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Question: When working in AutoCAD MEP, how do the tools fit into the engineering and design process?
Expert Solution from Carlie Wagner, CADLearning’s Content Curator: To gain the most advantage, using MEP tools in the correct sequence and for the appropriate task can help you to reduce errors, increase accuracy, and improve both productivity and coordination.
This method has become known as the Three-Step Process. The process follows the traditional design timeline, with these fundamental elements:
- Step 1 – Analyze and Add Equipment
- Step 2 – Create the Connecting Geometry
- Step 3 – Annotate the Model
Step 1 begins in the early stages of the design process, typically in the schematic design stages. Once the building has defined bounding elements, such as walls, doors and windows, the engineer can place space objects and begin to analyze the requirements of the building. This analysis can encompass heating and cooling loads, lighting analysis, electrical requirements for equipment, and plumbing needs. Items for LEED and sustainable material re-use are reviewed, and determinations are made as to how to make the most of these concepts.
Once the building has been analyzed, primary pieces of equipment known as targets and sources are defined. Targets are pieces of equipment that receive air, fluid or power. Examples include lights, air terminals, and plumbing fixtures. Sources are items that control the distribution, or provide air, fluid or power. Examples of these components include panels, pumps and air handling units.
Once these items are added to the model, the designer moves to Step 2: creating the connecting geometry. This includes items such as duct, conduit, cable tray and piping. These intelligent objects leverage the connectors defined on equipment, to help with the size and shape of these components. In some cases, even engineering data can be transferred. For example, the airflow assigned to an air terminal is associated with the connecting duct. As the duct system is built, the accumulated airflow builds into the system, so that the highest point contains the total airflow of the system.
The first two steps are completed using construct and element drawings when the Project Navigator is used. AutoCAD MEP allows these devices to connect to each other across reference files, so the integrity of the system is maintained, even when broken up into several drawings.
Step 3, annotating the model, occurs in view drawings, with items such as tags, labels and dimensions using the physical model geometry, and associated data, to label the objects. This requires that the model be created as accurately as possible, to automate this process as much as possible. Additional tools used in this process include items such as interference detection, which help the designer locate and resolve conflicts before construction, rather than the more-costly alternative of “field fit and finish.”
Using this process may force designers to change when and how they use their CAD tools, but the end result far outweighs the learning curve and implementation.
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