How Spatially coordinated MEP BIM mod Improve the MEP Design and Detailing Phase

Posted by Kuldeep Bwail on May 12th, 2017

In the ecosystem of a building project, facilitating the design of the three disciplines of architecture, structure and MEP (M&E) systems is a challenge that architects, designers, consultants, contractors and construction teams have had to deal with on a regular basis.

In the MEP (M&E) sector, the essence of MEP design is space and the core element for efficiency is spatial coordination. Building Information Modelling (BIM) makes real-time spatial coordination a reality at the design stage rather than only at the contracting stage. This is a notable change in the industry and a huge opportunity for designers and consultants to improve their output and reduce rework of the MEP design by contractors.

Creating spatially coordinated MEP BIM models is becoming possible for MEP designers and engineers because they can now receive real-time data about architectural designs and structural plans of building components such as walls, room elevations, floor plans and ceiling elevations. These data-rich BIM models allow MEP engineers to allocate space, accommodate spatial requirements and coordinate design modifications of their engineering solutions and systems, consequently providing field-specific solutions in the pre-construction phase to address challenges that may arise during the build phase of the project. This article discusses the MEP design challenges that a designer has to overcome and discussed how a spatially coordinated MEP BIM model can address them at the design stage rather than the contracting stage.

MEP Design Challenges

The MEP building design lifecycle typically includes stages starting with conceptual design and then moving through tender, contract, construction, fabrication and record stages. While developing the design, the use of new technology such as BIM for coordination provides advantages and benefits to MEP consultants, who must integrate their models with other disciplines to ensure that the design solution being proposed works with architectural and structural requirements, while also meeting the needs and aims of the building from a building engineering perspective. As BIM is now the order of the day, designers now need to consider spatial requirements of the various MEP systems and services as well as fitting within an architectural and structural framework. This differs from their historical 2D plan approach which did not necessitate much detail for spatial coordination of services.

  1. Coordination of building design changes - In the initial stage of construction, design changes by architects and owners invariably impact MEP engineering design and system implementation. The biggest challenge MEP engineers must address is accommodating the ongoing changes in architectural designs. Taken simply for ductwork changes, not only will this lead to a change in load calculations, the process of remodelling and service clash detection must be repeated as the MEP design must be spatially coordinated with other building services as well as the architectural space.
  2. Fitting within the structural framework – With modifications in the MEP design, the structural framework of the building, whether primary steel beams or secondary steelwork for false ceilings, mezzanine floors and plant areas also need to be considered. An engineer must ensure that he has the latest model to work from or face challenges down the line.
  3. Space allocation and spatial coordination – MEP design must be optimised to utilise space economically and strategically. Allocation of space for MEP equipment and spatial coordination with other building services is a challenge. MEP engineers must not only ensure space is utilised optimally, but also consider that any space unutilised reflects poorly on ROI and makes fitting or maintenance difficult. MEP engineers must also ensure they create and test a clash free model to make sure spatial coordination with other building services is effective.
  4. Information overload – With the introduction of software programs such as Revit built around processes such as BIM, every detail and component can be modeled. However, not all elements need to be modelled, some of them can be shown in the detailing. While BIM is considered as an asset information model (AIM), not all information needs to be modeled, and the MEP designer must determine which elements should be modeled and which can be included in the detailing.

Given the fundamental challenges MEP engineers must address, BIM provides data-rich models that help in better space allocation and spatial coordination taking into consideration evolving building designs in real-time.

How a Spatially Coordinated BIM Model Addresses MEP Design Challenges

When BIM was introduced, MEP professionals popularly referred to it as “3D detailing on steroids” for the simple reason that it resulted in higher expectations, gave access to first-time project stakeholders with overlapping roles and caused an entire overhaul of social dynamics in the industry. With wider adoption of BIM, MEP engineers recognise the importance of BIM and how a spatially coordinated model can help address their challenges.

  1. Detection of constructability issues – With a spatially coordinated BIM model, MEP contractors and consultants can visualise the building design and the systems in 3D. These virtual, schematic models help MEP designers determine constructability issues early in the design process, especially in projects which are site-critical.
  2. Communicating spatial coordination issues – In addition to data-rich models, a spatially coordinated MEP (M&E) BIM model facilitates the two-way exchange of information such as design modifications and spatial coordination issues which result in site-ready, design solutions that are economical and profitable.
  3. Refining layout of piping, electrical and HVAC systems – By using 3D BIM modeling, MEP teams can design models of equipment and routing of systems, and coordinate with each other to ensure implementation is clash-free. Based on the exchange of information across various project stakeholders, changes in MEP design systems are immediately reflected and layouts of HVAC systems are refined.
  4. Streamlining of the documentation process – In the earlier method of the documentation process, spreadsheets or tables were used to record equipment schedules, plan drawings, sections and elevations. This led to several discrepancies between specifications on site and CAD drawings. With 3D BIM modeling, the documentation process is streamlined as modifications and updates are reflected across all project documentation. As the drawings and schedules are directly generated as part of the modelling process, the time taken reduces and consistency between plans and models is no longer an issue.

MEP BIM, as a model-based approach, when used in the initial stages of design has a positive impact on the coordination and construction process. By detecting issues, minimising clashes and reducing rework, MEP BIM effectively improves the efficiency of execution and provides costs benefits. Spatially coordinated BIM models help MEP design engineers visualise design details, provides MEP documentation and actionable insights which facilitate communication, coordination, clash-free implementation and installation of MEP systems. Of course, MEP contractors may wish to update and change models based on their own procurement and fitting requirements, for example adding pre-fabricated modules to an MEP design from a designer will typically require changes. Spatially coordinated MEP BIM models (SCMBM) empower MEP engineers to deliver building project on time, on budget, per building codes.

The AEC industry needs to maximise the benefit of a BIM-based data environment to maintain the lifecycle in the ecosystem of a building project. The introduction of BIM is allowing MEP BIM engineers to consider spatial coordination as they create their design model. This element or scope addition was unthinkable until BIM was more widely used and the challenge is now to ensure that the engineers have the resources and skills to deliver BIM and spatially coordinated models to help their design process.

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Kuldeep Bwail

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Kuldeep Bwail
Joined: September 27th, 2016
Articles Posted: 28

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