By Jill Best
An experienced MEP firm understands the impacts that we have on a building and the building owner. This starts at design, continues throughout construction and the maintenance of the building. The Owner is putting a huge investment into a new or existing building. Being able to translate their needs into a design can be an art.
Understanding the owner’s needs and wants is critical. What is the budget? What is the function of the space? What are the owner’s expectations? What is the maintenance staff experience? What level of energy conservation is expected?
Being able to set your MEP firm apart from others includes the ability to understand the owner requirements and then provide a design that meets their expectations. We strive to have a satisfied building owner at the end of every project.
So – what is the special sauce to a satisfied the building owner? It is critical that the owner understands the MEP impacts and designs of the project. In some cases, we are working with a team of consultants and do not have direct contact with the owner, which can make this extremely difficult. How can we communicate these impacts? First, we have to simplify the complexities of the MEP building systems. Engineering does not equal simple. Engineers can be extremely complex and hard to keep up with at times. Therefore, we must be able to communicate the details of the designs in ways that non-engineers can understand. How great it would be to have an engineer google translator!
Some owners enjoy the complexities of engineering and are interested in trying to understand why we are providing the systems and designs that we do. Others want us to make the decisions for them that will meet their requirements.
When it comes to mechanical and electrical systems it can be subjective. Not many people think about the HVAC, plumbing or electrical systems of a building until there is a problem. Budgets and other constraints can translate into the following reactions. “It is too hot/ cold in this room.” “The water does not get hot fast enough. “Who picked these light fixtures and why are they not dimmable?”
In addition, we are required to follow the building codes related to our disciplines, and these are not always in line with the owner requirements. Having the ability to communicate these codes – what they are and why they are required – is critical to helping the owner understand decisions.
How do we communicate this information to an owner? One way this can be accomplished is by providing system evaluations that can be easily explained. We take pride in our ability to evaluate a new or existing building and present the results in a non-complex, easy-to-understand format. Our goal is to provide a platform of clarity for the owner by offering system comparisons, estimated cost of systems, as well as a life-cycle cost analysis. This gives the building owner the tools to make the best design decisions. The owner’s expectations, budget and architectural constraints can dictate the decision to choose a specific system. It is critical that we go through the steps in this process and present our findings to the owner. They need to know where their budget is being invested. Without this communication, there are possibilities of dissatisfaction which is what we strive to avoid.
As engineers, we strive to meet the owner’s needs. The MEP systems bring comfort and life to the building therefore, we need to ensure that we understand the owner’s requirements and constraints throughout the design process. If their expectations, vision and desires are unclear it is almost impossible to meet their requirements. To accomplish this we need to communicate with the architect and empower them, so they know the importance of getting us in front of the owner. This is the secret sauce to a satisfied building owner!