MEP catching up with BIM usage

Complexity of MEP installations means that implementing BIM will remain designers’ biggest challenges

Nigel Clark says that MEP has only adopted BIM over the last two years.

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A BIM expert has called for caution while implementing the software in the MEP sector, stating that the level of complexity involved makes BIM in MEP one of the most challenging projects a designer will face.

Nigel Clark, technical director at Hilson Moran, in a report by IQPC, the organisers behind the Second annual Saudi MEP Forum, said that because MEP BIM was the least mature discipline, there remained a number of issues that needed to be ironed out so as to ensure the maximum efficiency of the whole process.

“Architects and structural engineers have been using BIM platforms for a longer time and the software has developed as a result of this. In my view, it is only in the last two years that MEP has really caught up and enabled buildings to be designed in a virtual environment,” he explained.

“Because of the complexity of MEP, the interrelationships between systems and our inevitable dependence on others such as the architect and structural engineer for information, the programme will always be one of the MEP BIM designers’ greatest challenges.”

“Because of the amount of design information will be greater; it needs an appropriate amount of design time in order to complete it and the design development by other members of the team needs to be controlled to make sure the amount of reworking or abortive working the MEP designer has to do is strictly controlled, otherwise the process can become very inefficient,” Clark added.

Although BIM use in MEP is picking up steam, Clark said that there remained significant steps that needed to be made before it matched up to its counterparts in other sectors of the construction industry.

He called for improvements to the BIM model’s capacity to handle engineering calculations and automatically generate equipment schedules and bills of quantities. While these functions currently exist, greater validation and development is needed, he said, citing Revit’s use of ASHRAE data for calculations. In comparison, the UK would generally utilise CIBSE data, which is more comprehensive, he said.

Clark also called for designers and clients to adopt ‘BIM Friendly’ working practices, so as to ensure the success of the project.

“To ensure that MEP designers work in a BIM friendly way, they need to adopt different working practices. Traditionally, an MEP designer would work in ‘systems’, say designing a chilled water system in its entirety, whereas a BIM engineer needs to think in ‘areas’ to ensure there is sufficient design information available before starting to develop the BIM model; otherwise the risk of abortive work at a later date is considerable.”

“Design changes take more time to incorporate in a BIM environment, so much greater internal project management is needed by the MEP BIM designer,” he said.

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