Ahead of the current™
Jesus, It Fit In the Virtual Building Model!
Posted on: June 22nd, 2011 by Bill

I received an interesting article from our CEO last month. It dealt with a successful lawsuit against the design professionals on a design-bid-build project. The design team, as part of their contracted services, produced a virtual building model indicating the location of a majority, if not all MEP building systems. The crux of the complaint is that the MPE design, while indicating the X-Y-Z positions of MPE components such as duct work, cable tray and sprinkler piping, did not organize the location of the systems in a manner where they may be easily installed.

The case was argued in the contention that the design cold fit in a certain volume, but could not be installed commensurate with the typical constructor’s practices. It becomes the argument of the Swiss watch. Commercial and industrial building works need sufficient space to allow for the nuances of the builders’ approach. This does not mean that the design should be so roomy to be wasteful. It simply means that systems are organized in the Z-axis in a manner to allow for logical, sequential work during the build.

The design professionals lost the case.

This is not an uncommon issue. The design professionals are at a distinct disadvantage in two ways (and it’s symptomatic of their roles and not their capabilities):

    • The MPE design is based on generic sizes of equipment based on what is typically an open spec for major MPE systems and end items. The design professionals have to design around the worst-case scenario for sizing.


  • Construction means and methods have evolved significantly over time. While engineered documents are definitive of scope and sizing of MPE systems, engineered documents do not, as a routine, possess enough coordination between trades to allow the DP to present a set of plans coordinated with sufficient detail or sequence to allow for smooth installation.


How do you get around this on fixed-priced, engineered work? Well, the sinister side of the the issue is that the building gets bigger to make room for the works and to prevent this type of claim. Dismissing alternate contracting methods like IPD or design-assist, the primary focus should be on the Z-axis organization of systems, especially in the substructure and above ceilings, as well as focusing on vertical and horizontal transitions.

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