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BIM Services: Overcoming MEP Design and Installation Challenges

Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) services have been empowered by the transition the AEC industry went through to adopt BIM from CAD, thereby changing the entire designing practices followed for decades. Before BIM, the MEP engineers and designers faced a lot of challenges during the entire designing and installation of MEP components which was in coordination with the other departments like structural and architectural BIM services. Integrating the MEP model with construction and operations of a building was too challenging in terms of spatial requirements for MEP systems and individual equipment, space allocation in the design stage, following detailed specifics of dimensions, etc. Due to such challenges, it becomes important that the MEP engineer is given a precise model during the initial designing stages to plan the appropriate layouts for the MEP equipment and systems using the right dimensions and sizes.

Before understanding how MEP BIM Coordination helps overcome challenges, let us first enlist the installation issues that one may encounter:

MEP Design Installation problems

  • With no MEP coordination, there might be an overall increased cost of installing the system’s configuration.
  • Assuring a clear and accurate representation of essential areas for installations in ceiling heights, room layout, location of voids, plant rooms, and risers.
  • Installation of complex MEP systems in cramped places which then become difficult to visualize.
  • Usage of detailed and accurate designs that are important for thermal calculations like cooling and heat loss in room layouts, thermal properties, wall constructions, etc.
  • Usually, the first sub-contractor working might optimize MEP system routing in such a way that it might be incompatible with other MEP systems thereby requiring expensive rework
  • To follow the detailed graphic designs which mention annotations, dimensions, and much more.

Having seen these challenges it becomes crucial for the MEP engineer that the building owner and the architect approve and agree upon the design before it is passed over to the MEP team. The simple reason for it is that any changes to the MEP layout once the design is finalized might become heavy on cost along with leaving the MEP systems unoptimized. So early decisions through the usage of MEP coordination services will help with clash detection and constructability reviews, that will bring about great benefits for the end building owner. One important consideration to note here is that when it comes to buildings be it healthcare, residential or commercial, space becomes one of the top priorities. It is critical that MEP equipment be placed in the most appropriate locations from the start or else the unused space will directly impact on the ROI of the project.

Solving issues using BIM Modeling Services:

  1. Plan for Clash free design: Using bim services the MEP engineers are empowered to plan and design the layout at one go, unlike the traditional means where designing came only after the design and routing of the entire building plan were done. BIM tools like NAVISWORKS allow integration of different designs and plans from the structural engineers, architects, and MEP contractors in a common or single work environment. The capabilities of the software bring about clash detection amongst these designs and highlight the resolution for the same.
  2. Spatial Coordination: For a building ecosystem the space above the ceiling is extremely important for the MEP engineers and they claim every inch of it. With MEP retrospect, mechanical equipment occupies most of the space and so they are placed first; to say if a mechanical engineer claims shaft space others will design around it. This brings about effective spatial collaboration and coordination bringing about a clash-free design. Bringing BIM to use, the important MEP and structural elements can be placed before other elements in the building space. The other components of MEP and the structural framework are then built around those basic components. Some of the typical MEP components will include items like bolt locations, pipework, ducts, electrical ladders, wall penetrations, and datum points for hangers. With BIM there is a capability for every stakeholder involved in the construction project to visualize the result effectively and bring about collaboration capabilities. This collaboration brings everyone together in such a way that the space within a building will be utilized effectively as a single well-functioning ecosystem.
  3. Allocation of Space for MEP systems: MEP engineers usually follow the practice of adding a 10-20% load calculation to cover any changes which might occur in the design in the later stages. But with MEP BIM services, exact load calculations are done and equipment that can handle these loads will be used. Engineers can claim the required space for electrical and mechanical rooms due to BIM models, which will bring about smaller rooms for the electrical and mechanical systems. With such judicious use of space, there will be more revenue generation for the owners.

MEP BIM Model visualization and representation

  • Schematic representation: It is important to know and understand that construction BIM is different as compared to design BIM. At an elementary stage, BIM models are supposed to be kept as basic and simple as possible since projects can be extremely complex and large. There is no need to model every single detail. MEP engineers bring about schematic documents that assist in the development of MEP systems and their coordination. These schematic documents will show how the engineers need hydronic, plumbing, power, and air systems to be distributed and sized inside a building.
  • Complete modeling: Correctly created models have information for construction layout and cross trade coordination. These fully developed models will also have details that are included in the construction drawings. Such full fabrication models will bring about clarity to the entire designing and construction process.

Usage of MEP Data beyond the design and construction phase:

While designing an MEP BIM ecosystem there are several details included which might not be important during the construction stage but comes into play during the operations & maintenance (O&M) and facility management (FM) phases. Earlier when BIM was not implemented the FM phase turned out to be difficult due to not having the ability to procure relevant information thus not having the capabilities to manage a facility efficiently. But with MEP BIM services such chaos is cleared and there is the ability to visualize design details and have MEP documentation clearly and concisely to have actionable insights ready.

MEP BIM delivery for the most complex structures across the world shows that implementing BIM Services at the early stages of the construction project can save a lot of money apart from having a lot of space that is saved and well-coordinated. MEP systems can be easily prefabricated, visualized, and installed as needed without any kind of clashes or errors coming on-site, thereby bringing about the reduction of rework and have effective execution and cost benefits.

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