MEP coordination presents an unusual challenge for practice and research. Advanced plant design systems can provide models to assist in coordination, but they are not used in hospitals, laboratories, semiconductor wafer, or biotech manufacturing facilities. Detailed design and construction of these complex facilities are fragmented because specialty design consultants and contractors perform this work. The cause of the MEP coordination problem is not the lack of technology but the need to apply available technology tailoring to a particular set of business and technical conditions. Object-oriented 3D models could allow a revised process of coordination.
However, capturing the distributed knowledge concerning the different types of systems and tailoring the software to meet the particular needs of MEP coordination remain significant challenges. Success with this activity would support significant improvements in design, coordination, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and retrofit for new uses.
The specifications assign responsibility for coordination of the specialty or trade contractors, including checking for clearances, field conditions, architectural and structural conditions. The process of MEP coordination involves locating components and branches from all systems in compliance with design, construction, and operations criteria. The old process of sequentially comparing 1/4 inch/foot scale transparent drawings for each system over a light table adds significant cost to many projects and can add significant duration.
Improving the coordination process for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems on complex buildings and light industrial projects present an excellent opportunity to improve project performance through increased integration. Coordination involves defining locations for branch components of systems in congested spaces to avoid interference and comply with diverse design and operations criteria.
Several problems in current practice create the need to improve. Limited building space for MEP systems makes efficient design and construction much more challenging. On many plans and specs projects, accelerated schedules and decreased designers’ fees do not allow detailing MEP systems by design consultants. The scope of work for specialty contractors on these projects increasingly includes “design assist” to complete the design for fabrication and installation. Design-build contracting, with different specialty contractors responsible for various systems, decentralizes design responsibility and increases the potential problems and the need for effective coordination between the various types of systems. Fast track projects increase the challenge.