MEP contractors are not being engaged early enough in the construction process, says Drake & Scull International MEP MD Mark Andrews.
“MEP contractors can add an awful lot to the energy-footprint issues of a building, sustainability, green buildings, whatever language you want to use,” Andrews said.
Andrews says the optimal energy performance of a building “is down to the MEP equipment, and the installation and control of that equipment. Some people think intuitively it is all about the quality of the HVAC gear. It is not. If you have not got the building properly air-tight, then it is going to leak like a sieve and it is never going to be efficient.”
A more integrated design-and-build approach is required, advocates Andrews. “Again this comes back to the main difference with the UK, where design-and-build enables the people who understand how to install and engineer the MEP to get involved upfront so as to get this work done more effectively.
“You can be the greatest MEP contractor in the world, but if at the end you come in as tail-end Charlie when the entire building is designed and all the configuration is done, there is a limited amount you can actually do to optimise it.
"Whereas if you are involved early on in the process, preferably right up front with the architects and consultants, that is when you have the opportunity to make a big difference,” says Andrews.
This goes hand in hand with the issue of quality. Andrews says an interesting trend in the UK over the last five years has been literally “turning the building inside out.” In terms of buildings like schools and hospitals, for example, “the important part of those buildings is what is on the inside.
"I do not want to upset the architects, but the sort of iconic nature of the building perhaps does not matter that much, if it is a building that is primarily required to be functional. What you then need to do is to start looking at how this building is going to behave on the inside.”
Andrews notes that remarkable performance gains can be made “if you can look at just rotating the building around; the use of building physics and thermal modelling is now pretty widespread.”
It is also important to “actually look at where the consolidated equipment areas are, where the heat sources are, and how the HVAC system is distributed to optimise the hot spots in the building.”
While natural ventilation is obviously difficult in the Middle East climate, “nevertheless by having airflows in buildings and modelling these, it is quite staggering the level of performance improvement that can occur.
"I think some of that has to start happening more in this market. I feel that the MEP contractors need to be brought in early enough if we are to make the contribution that we are capable of making.”