Actress Lily Tomlin once famously said, ‘The road to success is always under construction.’ Well, in construction, the road to MEP (M&E) design and MEP coordination effectively being delivered in the shortest time leads to a single source. Finding that single source will either be with the designer, who also executes coordination, or with a contractor, who also executes design. A single source, therefore, must have additional skills to perform both functions and thus complete the workflow in its entirety. MEP consultants in India can help in this regard by providing the complete design and contracting service required, such as MEP design engineering, BIM modelling, 3D BIM coordination and MEP shop drawing services, for example, but before considering the advantages of this kind of workflow, MEP design and MEP coordination outputs should be understood.
MEP design outputs generally include providing mechanical, electrical, public health and fire protection building services design information (also known as building engineering and architectural engineering) by building services designers and consultants. This design data and information is provided in a comprehensive manner for all design stages, from concept design, design development, tender and construction. The design is typically delivered in BIM format and include spatially coordinated models that contractor and installation teams can install from or use to progress their detailed design and coordination.
Specifically for MEP design, the following design details can be provided for mechanical, electrical, public health or plumbing and fire protection:
– Heating, ventilation and air conditioning design (HVAC) for environmental control
– Water supply/return distribution design
– Energy-related design – including gas, oil, renewable and solar design systems
– Air conditioning load analysis
– High and low voltage electrical power distribution system, including essential/emergency power (generator & UPS) systems
– Lighting (including artificial and emergency lighting) and lighting controls
– IT, telecom, security and lightning protection
– Fire detection and activation alarm system
– Riser and panel schedule
– Lux level calculation and lighting
Public Health Design:
– Domestic water supply (both normal and hot water systems)
– Sanitation and waste water
– Storm water drainage and rainwater harvesting
Fire Protection Design:
– Sprinkler protection
– Water and mist system
– Dry riser and wet riser
The above individual designs are incorporated and spatially organised to be install ready in the process known as MEP coordination. Once an intelligent model is sent to the MEP engineers, they can begin working, using the building envelope, rooms and volumes as reference points. With Revit MEP, MEP engineers can determine spaces and zones and can use intelligent data which provides greater detail. The parametric tools will update automatically, and calculations can be more quickly and easily analysed when building designs change. The results are reported and shared across the entire project team. MEP engineers can calculate sizing and pressure loss. Simulation and visualisation tools can predict system behaviour, appearance and connectivity.
MEP coordination thus includes providing spatially coordinated building services drawings for construction and engineering projects, which can be utilised by MEP building services contractors. All building services (HVAC, pipework, public health and electrical systems) are also coordinated with other disciplines contributing to the building fabric and structure (steel, concrete, false ceilings, etc.). Plant rooms, building risers, prefabricated corridor and ceiling modules for healthcare, education, entertainment, commercial and mixed-use projects are included in MEP coordination drawings. This multiservice coordination work is created in a 3D environment for all the disciplines, resulting in several benefits, namely:
– MEP coordination ensures that there are no clashes (validated using clash-detection software tools).
– MEP coordination provides models, through BIM modelling, and representations of all mechanical components/kit with precision (unlike 2D CAD drawings).
– MEP coordination prevents site-based delays and disputes, as all services have been proven to work.
– MEP coordination facilitates ease of communication, since the 3D model can be viewed and enables easy walk-throughs for demos, reviews or value engineering.
– With MEP coordination, there is a faster approval/sign-off (since 3D BIM modelling allows clients to view detailed areas in 3D).
Verification of 3D MEP coordinated drawings is possible with the help of the latest MEP modelling software Revit MEP, and clash detection in Navisworks has been found to be effective for 3D building services coordination. With this software tool, the 3D MEP model can be checked for spatial coordination of MEP building services models and also to ensure that they live up to engineering standards and constraints as well as the structural and architectural elements within a building. Project files can be shared and reviewed on a cloud with MEP design engineering teams, MEP consultants and MEP contractors worldwide, using cloud-based collaboration tools such as Collaboration for Revit (C4R) and BIM 360 Team. The continuous communication and collaboration helps create spatially coordinated clash-free and installation-ready drawings.
MEP Design and Coordination from Different Sources
Traditionally, MEP design has been executed by MEP designers or consultants and MEP coordination has been handled by the contractor, which may have produced certain areas of concern, namely:
– Each of the service teams could be using different systems, various software and disparate processes.
– The combined use of FTP, email and cloud storage solutions creates design silos, which may result in miscommunication, inefficiency and errors.
– MEP coordination teams can face increased risks and pressure with the need for detailed design inputs and the sharing of design updates with architects, structural engineers and specialist MEP designers.
– Sharing of vast amounts of architectural and structural design data
– Generally, MEP design is provided by one team, detailed by ‘others’, leading to extended project life cycles and additional costs.
– The two-team or tier approach can lead to abortive work being carried out.
– Inconsistent MEP design information, such as schematics vs plans.
– At times, design information updates arrive after the completion of the design.
– Difficulty in maintaining and managing long RFI lists.
– During late stages, specialist contactors are suddenly added.
– Complexity is increased with the addition of a prefabrication supplier.
– Workflow differs from firm to firm and project to project.
Benefits of Single Source for MEP Design and Coordination
Many of these challenges can be successfully tackled with the adoption of a specific workflow – one where MEP design and MEP coordination are delivered by one designer or one contractor. In such cases, the trade contractor role for coordination is assumed by the design team or an MEP designer is added to the trade contractor’s team so that one team works closely with the architect and structural engineer. This system combines design and coordination and therefore aids installation, commission and fabrication, allowing procurement and installation to become easier to manage. The end products include models and drawings which are coordinated and ready to install.
Particular advantages with this workflow process are:
– The BIM model is started and finished by the same team or firm, saving time and minimising confusion.
– The layout strategy (plant and main distribution) is usually adopted first, keeping changes to a minimum.
– Detailing (secondary distribution) is added once the architectural/structural designs are fixed, again saving time and minimising potential errors.
– The designer can consider procurement information, incorporating this data early in the design stage.
– The designer/contractor can then issue a coordinated model.
– It becomes easier, faster and less stressful to have a one-stop shop.
This service, where MEP design and MEP coordination are delivered by one firm (whether a designer or contractor), needs the development of an additional skillset by the stakeholder involved. An MEP design team must have personnel adept at delivering MEP coordination. Similarly, if a contracting team takes on the responsibility of providing MEP design services, they must be in possession of the requisite human resources capable of delivering MEP design.
These particular services and their efficient performance is an area where MEP consultants in India can assist. The sheer volume of work associated with MEP design and MEP coordination projects is such that additional support for design, and also, coordination is becoming a constant requirement for both designers and contractors. MEP consultants from India have proven to be a logical choice for MEP design and coordination services for all the right reasons. Essentially, India is a vast source of technically qualified MEP professionals, and growing collaboration online with overseas customers over the past decades has groomed a generation of well-qualified, well-experienced, low-cost MEP design human resources who are now capable of seamless MEP coordination as well. So, in effect, the major advantages India’s MEP outsourcing services provide can be summarised as follows:
Thorough understanding of process and requirements
– MEP professionals in India are well versed in delivering designs adhering to international building and construction standards, global best practices and quality control systems.
Expertise in MEP
– India produces high quantities of technically qualified engineers and designers.
– Most MEP consultancy firms in India will house technical personnel of different disciplines under one roof.
– Technical personnel work with the latest CAD technology for drawings and calculations and use BIM 360 Team with Collaboration for Revit (C4R) to create coordinated BIM models.
Experience in MEP
– MEP design and coordination professionals have spent several years learning about crucial MEP technologies and systems, and they have spent even longer in the ‘real world’ moulding custom-designed MEP solutions, specifically for each client.
– Track records for successful solutions and projects by a particular MEP consulting expert can be viewed online.
– These firms have a history of delivering 3D BIM and 2D CAD solutions to general contractors, design build contractors, real estate developers, architecture and engineering (AEC) firms and have built an esteemed reputation for providing quality on time and cost-effective solutions.
– Many MEP consultancy firms in India conduct peer reviews, have a customised quality checklist or even have automated software-based model checking.
– Overseas MEP consultancy firms house relevant hardware, software, printers, plotters, etc., thus saving this area of expenditure for Western firms.
The above benefits for outsourcing MEP services ultimately result in saving time and cost for Western construction firms. Whilst the road to success in MEP design and coordination services seems to be that both stages are delivered by a single source, the additional design and BIM activities and responsibilities for the same may well point to the support of skilled external partners to support the engineering design process.