MEP engineers face a constant challenge in coordinating, fabricating and installing MEP components and layout while staying on schedules and cost budgets. Ultimately, it is usually the quality the MEP coordination drawings that gets affected or costs go overhead. And MEP Contractors and engineers encounter umpteen roadblocks while trying to fix the interferences to coordinate the layout properly.
The inherent complexity of MEP teams
Such challenges are common for MEP teams because of the long hierarchy and lateral spread of the MEP teams on board. As compared to structural and architectural teams, an MEP project team structure has multiple stakeholders including MEP contractors, MEP consultants, sub-contractors (from mechanical, electrical and plumbing), fabricators, site engineers, and maintenance specialists. And each of them has their own specific set of requirements which have to be addressed in the facility design.
Usually, the contractor takes the design data and manages fabrication and installation, but for large projects like shopping malls, there are distinct parties commissioning each requirement. At the end of the task, key players are kept updated with BIM services and design coordination to conceptualize how the designs are detailed, fabricated and installed.
Role of MEP Consultants
MEP consultants are increasingly involved in the design development of the 3D model in open BIM formats like COBie to facilitate the exchange of data across the enterprise disciplines. Since MEP designing is a two-tier approach, MEP consultants develop the schematics and plans which are then handed over to the contractor to plan spatial MEP coordination drawings and finally fabrication and installation drawings.
MEP design engineers on board with the consultants help to develop 3D coordinated models that are free of clashes so that the downstream activity of spatial arrangement can be taken care of.
However, while the engineers coordinate MEP models, they can not necessarily be free from clashes with the architectural and structural design. Also, many times a consultant’s drawings need to be verified with the fabrication capacity of the fabricators and feasibility of installation on site or offsite.
The earlier challenge is solved with Navisworks or other clash detection software. But re-routing of pipes, wall penetrations, hangers, allowances and other challenges related to fabrication and installation essentially means changes fundamental designing part. A detailed coordination chart has to be re-prepared and approved by MEP consultants.
Changing Practices with BIM in Picture
Such to and fro movement of MEP layout designs impacts the prescheduled timelines or overlap the activities. But the growing adoption of BIM from start has set in motion the greater degree of engagement from MEP contractors.
But the challenges that prevail in implementing and coordinating MEP objects in BIM are crucial. The design intent with which the consultant develops each object is to be studied to develop a well-coordinated 3D model so that any changes in the geometrical dimensions can be made in accordance. It solves the challenges in developing of final fabrication, assembly, and installation drawings.
Furthermore, when the sub-disciplines of MEP teams, including HVAC, will have a different level of detailing CLOD) adhered to while preparing individual layouts. Also, their BIM objects vary as per different standards adopted and information warehoused also affect the smooth collaboration in BIM.
All the communication with fabricators should be done with utmost precision and imports for collaboration in Common Data Environment should be done with accuracy to maintain design intelligence.
Effective BIM implementation by technology collaboration
The way sub-disciplines of MEP are taken care of, BIM also allows settling the inter-disciplinary clashes. BIM keys in all the critical architectural structural and MEP elements while modeling as-built models so that changes can be done easily and facilitates effective visualization between all the disciplines.
It, in fact, facilitates an additional level of controlling the design process by creating lightweight BIM models that are compatible with Virtual reality technology that gives virtual walkthrough the model and perceives the designs in a justified manner.
Using VR helps to create an immersive and interactive building design model that ensures clear design communication, a thorough understanding of every design element for architect, engineer, and contractor.
Using Augmented Reality (AR) alongside VR often termed as Mixed Reality (MR) drives new innovation and enhances design delivery that addressing every stakeholder’s as well as the client’s concerns and facilitates more flexibility to alter the designs early.
In essence, BIM not only resolves the design coordination and modeling challenges but helps coordination between different teams, contractors, fabricators, consultants and engineers to establish a seamless communication channel. In fact, it goes a step further and collaborates with new technologies to facilitate better project outcomes.