The Value of BIM 360 for MEP (M&E) Design and Coordination Workflows


Technological innovation and improvements have steadily driven the progress of MEP (M&E) design and coordination workflows in the construction industry. One of the many significant factors for change in MEP (M&E) engineering design workflow and the delivery of MEP (M&E) coordination drawings is the contribution of BIM modelling technology and 3D models using BIM 360 in particular. BIM 360, a construction software platform, advances quality control and jobsite safety using cloud-based checklists, equipment tracking and task monitoring. Covering every aspect of a project, BIM 360 allows project managers, subcontractors, designers, architects and other construction professionals to control processes and phases. While MEP (M&E) design and coordination workflows may vary, BIM 360 facilitates the involvement of many people, the exchange of much information and seamless communication.

BIM 360 enables the design of a model that can be used for 2D construction documentation and 3D trade coordination. With a growing trend of designing in 3D from the start of a project, architectural, structural and trade models may be used by MEP (M&E) designers to plan effectively.

MEP (M&E) design and installation workflows guide stakeholders in building engineering to plan, design, coordinate, fabricate, install, commission and maintain projects. In general, the building services design stage occurs after the architectural design. The consultant engineer, or design engineer, consults closely with the architect to develop engineering elements, such as lighting, cooling, heating, drainage, waste, fire prevention and protection services. Usually, this design engineer is not part of the detailed spatial design of such services. The detailed spatial design and installation is most likely executed by the MEP (M&E) contractor (M&E contractor) or trade contractor. This contractor ensures that the consultant design is converted to an efficient and installation-ready MEP (M&E) solution. Sometimes, a fabricator, who creates MEP (M&E) components, such as ductwork or pipework elements, electrical ladders or sprinklers in a module, can also be involved.

These workflows for MEP (M&E) design and coordination presents a few challenges. Some of the challenges experienced include the following:

  • Design data, both architectural and structural, must be shared.
  • MEP (M&E) design is created by one engineer/team and detailed by another.
  • Schematics and plans can yield inconsistent data.
  • Design updates might have to be incorporated after the design is finalized.
  • There is a late project entry of specialist contractors.
  • The lists of RFI may be long and difficult to manage.

Each firm and its respective projects may employ a different workflow. MEP (M&E) design and coordination workflows fall under four broad categories. They are:

2D Design - 3D Coordination/BIM – Designer & Contractor

  • The consultant creates 2D designs, 2D plan layouts, 2D sections and schematics
  • Extensive communication between architectural, structural, MEP (M&E) design teams
  • Value engineering is added, and procurement details are specified.
  • This design is sent to the MEP (M&E) contractor for a coordinated solution.
  • A vertical and horizontal spatial zoning strategy is developed at this stage.
  • The contractor then delivers a coordinated 3D model with installation-ready designs, which show efficient pipe runs, duct bends, space for lagging, hanging services and access for post-installation maintenance.
  • Collaboration across disciplines is required during the 2D and 3D stages.

BIM Design - BIM Coordination – Designer & Contractor

  • The MEP (M&E) designer uses BIM for a ‘design intent’ model, instead of a 2D drawing.
  • A ‘federated’ model is created, which combines other disciplines, such as architectural, structural and civil, in a single model.
  • The designer works in conjunction with the architect and structural engineers.
  • Models may undergo several changes and ‘fixes’.
  • When the model is handed over to the contractor, he will make further necessary changes or start again with the vertical and horizontal strategy.
  • Fabrication/value engineering/procurement details are added by the contractor.
  • The final coordinated drawings/model is BIM friendly and installable, but extra time will be taken by the designer to create the BIM model.
  • Collaboration with design team and also with the contracting team is necessary.

BIM Design & Coordination – Design Team for Both Stages

  • The BIM model is designed and coordinated by the designer.
  • Abortive work is reduced in this approach.
  • Procurement information is considered by the designer.
  • There is a handover at the end, but it is not yet a design and build.
  • Contractors may fabricate units, but they usually keep the model layouts. 
  • This is becoming an increasingly popular approach, as a one-stop-shop.
  • Collaboration is required within the design team.

BIM Design & Coordination - Trade Team(s) for Both Stages

  • This approach tries to avoid abortive work completely. (Design, Coordinate, Install & Commission)
  • Here, a trade contractor is added to the design team, working closely with the architect and structural engineer.
  • This process is almost that of a design and build project.
  • It is fabrication/procurement/installation-friendly. 
  • The design team with the contractor will issue a model and drawings that are coordinated and installable.
  • This approach puts pressure on the contractor to cover the design responsibility.
  • Collaboration is required with the design team.

With any of the four approaches, online collaboration is useful and sometimes necessary. Previously, this had its limitations. Some of the issues with online collaboration were as follows:

  • Stakeholders were not catered for.
  • Online collaboration was an online file storage/sharing system.
  • Start-up training was required to use the system.
  • Uploading documents and file sharing required complex processes.
  • Work-sharing with a real-time model was not possible.
  • Email was used for communication.
  • It was not possible to ‘view’ the models.

Thus, an effective online collaboration tool needed to solve these issues. Specifically, it needed to:

  • Allow access to MEP (M&E) designers, architects, structural designers, occupiers, MEP (M&E) contractors and general contractors.
  • Bring the various formats of files and documents together.
  • Reduce miscommunication.
  • Allow design teams to work on the same models and share design data with other stakeholders.
  • Allow multiple teams to work in real time.

BIM 360 Team with Collaboration for Revit (C4R) presented as an ideal candidate, an effective online collaboration tool that integrates all stakeholders and project data into a single cloud-based real-time platform. It could easily and effectively:

  • Improve quality control and reduce rework
  • Use checklists to monitor site safety
  • Track equipment and collect asset data
  • Optimise field performance with daily reports

Autodesk’s BIM 360 helps project, field and BIM managers deliver projects faster while staying on budget and adhering to industry standards, safety rules, and project specifications. BIM 360 has tools and features for more effective coordination, design, implementation of schedules, communications, and it quickly resolves issues. With BIM 360, managers have almost full control, enabling faster, more efficient delivery of projects. This software tool is ideal for several stakeholders, such as project managers, superintendents, virtual construction managers, subcontractors, project engineers and design teams. Information such as project design, documentation, budget plans, etc. can be centralised and easily accessed by extended team members. A documentation module connects the project team, enabling members to view, publish, review, mark up, create drawings using C4R and approve project models, plans and documents.

Some of the key features of BIM 360 are:

  • Report and analysis customisation
  • Identification of construction issues
  • Notification of project status and description
  • Safety inspection
  • Streamlined inspection of job site
  • Tracking of key performance indicators
  • Quality assurance/quality control
  • Identification of trends and minimisation of contractor risk
  • Construction tracking
  • Standardisation of checklist templates
  • Real-time data
  • Building information modelling (BIM)
  • Integration with Navisworks
  • Navigation and interaction with models on an iPad
  • Management of field performance
  • Viewing of field data updates

BIM 360 helps standardise processes – from worker safety, equipment inventory and management to resource management, quality, etc. Issues can be easily identified and solved early in the design process, thereby reducing delays, costs, rework and increasing client satisfaction. The value of BIM 360 for MEP (M&E) design and coordination workflows is thus significant for its long-term efficiency.

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