The History of Design Software

In today’s world, most construction projects rely on engineered wood products (EWP): wall panels, LVL/GLULAM beams, I-Joists, floor trusses, and roof trusses to build the structure of the building. It’s so typical that all trades know what they are intended for, and the average person has seen framers installing them at one point or another.

There was a time (early 90’s for me) when it wasn’t as common, when framers thought that 3-2X10 could carry the entire house, that 2×10 floors were the best product that you could have your floor made of, and surely those 2×4 flanges with OSB in the center couldn’t do a better job than a nominal lumber joist!

Gladly those days are largely over. To illustrate how far we have come, let’s look at the history of design software and EWP products and their evolution since I began in the industry back in 1991.



The common tape backup and machine of the 90’s. If you wanted certain information on the tape backup, you had to rewind the tape until you found the data require. This could take an enormous amount of time. I won’t miss this technology one bit!

For floor design, I had quad graphic paper ¼” square, 1 pencil, a 4 colored pen, my beloved HP calculator and a book of charts. We were only doing simple floors, as complex jobs required an engineer. 9 ½” depth was the norm for depth, as we had to compete against 2X10. The EWP floors were more of a convenience to the builders, and we used them to sell roof truss to our customers. For roof trusses, I used Trusstar and later Unista. With the 1st software, I drew the layout on the machine (that was the name of the computer back then), and start typing the truss. All truss would be a 3 line input, representing the span, shape, chords dimension and load. So on a roof with 30 truss shapes, I would have 90 lines to input. Unistar changed everything, for the first time we could design the truss in the layout, then the machine would let us know what the shape would be, therefore eliminating mistakes, it was a small step for construction, but a giant leap for the components supplier!

-Training time required:                floor: 45 Minutes             Roof: 1 Year

-Pros:    -graphical representation helped to see the product design

-Software calculate the plate required, therefore eliminating mistakes and omissions

-Cons:   -Bigger investment required than before              -Not compatible with prior machines

-Requires new skills to troubleshoot issues and problems

CD’s enabled us to retrieve information quickly, bigger screens (14”) started to appear, we replaced the 5 ¼” floppy disk with the 3 ½” which could contain as much as 1.44MB of information.



By then we had Planit an EWP floor software that would allow us to design the more complex project. Builders really started to see the benefits of EWP floors: bigger span, fewer supports, more space between I-Joists. Therefore fewer pieces to install, more room to run HVAC / plumbing and electrical inside the floor. By then 11 7/8” depth became the norm in the industry.

Clean computer (We finally call them computers) layout allowed the framer to see more clearly how to install the product, Engineers could rely on the Software company to guaranteed the structural integrity of the building. Lumber yards started to stock the product and made it more readily available. For the roof, I got introduced to On-Line+, eFrame, and Alpine. It did the same as prior software but started to become more user-friendly, it was faster and more graphical. You could design highly complex houses, and a bigger screen meant you could see more of the project.

Most component suppliers would have a truss guy and a floor guy, and the end product would be related to the level of communication they would have between them. You still have to make sure everything fits together nicely, between walls/floor beams/roof, and believe me, sometimes that was easier said than done.

-Training time required:                Floor: 2 Months                Roof: 6 months

-Pros:    -Less training time required.       -More production per designer.

-Output with more information, able to recheck design/load/criteria

-Cons:   -Since less training is required, designers are less experienced

-Not compatible, as we moved from tape backup to CD’s & from Unix to Windows.

This is today’s workstation, with multiple flat screens and sized between 24”-29” each. We now have a server that not only saves our information, but acts as an information hub, so everyone has the ability to access the same files in real time.


6-beamsToday, 14” depth floors joists are getting more common, as they eliminate vibration. Now I use Mitek Sapphire to design all kinds of engineered products: Roof trusses, EWP floor, Floor Truss, Posts, and wall panels (everything but the kitchen sink). I have dreamed of this day since the 90’s, no more miscommunication between supplier, co-worker, and software as it’s all in the same file.

The 3D views are incredible, I can clearly see the interferences between levels. I only draw the project once, since all the structural elements are present in the file. The load is transferred by the software, eliminating the “I thought the girder was there…” mistakes and having to come up with a rush repair detail.

With multiple monitors, I can see the layout, 3D views, customer’s criteria, and instructions all at once.

Training time:                    Floor: 3 months                Roof: 6 Months                 Both: 8 Months

-Pros:    -Too many to list in 1 blog!

-Cons:   -More equipment is recommended / IT department is recommended

These are actual 3D screenshots from Sapphire, you can see the roof truss, wall panels, and floor systems. So detailed that you can see the drop floor, how the truss bears on the wall/beams, how high the beams are, etc.




There’s Viewer software available for your customer to download so they can see the 3D views of the project you are designing for them, they can turn the structure around and see the fine detail. This eliminates most questions and saves time on the construction site.

We have come a long way since A. Carroll Sanford invented the modern day truss plate in 1952 in Pompano Beach, Florida. And Trus Joist Corporation invented the I-joists industry in 1969. How about in 20 years from now? I believe that Virtual Reality will be mature and integrated into most design application, moving your hand to move structural members, grabbing imaginary toolbars with your fingers, seeing the whole structure through a pair of glasses, perhaps using drones to do site inspection & approval. Teleporting myself into your office with options for your projects. At this point, it’s only speculation, but without ideas and dreams, we don’t innovate.  How about you? What design software did you use? Which one is your favorite?

Guest post by Martin Auger

Task Management Integration with Gmail

I have been exploring task management Apps for years. Recently, I stumbled on an App that has surprised me with its ease of use, plentiful features (even in the free version), and it’s versatility. It is called Yanado.

The strength of Yanado isn’t in the hundreds of integrations that it has, but in one key integration with Gmail.

Yanado is a chrome extension and operates within the same interface and the same page as Gmail (it can also be used on its own page if desired, but this negates some of the benefits as I see it). Yanado does these things well:

  • Project management
  • Task management
  • Notifications
  • Add emails (incoming and outgoing) as tasks
  • Due dates and reminders (can add tasks right into google calendar)
  • Visualize your work with the Kanban boards or list view
  • Subtasks
  • Tags
  • Share tasks with others (paid version)
  • Make list and/or task templates (paid version)
  • Intuitive
  • Easy to use. Very slight learning curve.

After activating Yanado, it creates a narrow dashboard on the top of Gmail that can be pulled down to either a list view or Kanban boards, depending on one’s preferences.


By clicking on the two arrows it will open to a typical Kanban view. You can create additional lists, and “statuses”. Tasks can be dragged around, or manually changed. There are various “View” options as well, “status”, “due date”, etc.


The due date view is handy because from there I can drag tasks around quickly which automatically changes the due date to whichever column I put it in. So, if you find yourself behind or a new task comes in that takes priority, you can quickly bump the other tasks to another day.


As many options and tools as Yanado has, the real strength, in my opinion, is the option to “Add as Task” that appears when you select an email or while it is open. Clicking it will produce a dropdown menu with all the lists you have available. This allows you to turn emails into tasks and you can associate that email thread with the task for reference later.




When the task is created it will automatically pull the task name from the subject of the email. It will also place the content of the email in the description. I typically do the following:

  • Edit the task name if needed
  • Set due date and decide whether it is a recurring task or not.
  • Choose whether to add to google calendar (as pictured below)
  • Create any subtasks (note: if you decide later that a subtask should be its own task, you can easily do this as well)


When you scan across the top of the task view you’ll see many items. Each will allow you to manipulate that task right there.


  • The owner of the task (defaults to you if the only user)
  • The list the task is in
  • The status or column it is in
  • The star makes it a priority task
  • The email icon will take you to the original email thread while leaving the task window up, useful for adding to the description, making comments, or adding subtasks.
  • Three dots are settings you can apply to the task; create a template, delete, print task, set due date to recurring, etc.


There is a little “?” within the interface which opens the in-app tech support chat window. I think the longest I’ve waited for a response was 2 minutes.

At one instance, I had changed my computer setup and Yanado wasn’t working properly. I started chatting with them and they aggressively sought to help me. The issue persisted another day and they continued working on the issue in the background until it was resolved. I’ve never known a team to be so responsive especially considering the issues were due to changes on my end.

I’ve even had some oddball requests which they found creative solutions to (e.g. a custom Zapier integration that allowed me to save an article to a specific notebook in Evernote which then automatically created a task in Yanado).

How I Use It

I get a lot of automated emails for work signaling various tasks that I need to take action on. I also wear many hats during the day, so, I use the “Add as task” command in the email thread to immediately add an email to the correct task list.

When writing emails there is also an “Add as task” option in the compose new message view which allows you to add that thread as a task before you even get a reply.

Primarily I try to start my day by using the “Due date” view and identifying tasks that I need to accomplish that day. I try to leave some room so that I can jump on any emergencies, answer a sales call, etc.

What I have found with Yanado is the balance between “enough” features to manage tasks well, without having so many features that I get overwhelmed.


Neither GDI, INC or the author of this post are receiving any kind of kickback from Yanado. I am writing about it for two reasons, 1) I found this App really useful, 2) as a company we are all about paying it forward. Giving without the expectation of return.

Give it a try and tell us what you think. Are there any other Apps you have found that might not be as well known but you find incredibly useful? Let us know below!

Tim Hoke – Design / Sales Manager

Gould Design, INC

Boston Gable Made Easy

If you are like me you are always looking for different, faster, and more productive ways to work. Here is a method I stumbled upon for quickly inputting the filler webs needed in a Boston gable truss. A Boston gable is a gable truss that has other trusses or conventional framing attached to the side. Instead of the field applied framing to support the sheathing and flashing at the intersection of the sloping plane and the vertical plane (the gable face), the blocking can be installed by the component manufacturer. So, let’s look at a quick way to accomplish this.

First of all, I’ve highlighted my Boston Gable truss below. There you can see that I have two runs of gable trusses tying into it on each side and a plane sloping up to the gable truss in the middle.


When I first input the truss it came in, as I would expect, with the top chord following the profile of the main span. For the first step, I’m going to modify the top chord. From the left end of the truss to the right, I’ll click on the planes in front of the gable truss. Here is the result; I’ve highlighted the modified top chord. This effectively gives me the centerline of the blocking I’ll be installing.


Next, I’ll import the modified truss into engineering and save it outside of the job folder. No need to analyze.


Once it is saved I will go back into Sapphire and modify the truss so that it has the correct top chord.


This client wants us to match the webbing of the truss just behind the Boston gable, then stitch the filler blocks in between the webs. So, after re-importing my Boston Gable truss I use the match webs tool with the adjacent truss.


I save, close out of the truss, then re-open it to lose the “shadow” of the truss I matched. Next, I’ll match webs again, this time I match with the template that I saved outside the job folder. You’ll notice that it messes up your webbing.


Just click undo and it reverts the webs back to where they should be, but the outline of the template remains giving you the profile of the roof planes tying into the face of the gable.


Sometimes the “shadow” of the template makes it hard to place the webs correctly. If needed just put in some reference lines along the top chord of the outline. Save the profile, close, then re-open. Once you go back into versatruss you’re reference lines will still be in place but the outline has been removed so that you can stitch in your filler cleanly. I leave the input setting at center and install all my filler. It comes in as 2×4 and will need to be 2×6, but I will leave that for now.

Next, you will want to change the properties of the “webs” that you have installed so that it is considered “non-structural” and not factored into the loading of the web members. Once this is done you can go through and make the filler pieces 2×6 if needed. If you happen to change to 2×6 first then change the properties of the fillers the filler pieces will all switch back to 2×4. So, change properties then size. Go ahead and analyzed the truss to make sure you’re filler is truly filler and not treated as a structural element of the truss. If you get funky errors chances are you have missed a filler piece. Turn analog on if you have trouble finding it.


Now it’s just a matter of inputting gable studs in above the filler pieces according to my client criteria. Any studs that come in below the filler pieces can be deleted. In this case, there is a 24” diameter Gable vent that I need to account for and I need to make part of the top chord 2×6 for notching in the field.



There you have it. Hope you all find this technique useful. How do you perform the same function? Any tips you can add? Let us know below!

Tim Hoke – Design Manager

Gould Design, Inc.

Leaders Don’t Lead By Mandate, They Lead By Example

When there is a change in leadership in any capacity, people get nervous. We would hardly be human if we did not, right? In my opinion, the amount of that nervousness depends totally on the example of the leader who has exited. Think about it for a minute … is it “Do as I say, not as I do?” Or is it simply “Do as I do?”


Those who lead by forcing others to do things actively disengage those responsible for their customer’s satisfaction level. Those who lead others by getting their hands dirty earn respect and trust. The difference here is the same as the difference between love and fear. Simply put, no one likes a mandate (fear); rather, they prefer to have an example (love). A good, solid, humble leader’s job is to always be training his/her replacement. Those that don’t probably aren’t qualified to do the job to begin with!

Over the last 11 years (almost to the day), I have been privileged to be the founder of a start-up company named Gould Design, Inc. (GDI) which services the building component industry. GDI’s main focus was on component design services, training of new designers and efficiency consultations for component manufacturers. I have been honored to work with MiTek, dozens of component manufacturers and undoubtedly the best offsite designers in the industry. But the time has come for me to begin writing the next chapter in my life. It is time for me to put more faith in G-d and His Will for me.

What does this mean?

As you may or may not be aware, I have moved on from Gould Design, Inc., the company I founded, and turned over management of GDI to its management team of successors. This should not be cause for alarm for any current or future customers, as GDI will remain as it always has been, but without me at the helm. Other than my departure, nothing has changed. GDI will provide the quality service you expect.

I have spent the last 18 months training my replacement as the leader of GDI and have turned the reigns over to my successor, Operations Manager Bill Hoover. I have done a good job leading Bill by example, not mandate and am confident that Bill will uphold the level of integrity that GDI’s customers expect.

It is a bittersweet thing with mixed feelings for me to leave this company, my baby for such a long time, but it is something that I am passionate about. I am looking to obtain one more job in my lifetime, work the next 20-30 years and bring my skill set to an open-minded, innovative company. The experience I have gained in the last 11 years is going to enable my next employer have a competitive edge.

Thank you to all the people who have supported me over the years. Thank you to the customers who made GDI a nationally recognized brand. Thank you to MiTek for the honor of the relationship. Thank you to the design professionals I have worked with over the years. But most of all, thank you to my family for understanding as I worked through the night, many a night, to meet customer demand and quality.

You see, I have always led by example, not by mandate. This has been the key to my success in whatever position I have ever held in my career. It is the key to my children’s future. It goes into everything I do in my spiritual, personal and business life. And it will continue that way! I am eager to see what G-d has in store for me next!!!

Contact information for the appropriate parties who can assist you at GDI:

Accounting and General Inquiries:

Contact Naida Gould (Owner/CFO) at (772-708-8064)

Design, Q/A & Project Scheduling:

Contact Tim Hoke (Design/Sales Manager) at (276-492-8020)

Administration and Appwright Inquiries:

Contact Bill Hoover (Operations Manager) at (502-741-9126)

Sales Inquiries or Website Concerns:

Contact the GDI Administrator at

Below is my current contact information:

If you need to reach me, feel free to call.

Christopher Gould – Retired Founder of Gould Design, Inc.

Cell: 772-475-3583

Personal Email:

Crazy and Complicated Truss Designs – Part 12

Sometimes the simplest looking plans result in a special sort of brain teaser for the truss designer. Its seems that many times what looks good and what a homeowner desires is the opposite of what makes the most sense structurally. It is the truss guys “job” to bring these two worlds together in a safe, simple, and satisfactory way.

Recently, I worked on a job that at a glance seemed straightforward but, as I put the pieces together, it took a twist towards the cantankerous side of component design. The elevation is fairly simple. The walls do not have many corners. There is only one pitch (6/12), overhangs are short and heels are all standard 2×4. The loading and wind speed are typical.




There are four different vertical tray ceilings in this home and the architect pushed them to the maximum size that will fit inside the roof. I created a tail bearing truss to accommodate this where the span is a little long; it reduced webbing and steps in the bottom chord. That makes it shop friendly and lowers the risk for the component manufacturer. If desired, I could have added filler to create the profile for the trays, but it wasn’t required in this case.

One of the tray ceilings is directly underneath the corner of the upstairs.  I had to create girders to carry the wall, floor, and roof above with the profile of the tray built into the bottom.  This is one of those creative moments when you’re not too sure what is going to work.  Fortunately, these girders worked without too much trouble.



Another issue I encountered on this job is that the corner of the second floor is in the middle of the garage. The floor is only 16” deep so I ended up with a lot of plies on my girders. I made a set of combination roof and floor trusses. The loads from above have to be placed manually and the trusses have to be run with both roof and floor loads (including wind load). Take a look at the cross section below


I run into lots of issues like this when designing custom homes.  I have learned to appreciate it over the years because it keeps my job interesting.  I love the challenge.  I love the sense of accomplishment when I get something to work that seemed undoable at first glance.

What kind of unusual designs have you seen over the years?

Gould Design Inc.

View Part 1 in this series here.

View Part 2 in this series here.

View Part 3 in this series here.

View Part 4 in this series here.

View Part 5 in this series here.

View Part 6 in this series here.

View Part 7 in this series here.

View Part 8 in this series here.

View Part 9 in this series here.

View Part 10 in this series here.

View Part 11 in this series here.

Stay tuned for Part 13.

Setup Lumber Colors in Engineering

At GDI,  INC we are constantly exploring ways to enhance productivity. MiTek Sapphire and 20/20 (the engineering side of the software suite) are jam-packed with features that are often under-utilized or entirely missed by Component Manufacturers.

Today we are going to look at a simple way to enhance productivity in 20/20 in setting up lumber colors for at-a-glance identification of the lumber grade.

With a variety of clients, we receive the settings they use so we can seamlessly design jobs that look just like theirs and conform to their criteria. Some clients have colors already setup, some don’t.

To adjust the color scheme, open engineering and go to setup>manufacturer>materials:


First, I took a snip of my “Material Defaults” so that I could reference the list as I work. I navigated there by selecting: Material List>Truss>Master>Truss members



Note that this list will vary depending on your own inventory.

Each column has the ability to filter, similar to “Search and View” in MiTek Sapphire. You can use these to assist you in finding the material you want to adjust. Below is a sample of some of the lumber we are going to alter, starting with the Hem-fir.


To edit the colors, click on the dropdown in the color column in the row of the appropriate lumber type. In this case, 2×4 HF Stud:


From here it is a matter of continuing to make adjustments based on your lumber and ideal color scheme.


Once completed click “Save”. Then close out of “Materials”. Let’s open a job in engineering and see what we have. In the output display settings, I turned on member labeling to show size, species, and grade so that you can see what we have here. As you get used to designing with the colors you can tell at a glance the species and grade by the color.


Let’s have some fun and make some changes:



I hope you enjoyed this quick look at using a color scheme to increase productivity in 20/20 engineering. What settings do you use to design more effectively? Please leave a comment below.

How to Easily Align Truss Webs in MiTek

Today I’m going to walk us through aligning webs in a series of trusses with differing end conditions on one end. Below is my layout so you can keep track of where I am in the design.


Examining the A series of trusses you’ll notice I did a couple things here. First of all, I made sure the left end of the truss was on the end that remains unchanged throughout the series. This is a nice clean look but it also allows me to use the align webs tool in engineering. If I put the left end on the opposite end then nothing would match up as pictured here:


After examining the layout I chose to engineer A06 first since it has a standard end condition on each end. After playing with the design I settled on Fink webbing. I did this for several reasons.

  • It falls within my panel width restrictions.
  • It uses less webbing than a Howe arrangement.
  • I don’t have to alter my webbing for the FAU space that is centered under the ridge.

Because this is a production job I need to work on optimizing before I use this as a template for the other trusses. Look at how the truss came in by default:


Using the optimization tool I dialed my webbing in to get the most economical webbing pattern I could achieve while not exceeding panel limitations. You’ll notice that all the webbing could come out of (3) 12’ lengths, (1) 16’ length of 2×4. My top chord and bottom chord lengths still aren’t ideal but this client prefers on panel splicing.


For the most part, the rest is a matter of aligning webs and splices for the remaining trusses in the “A” series. Looking at the layout the garage wall juts into the garage before stepping back in. Selecting the align webs tool will match all the webs that it can and aligning webs we see the profile of A06 in the background. All the webs are matched up except for the last panel on the right we add a web down to the bearing. The splices were matched so that everything about A02 is the same as A06 except for the stubbed condition.

We’ll notice that we now have two CLB’s on this shorter truss. As we saw in this GDI post on bracing, we know that we need our webs to be aligned in order to use CLB’s which we have.



A03 is 2’8” shorter than A02. Everything remains the same except the right end condition. Again we can see the shadow of A06 in the background.



The only difference between A03 and A04 is the FAU. Here we need to add the load and the stacked BC for the platform, but notice how all the webbing still matches up.



A05 is the same as A06 except for the FAU. For fun, I’ll show you the difference between the Fink webbed FAU and the Howe.

Here we’ve created a nice uninhabitable room for the FAU and service personal with this Howe truss, but it’s a $142.

A05 Howe:


Now compare with our fink webbed truss coming in at $105 dollars which serve the purpose of providing space for the FAU and service personal, it has an elevated platform that they will attach plywood to in the field. Not to mention the ease of building in the shop. It’s a win-win.

A05 fink:


Since we started with A06 only A07 remains. It is the same as A03 except that it has an overhang on the right end, so I’m going to align webs with A03.



While this was a very simple gable roof to truss, you can see that by thinking proactively and trying out different web arrangements and optimization on a sample truss, that we were able to design this roof with an effective plan, and an efficient design that satisfies the design requirements while also making life easy on the shop personal when assembling these trusses. The left side doesn’t change at all with only slight changes on the right throughout the series.

What tips or tricks do you have for efficient design? We’d love to see your comments below!

What Does It Take to Succeed at Remote Truss Design?

Have you ever dreamed of working from home? Setting your own schedule? Being your own boss? Let’s face it this is the age of the entrepreneur. If you are considering a move to remote truss design work start with this article before making the move.  We are going to look at the essential characteristics to help you succeed and reach your goals:

  • Humility
  • Effectiveness and Efficiency
  • Discipline
  • Ownership
  • Communication



Want to succeed at any vocation? Be humble. This goes hand in hand with all the other traits and forms a kind of feedback loop that allows you to gauge where you are, honestly, and where course correction needs to occur.

Humility is a frame of mind which governs how we conduct ourselves, how we respond to criticism, and how we criticize others. It allows us to see our own weakness and then take steps towards growth.

How do you improve humility? One way is to become a beginner at something, where you rely on others to teach you, and where you place yourself in a position to receive criticism. Humility is always hungry to learn.

Some ideas:

  • Volunteer with a charity
  • Take music lessons
  • Take a martial arts class
  • Ask your kids to teach you something (huge for them and you!)

Humility and humor share the same root. Being able to laugh at yourself is the key to humility. Don’t be so serious that you can’t see the humor in your foibles. See them, laugh at them, and move on!

Effective and Efficient

These two are so interconnected that I will discuss them together. Tim Ferriss has a useful definition that I’ve adopted. Being effective is doing the right things, being efficient is doing those things right.

To succeed at remote truss design we need to determine the right things to do, then we need to determine the most efficient ways to accomplish them. Doing the wrong things efficiently provides no value. It’s still doing the wrong things.

Recently I had the opportunity to shadow my boss as he posted a blog and reviewed his social media content for the business.

He follows a sequence that he does every day, quickly moving from task to task, and he had it wrapped up in a half hour (it was that long cause he was showing me things as he went).

He posted a blog article, wrote notes to connections on LinkedIn, reviewed groups that he manages, added new connections, accepted invitations, shared an article or two that he thought would be useful, all this within a short span of time.

As I reflected on this I thought of how ineffective (not identifying and doing the right things) my social media time was. As distracting as social media can be, he found a way to navigate it through a series of tasks to be performed, completed those tasks, and moved on to the next thing on his plate while staying true to his goal to provide value to others.

That kind of approach is important as a freelancer because you aren’t often paid by the hour, but rather on a job by job basis. A job that I bill out at $200.00 will be that regardless if I spent 2 or 20 hours doing it. Succeeding at remote design then is directly related to being as effective and efficient as possible.

Now whenever I hear someone complaining about not having enough time I wonder if they really don’t have enough time, or if they are doing the wrong things with their time. If time is a currency, then what you spend it on is more important than how much you have.

How can you become more effective?

  • Make a list of your top priorities
  • Make a list of things that you do in a day/week/month/year. Determine if those things are aligned with your priorities.
  • Ruthlessly deal with the non-priority things that you find yourself doing. Schedule them out of your time, or schedule them in where they don’t interfere with your work (e.g. check social media at lunchtime or at the end of the day, don’t allow that to enter into your work-time).

How can you become more efficient?

  • Stay up on developments in your field and the tools you use. Keep educating yourself.
  • Find ways to reduce “clicks” of the mouse, or taps on the keyboard. E.g. shortcuts to eliminate using the ribbon and drop down menus.
  • Automate as much as you can. E.g. set up a labeling scheme so that you have very minimal manual labeling to do.
  • Is there a menu default that doesn’t match up with what you need 99% of the time? Look into settings to change the defaults. Now you only change it for the 1% of the outlier situations.
  • Give yourself time limits and goals for completing a job. This can add a sense of urgency and focus on the task at hand. E.g. aim to have a job done by 3pm so you can spend time with your kids when they get home from school.



Like we talked about, Freelancing is the dream. You have leeway in setting your schedule, frequency of work, what work you accept, etc. But, is it the freedom that everyone craves?

Not without discipline. Without discipline, being a freelancer will be torturous. Deadlines won’t be met, money will be tight, everyone at your house will hate you because you are stressed out.

Discipline is that inner voice, yours (I hope!), telling you what to do and then obeying it.

How do you improve your discipline?

  • Start the day with a simple goal and follow through with it. E.g. set your alarm and get up when it goes off!
  • Continue through the day with goals that you set ahead of yourself and execute.
  • Decision fatigue will give way to discipline. Discipline in one area begets discipline in other areas.
  • Don’t put it off! Take little steps now!


Is it possible to “own” something that you don’t truly own? Absolutely. When you take on the mindset of treating a company or a job as if your own interests are at stake you will enter into ownership.

Personally, I have been both an employee and an employer. I know what it is like on both sides and so whatever hat I happen to be wearing the “flip side” has informed how I operate.

Whether as an owner, employee, or freelancer it is important to view the success or failure of your employer or clients as your own. Taking ownership means owning the failures and owning the solutions to the problems that you encounter and not putting them off on others.

What does this mindset look like? Here are some examples:

  • Bill your client as if you were paying the bill. That changes things, doesn’t it? Adding in padding that shouldn’t be there only hurts your client and could even end your work relationship. Think about how you would respond to an invoice that was higher than
  • Treat omissions as opportunities. When you realize that you missed something in your work, don’t ignore or hide it. Take it to your client. Say, “Hey, I did this work and in reviewing it later I see I missed X, Y, Z. What can I do to make this right?” They may not be happy, but this would at least give them the opportunity to correct the issues. Ultimately, I think they would respect you more and it would increase rather than detract from your credibility.
  • If a project fails don’t blame others. Blame yourself and learn from your mistakes. If someone under you fails, don’t blame them, blame yourself for not giving them the direction they need. Then take it upon yourself to train them up to avoid those mistakes in the future.
  • Ownership is all encompassing. It is saying “the buck stops here” even if your title doesn’t say “CEO” or “President”. That doesn’t mean you park in the CEO’s parking spot. If you do, you didn’t get that advice from me!

Let me answer one objection. It would run along the lines of, “But, if I take ownership of mine and other people’s mistakes, I’m going to be sacked” or “I’m going to lose clients!”

If you lose your job because you took responsibility, then the company wasn’t worth working for and you are better off. No. What happens when people take responsibility for mistakes and who work to grow and learn from them all the while creating solutions? They are given more responsibility which in reality is “Ownership”.


We have had many good blog articles on communication that you can find here and here and here that I will refer you to for review if you want to go into greater depth on this topic. Here are the basics.

It is important to remember that our communication is with people, not robots. People have thoughts, feelings, stresses and tensions in their life… all of which affect their communication.

Working remotely requires the right balance of communication, but it is better to err on too much to start, and dial it down, rather than not enough.

Here are some ways to improve communication:

  • Determine how to communicate on a person by person basis. What method (phone, email, texting, or another messaging tool) and what style (personal, formal, chatty, to the point, etc.).
  • Follow up vital information provided over the phone with an email summarizing that information. Get your client to confirm.
  • Ask questions. If you think they will make you look stupid, just think about how stupid you will look if you provide a product that is wrong… all because you didn’t ask. Ask questions!

Remember that communication is more about building relationships than just gathering information.


We hope this gets you thinking about what it will take to succeed at remote truss design or whatever it is you have set as a goal. What thoughts do you have on what it takes to succeed? Let us know in the comments below!

Tim Hoke – Design Professional

Gould Design, INC

3 Tips to Quickly Increase Productivity

Being productive is very much in “vogue” today in business blogs and there are a ton of articles out there on this subject already. I personally get frustrated when I go to those articles and I am expected to buy something. I want to talk about a few ways that you can quickly increase productivity at no additional cost to yourself, just supply a little effort, which if you are interested in being productive should be a given!

Reduce Mouse Clicks

Shortcuts can be used with almost every program and universal functions typically have the same shortcut, e.g. Ctrl + C is almost always “Copy” and Ctrl + V is almost always “Paste” regardless of the program. If you slow down a bit and hover over a button most programs will tell you if a shortcut is associated with that button. A program’s settings will often allow you to view and even customize shortcuts.

In Gmail I hovered over the “Send” button and I see that “Ctrl + Enter” will send my email.


You can also do a search for “Windows keyboard shortcuts” and you will find many articles on using the default shortcuts already in place that you may not know about. My experience is with PC’s but I’m sure the same options are available for MAC computers.

If you apply this approach to every program you use, you can decrease your mouse clicks in short order.

One further suggestion I would make is that you tailor the shortcuts you learn, use, and customize based on your use of a program.

A designer with GDI, INC has gone so far as to customize the shortcuts within MiTek Sapphire so that they can all be done with his left hand. This leaves his right hand free for the mouse and the number pad. One other function for the left hand is drinking coffee which may be the productivity binder that holds the rest together.

Increase Mouse Speed

Unless you are using a touch screen you can’t eliminate the mouse altogether, but you can increase the speed that it travels.


Adjust your mouse pointer speed to the fastest that you can accurately handle. Obviously, speeding around the screen but missing the mark wouldn’t be productive! You may also enjoy this previous post about using a mouse to increase productivity.

Remove Distractions

This may be one of the toughest. Self-discipline here is essential. Working at a computer offers both the opportunity for incredible productivity but unlike traditional tools, it offers many distractions. If you really want to be productive then saying no to these distractions is a must. Self-awareness is tied in here. For instance, if you know that you are a sucker for clicking on that link that someone sends you in the middle of the day, checking social media, or watching videos on youtube, etc. then use an app like Cold Turkey to block those sites for a set time.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Let us know how you plan to increase your productivity today!

Tim Hoke – Design Professional

Top Chord Live Load for Roofs in MiTek – Snow and Construction


The Top Chord Live Load (TCLL) that can be used in the design of a roof truss can depend on a number of factors.  There are three ways that the TCLL can be specified – Construction, Snow or combination of Construction and Snow.  Each of these affects the design in different ways.

The type of TCLL you use will be dictated by the part of the country you are designed for and what is specified in the plans.

To back up a bit – a Live load is a temporary or transient load that acts on a building or structural element.  For this discussion we are looking at loads that would be created by people and materials on the roof during construction or snow.

We will look at wind load in another article.

Construction Live Load

You will typically use this for non-snow areas.



When you select the Live load as construction – the load duration factors will be set to 1.25 typically.  Some users may elect to make this 1.15.


The duration factor is determined by the length of time that the load will be acting on the structure.  In this case it is figured to be 7 days.


Your loading will show the TCLL as the 20 psf. on the truss drawing.


Snow Live Load

When you are required to design for snow loads there are a number of different factors that can be used in your design.  Again, this information should be indicated on the plans or governed by the building code in your area.

When you select Snow as the Live Load and go to the Snow Tab you have a number of options.



What are these options and how will they affect the load applied to trusses?

Terrain exposure: This deals with the obstructions to wind within 2600 ft. of the structure or 1500 ft. for structures with a mean roof height of 30 ft. or less.

Exposure B – typically suburban areas where buildings of 30 ft. in height surround the building.

Exposure C – Open grassland with scattered obstructions having heights generally less than 30 ft.

Exposure D – Building along the shoreline of water at least one mile across excluding hurricane prone areas.

Roof exposure (Ce): This deals with obstructions right next to the structure.  The factor used will depend on the terrain exposure that is used.

Sheltered – Structures that are tight in among conifers that qualify as obstructions.

Fully Exposed – Roofs exposed on all sides with no shelter afforded by terrain, high structures or trees.

Partially Exposed – All other roofs that do not meet the previous two categories.

Chart below from ASCE 7-10


Thermal Factor (Ct): – This deals with how much heat escapes the space below the trusses and up to the roof to melt the snow.

Ct=1.1 – Structures kept just above freezing.  This will be used for the majority of residential structures.  ASCE states if an R value greater than 25 is used between heated and ventilated space, then a thermal factor of 1.1 should be used.

Ct = 1.2 – Structures kept just below freezing.  This would encompass structures such as barns that are open and unheated.

Ct = 1.3 – Structures intentionally kept below freezing.

Ct = 0.85 – Continuously heated greenhouses to a minimum temperature 50 degrees F.

Ct = 1.0 – All other structures not defined by above factors.

Surface condition: This will determine how easily the snow can slide off the roof and will adjust the loading accordingly.  Your two options are Unobstructed Slippery and All Others.  Slippery roofs would be metal, slate, glass type roofs.

Occupancy Category: These describe the type of building that is being designed and will impact the loading based on the buildings “Importance”.  This will determine the Importance Factor (Is) that is used to determine the loads trusses are designed for.

Category 1:  Low hazard to human life such as agricultural buildings or temporary structures

Category 2:  Those not listed in category I, III, or IV.

Category 3:  Substantial hazard to human life in event of failure such as schools, jails, buildings with public assembly.

Category 4:  Essential facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, national defense facilities.


Building Location:  Most always be left as Other location.

Building Lu:  Distance from the truss to the furthest eave from the truss being designed.  It accounts for snow blowing parallel to the ridge of a hip roof.  It will not have an effect on trusses that do not have a flat top.

How do these factors affect the TCLL?

The way that the Roof Snow is figured based on the ground snow is:

Roof Snow Load = 0.7 * Ground Snow * Importance Factor * Thermal Factor *       Exposure Factor * Slope Factor.

First design: 25 psf Ground Snow, Exposure B, Partially Exposed, Ct=1.1, Occupancy II.


Results in a TCLL of 19.3 psf


Second design:  25 psf Ground Snow, Exposure B, Sheltered, Ct=1.1, Occupancy II.

                Changed the roof exposure to Sheltered.


Results in TCLL of 23.1 psf. due to close proximity of trees.



Third design: 25psf Ground Snow, Exposure D, Partially Exposed, Ct=1.1, Occupancy II.

Changed the Terrain exposure to D with roof exposure back to Partially Exposed.



Results in 17.3 psf TCLL due to the structure being in flat unobstructed area exposed to wind over water. 


Fourth design: 20psf Ground Snow, Exposure C, Partially Exposed, Ct=1.1, Occupancy II.

                Reduced the ground snow to 20.


This will result in a 16 psf TCLL.


On this last example, the actual Snow Load that would result from the formula above would be 15.4 psf.

A value of 16 psf will be used as a minimum.


This minimum value will vary depending on the code being used.

As you can see there are numerous ways that the TCLL can be entered and affect the design of the truss.  It is important to pay attention to the loading criteria that is indicated on the plans to ensure accurate analysis of the truss for the location the structure is being built.  This is especially true for high ground snow load areas where small changes in the factors can make a noticeable difference in the TCLL that the truss will see.

Hope this has been informative and look forward to hearing from you on this topic.

Check back for some additional posts related to TCLL.  We will look at wind loading and the factors that go into determining the loads acting on trusses due to wind.

Bill Hoover – Design Manager

Gould Design, Inc.