.

You can read Part 1 in this series here.

You can read Part 2 in this series here.

You can read Part 3 in this series here.

You can read Part 4 in this series here.

You can read Part 5 in this series here.

You can read Part 6 in this series here.

You can read Part 7 in this series here.

You can read Part 8 in this series here.

You can read Part 9 in this series here.

You can read Part 10 in this series here.

You can read Part 11 in this series here.

You can read Part 12 in this series here.

You can read Part 13 in this series here.

You can read Part 14 in this series here.

You can read Part 15 in this series here.

You can read Part 16 in this series here.

You can read Part 17 in this series here.

You can read Part 18 in this series here.

You can read Part 19 in this series here.

Stay tuned for Part 21.

Harold Isaac

Design Professional

How Much Revenue Are You Wasting Due to Inefficiency?

How Much Revenue Are You Wasting Due to Inefficiency?

Perhaps we have heard about classic cars and their incredible price ranges. Some would say vintage car owners are crazy for paying or asking for such amount of money for an antique vehicle. Others can see it as a bargain, as something they can justify. The issue here is the balance between price and value. To have something of real value, there is a cost involved, right?


The Science of Economics has discussed broadly how prices are constructed, yet there still is not a conclusive concept. One aspect is how buyers build their perception of “price according the value they give to the asset” (of course there are a lot of other issues to take into account but we are not going to tackle on them on this article).

So the first perception could be: Is this situation/opportunity representing to me an asset or a liability? Author Robert Kiyosaki has a radical concept of asset: Is all that is used to generate an income. So under this idea a house or a car could be a passive while it is not used for some kind of business. This is not – in my opinion – definitive, because the house we live has a value not only in the books but for us.

Where am I going with all this? Why, trusses of course!

You see, I was once one of those designers that was just “plopped” into the seat and told to figure it out. I was given almost no information to work with for a starting point. Had I not had shop and field experience, I may have failed. I am grateful this was not the case. But I certainly did have my times of looking like the hamster on the wheel and mistakes that were costly along the way. All of this could have been avoided if there was some place for me to turn and learn how to do things the right way from the beginning!

Consider this:

There is much to consider when weighing out your assets. They should always outweigh your liabilities! The value of training and professional development for truss/component design could be undermined if we see it in a traditional way:

  • What is the cost of it?
  • In what amount of time will my company recover (ROI) that money?
  • Do I really need this?
  • What are my competitors doing?

This is what you really should be asking:

  • What is the cost of NOT training your staff? (Mistakes, backcharges, inefficiency)
  • Is there an ROI on lost revenue? (Dissatisfied or lost customers/opportunities)
  • How will you meet demand without competent, qualified staff? (Technical staff does not grow on trees)
  • Are you your competitor, or your own entity? (Companies with a vision must act on that vision)

The real question then becomes: Can you afford not to train your staff to reach their potential?

There are also other factors you have to ponder:

  • What part will your veteran designers play while working with trainees?
  • Can your company carry this load internally?
  • What percentage of productivity loss can be sustained?
  • Has your company considered or measured how much in potential revenue that is lost?
  • Is the sales team eager or reluctant to secure additional workload?
  • Have you thought of the value of having an efficiently trained staff in the proper version of the software?

The tough questions are all that is left:

  • When was the last time your company planned a training session? (Minimum of 10% of every designer’s time should be for growth)
  • Is there a training protocol? (If you don’t think you have the time to write one, you have no idea how much this has already and will continue to cost you)
  • Do you have every employee doing things the same way? (Making 5% on one and 10% on another just doesn’t make any sense)
  • What is the morale like in the office? (Some folks may be afraid of training themselves out of a job)
  • What is the engagement like in the office? (The mindset of “I am only doing this because I was told” will rub off on anyone learning or being taught anything due to minimal effort expended)

After thinking deeply on the questions above, management can be as radical as Kiyosaki: Are we getting any income of this right away? No? Then this action is leading to a passive.

And sure it could be expensive and with no warranty of returning your investment right away. But has your company considered or measured factual numbers? Simply put, it is impossible to measure what you don’t track! So if you are like most companies, you have no clue how much you are wasting in inefficiency each year. There is little balance.


What’s the solution?

At this point we are painting a picture of balance between “Value” and “Price”. What is the value of a well-trained employee? Does it outweigh the price? Or are you willing to repeatedly keep spending enormous amounts more, year after year, than if you had just made the investment to begin with?

With over a decade of experience, Gould Design, Inc. (GDI) can measure and point out these numbers for you. With a proven, detailed methodology, GDI can lead you to factual numbers, not someone’s best guess. This will allow you to see what you could have overlooked and measure part of the potential earnings you have not accessed yet because of a lack of properly trained staff. You will also have the exact numbers to decide how many trainees you can handle, for how long and where the boundaries are with performance measurement.

And most importantly: Reducing the amount of load to your veteran staff plays in developing others so that they can continue working and producing what your company needs to profitably thrive.

Using a series of assessments, GDI first measures a candidate in the following 12 categories:

  • Background
  • Basic math skills
  • 3D skills & spatial recognition
  • Plan reading ability
  • Truss math
  • Visualization ability
  • Personality strengths
  • Personality type
  • Willingness to learn
  • Ability to follow directions
  • Decision making ability
  • Detail comprehension

In a short period of time, with properly screened candidates, your company could be utilizing properly trained designers so you can have projects efficiently analyzed. This helps the Sales Staff (morale) and the Shop (engagement), reducing the response time to clients and making things easier in the shop (even preventing accidents).

Also, you can receive periodical reports of each trainee to be aware of their development, knowing the potential for each one on an individual basis. You will also know the limitations the moment the reach that “line in the sand” (boundaries) so you can establish a probable route of developing for each one and how they can help your business to grow.

What’s the value?

GDI can help you to put in balance the value and the costs associated on an individual basis. These proven-over-time results will be reported so decisions at your company can work on a timeline. In a short period, you will know the risks and the benefits for each particular case.


Information plus action neutralizes the fear that may be caused from past experience. Our goal is to research each potential candidate proactively so we can give you the most accurate prediction and a plan of action. Technology allows us to do it remotely so you won´t have unfamiliar faces walking around your facilities or disturbing your team.

As you know, technology has transformed the business of trusses and you probably have already taken advantage of it in your production facility. But have you done so in your design department? If the answer is no, then why not?

Are your technical people not the highest paid on staff? Why is it so easy to spend $300,000.00 on a piece of equipment, but not a fraction of that amount on an efficient employee? It just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe if you had 5 efficient designers, you would not need to hire 2 more! Those same 5 efficient designers would be capable of keeping that $300,000.00 on a piece of equipment running all day!


Communication about needs and wants is very simple, yet hard to grasp. All the planning in the world is meaningless without action. But you have heard this all before! What are you going to do about it? Why re-write the book on your own and invest from a standpoint of trial and error? Why not allow yourself to save the hassle and the expense and reach out to a proven method from a company that has already done that?

The facts are this: we get what we pay for. We become what we think about. We can’t measure what we don’t track. We can’t take inventory on something we don’t have or are not aware that we have. We cannot estimate value until we have a lock on price. We can’t improve efficiency unless we make time in our schedule and PLAN for it.

How much more are value are you willing to lose until you pay the price? Contact us today for a custom-made value versus price solution.

This article has helped you to think about the value of training. In which ways has training transformed your business? In which ways has it hurt your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Training is Contingent upon the Mentor’s Expertise

Training is Contingent upon the Mentor’s Expertise


Anyone who has been employed has undertaken some form of training for that job. It may have been training as simple as carry those blocks from point A to point B, dig that ditch from here to there, or a detailed, comprehensive program to bring the new employee up to speed on how the company wants things done.  No matter the training, there was someone administering and supervising the training to some degree.


In my experiences on jobs, I have seen many different types of mentors. Some have taken the responsibility to train or teach someone else as a task that they would rather not take on.  As a result the trainee was short-changed and was never really able to contribute fully to the company nor live up to their fullest potential in that career.

I recall one such situation when I was working on a particular residential job site. An HVAC contractor had sent a crew out to the jobsite to rough in the structure so the county inspection could be done.  The crew leader was not only given the task of installing all of the necessary duct work for the job but also to train and help a new employee who had not been with the company very long.  The crew leader chose to ignore the new employee’s questions, did not take time to show him the how or the why things were being done the way they were, nor try to help him learn in any way.  Not long after that job, I saw the same HVAC crew leader on another job and asked about the progress of that new employee and he responded by say that he was let go because he did not know how to do the job. Really?

I have seen others who have been given the task to train someone and are very willing to take that responsibility serious. Although they have taken this responsibility seriously they are hard-headed about the way they approach the task.  They are not willing to look at things differently, learn more as they go and relay that information to the trainee, nor accept anything different that the way that they know.  I know this type of trainer very well because at one time I was one.  I took the job very seriously, but was only willing to teach what I knew about the job.  In retrospect, I realized that I short-changed the person that I was training and made them one-sided in the process.


Then there are those mentors who not only take the job seriously, but also are willing to do whatever it takes to make the new trainee the best that they can be. They not only try to teach what they know but are constantly trying to learn new things and new ways not only to benefit themselves but also the trainee.  This in turn benefits the company in which they work.

This type of mentor also takes the time and puts forth the effort to try to understand the person in which they are training. Which way they learn the best, what their strong suits are, and what interests they have that will benefit the company.  This is the type of mentor that makes a company strong. This type of mentoring allows the opportunity for each individual mentee to achieve their fullest potential.


When given the task of training someone, we must make a decision on what type of mentor we are going to be. I believe we need to understand that the way we train someone will not only affect the company, but it could also affect the trainee.  Whether that affect is positive or negative could be dependent upon the training that they receive.  In short, training is contingent upon the mentor’s expertise!

What is your experience as a mentor? As a mentee?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

When prospective future homeowners set out to design and build their own home, the first thing they do is come up with a concept and seek out qualified professionals to help them accomplish the goal: an affordable, structurally sound building. After all, they have saved their hard-earned money and are looking to engage in the “American Dream”, right?

So they bring their idea to an architect who draws the plans. The plans are taken to a homebuilder, etc., etc. You know the drill here. All along they are trusting that each party is qualified, competent and reliable enough to perform the tasks as agreed. Seems like a reasonable enough thing to expect, does it not?

After all, we have a permitting process. We have experienced home builders. We even have jobsite inspectors to verify the work performed. But is that enough?

I have been on numerous jobsites in my career and have seen some pretty strange and questionable things. The purpose of this article is not to highlight those. It is for you to look and find it for yourself.

For similar articles, please view:

It’s not always the truss company’s fault

Building Codes and Inspectors: Their Seldom Appreciated Value and Importance

I was on a jobsite recently and saw some things that raised some concern. I now challenge you, the reader, to see if you can see what I saw and leave your comments below.

A 3-ply LVL beam carrying lower roof, upper roof and wall:


Another 3-ply LVL beam carrying lower roof, upper roof and wall:


A floor truss condition where the upper wall and lower wall does not stack:


A floor truss strongback application:


A hip set assembled on the ground:


Now, hopefully the inspectors will flag those items so the homeowner can have a sound structure. I drove by a few days later and the job was up and sheathed, so I am not so sure. It is too early in the game to tell (as of the writing of this article).

As I was driving by that day, I noticed trusses still on the ground that were not installed. Ummmmm, really? Truss companies simply DO NOT provide “extra” trusses. If there were trusses left over, that should raise a GIANT red flag. It will be interesting to see how this job develops as time goes on!

What kinds of things have you seen over the years? Leave your comments in the section below.