MEP (or mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineering is an important and ever-expanding part of the construction industry. MEP engineers play a critical role in a project’s ultimate success.
They are responsible for more than simply the design and implementation of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Their work also includes the design of fire protection systems, building automation, energy consulting, and sustainable building design. They are important not only for their role in design, but also for their role in assisting with audits of the project’s workflow and specifications. MEP engineers greatly enhance the smooth flow of the project by serving as a centralized source of information and advice for design, purchasing, and installation decisions.
They are able to bring about these benefits through ongoing input at every stage of the project’s life-cycle. They often assist in construction coordination and administration. Instead of isolating each separate aspect of MEP engineering, this holistic process quite naturally leads to higher efficiency, greater productivity, clearer communication, and higher standards of safety.
These results also impact financial considerations. As specialists in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing fields, MEP engineers are uniquely equipped to help building owners stay under budget, maximize their investment, and make strategic decisions about materials, processes, and technologies.
The Role of an MEP Engineer Before Construction Begins
During the project’s planning phase, MEP engineers would check the architectural design model for the proposed construction. An initial survey would be performed. Does the design meet the construction requirements? Is it aligned with code? In the case of a recommissioning, is there any hidden or visible damage to the structure? At this stage, the MEP engineering firm would be conducting a great amount of research into the local, state, and federal regulations that are relevant to the project.
Once the initial survey stage has been completed, MEP engineers look for ways to maximize the project’s available space for system installation. They strive to accomplish this without causing massive edits to the design later on in the execution phase, which would prove costly to the owner. They then provide the architect with a preliminary design of the MEP systems. These documents, whether rendered according to a 3D model or on paper, are sources of valuable information to the architect, in order for him to finalize his design and arrive at accurate technical and financial estimates.
For example, MEP engineers would determine the optimal dimensions for ventilation systems, so that they are not too cramped to adequately meet the building’s airflow needs, but not so broad that they expend unnecessary amounts of energy, and create unsustainable workloads and premature damage to the equipment. Engineers would also plan out the most efficient routes for duct work. Their aim is to strike a balance between comfort and sustainability so that all parties end up satisfied with the outcome.
Even after the initial survey and preliminary planning stage, the MEP engineers would remain closely involved with the architect and owner moving forward. They implement the MEP systems they’ve designed, work closely with contractors, and are readily available for consultation should unexpected problems occur. If logistical or safety issues arise, they would bring such issues to the attention of the other stakeholders. With their practical knowledge of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering, they would also ensure that cost estimates, time-frames, and project goals stay realistic.
The Role of an MEP Engineer During the Construction Stages
Before construction officially begins, the MEP engineer will examine all project designs and drawings, identify where information is missing, and also review where there are conflicts. This is known as the “constructability review.” As part of their services, MEP engineers are careful to examine their own systems and the areas where their systems interact with other fields. They pay special attention to the areas where different systems integrate and interact, as these present challenges more frequently. For instance, they can help resolve any uncertainty or disagreements as to the optimal placement of lighting versus ventilation. This detailed process helps save time and money for the owner, while increasing the final quality of the project.
The engineering firm will also draft an MEP Quality Plan. This set of approved procedures and guidelines provides a standard for both the construction company and the project engineer(s), so that there is no confusion as to the expected quality of work.
In addition to these roles, the MEP engineers involved in construction administration will watch over day to day operations, paying close attention to code compliance, best practices according to the Quality Plan, and project standards. They will also keep the lines of communication open between all of the architects, contractors, developers, and other project teams.
Integrated MEP engineering can certainly be an efficient, cost-saving option that benefits the architect, building owner, and stakeholders all together.