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MEP industry is its own worst enemy

MagiCAD's Timo Nurminen says the industry is ignoring warning signs

Timo Nurminen, Country Director, MagiCAD.
Timo Nurminen, Country Director, MagiCAD.

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There is definitely something wrong with the regional MEP industry and time is running out for many of the key players.

This time it is not about delayed or cancelled projects, rising cost of materials or new building regulations. It has everything to do with the very tools MEP engineering and contracting companies are using to design and build the various developments.

It is beyond absurd that some of the most modern and iconic buildings and projects in the world are designed with some of oldest software tools available. And it is exactly this ever-widening gap that poses serious threat to the whole MEP industry.

Most regional MEP engineering consultancies and contractors are still designing with old-fashioned 2D AutoCAD tools that emerged to the market in the 1980’s. Worst still, companies here tend to use 3-5 year old versions of the software in order to save money. This is in sharp contrast to Europe where nearly all MEP companies have deployed modern 3D software tools and most projects adhere to BIM principles.

BIM means that all MEP disciplines work in one, virtual 3D model that is shared in real time.

It has been estimated that MEP industry is one that will benefit most from usage of modern 3D software tools and BIM process. Features like automatic clash detection, bill of materials and automated calculations guarantee that MEP design can be done 50-70% faster with 3D tools than in traditional 2D.

Imagine what are the annual savings for industry if each project can be designed in half of a time what it used to take? Also quality of the design will improve dramatically since software will be able to automatically identify many of the design errors during the early phases.

Coordination issues with 3D are things of a past as teams are able to coordinate different MEP disciplines almost automatically in the virtual 3D model. In Europe no one is questioning the benefits and return on investment of 3D MEP design tools.

Why is it then that regional MEP companies are not interested in using modern 3D tools and keep designing with antiqued and outdated software?

I argue that the key reason is that companies are mainly interested in short-term thinking. Investment into new 3D software is seen as liability and if the company has been able to get this far with 2D tools then they must be usable still for another 5-10 years. This indicates that many MEP companies are less interested in developing their own processes and enhance design quality.

This mentality also means that they do not understand that 3D tools are above all productivity tools that save considerable amounts of money in the design process.

The market is changing rapidly. Already now there are large tenders that require all MEP design to be done in 3D and according to BIM principles.

No MEP company is able to hide from this fact and the tide is inevitably against those who still believe that 2D is enough. Companies making investment now into 3D are those that will not only win these new projects, but they are also able to design each project much more efficiently and with less cost than those that utilize outdated 2D tools.

In less than few years time 3D will be the standard requirement for most of the larger projects.

Many regional MEP companies will be heading for nasty surprises in the near future and only then the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent. The shift from 2D design into 3D design is as dramatic and transformational as was the shift from manual drawing board design to CAD design in the 1980’s.

Unfortunately regional MEP companies have not understood this and are like the proverbial ostrich with its head ducked in the sand hoping that the trouble will go away. Unfortunately, the troubles are just about to start.

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