The famous saying, “If we move together then success takes care of itself” is so very applicable to building and infrastructure projects. Here in the saying, ‘we’ refers to architects, structural, MEP engineers, contractors, and construction firms; and ‘moving together’ points to the coordination and collaboration required by small large or medium construction projects with multiple complexities to be delivered within short deadlines.
Dailymail, reported about the construction of a 57 story skyscraper built in 19 days at the rate of three floors per day in China. This is exactly what the market demands and it call for establishing collaboration and coordination amongst all the disciplines of construction: Architectural, Structural and MEP.
No building can successfully constructed only by considering or giving more importance to only one or two of these disciplines. All of them need to be given the same importance. Their inter-dependency holds a strong stand in the call of coordination. Say the MEP engineer cannot design the location for HVAC and slots for elevator if he doesn’t know how the structural plan is going to be.
Same way, the structural engineer cannot erect a pillar without knowing the architectural design for the building. To build the structure of appropriate strength and to serve its intended needs, the professionals from all these three disciplines need to understand each-others’ and project requirements and technicalities. The coordination and coherence among these disciplines eases the activities on site and reduces a lot of unnecessary man-material traffic.
Engineering requirements of the building obviously compliment the planned design and aesthetics. But sometimes it also goes the other way round, to say that, to meet the engineering requirements, the design needs alterations. To fulfill this, structural engineers need to understand the aesthetics set by the architect and vice-versa.
Skyscrapers built of glass cannot withstand wind loads at heights and they obviously need support made of concrete or some other sturdy building material with intended aesthetics while keeping the beauty of the structure intact. Same way, only a structural engineer can decide where he needs to erect a pillar and keeping that in mind, the architect might need to change the design if he wants to have a conference hall or a room at that very same place.
The need to establish coordination amongst these two disciplines is pretty straight forward as the continuous MEP layouts, like an elevator slot, cannot be designed if it is intercepted by a structural element. On the other hand the installation of MEP components cannot be done without knowing the strength of the structure. Since the installation process requires a lot of drilling and hammering, the MEP engineer needs to inform the workmen about the structure’s strength in the area to be drilled or hammered. The plans and detailing documented by structural engineer provides this necessary information regarding structure, to MEP engineer.
Wherever there are architects involved, the design and aesthetics come along. Thus when an MEP contractor and workmen install the equipments, a large floor area is needed to accommodate big sized compressor units, boilers, HVAC ducts, drainage pipes and other fixtures.
Engineers plan the layouts maintaining the designs provided by the architects. The concealing of pipes and wires is a result of maintaining the requirements of both these disciplines. Also, while installing these units MEP engineers have to take care of optimum resource utilization and the facades of the building. Though engineers are the one to take a call for installation, their decisions should comply with the design and accommodate them.
BIM helps in integrating the information for these three disciplines required to achieve the needed coordination. The Level of Detailing – LOD 100 to 500 as per IFC and COBie standards help in generating schedules, estimating the requirements, and combining these three sets of information and design and plan without any clashes in the layout or the activities.
COBie is a standard for this information exchange, basically a datasheet related to space and equipment and the parts in the building that helps in managing the facility. Revit, Tekla, Navisworks are some of the popular software used across the AEC industry to generate these information rich BIM models and carry out enhanced construction work. But, today in 2016, with only about half the industry using BIM for their projects in countries like The U.K. and Japan, as reported by international BIM survey by NBS, the wonders reported by Dailymail (cited above) seems blurry.
Without BIM achieving coordination among architectural, structural and MEP disciplines is nearly impossible as it will not deliver desired results. This makes the use of BIM a need, and not an advantage. Projects may start on time but completion will be highly uncertain because of the hurdles encountered on site.
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