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BIM: The most powerful ally for MEP contractors

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BIM: The most powerful ally for MEP contractors

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In a competitive AEC market, MEP contractors must ensure that construction projects are delivered on time and within budget. They need to make sure that contracted trades including designers, surveyors, fabricators, and MEP engineers synchronize their roles and deliverables at the preconstruction stage. Coordinated MEP BIM models play a key role in enhancing collaboration, avoiding design clashes, and working towards hassle-free onsite installation. 
Traditional 2D coordination methods are ridden with challenges such as onsite installation difficulties, rework, and material waste. Working in a BIM setup helps MEP project teams gain complete insight into design and constructability with greater visualization. The presence of reality simulation, better project control, improved collaboration, proactive conflict resolution, and reduced material waste help expedite construction activities. 
Embracing improved accuracy, clash resolution, and optimized building by reinforcing BIM into construction workflows helps stakeholders save on more than 40% in time, and 30% in costs. 
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution has blurred the boundaries of the Physical and Digital world, showing MEP contractors the path to designing and construction automation through BIM holding information in a database.” 

Choosing BIM to streamline various MEP trades 

BIM offers a host of benefits for MEP contractors, right from the pre-construction stage to the post-construction stage. An accurate, efficient, and coordinated 3D model can help MEP stakeholders detect and resolve clashes for smarter and informed decision-making and budget savings. 
An Airport Construction project in Muscat, Oman adopted BIM to build a coordinated and clash-free 3D model. Through advanced BIM processes and tools, the general contracting company leveraged improved onsite installation and zero change orders. With these outcomes, the Contracting Firm could receive enormous cost savings – $7 million within 6 months. 
BIM adoption delivers transformational results due to its inter-disciplinary conflict identification and conflict resolution capabilities. When the architectural, structural and MEP disciplines are coordinated, it brings greater clarity and increases collaboration between stakeholders. With enhanced collaboration, contractors can streamline various activities and achieve a better ROI, with reduced rework, better scheduling, and accurate material takeoff.      
The 3D MEP model can be used to demonstrate the entire building lifecycle (Bazjanac 2006) 

Using various BIM MEP capabilities to reduce material waste 

MEP Contractors are perpetually challenged with material waste issues leading to mammoth cost overruns. Traditional methods used by Quantity Surveyors to quantify building materials are often erroneous. Over counting, undercounting, or duplicating building components leads to error-ridden outcomes that can throw projects off planned timelines. 
The business need of a Healthcare Construction project was a 3D model at LOD 500 for better scheduling and ROI – Working around interdisciplinary clashes through BIM collaboration, accurate Quantity takeoffs could be extracted. The outcome resulted in higher ROI, reduced rework & material waste, and seamless MEP activities onsite. 
MEP contractors can rely on BIM model automation and data to examine various possibilities and achieve required waste-reduction objectives. Early project visualization and conflict resolution with 3D clash-free models, allow stakeholders to make informed decisions during the early stages of design. This saves on cost and time and reduces material wastage due to rework. 
According to Khelmani et. al. 2006, construction documents such as drawings, procurement details, submittal processes and various specifications can be interrelated.   

Gaining complete control of prefabrication with a bird’s eye view. 

MEP contractors can deploy BIM to get the complete picture of various components – including elevations of the ceiling, plumbing layouts, electrical layouts behind walls, etc. Every piece of building data is accessibly reinforced through a single model version. When BIM comes into the picture, it provides MEP contractors with precise information on the dimensions and installation location required for prefabrication. 
BIM allows MEP contractors to extract fabrication drawings for customized and sustainable fabrication. This leads to interference-free onsite installation and greater construction performance. 
Evaluation of a study with the use of BIM prefabrication resulted in a reduction of onsite waste between 15 % to 60 % and time savings of more than 14%. 
With levels of prefabrication accurately defined components such as panels, modules, frame windows, curtain walls, roof truss, partition walls, stacked-up rooms, bathroom units, and other sub-assemblies can be prefabricated based on selection. MEP contractors can streamline the entire prefabrication process, right through from design intent, to material procurement and logistics, and module delivery and inspection.  
Coordinated service drawings and design drawings enable accurate prefabrication modules reinforced by Quality Checks leading to accurate installation, connections, and testing. With every MEP component piece tailored during fabrication and in synergy with the other, during the actual installation, the probabilities of rework and project delays are reduced by record margins.  
 Modular or Prefabricated MEP construction relies on the following factors that include – 

  • Precise data or information 
  • Accurate and complete prefabrication drawings 
  • Communication between various stakeholders 
  • Skilled design and drafting personnel 

Based on a survey of 809 architects, engineers, and contractors, prefabrication not only reduced material waste but had the potential to lower project budgets and accomplish projects before planned timeline

 “Prefabrication integrated with BIM are the top two processes and technologies that will have the greatest impact when realized at full potential.” 
Cited in CRC Construction Innovation 2007, BIM can reduce the time to generate a cost estimate by 80% and promotes up to 40% removal of unbudgeted change.   

Improving onsite safety for MEP installation with BIM-ready models and drawings 

BIM-ready 3D models and accurate 2D construction drawings based on 3D BIM models assist MEP contractors with safe onsite construction. Model and drawings built on industry standards make sure every building material or component is correct based on dimensions and location. MEP contractors are responsible to convert designs to installation-ready drawings. 
The ability to visualize hazardous areas through model simulations helps MEP contractors provide a better direction for subcontractors to install, connect, and test components or systems onsite. With a specific set of processes, tools, and protocols, MEP contractors can visualize and sequence fire protection systems like sprinklers, piping, water pressure, etc. Adherence to fire-safety design and implementation based on BIM helps Electrical and Plumbing systems coordinate with Fire Protection  components. 

The road to flawless MEP design and construction for MEP contractors 

 As MEP contractors face ever-evolving workflows and deadlines, it is time for MEP contractors to embrace new processes and tools to build strong efficiencies and streamline schedules to save on stakeholder time and budget. Integrating BIM with technologies like cloud, IoT, robotics, AR/VR, etc. will help MEP contractors to work better and quicker. 
A purpose-driven BIM approach applied to coordinate and optimize design, build, and operate needs to be deployed through connected, content-rich, and constructible project data. As we dawn upon a new era of construction with digital transformation, these processes and tools will continue to enhance workflows and fuel collaboration to achieve optimum levels of construction efficiency and productivity.   


MEP systems are the backbone of a building project, and BIM serves as a powerful tool for MEP contractors for better planning and collaboration.  Early detection and resolution of problem areas provide sustainable advantages in the design phase. Specialty contractors can extract a high value from BIM through complete interoperability and pronounced benefits. 
According to Dodge Data and Analytics, BIM drives quality, productivity, and efficiency, and safety for MEP contractors. More than 40% of the contractors can leverage BIM to reduce errors, mitigate rework, save on budget. It is with certainty that BIM adoption promotes precision and effectiveness in MEP design and installation. Understanding and specifying the role of BIM at various stages can help MEP contractors leverage the true potential of BIM.
About the Author:

Bhavesh Umraniya is a BIM manager at Hitech CADD services. With an experience of over a decade in the mechanical sector, Bhavesh has successfully delivered multiple commercial and residential MEP projects for clients, globally. Through innovative BIM technology interventions, he is focused to improve business productivity and enhance design quality for MEP projects. 


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