The Down and Dirty: 18 Years of BIM in MEP


BIM in MEP Blog


In 1964, the price of gas was 30 cents per gallon, the average cost of a new home was $15,000, an Econoline van was around $5,000, and copper pipe was 75 cents a foot. Also in 1964, construction efficiency began a 25% decline that ended up lasting 38 years.


From 1964 to 2002, construction efficiency went down despite the widespread use of new technologies in the 1980s and ‘90s, including fax machines, cell phones and computer-aided design. The building industry was booming, yet sixteen years ago, it was estimated that the cost to the construction industry due to inefficiency was over $15-billion a year. That was primarily due to waste and rework. For decades there’s been a disconnect between the building designers, the contractors and the operators.


Since 2000, the point of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is to overhaul that disconnect.  Between 2000 and 2016, the power of BIM in the construction industry, and the MEP industry in particular, was the “reduction of duplicated efforts.” The mechanical contractor started coordinating with engineers. If something clashed, if something needed to be moved, the changes could be made in a BIM environment without affecting the cost of the project. And the benefits get more valuable over time. According to an HOK Architects presentation at BIMForum in 2014, for every $1 spent on design, $20 is spent on construction, and $60 (or more) is spent on building operation.

This is one hub of the MEP universe. Over the life of a building, maybe 50 years or so, services will be needed, and changes will happen. Remodels and retrofits will require MEP modifications. How can your MEP firm benefit?

Without BIM, every time you create a PDF of design drawings, you destroy usable information. But with BIM in a Revit model, you can see calculations and even get an idea what the engineer was thinking. It’s the same with estimates – if you have the information digitally, you can produce mechanical data files for the owner.

Since 2016, BIM has been about the modeling of information, not just inside buildings. BIM is no longer just about sketching, clash detection and modeling. It’s now about modeling of buildings in 3D, facilities, and even geography.


Information is the key to it all. In your day-to-day operations, you’re collecting a ton of information, and maybe you’re not doing a lot with it. You may want to reconsider that, because you can make money by making other people (your clients) successful as well. Use building data to do that:

  • The power of BIM today is the data analytics. Data is worth so much money now, especially if it’s organized.
  • Maintain the integrity of your data, keep it nicely organized. A unified database is HUGE.
  • Have the as-built created before installing anything.
  • Keep a clean workflow – get your workflows in order.
  • 3D data can now be put on the cloud.
  • You can give one coordinated file to the client. Looking ahead, when a retrofit is necessary, it’s all there in one file.
  • Learn how to integrate BIM models with asset management systems/solutions. This ties everything together. AND, it puts you in front of the client (especially the CFO).
  • According to Michael Brown, “energy guru,” President and CEO of Environmental Construction Services Inc, a major player in the MEP industry developing energy efficient construction projects, the ideal MEP scenario for ultimate efficiency is utilizing a combination of: Autodesk Fabrication CADmep, ESTmep, CAMduct; plus Navisworks and Revit

At MEP Force 2018, Brown described his target for his firm’s operations, “My goal is to standardize the construction industry, with help from Applied, that we have consistency of service. No matter where we go and what capacity we serve in, the client gets the same identical thing.” He added, “Our method is the right method, and it’s worth the investment.”

Where does your MEP firm go from here? If you’re already working in Revit and made the move to BIM, see, “Don’t Let Kryptonite Bring Down Your MEP Superman.”

Stay tuned for part two of this series: 6 Ways That MEP Without BIM is Like Fred Flintstone Without a Bronto-Crane

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