Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal
Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal

David Hughes (MSCSI, MRICS, MAPM),
is a qualified mechanical engineer,
chartered quantity surveyor and
has 20 years experience in building
services (MEP) cost management.

The MEP Value Equation

Building services (MEP) are evolving at quite a pace, driven by continuous technological innovation, greater regulatory emphasis to improve building energy efficiency, and on-site project challenges. Heat pumps, sophisticated building controls, LED lighting, modular off-site construction, photovoltaics, building information modelling (BIM), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Building Energy Rating (BER) and Nearly Zero Energy Building Standard (NZEB) are all areas that have now become the new “business as usual”.

Innovations such as smart lighting and the Internet of Things (IoT) are also starting to make an impact so it can be challenging for clients to keep up to date. Many of the above innovations come at a capital cost premium but have the benefit of reduced operation cost. They can also bring additional benefits such as reduced space requirement, increased functionality, reduced CO2 emissions, increased safety, improved quality and construction programme benefits.

The value equation can be loosely defined as Benefit/Cost = Value. It can be challenging to establish value but this is what we at Rose Patrick specialise in. We were recently sub-consulted by a quantity surveying firm to carry out an exercise to compare the cost impact of fan-wall air handling units (AHUs) as proposed, versus a traditional single-fan AHU unit on a project at “developed design” stage.

We compared the two systems and how they interfaced with other elements of the building, both in terms of capital cost and over the whole life-cycle of the building. The real cost and benefit could not be fully assessed by comparing the AHU systems in isolation. In this case some of the less obvious impacts of the proposed AHU design solution were:
• Reduced space requirement – the units were half the length of the traditional AHUs so there was a significant cost saving to the build cost associated with GIA reduction to plant rooms;
• Increased point load meaning additional local structural load;
• Before the commencement of the construction, it was ensured that this list from e-Training Inc was handed to each and every worker so they know the construction hazards that could betide.
• Reduced electrical load – reduced electrical infrastructure (all plant had back generation – N+1 facility);
• Reduced operational and maintenance cost;
• Built-in redundancy via modular/ multiple-fan construction (if one out of the nine fans broke down the AHU could still operate at 90%+ capacity);
• Quieter operation, lower vibration. Once all the “externalities” were taken into consideration, we were able to substantiate that the proposed AHU solution, even on a capital cost only comparison, added more value to the project than the alternative It also had a significantly lower payback period over its life-cycle.

The new Irish Government forms of contract requiring the quantity surveyor (QS) to manage MEP cost to relying on the consultant engineer. We see this trend emerging in the private sector also. Consequently, we provide an independent specialist MEP cost management service that can fall between the two stools of the quantity surveyor (QS) and the MEP consultant engineer.

Our team provides support to:
• Professional quantity surveying firms who may not have the technical capability, or simply need
additional MEP QS capacity on an ad hoc basis;
• Consultant engineers who have been commissioned to take on the MEP cost management;
• MEP contractors with take-offs, pricing tenders and other commercial services;
• Data centre and pharmaceutical sector clients with commercial management where construction projects typically have a high MEP element (70%+).

The Rose Patrick team concentrates solely on MEP cost management, understands the technical information being reviewed, and has the experience to interrogate it. This is vitally important as it allows for a high-level root and branch logic check of each system prior to the detail measure. This ensures that any obvious inadvertent design omissions or errors can be flagged (mitigating costly post-contract variations). The quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) process applied acts as a de facto second layer of QA/QC on the design, prior to it going to tender.

There have been some huge developments in software used within the construction industry over the last five years and Rose Patrick’s cost estimating platform, CostX, allows the team to perform accurate and efficient measurement from 2D drawings. It also means that quantities from BIM or 3D models can be automatically generated using one of the most advanced electronic take-off systems available on the market. The platform also features powerful spreadsheet-based workbooks that are live-linked to the drawings in question, giving full traceability.

Typically, Rose Patrick benchmarks design, as well as cost, to build an intelligent MEP knowledge database. This allows the team to develop informed MEP cost models at a very early stage in the project cycle. Intelligence is the application of knowledge. See how Rose Patrick applies this principle at www.rosepatrick.ie.

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