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MEP is an acronym that stands for mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering. These three technical disciplines encompass the systems that make building interiors suitable for human occupancy. MEP installations are addressed together due to the high degree of interaction between them, and also to avoid conflicts in equipment locations – a common problem when electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems are designed in isolation

Working with qualified MEP engineering companies brings many advantages: installation costs are reduced by optimizing material requirements, while achieving high performance and code compliance. This is very valuable in Madison, where building ownership costs are very high and construction codes are very demanding.

In addition to theMFD Building Code, there is a dedicated code for each of the three MEP fields:

  • MFD Mechanical Code
  • MFD Electrical Code
  • MFD Plumbing Code

Keep in mind that additional codes apply. For example, the NYC Energy Conservation Code has requirements that affect all MEP systems, and any building system with combustion appliances must adhere to the NYC Fuel Gas Code.

Given the complexity of MEP systems, modern engineering consulting firms use software to speed up the design process. Simple and repetitive tasks are automated by a computer, while MEP design engineers can focus on taking the best decisions.

Before proceeding with any project that involves MEP installations in Madison, keep in mind that there are licensing requirements for both design professionals and installation contractors. Only a Registered Design Professional (RDP) can get MEP designs approved with the Madison Department of Buildings, and only licensed contractors can get work permits.


Hire the Best MEP Design Engineers for Your Next Project


M: Mechanical Engineering

Various types of mechanical systems are used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. However, three types account for most of the mechanical design work in multifamily and commercial constructions:

  • Space heating
  • Air conditioning
  • Mechanical ventilation

These systems interact to keep temperature and humidity within a range that provides comfort and health. Mechanical ventilation also ensures that enough fresh air is supplied to keep pollutant concentrations at low and safe levels.

Mechanical installations operate at their best when equipment capacity is adequate; contrary to popular belief, over engineering brings many negative consequences. For example, oversized chillers and boilers tend to cycle rapidly, creating room temperature fluctuations and wearing down equipment at an accelerated pace.

Another consequence of over engineering in mechanical systems is poor control of indoor humidity. ASHRAE recommends keeping relative humidity between 30% and 60% to make indoor spaces optimal for human occupancy, and there are negative consequences when humidity falls outside this range for extended periods. For example, low humidity can irritate the skin and airways, while high humidity stimulates the growth of mold and bacteria.

Other than sizing HVAC equipment correctly, mechanical design involves laying out optimal routes for heat distribution systems: air ducts, hydronic piping or steam piping, whichever applies for the project. If combustion appliances are used, which is the case for most space heating systems in locations – a common problem when electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems are designed in isolation. buildings, these must be properly vented to ensure that harmful combustion products are removed.

E: Electrical Engineering

In high-rise constructions such as those commonly found in Madison, one of the main challenges in electrical design is defining the optimal routes for conduit and wiring. However, there tends to be more flexibility than in mechanical systems, since electrical circuits require much less space and can be routed around obstacles more easily. With the aid of MEP design software, conduit and wiring can be laid out while minimizing total circuit lengths, and avoiding location conflicts with mechanical and plumbing installations.

Lighting installations are the electrical system with the highest energy consumption in most Madison buildings, and engineering consulting firms often suggest LED lighting for this reason. Many MEP design software packages are capable of simulating lighting, in order to determine the optimal number of fixtures and their locations.

HVAC is an area that requires close collaboration between mechanical and electrical engineers during the MEP design process. Mechanical engineers calculate heating and cooling loads to determine equipment capacities, while electrical engineers design the electrical circuits and protection measures that allow this equipment to operate continuously and safely. In Madison , only furnaces and boilers use mostly fossil fuels as an energy source; air conditioners, chillers, air-handling systems and hydronic pumps all work with electricity in the vast majority of cases.

P: Plumbing Engineering

Plumbing installations in Madison are also subject to various technical requirements. Just like mechanical and electrical installations, plumbing requires laying out complex piping routes, and MEP design software widely used by engineering firms to simplify the process.

Plumbing installations interact with both mechanical and electrical systems at many points, which emphasizes the importance of collaboration among design teams:

  • High-rise buildings typically need water booster pumps, which run with electricity.
  • Domestic hot water systems typically get their heat through one of the following configurations: a dedicated boiler, a heat exchanger connected to a space heating boiler, or an electric heater (a conventional resistance heater or a heat pump).

Fire protection design can be challenging, since Madison codes are especially demanding in that technical field. In addition to the applicable codes from theMadison Department of Buildings and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Local Law makes automatic fire sprinklers are mandatory for all business occupancies taller than 100 feet. The law applies retroactively even for existing constructions, where the deadline to complete the building upgrade is July 1, 2019.

Added Value of MEP Design

When designing building systems, an integrated MEP engineering approach yields better results than specifying each building system in isolation. Interactions between building systems can be especially difficult to coordinate when the design process is isolated, and equipment location conflicts are very likely.

If a modern MEP design software is used, the value of the 3D model produced during the design phase goes beyond the construction process. The model can be conserved as reference for maintenance activities, and can be updated along with the building during a major renovation. In general, a building with a MEP engineering model is easier to manage and service than another building where only conventional construction plans are available.


Simplify building construction with effective project management.


Using a Project Plan Effectively

Project management is a very broad topic, and it would be possible to write entire books about it. However, to adopt the best practices in project management successfully, you need a project plan. There are many software solutions that allow the creation of project plans, and there is no specific format. However, a project plan will normally provide the following information:

  • A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is a detailed breakdown of the project scope.
  • The sequence of activities, normally represented in a Gantt chart. Activities follow a logical sequence – for instance, electricians cannot install wiring before conduit.
  • A project schedule, which is based on the Gantt chart.
  • Project cost and resource schedules, which are based on the expenses and inputs allocated to each activity.

A project plan is very useful because it provides a baseline to compare the progress of construction. The actual project is compared with the plan at regular intervals, considering time and cost along with the scope of work completed. Based on how these three metrics interact, project managers can draw conclusions.

For example, if the accumulated expenses by a certain date exceed the planned expenses, it is not possible to reach conclusions right away. Consider the following possibilities:

  • If the project is ahead of schedule and expenses are consistent with the work completed, the outlook is positive. The accumulated expenses are higher simply because the project is moving faster.
  • On the other hand, if the project is on schedule or delayed, extra expenses indicate waste. The extra funds being spent are not converted into progress in this case.

A project cannot be monitored based only on one metric, since this can lead to incorrect conclusions. The percentage of work completed does not provide direct information on how the budget is being used, just like expenses are not a direct indicator of work completion.

When a project is compared with the baseline at regular intervals, issues can be identified and fixed before they have a major impact. For example, cost overruns and delays can be identified when their magnitude is still small.

Managing Project Resources Effectively

The construction process of a building uses many resources. In addition to construction materials, a project needs tools, equipment and skilled labor. There is also a significant energy input, since many types of equipment consume fuel or electricity.

A key advantage of the project plan is that is provides a clear picture of when each resource is required. For example, if a building is still in the excavation and foundation phase, there is no need to have electricians and HVAC technicians on site. Likewise, if a project uses sensitive materials near the end of the construction process, there is no point in delivering them to the site at the start of the project.

However, waiting until the last possible moment to order materials or equipment is not the best approach either. Consider that many product have a lead time, and they cannot be delivered to the construction site on demand. For example, if a piece of HVAC equipment is installed on the 6th month of a project and its delivery takes one month, the order must already be placed by the 5th month.

The project plan is also useful for managing and tracking the presence of subcontractors on the project site. For example, if the Gantt chart indicates simultaneous activities that involve HVAC and plumbing, technical staff from both areas will be present at that time.

The availability of resources also influences planning decisions. For instance, if two activities require the full attention from a specific contractor, they cannot be scheduled simultaneously.

Conclusion

To deliver a building successfully, project managers must balance the work progress, budget and time. With a reliable project plan, the work completed can be inspected regularly to detect and fix issues.

Buildings represent a business decision for developers, and investors seek to maximize the return on their capital. Cost overruns are detrimental, since the benefits per dollar spent are reduced. In the case of buildings that are being developed for rent, a delay means that the owner must wait longer before receiving rent payments.

When effective project management is combined with professional design services, developers can expect an improved outcome in construction projects. Solid project management keeps the construction process on time and on budget, and a good design reduces ownership costs.

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