As a mechanical engineer, you know that design can be a complex and demanding task. From navigating stringent regulations and codes to managing tight budgets and timelines, mechanical engineers face challenges that require careful planning and constant collaboration.
During the planning, creation, testing, and installation of mechanical systems, it can feel like you’re constantly having to make changes to adapt the project. Balancing the expectations of several parties, while still ensuring the mechanical design is functional and efficient, is a struggle that most engineers can relate to.
Luckily, we’ve put together five tips to help your next project become more efficient, accurate, and profitable.
1. Specification first, then design
Mechanical design is often done simultaneously with creating specifications. Many mechanical engineers have time constraints, and get into the habit of starting an installation without detailed specifications.
Instead, mechanical design teams should create specifications then use this as the basis of design rather than vice versa. It’s important that the models reflect the real-world, and this is where specialist MEP design software can help. A sophisticated solution will come with integrated managed content, guaranteeing that all information in the content library is updated automatically, thereby ensuring your design is as accurate as it can be. This order of things gives a clear outline of what’s being done and helps minimise human error associated with on-the-fly and manual designing.
This doesn’t just benefit your ways of working – it benefits the teams responsible for the installation phase of the project. Detailed and complete designs can then be revised for installation without the need for back and forth and lack of clarity.
2. Make changes holistically
No project is designed perfectly, and there will always be changes needing to be made at some point. When a change order comes through, there might be a temptation just to change an individual part rather than evaluating the whole mechanical system. Engineer’s intuition, experience, and workload has many designers tempted to go about things the easier way, which doesn’t always mean that it is as thorough as it should be.
The hard truth is, corner-cutting can often be to blame for later repercussions in a project.
As a mechanical engineer, you’re working with the infrastructure of a building, so any changes always deserve a full reevaluation of the mechanical system rather than a quick change. This goes back to working with your customers needs, the more of these isolated changes that are made, the further away the system strays away from what was discussed and agreed with the customer initially.
3. Design in 3D
Mechanical systems are complex, with lots of different components and subsystems. How do you convey all of this to a customer without overloading them with information? It’s a tricky balance between having designs that are detailed but easily understandable – which is where specialist 3D MEP design software comes into play.
3D design offers several advantages:
- Collaboration: 3D design software makes it easy for mechanical engineers to collaborate with other members of the design team, such as architects and structural engineers. They also allow designers to discuss mechanical systems with customers in greater detail without having to go too in-depth with technical detail. This accessibility helps ensure that all aspects of the design are integrated and working together seamlessly.
- Improved visualisation: 3D models offer complete transparency to customers. This means there should be no nasty surprises once the installation rolls around. Whether working with HVAC, plumbing, project owners, or any other stakeholder, a full visualisation of the model ensures everyone is on the same page and helps reduce the likelihood of change orders.
- Enhanced design accuracy: Involving more people in the design process allows mechanical engineers to create highly detailed and accurate models of their designs. For example, BIM software like Stabicad for Revit allows mechanical design engineers to work natively in Revit, and helps them integrate real-world component details directly into 3D models. This way, component dimensions can be reviewed by engineers before installation. This gives a real-life visualisation of how the design will look and function in the real world, helping to identify potential issues before construction begins.
Using 3D models brings a wider level of accessibility to design plans. By sharing 3D models with customers early on, they can see the look and function before you begin building. This leads to a better working relationship from both sides, as any creases can be ironed out by all parties.
4. Stop producing calculations outside of your 3D model
Mechanical calculations are often produced outside of the 3D model and this can result in a number of issues, including missing changes to the design, human error when transferring data, and inaccuracies occurring from team members using different methodologies. All of these lead to same result – inaccurate calculations. This causes costly delays and rework later in the project. And even if you are already producing mechanical calculations in your 3D model, are you confident in their accuracy? With accurate calculations come accurate models, reducing the risk of rework and material wastage.
This is where a specialist MEP BIM solution can come in handy. Read more about why BIM software needs calculation standards and Trimble’s recent work with CIBSE to develop the Software Verification Assessment program that tests the accuracy of mechanical calculations.
5. Perfect the design before installation
When the first 4 steps are in place, it means you can use design as a diagnostic tool. That means you can begin to fix mistakes in your 3D model rather than in the field. That means less time spent on change orders and quicker project completion.
Good design involves effective teamwork. By following the steps we've outlined, you can make technical information easier to understand and work with, so everyone involved in the project can collaborate effectively.
BIM (Building Information Modelling) is more than just a design tool. It's a powerful framework that can improve the flow of information throughout the entire construction process.
To learn more about how to select the best MEP design software for you, read our ebook.