What are the Benefits of Engaging a MEP Consultant Early?
Over the years, there has been a general trend of scope reduction for MEP Consultants. One of the main reasons is that reducing responsibilities allows companies to lower fees in order to secure work in an increasingly competitive market. The long-term result of this industry-wide phenomena is that the quality of the final product can suffer.
For example, a contractor, without adequate MEP support over the construction period, may deviate from the original design intent or install lower cost options. This situation, amongst many others, accounts for the huge energy “performance gap” that most buildings suffer.
The responsibility for energy performance, we believe, should sit mainly with the MEP Consultant as we lead the energy strategy and the design of all the heating, cooling, hot and cold water, ventilation, power and lighting systems.
At INTEGRATION, we aim to expand the role and responsibilities as much as possible with the aim of delivering beautiful high-performing buildings. This capacity to do this stems from efficiencies achieved elsewhere, such as those resulting from developing digital design process.
In some cases, certain aspects of the design need only a light touch and we are proactive in identifying these areas. But overall, most areas benefit from increased involvement.
One of the key areas is engagement at the very start of the project. Here are five benefits of early MEP engagement.
The Big Idea
Finding the “big idea” for a project can become an easier and more fruitful exercise if an engineering perspective is available.
Sometimes there is one big idea, but often the big idea is the total of many smaller ideas. In these cases, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
A building physics rationale, responding to a unique environmental context, can provide valuable insights and give architects the edge when developing “the big idea”.
One example is design of the UK Pavilion for the Dubai 2020 Expo with Tonkin Liu architects. For this ocean themed pavilion, we merged daylight simulations with environmental design sketches to help develop on the idea of shafts of light entering the darkened Great Ocean Hall which take the form of glass lift shafts.
Form Finding for High Performance
Form finding can involve rapid prototyping of fundamental design options. However, testing ideas using building simulation can only add real value if it happens very early in the project.
Simulations takes the guesswork out of complex real-life building performance. They allow form finding to be based on multiple factors.
If the form is fixed by the time a MEP consultant comes on board then the opportunities to increase the performance are limited.
For the UK Pavilion, the originally concept started as uniform façade.
A responsive façade form was simulated and developed. The folds in the façade create self-shading where openings can be introduced to provide ventilation. This creates shaded and fresh evaporatively cooled bays for visitor to enjoy.
For many buildings one of the first activities we carry out is a Site / Asset survey.
This helps to highlight opportunities and red flag any unforeseen constraints.
This survey is carried out by a senior / director level members of the team in order to bring the right level of practical experience and commercial awareness.
In tandem with the survey is the utility management which involves load analysis, connection applications and technical liaison with utility companies. This is essential as infrastructure limitations can influence key strategic decisions. Space allocation for necessary plant and substations then can be appreciated and accounted for early in the design.
Better Cost Prediction
M&E costs are typically 20% of the budget. Establishing the form, the servicing strategy and energy generation methods allows for more accurate costing.
‘Optioneering’ exercise can help steer the design and allow the costs for each option to be taken into account.
Utility connection costs can be very significant. Costs can be unexpectedly high if reinforcement works are required upstream (e.g. a transformer upgrade in an upstream substation). There can be big savings if a scheme can be strategically managed to avoid triggering high cost upgrades.
Better Planning Submissions
The Energy Assessment and Sustainability Statement that we prepare for planning can be a great way of promoting a scheme. Optioneering studies and concept design development can be part of the submission to demonstrate why a scheme is genuinely innovative and sustainable.
Simulation tools can quantity the benefits relative to benchmarks. These can relate to Health and Wellbeing such as: daylight, overheating, fresh air or solar amenity and pedestrian comfort.
Besides energy and carbon these can also relate to Health and Well-being aspects such as: daylight, overheating, fresh air or solar amenity and pedestrian comfort.
How Early is “Early”?
Ideally MEP and Environmental Engineering input would occur when the brief is being set and even before the first architectural idea is cast.
This may seem impractical in most scenarios, but it is helped by the fact that early MEP input is in some cases a relatively quick exercise and can accomplished by a brief meeting or VC:
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss design opportunities for upcoming projects: firstname.lastname@example.org