The American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) just made your life a whole lot easier. They have cut the time it takes to draw a DWV riser diagram by 80 percent. That's correct! It will only take you 20 percent (at most) of the usual time to prepare a riser diagram.

Case in point, our office tested a commercial project. It took 45 minutes to draw the riser diagram for a particular building on AutoCAD without the program. When we used the ASPE program, the same drawing took seven minutes. Not bad for saving time!

First, let me qualify a few things. Many of you know that I belong to ASPE. Some of you also realize that I am on the National Board of Directors of ASPE, serving as Vice President - Legislative. Hence, this is a cheap plug for an association that is near and dear to my heart. But what's wrong with supporting a fine, not-for-profit organization in our profession?

With that out of the way, what did ASPE release? They have a new CD-ROM of DWV riser diagrams set up to run on AutoCAD 97 and AutoCAD 2000. The diagrams are formatted as a library of drawings. Hence, they have what is known as a "drop and drag" feature. The riser diagrams appear on the side of the main drawing. You move the mouse to the diagrams, click on the riser you like and drag it into the main drawing. Pretty simple, huh?

Not Your Father's CAD

Some of you are saying, "We still do our drawings by hand. We have no clue how to use AutoCAD." Well, it is time to exit the dark ages. Do you remember when you did your accounting by hand? It took forever. Now, just about every company in the world has switched to doing their accounting on a computer. Heck, the bill from our accountant dropped in half when we added the new accounting program to our computer.

I thought I was the last person on earth to learn AutoCAD. After watching an employee whiz through a drawing, I felt like a dinosaur with my tee square, triangles and templates.

So I asked this employee to stay late a few nights and show me how to use AutoCAD. It was easier than I thought. All my lines are straight, the computer aligns my angles, and the lettering is perfect. After a month of playing with AutoCAD, I started to get the hang of it. Now I have fun whizzing through drawings just as fast as the other guys. Mind you, my position doesn't have me doing that much AutoCAD. But when I need to, I can whip out a drawing in no time.

While there are many CAD drawing programs, I have found the large majority of architects and engineers use AutoCAD for construction drawings. That is what prompted our office to switch nine years ago to AutoCAD.

If you don't own a program, don't be scared off by the price. You will find that AutoCAD 2000's full version has a price tag around $3,500. But, you don't need the full version, unless you plan on designing space capsules.

All you need is AutoCAD 2000 LT. This is nicknamed AutoCAD Light. It does everything the full version does with two-dimensional drawings. The nice thing is the price tag is only $495 for a new version. If you have an older version of AutoCAD, you can upgrade for $195.

If you are currently using AutoCAD 97, I would recommend upgrading to AutoCAD 2000. The program runs a lot faster and smoother. Once you learn the nuances of AutoCAD 2000, you will never go back to AutoCAD 97.

Seeing Is Believing

Some of you are probably asking, "How do we print these drawings? Aren't plotters expensive?" Most AutoCAD drawings are printed on a plotter. And, yes, plotters are expensive, running anywhere from $1,900 to $5,000. But, unless you do a lot of drawings, it is not worth buying a plotter.

We send our drawings out to an engineering printing business. They print the drawings for a couple of bucks, depending on the size, and make the copies we need.

Get this, we don't even have to run the drawings to the printer. We can e-mail the files and have them NextDay-ship the drawings back to us. Isn't the electronic age wonderful?

For one project, we e-mailed the drawings from Indiana to New Jersey to have them printed. As it turns out, this was the only company that could turn a large project around on the same day. We found the company on the Internet Yellow Pages.

Back to the ASPE program. The AutoCAD DWV Riser Diagram Library costs only $39.95 plus $6 shipping and handling for members, and $89.95 plus $6 shipping and handling for non-members. Hence, the first project you use this new program, the CD-ROM will pay for itself.

I am often asked if you can modify the drawing from the ASPE library. The answer is yes. However, you first have to explode the drawing. (I always love the terms computer geeks dream up.) "Exploding" the drawing means you remove the embedded protection intended to prevent you from modifying a drawing. Of course, when you are customizing a design, you want to be able to modify the basic drawings. The exploding process is accomplished with the click of a mouse. Don't worry, the computer doesn't explode.

The ASPE program has hundreds of layouts. Included are standard fixture designations, such as water closets, lavatories, kitchen sinks and standpipes. There are drawings with individual vents, common vents, wet vents, back-to-back wet vents, circuit vents and stack vents. They even have air admittance valves and solvent fittings. There are details of water closets and lavatories showing the piping layout.

Before you forget, place an order for the ASPE CD-ROM AutoCAD DWV Riser Diagram Library. You can contact ASPE at 8614 W. Catalpa Ave, Suite 1007, Chicago, IL 60656-1116. Tel: 773/693- ASPE.

Once you start using this program, you will thank ASPE for making your life easy.