Construction Monkey

Construction Monkey Blog

MEP Coordination: why it’s expensive to be cheap.

You’re a contractor and you have been awarded a contract to do what your good at, build a building. You assemble a team to manage and grow it during its life cycle. You’ve done this a million times before and you’re good at it. That’s why you got the job right?

But things are different now aren’t they? Times are tougher in this downturn economy and money isn’t as free flowing as before. Your budgets are smaller, your time lines are shorter, but you have to perform the same as you have before. It’s about production construction, pedal to the medal, full steam ahead. Nothing stops the progress.

This downturn economy is probably the best thing that has happened to the construction industry only in the sense that it forces us to look at how we do things and makes us look at how we can do things better. With the environmental issues becoming a greater part of the building process we have to look at how to build the same buildings better, faster, and more efficiently.

Let’s talk about MEP coordination for a minute. History proves that a project that has been pre coordinated beforehand has a greater chance of making budget and finish dates, as much as 30% faster construction of the trades. With the benefit of 3D drafting and clash detection programs that are readily available to sub contractors it is possible to draw, elevate, and coordinate the MEP trades before construction, allowing for pre fabrication that guarantees a speedy installation if done correctly.

So what could go wrong and how will it affect your schedule? The trend for general contractors has been to allow the Mechanical contractor to lead the MEP coordination process and grants extra money in his contract for doing so. I hear it all the time “he’s got to be in the meetings anyway Joe and it’s cheaper than hiring an outside source to head up the coordination.” This is true.

So what do you get for your money? Typically the Mechanical Contractor will hire a person who is proficient in Auto CAD to draft up the building steel and slabs. Most have never worked in the trades nor have construction knowledge other than Auto CAD. Each trade will draft up their perspective discipline that will be installed into the ceiling or ground. The trades will all be inserted into the model and clash detection will be run showing all conflicts which will be worked out at regularly scheduled meetings. Each trade will agree on who goes where and you have a coordinated building right?

But let me ask you this, would you let the plumber do the drywall or let the concrete sub do the painting? Sure it can get done, maybe even right but it will take longer. There will probably be a good chance that it would have to be redone and someone has to pay for it. Guess who? And how many others will it affect, or the schedule?

I want to show you some examples of what is possible by going the cheep route. I’ve recently worked on a project after it was coordinated and signed off. I was responsible for coordinating some of the after coordination activity. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.

buried cable tray.jpg

Do you think the customer will be happy with the access to his cable tray?

switchgear vs plumbing 2.jpg

Last I checked it was illegal to run water over the High Voltage Switchgear. Here you see plumbing and sprinkler.





no clearence.jpg

Have you ever see 200” of ductwork without a seam, or 4 layers of pipe in the corridor without supports?  Do you think they can get the lights in?



no clearence 2.jpg


2-12” under ductwork, plumbing, and sprinkler. See any supports?


plumbing crash.jpg


How are they going to support the plumbing that collides with the 12” water?




plumbing under ductwork.jpg


How do you support this?




Or this?



Ok, so you get the picture. But how does this happen? This job happened to be coordinated by a local CAD shop. They have quite a bit of CAD knowledge but no construction savvy. Now understand the subcontractors went along with this. Do you think they saw the chance for some extras? Some re-work maybe? My point is, let the plumber be a plumber and the tin knocker be a tin knocker and don’t let some computer savvy shop without a construction background do the coordination. You don’t give the job to apprentices do you? Of course not. Trust someone who has been there before and who has no vested interest in the job. Look for someone who is looking out for your specific needs and not the needs of his own paycheck.

So what do you look for? Look for someone who has been there before and does it for a living. Someone who isn’t afraid to be a pit bull when needed. Someone with high standards and demands that from the coordination team. Someone who has your best interest in mind.

But it’s so expensive. How much in change orders do you think the contractor will pay out on the job we previewed? Do you think they will finish on time? Ask if he can work with your budget. You would be surprised how those of us looking to foster long term relationships are willing to work with you. After all, it is about relationship isn’t it?

The point is we need to do things differently now and think outside of the box. That’s the only way we will survive in this economy.