The need for change in today's MEP industry

The only way the MEP industry can meet increasing demands is by embracing change

Reid Donovan is regional director of MEP solutions at Arcadis Middle East
Reid Donovan is regional director of MEP solutions at Arcadis Middle East

Over the last 18 months a sustained low oil price has created a very different environment within the Middle East construction market. With clients under greater pressure, they’re pushing to deliver projects quicker and at a lower cost than ever before. At the same time however, projects are becoming even more challenging in terms of scale, cost, and technical complexity.

The only way in which the industry can balance these often competing demands will be by embracing change and working differently than before. But where exactly do the opportunities lie to try and save costs, condense programmes or achieve even better outcomes? In practice, we are likely to see increased levels of innovation across the wider construction industry. However, for MEP professionals there are four trends that we believe will be particularly important in 2017:

1. A truly integrated design approach: To achieve the earlier completion dates that clients are increasingly pushing, the traditional design sequence will need to evolve and become a much more integrated process. MEP design in particular will need to follow on closely from the structural design construction sequence. A truly integrated approach during the design and construction phases of a project will also enable earlier contractor engagement (at the end of the schematic design stage or even earlier). This will facilitate earlier completion dates and reduce the amount of re-work required, helping to save project costs.

2. Greater adoption of BIM: The transition from using computer-aided 2D designs to BIM is already transforming MEP design practices. Over the next twelve months, we expect to see BIM and Revit 3D modelling more widely applied on all MEP systems. Embracing this technology will help engineering teams to collaborate effectively for construction and design decisions, to find solutions to key project design integration challenges, and, ultimately, to create quality buildings with consistent and coordinated information.

3. Increased use of modular construction for MEP systems: Modular construction has traditionally been applied to structural based systems and for pre-fabricated buildings. With the advancement in BIM technology and the increased ability to integrate complex building systems in real time, there’s a tremendous opportunity to disrupt the commercial MEP construction process by building more components off-site. This would provide scope to secure efficiency savings in the complex MEP site works and installation phases, and would help teams to complete projects quicker than before.

4. Embracing standardised design: Introducing greater levels of repetition in the core design of major architectural components will allow for an early MEP design freeze and earlier MEP contractor engagement. Both of these steps will bring additional benefits to a project including greater consistency of final product and a reduction in the volume of changes required. This in turn will see a reduction in the costs associated with all of these variations.

There’s no denying that the last 18 months have been a difficult period for the industry, however history shows that such conditions often serve as a catalyst for driving positive change. It forces consultants to think creatively, to embrace new solutions, and to work more efficiently, all of which ultimately raises standards.

In 2017 new government directives around the use of BIM, the advent of 3D printing and greater pre-fabrication will all help to build fresh momentum. Those firms that embrace the change and who invest in bringing new insight and capabilities to the table, will secure a competitive advantage that will help them to stand out in a busy market like we see today in Dubai. It could also set them up for even greater success as and when the oil price picks up again in 2018 and beyond.

Reid Donovan is regional director of MEP solutions at Arcadis Middle East

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