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MEP engineers lead the way

Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms are responding to the new climate that's been created within the healthcare market and the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineer plays a key role.

Mike McLaughlin, Southland Industries
04/10/2018

Construction image. Courtesy: Schneider Electric

Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms are responding to the new climate that's been created within the healthcare market-a climate where shorter schedules are the norm, collaboration is key, and expertise is a must. All too often, healthcare building owners don't get the results they expect from engineers and builders. Budgets are exceeded, and schedules are missed. They've grown tired of the traditional project pattern of "design, bid, value engineer, re-design, and build," which essentially results in a new facility that's considered a compromise. The process is inefficient, disjointed, and non-collaborative, often leaving facility leaders and staff dissatisfied. At the root is the fundamental issue of leadership. 

Healthcare mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems have grown to account for nearly 50% of a healthcare facility's first costs and a significant portion of the ongoing operational costs. Project outcomes are therefore heavily dependent on the success (or failure) of the MEP systems. The role and expectations of the MEP engineer, however, haven't kept pace with this change. It's time for the MEP engineer to serve in a leadership role, which will help enable projects to meet and exceed owners' expectations.

The traditional expectation of MEP engineers is to provide a technical solution that satisfies the code, standards, and functional needs of a facility. MEP engineers are well-equipped and trained to solve these technical challenges. However, solving a technical issue without regard to cost, constructability, or maintainability is a fundamental flaw that leads to poor project outcomes. The technical solution ultimately defines the cost, constructability, and maintainability of the project and must be considered an equal "input" into the equation if a project team is to expect better results. What's the solution?

Technical expertise

Engineers must seek to understand what makes the owner's business successful, how MEP systems can benefit or improve the jobs of medical staff, and what needs and preferences the facility operators hold to ensure the features of the MEP solution remain functional.

Cost

Every line and every word engineers place on drawings and specifications affect the cost of the project. Therefore, it's critical that engineers understand the impact of their decisions. Since engineers aren't traditionally trained on cost, they need a partner to provide that insight.

Constructibility

Since the engineer's drawings and specifications define what's to be built, it's imperative that engineers seek out MEP contractors to help shape designs. To take it a step further, MEP engineers must design for construction, and this can be done only when trusted construction experts work with MEP engineers at the start of design.

Leadership

Given the significant effect that MEP systems have on the outcomes of healthcare projects, MEP engineers must expand their capabilities to become experts at solving technical challenges as well as collaborating, communicating, seeking input, creating valued relationships, taking responsibility, and being accountable for results.

MEP engineers have an opportunity—and responsibility—to become leaders in connecting engineering decisions to project cost, constructability, and maintainability to improve overall results. Better outcomes can be achieved by engaging stakeholders and using our expertise to optimize solutions on multiple dimensions.

Mike McLaughlin, executive vice president, Southland Industries. This article originally appeared on Southland's blog, In the Room.

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