The MEP (M&E) design and contracting industry across the globe faces renewed challenges with the advent of BIM which is increasingly used by AEC firms. Firstly, of all the major stakeholders involved in an AEC project, building systems design and engineering historically formed the last phase of design, however BIM dictates a more synchronised approach by all disciplines, requiring them to work in parallel from the early stages of AEC design. Secondly, the facility owners and investors always demand increased efficiency, waste reduction and on-time/in-budget completion.

As a result, progressive MEP engineering firms are increasingly adopting MEP (M&E) BIM practices to, a) work in parallel with other disciplines; and, b) meet complex project demands from project stakeholders.

Implementing BIM can pose a challenge as its adoption requires significant investment in equipment and training as well as changes to overall workflow and internal processes. With this in mind, many MEP engineering firm’s partner with 3D BIM modelling and building services coordination specialists, such firms possess expertise of parametric modelling and BIM development. As well as immediate expertise offered by such coordination support firms, transitioning to a BIM-based MEP workflow from a conventional CAD-based design workflow requires the type of planning and workflow streamlining that many firms are only just implementing and therefore the skills to handle such projects immediately are not in place.

Once the specialist MEP coordination firms are on board, they face the challenge of handling BIM projects and in particular maintaining a version controlled model. When using BIM for pre-construction planning and construction documentation effective communication and the use of modern collaboration platforms, usually hosted in the cloud, help to maintain a version controlled model. The BIM managers representing key project teams: architectural, structural, and MEP (M&E) engineering must collaborate and communicate to ensure the integrity of design data as well as adherence to project deliverables. For his/her part, the MEP (M&E) BIM manager will need to gain an insight into the architectural and structural BIM models prepared by the respective teams and use that data for his own inputs. As well as a detailed review of the current BIM standards of the project, knowing the specific components that will be used and then planning the coordination efficiently to include bracketing, lagging, access and maintenance will be taken into account. This insight can then be used to prepare an MEP central file that serves as a reference point to the downstream MEP design team.

The emerging standard of LOD (level of detail) means that the BIM manager representing the MEP (M&P) team must work to the specified LOD for the project, this will influence the detail within the drawings whether it is at the schematic design (SD), detailed design (DD) and then  construction documentation (CD) phase of the project. This ensures the model does not contain elements that are not required or will not be of any use to the trade subcontractors. Another key decision before the MEP design team starts modeling is how much custom content (parametric families) will need to be created within the BIM application in addition to the information that will need to be developed in a CAD package and linked to the BIM application.

If the above aspects are considered before initiating upon a new BIM-enabled MEP (M&E) design project, the MEP (M&E) BIM manager will serve as a primary link between the in-house design team and the architectural / structural BIM managers (who represent their respective teams). As a result, any update on the architectural or structural models will be communicated to the MEP BIM manager who can then update the MEP central file which in turn acts a point of reference for the downstream MEP design team to model upon. This sets the stage for streamlined and coordinated MEP designs using smart parametric models.

For more information about our dedicated MEP (M&E) BIM modelling support and coordination service for MEP (M&P) designers, consultants and contractors contact us.