by Dan Donegan
As the facilities manager of 1 million sq. ft. of commercial space, and the MEP services manager for ReArch Company, my team gets involved in the earliest design discussions to benefit our construction and development projects, which is proven to be invaluable to our clients.
The first step we take in the early design process is collaborating with the owner, vendors, and particularly the job superintendent to formulate a plan for MEP access to ensure ease of maintenance. With my 38 years of experience maintaining equipment, I personally want to ensure that the technician is going to easily be able to maintain a piece of equipment and verify it is in an accessible location, in a proper working room, with no hangers or other pieces of equipment to interfere with it. The equipment room should have lighting, power, and water so the technician can service it easily. This can be as specific as requiring units be installed in hallways, not in offices, and that the piping runs through the offices.
One of the most important areas we focus on is energy efficiency. Our primary concern is balancing efficiency, reliability, and comfort.
In understanding long-term maintenance costs in systems selections, we perform several analyses for our clients to determine what system makes the most sense for their facility. To calculate this, we estimate the installation cost of the system, and then add in the operations and maintenance cost of that system over 30 years. Shockingly, what we have seen is that a standard four-pipe system tends to come out on top as the most affordable. It is comfortable, quiet and it centralizes all the serviceable equipment in a mechanical room. These systems traditionally had been fueled by boilers and cooling towers, but now with the four-pipe system, it can be a great way to utilize renewable sources such as geothermal and solar to eliminate fossil fuel.
In reviewing life-cycle costs using renewable energy, it is important to leverage all incentives as they can dramatically change the financial picture.
Other important considerations early in preconstruction are:
- Noise and acoustics
- Selecting materials that are locally available and durable
- Ensuring shut off valve locations are adequate
- Critical locations/heights for drains
- High performance buildings: Retain MEP and Envelope Commissioning
- Future proofing and systems flexibility
The final recommendation that we offer to our customers is to utilize 3D scanning during construction. Having a 3D scan of the building before sheetrock is the gift that keeps on giving for the life of the building. Clients rave that once you have a scan of your building, you will never be able to go back.
The scans are useful in an existing occupancy as, after the space is completely scanned, it can fit out an accurate floor plan of the building. We often find disparities between the as-built drawings and the actual floor plans, with wall locations that are different. The other benefit of the 3D scans is, if you are bidding out any modifications to the facility, vendors don’t need to visit the facility as they can take accurate dimensions from the scans in areas where security clearance is an issue, or hard to access locations.
The final benefit to 3D scanning is that they create a dynamic O&M manual inside the scan itself. It has 3D scan tags on all products in the building and embeds their warranty information directly into the scan. We have found that the smallest things that are most often overlooked in an O&M manual are things that come back to haunt you. Perfect examples of this would include ceiling tiles, paint colors, or cove base colors, etc. The 3D scan gives you the framework to upload all project details to your master O&M manual that can be referenced for years to come.
Including your MEP services team early in any project takes proactive, advanced planning and will benefit clients and reduce operational costs throughout the life of the building.
Dan Donegan is facilities and MEP services manager at ReArch Company.