Integrated BIM MEP design: definition, tools and benefits for professionals
Bringing together all elements of the architectural, plant and structural design in a single 3D model is the starting point for building an overview of the building-plant system and assessing the coherence of all construction elements prior to actual implementation. For many years, the architecture, engineering, and construction industries have relied on BIM, however, because of its benefits, BIM adoption is growing rapidly for plant projects as well.
In this article, we’ll provide some useful insights regarding how to work in BIM MEP and what it actually means.
MEP modelling definition
MEP design is the process of creating the 3D model of a plant project containing all the physical, technical and functional information relating to the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. MEP stands for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing.
The design of MEP installations consists of 3 main phases:
- sizing and calculation
- cost estimating.
Working in BIM MEP, it is possible to manage all these operations with a single 3D model.
In fact, all the information related to the installations is added to the architectural BIM model: generator, distribution network, terminals, management, control systems, etc. The objects included in the BIM model are intelligent parametric objects that contain all the information that can be used during the design, construction and maintenance of the asset.
This means that any 3D object included in the project contains not only geometric and dimensional information but also performance information, data relating to its supplier, technical data sheets, installation methods, maintenance schedules, etc.
These objects are usually inserted using libraries integrated in the BIM MEP software. It is also possible to customise these catalogues by modifying existing elements or by externally importing them.
At present, BIM MEP design software also allows the sizing and calculation of installation systems through the application of formulas that respect the parameters envisaged by specific standards.
Furthermore, working on a complete BIM model, you can automatically obtain a cost estimation of the intervention, by simply combining prices selected from the price list with the objects and quantities already represented in the 3D model.
At each stage of the design process, it is easy to immediately highlight any interference issues between architectural, structural and MEP elements and to prevent design errors.
BIM MEP modeling
BIM MEP design starts with the creation of the 3D model of the building. The BIM-based approach during MEP coordination facilitates collaboration among all the different discipline specialists (includes Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Structural engineers), so that they could share comparative data and necessary interdisciplinary information with each other. In order to work in a BIM-MEP perspective, the 3D model must be complete with all the data and information relating to the architectural, plant and structural elements of the project.
For example, a BIM MEP model for a thermal system contains all the data relating to: heating station, piping and distribution system, system management and control, DWV -Drainage, Waste and Ventilation,etc.
When all disciplines are integrated into a single model, the team can achieve a degree of detail that improves design results, reduces risks, contingencies and errors, and accurately assesses the feasibility of the intervention, quantities, timing and sequencing of construction.
The BIM MEP model can also be exported in IFC format to ensure an interoperable, recognised, interdisciplinary language shared by all the professionals involved. The IFC format is precisely that recognised, universal and interdisciplinary language.
The IFC is an open data format not controlled by a single operator, which allows the interchange of an information model without loss or distortion of data or information.
In conclusion, the objective of BIM MEP modelling is to:
- highlight the impact of different design choices
- develop an overall view of the building-plant system
- minimise errors, unforeseen events and cost increases during the construction phase
- avoid interferences between the plant systems and architectural and structural elements that compromise the functionality or the aesthetics of the project
- accurately analyse the costs and timescales of the project.
BIM MEP design: advantages
The main advantages of integrated BIM MEP design are:
- 3D design
- integrated and interdisciplinary design that allows collaboration and data sharing between the professionals involved
- control of interferences between the installation system, the architectural and structural models
- speed of project processing
- easy project editing
- automatic production of drawings such as tables, 2D/3D details, plant layouts, BoQ, calculation reports, etc., always connected to the model and updated in real time
- greater accuracy in evaluations
- less chance of error and issues on site
- control over construction time and costs
- greater clarity in communicating project choices
- easy management even during the maintenance phase.
MEP software download
If you are looking for a software or an application to manage all the phases of MEP design, here are some suggestions.
Without any doubt, an effective MEP software must have the following features:
- creating 3D models to get a realistic idea of how the plant system will be developed
- integrating and dynamically manage 3D (geometry), 4D (time) and 5D (costs) models to avoid errors and to obtain the relating project documents (drawing models, BoQ and cost estimates, work schedules, etc.)
- combining in a single 3D model the information regarding the architectural, plant and structural design to check for possible interferences and incompatibilities between the various projects
- viewing the 3D model with Virtual Reality to analyse the project details in an extremely realistic way, as if the plant had already been built.
If you need to model your installation systems directly in BIM and make the most of the features above listed, we recommend you to use Edificius-MEP.