MEP design is an integral part of the overall performance of the building. It hence follows that appropriate care must be taken to ensure that all MEP systems are designed and operated to achieve optimum efficiency.
People often assume that the system must conform to the ideal module to as large an extent as possible. However, this is not always true. Over-designing of systems has often had as bad an impact on the energy efficiency as a poorly designed system.
Need for Best Practices in MEP Design and Operation
Before we move on to the what, we need to first address the why. The first question that comes to one’s mind when we talk about best practices for systems design, is this really necessary? Well, in a single word, yes. Absolutely.
MEP in construction correlates directly to the efficiency of the building and its holistic performance, which in turn impacts the energy consumed by the building. This energy consumed is directly proportional to the global energy consumption, which directly impacts our environment. As this is a cumulative effect, it is imperative that every building’s energy efficiency be taken care of right at the root cause, by optimizing building performance with best design practices.
What are the Best Practices for MEP Design and Operation?
Here, we see the 6 simple, yet necessary practices to optimize MEP system design and operation.
#1 Adherence to the Sustainability Principle
The sustainable design principle cites – reduce, recycle, reuse. In a way, all best practices ultimately boil down to this very concept. MEP design for building needs to be such that every resource is used the maximum possible number of times before it is discarded. In practical terms, measures such as directing the extracted air over the condensing unit, or reusing treated effluent water to irrigate landscaped areas are effective in improving the net usage of available resources.
#2 Effective Utilization of Site Potential
All building sites have some natural advantages that can be utilized for better building performance. From the MEP perspective, taking the orientation of the building into account can help harness natural sunlight and wind patterns to ensure better light and ventilation. Additionally, solar panels can be installed to gather the maximum amount of solar energy, to satisfy the tenants’ requirements.
#3 Optimum Material Use
The material used in MEP systems plays an important role in deciding the efficiency of the system. For instance, using the material with optimum heat-transfer coefficient, as per the location and orientation of the building can serve to reduce the load on HVAC systems in the building.
#4 Improving indoor Air Quality Using Air Curtains, FAHUs
Indoor air quality is a major factor that decides the occupant’s comfort level, productivity, and health, thereby indirectly regulating their energy usage. It is hence, necessary to make sure that indoor air quality is improved by making use of air curtains that can reduce the thermal exchange through the building envelope, or Fresh Air Handling Units with advanced heat recovery options.
#5 Use of Smart Technology to Reduce Energy Consumption
Smart technology, which includes equipment having a high COP or EER, is an asset in controlling the energy consumption of the building. MEP systems should make use of smart technology like inverter-based compressors, passive solar building design, motion sensors for conditioned lighting, and even fluorescent lights instead of incandescent bulbs to decrease the electrical load of the building, thus reducing energy consumption.
#6 Precise Installation, Regular Maintenance, Updated Training Methods
Choosing the appropriate material and having the ideal design can only take you so far if it is not installed properly. Precise installation and timely maintenance are a must for sustainable building design. In addition, regular training of operators with frequent updates from companies providing professional MEP design and services is imperative to achieve optimum efficiency in system operation.
There are numerous other methods and practices that can go a long way in improving building performance. However, it is necessary that architects, MEP consultants, and contractors work hand-in-hand for the appropriate execution of the systems designed. It is possible that practical difficulties may arise while installing the said MEP system; in such cases, a feedback loop is required to optimize the system instead of simply making adjustments or cutting corners.
Give the need for sustainable development today, building and BIM service providers, engineering consultants, and electromechanical companies need to inculcate a performance-based approach than sticking to the previous, compliance-based perspective.