Construction Monkey

Construction Monkey Blog

MEP Coordination: 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 difficult economy and money isn’t as free flowing as before. Your budgets are smaller, your time lines are shorter, and you have to perform the same as you have in the past. 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 in the sense that it forces us to look at how we do things and forces us to look at how we can do things better. With environmental issues becoming a greater part of the building process we have to look at ways to build the same buildings better, faster, and more efficiently.

Let’s consider MEP coordination. 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 and it’s cheaper than hiring an outside source to head up the coordination.” Cheaper, true, but you are going to pay for it somewhere.

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? Not so fast.

Would you let the plumber do the drywall or let the concrete sub do the painting? Sure, it can get done, but it will take longer and in construction, time is money. There will probably be a good chance that it will have to be redone and someone has to pay for it. Guess who? How many others will it affect? How will it impact the schedule?


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 coordination background do the coordination. You don’t give the job to apprentices do you? 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, and only it for a living. Look for someone who isn’t afraid to be a pit bull when needed. Someone with high standards and demands that from the coordination team. Look for someone who has your best interest in mind.

But it’s so expensive. How much in change orders and delays 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.