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Five Things You Need to Know Before Hiring an MEP Consultant

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

We have found that there is often a lack of clarity about how to get the best from an MEP consultant. What's in scope? How will the work be managed? What kind of qualities should I be looking for?

For example, we once did MEP for a project which included a gymnasium over a swimming pool. The pool area was at 30 degrees and the gym needed to be kept at 16. Unexpectedly, condensation started appearing on the walls and glazing of the exercise room. When it did, everyone looked to us to fix our mistakes. But this wasn't an MEP issue. It was the result of hot and cold air mixing – and a big hole in the wall, a construction oversight. In many areas, including condensation risk and cold bridging, we can bring advice in scope, but there are many people who are more specialised and knowledgeable we would prefer to work with.

Assuming things fall into our scope and underestimating MEP costs are potentially damaging to your project.

So, to help you make sure creating the optimal internal environment and energy consumption for your building goes as smoothly as possible, here are the five most important things to know when you are hiring an MEP consultant.

1. Cost advice is not included in the fee.

This is a common misunderstanding. MEP engineers provide a cost estimate for the MEP elements of the building to the cost consultant (or to the team/client if the cost consultant is not appointed).

However, while we will have a good idea of how much the work should cost and can give advice on efficiency and actual costs based on real-world procurement figures, the actual project costs will need to be fed in by the cost consultant who also has a vital role to play in lowering costs through the right procurement strategy, contract and negotiation strategy.

2. We cannot project manage the design team

We are a highly proactive MEP who will be in contact with you regularly. However, we don’t have an overview of the entire project so we can’t project manage all the different elements. We can ask you questions related to MEP but there might be an important structural element to consider, say moving a culvert around, that we are not aware of.

Some projects don’t have an allocated specialist managing the process whether architect or project manager. This is a serious risk to the project’s success and we will need to talk about how we're going to manage the MEP scope.

3. Don't hire an MEP just because they have done an airport (hospital, swimming pool) before.

It’s a mistake to assume that sector experience automatically translates into the ability to complete your job brilliantly. The last thing you want is an off-the-peg solution because the combination of project, site, budget and carbon targets make the risks and opportunities of each job quite different. What you should be looking for is a team which is creative, capable and learns from the jobs that they have done before

4. We don’t automatically do everything associated with energy and sustainability

We can certainly give you a view and advise on whether your building meets Part L or examine the design for potential cold bridging points as well as insulation and condensation risk but we would need to add that to the scope. The MEP only normally has responsibility for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems facilities that make buildings habitable and functional. If it doesn’t power up or have moving parts, it’s not in the core scope.

5. We are not responsible for the final coordination on-site.

Depending on the scope, the MEP consultant’s duty is to make sure that things fit and work well together as a system. The contractor will carry out the final selection and install of the equipment. They will also have to make sure that what they've chosen fits within the rest of the design and the building.

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