Tech Manager—A blend of design tools

I sat down (virtually) with three team members from Sargent & Lundy, an engineering firm focused on the power and energy market - Vinton Trowbridge, Medhat Wagdy and James Stirk. They are working with a mixture of tools from Autodesk and Bentley to provide design and documentation for projects worldwide. We discussed their firm, their positions and duties and how they work in a blended environment of design tools.

Mark: First off, thanks for discussing how you get design done when different tools are in use. Tell us about yourselves.

Vinton: I am a manager in engineering software development and implementation at Sargent & Lundy. My main role is a system administrator for our system of BIM applications. I support users and project teams using many different software products. I have worked in the AEC industry for 40 years, almost all that time with Sargent & Lundy.

Medhat: I am a senior project designer/laser scan specialist.  My main role is to provide user support for Sargent & Lundy’s system of BIM applications with a focus on training engineers who develop P&ID drawings. In addition, I lead Sargent & Lundy's laser scanning center where I’m involved in training employees to use laser scanners and laser scanning software. I have been working for Sargent & Lundy for over 40 years.

James: I’m a senior IT Manager focused on engineering software development and implementation. I manage the staff that configure and deploy our system of BIM applications, provide user support, and develop software to automate and streamline internal work       processes. I too have worked in the AEC industry for nearly 40 years, and I’m also a registered professional engineer in Illinois.

Mark: Well, you folks have a wealth of experience. Can you tell us about Sargent & Lundy? Sounds like it has been around for a long time.

Vinton: It has. Sargent & Lundy is one of the longest-standing full-service architect engineering firms in the world. It was founded in 1891 and is now a global leader in power and energy. We have expertise in grid modernization, renewable energy, energy storage, nuclear power, fossil fuels, oil and gas, and carbon capture. We deliver some pretty comprehensive project services – from consulting, design, and implementation to construction management, commissioning, and operations/maintenance. The firm serves public and private sector clients in the power and energy, gas distribution, industrial, and government sectors.

Medhat: From what I have been told, the firm’s first project was the Harrison Street Station in 1892. It was the largest power plant in the United States at the time, with output carried over transmission lines for a revolutionary length of over 3,000 feet. Their nuclear power work began in the mid-1950s. Today, Sargent & Lundy has designed more than 30 increasingly advanced nuclear units and has been continuously engaged in nuclear power work ever since.

James: Sargent & Lundy started working in renewable energy in the mid-1980s with solar energy generating systems (SEGS) in the Mojave Desert. Overall, we have engineered 958 power plant units and more than 6,200 circuit miles of power delivery systems. Our focus on the power business remains unchanged. We’re actually still working with our very first client from 1891 as well as many other long-time clients. With our comprehensive services, we’ve worked with more than 1,600 clients in over 100 countries… and still counting.

Mark: Wow, that is impressive.  What software are you using for your design projects? Autodesk products? Bentley products? Others?

Vinton: At Sargent & Lundy, we use Bentley and Autodesk applications based on project requirements. Our primary products and seat counts are listed in the tables below. We’ve also developed several custom applications integrated with Bentley and Autodesk products to help streamline our work processes.

Bentley Products

Seat Count

OpenBuildings Designer Connect Edition




MicroStation (in process of moving from V8i to Connect)




AutoPIPE Nuclear





Autodesk Products or Collections

Seat Count

Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection






Product Design & Manufacturing Collection


ReCap Pro


Vault Professional


Civil 3D



Mark: Tell us about a recent or active project that uses both Bentley and Autodesk programs – industry, scope, length of project, staffing load, built cost, etc.

James: In 2018, Tampa Electric Company (TEC), an Emera company that provides power to more than 750,000 customers across West Central Florida, initiated a modernization project for its Big Bend Power Station. The station aimed to convert existing coal units to an efficient gas-fired combined-cycle facility.

The Big Bend Power Station is located near Apollo Beach, Florida, on nearly 1,500 acres in southeastern Hillsborough County. Between 1970 and 1985, they expanded to a total of four coal-fired units with a combined output of more than 1,700 megawatts. A natural gas peaking unit was installed in 2009 to provide additional power during periods of peak demand.

TEC initiated the modernization project in order to continue providing safe, reliable and cost-effective power to its customers while meeting growing demand. The improvements will eliminate coal consumption in generating electricity, use less water as a part of that generation process, produce less wastewater, eliminate solid waste and reduce air emissions.

Vinton: Construction on this project started in 2019 and is expected to be completed in January 2023 with an estimated project cost of $853 million. The project involves over 60 vendors supplying model files and engineering data. The interoperability between Bentley and Autodesk products is essential to the project success. When completed, Unit 2 will be retired and the modernization project will be capable of producing 1,090 MW.

Medhat: Sargent & Lundy relied on technology from Bentley and Autodesk to deliver an innovative design project on time and within budget.

Key aspects include the use of laser scans from the existing facility merged with many design models. Our primary design work was performed with the Bentley design tools and utilized Autodesk Navisworks Manage for clash detection and 3D model reviews. The ability to generate a consolidated central model with component attributes in the Navisworks model provided all project stakeholders access to critical information throughout the project.

We are providing detailed engineering, design, procurement, project management, and onsite construction management/commissioning services to help TEC achieve crucial goals. Let me list a few services in greater detail:

  • Streamlining the design process and minimizing field interferences and rework by integrating 3D CAD models with laser scans that identify potential issues prior to construction.
  • Facilitating constructability by utilizing the 3D model for reviews with TEC and the installation contractors to speed approvals.
  • Providing convenient access to new equipment that optimizes maintainability and minimizes operating   and maintenance costs.
  • Delivering a complete electronic design package that can fully accommodate plant operating and maintenance preferences to ensure timely project delivery.

Mark: Tell us how you used specific design tools and how they interacted.

James: Each discipline uses different tools that allow them to design their part of the plant in 3D. For example, our structural group uses Bentley’s OpenBuildings Designer to design the plant structure. Our mechanical group designs and models equipment and piping in MicroStation. Sargent & Lundy has developed applications that manage the 3D model and automate the generation of drawings and interference checks. Interference checks are performed with Autodesk Navisworks Manage. Drawings are extracted from the 3D model using MicroStation.

Mark: That is quite a blend of tools. What were the successes, challenges, and unexpected lessons learned?

Vinton: Our products provide significant design and engineering tools/features that help us develop the end product efficiently with significant benefits to all project stakeholders. The products also provide capabilities to customize and develop add-ins that further optimize our work processes.

James: The interoperability provided by import and export options in both Bentley and Autodesk products allows us to work with file formats furnished by a long list of vendors. File conversions allow our design teams to work in the tool sets required and still easily merge them into the central model for use by the rest of the project team.

Medhat: The use of laser scanning to create a point cloud model of the site in as-built condition was a great success for design. The laser scan point cloud files were processed using ReCap Pro and attached for viewing and clash checking in Navisworks Manage. The point cloud files were also attached directly in MicroStation and used during design.

Mark: Any advice to others that might have concerns about blended platform projects?

Vinton: One of the biggest challenges when dealing with different CAD platforms is finding tools that are flexible when importing and exporting various file formats. We’ve found that using MicroStation DGN and AutoCAD DWG as the main CAD platform provides the greatest flexibility. The use of Autodesk Navisworks Manage also handles a wide range of different file formats. The key is finding the right formats that allow the most efficient exchange of design data.

Mark: Thanks for sharing what you and your team have been doing. It is remarkable to see how today’s tools can work hand in hand to increase project delivery.

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