Communication is everything when carrying out a mechanical and engineering project. David Davis outlines the FMs role for making things run smoothly
22 September 2015 | By David Davis
Deadlines and budgets are two of, if not the most important elements on every mechanical and electrical (M&E) project.
But these fundamental aspects are often ignored, causing huge consequences for the length of time projects take - and the cost.
Communication is a vital issue that is often overlooked or not given enough respect. The evidence is witnessed regularly by two of four parties involved -building services and maintenance. This partnership working is vital to deliver high-performing, efficient buildings.
And the true cost of a building isn't the initial construction fee, but how much it costs to run and maintain efficiently thereafter. The main considerations are design, implementation, impact on maintenance and finish.
Here are five key considerations for FMs:
1. Creating the right dialogue
It is not just communication that is needed - it's the right type of communication that has to be prioritised. It is the biggest friend for building services, FMs, builders and crucially, end users, yet is seldom used efficiently, with the designers complying with the specification buy and ignoring the end users' specific requirements. Clear talks need to be held with the end user as well as the builder at the outset. By using this as the starting point, a host of benefits, especially those relating to maintenance, become available and more coordinated projects are delivered.
More thought needs to be given to whom the building is for, and how it is going to be used, so the best M&E systems can be fitted at the first time of asking.
In new-build circumstances, the building is designed and equipped at category A only for the end user to realise it's not fit for purpose, leading to elements having to be stripped out to facilitate a category B to better suit the occupants' requirements.
If you were to overlay category A with category B designs the differences would be stark.
This can be avoided if building services companies speak to the right people early enough in the process to understand what the building is to be used for. A massive difference in plant spatial requirement (and savings) can be made by designing systems to meet specific client needs.
2. End-user input and use
The more detail that can be given before the building is designed and built, the better. It seems obvious, but the building is for the end-user client, not the main contractor. Crucial basics to know are when the building is going to be used, the number of people who will be in it, what it will be used for, and what's important.
If the building is going to be used by hundreds of people a day, but only in groups of 30 at any one time, then large powerful, permanent systems are not always needed; better to have flexibility so heating and ventilation can easily be reduced when it's not in use.
If it's an education facility where exams are carried out, services need to be able to turned down to create as silent an environment as possible.
3. FM central to designs
A crucial aspect of all pre-build design is significant input from FM teams. BIM plays a really valuable part in demonstrating how the M&E will look, enabling FMs to consider and highlight improvements.
Our maintenance division takes a leading role in the design process of our work, analysing ideas and highlighting areas that need changing before we get on site to allow for planned and reactive maintenance to take place quickly.
This, for example, prevents things like pipework or electrical containment being installed in front of AHU access doors.
Designing schemes that offer ease of access to services and appliances is paramount.
FMs can identify efficiency savings, which products are best suited and formulate a maintenance strategy that will provide longevity. It means the building can perform better while returning financial savings to the end user and achieving a far higher level of client satisfaction.
4. Ensuring compliance
The role of FMs in delivering compliance is a vital part of the process. By their very nature, M&E and all building services installed including gas, electricity and water supplies have to be tested and must meet legislation.
Active FM involvement from design to installation means compliance is guaranteed and no surprises arise causing delays or work having to be carried out again. FMs that work well with building services are invaluable for the builder and the end user, which is why the two divisions liaise so closely on projects.
5. Commission and final handover
As with all projects, commissioning and final handover should be a smooth process but this is only made possible in M&E schemes by FMs being involved throughout the entire process. This reiterates the previous four points made; the more involvement from FMs from the outset coupled with close working relationships with building services during the design and installation work means the final handover should be a formality.
David Davis is pre-construction director at G&H Group