Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) Engineering refers to various characteristics of building design, and consists of planning, designing, maintaining the MEP systems of a building, and getting approval from the local building department. However, there are several ways in which a team of MEP engineers can benefit the existing buildings. With that in mind, this article will provide you with a brief overview of some of the common building problems and areas of opportunity, and how a MEP engineering firm can help you.
While the MEP systems are designed for creating a comfortable indoor environment for occupants, they are also responsible for major part of the energy and water consumption in buildings. Efficient design and optimal installation can result in resource usage and operating costs to reduce greatly while maintaining the expected environment for humans.
Now, let’s dive into the top 4 tips how a MEP Engineering team can help improve buildings.
Fixing Building Code and Local Law Violations
For regulating new construction and renovation projects, the local government refers to building codes, and these codes are reviewed and updated periodically. Additional building requirement may also be published in the form of local laws. Normally, buildings are subject to the applicable code at the time of construction, meaning there is no need for upgrading the property with every new code version. However, local laws have retroactive requirements that apply for new buildings as well as existing buildings.
Failing to comply to the building codes and local laws can lead to legal and financial consequences for the building owner. Thus, these issues must be fixed as soon as possible. However, these building codes and local laws cover technical aspects, which can go undetected in buildings without proper assistance. Therefore, it is recommended to have a thorough inspection of the property by a MEP Engineering firm to identify and find the best solutions for the issues. MEP engineers can design a solution and get it approved from the local building department upon identifying building code and local law violations. Also, many penalties are waived off when building owners are willing to find and fix the violations voluntarily.
Every state and municipality have their own set of construction codes and laws. However, violations regarding fire protection system or fuel burning equipment tend to have the highest penalties considering the hazards involved.
2. Reducing Electricity and Gas Bills with Energy Efficiency
As mentioned earlier, MEP systems consume most of the energy, especially HVAC systems. However, a well designed and well selected energy efficiency measure can cut down the consumption without affecting the building’s performance. There is common misconception around energy efficiency measures that it can sacrifice Indoor Environmental Quality (IAQ). Since every building is unique, it requires the appropriate combination of energy efficiency measures for optimal results which can effectively improve both aspects of the building, performance and IAQ.
For identifying the right combination of energy efficiency measures, an anergy audit is strongly recommended as the very first step. This is where MEP engineers come into the picture. They can user energy modeling tools for analyzing several design options, and identify the best possible configuration for the building. Many of these measures are unique for every building, other can be used in almost every project. For instance, LED lighting and HVAC equipment upgrades are recommended in the most of the energy audits.
3. Improving the Indoor Environment Quality
IEQ is one the most important performance category in LEED certification for green buildings. IEQ goes beyond human comfort and safety regarding air quality alone and covers aspects like thermal comfort, acoustics and lighting. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, indoor air quality has become a high-priority topic. Also, WHO recognized the threat imposed by the viral particles being able to stay suspended in the air for several hours. With poor ventilation, these viral particles could create a serious issue for the occupants. For tackling this, ASHRAE recommends increasing fresh outdoor air ventilation with minimum to zero air recirculation, upgrading building’s air filter to MERV 13 rating or above, using Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) for inactivating the virus.
Extended lockdown periods have brought attention to hidden threats that can grow in building water systems and areas with high moisture content – Legionella and mold. Legionella, in particular, can cause a type of pneumonia which has a fatality rate as high as 10%. This is higher than the fatality rate of COVID-19. Building’s water systems tend to receive less attention, and if building owners don’t perform regular inspections, legionella bacteria can grow and thrive, especially in stagnant warm water.
MEP engineers can help you not only improve the IEQ, that promotes human comfort and eliminates harmful viral particles, but also assist with thorough building inspection for identifying hidden threats.
4. Implementing Water Conservation Measures
Normally energy bills tend to be higher than water bills. However, conserving both resources is equally important for reducing the environmental impact of buildings. Old properties tend to consume more water due to deteriorated plumbing fixtures. Water conservation counts as an energy efficiency measure when heating and pumping need are involved.
An easy and effective solution is using plumbing fixtures with WaterSense label from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
To get the label, plumbing fixtures must achieve at least 20% water savings with respect to the federal standards.
Tests must be performed by an approved lab independent of the manufacturer.
Upgrading older plumbing fixtures can lead to higher savings, since savings are calculated based on current federal standard.