5 Ways MEP Contractors Can Survive and Thrive in a BIM-Enabled Build Environment

How Digital Measurement Technology is Transforming MEP Pros into Key BIM Players

Few dispute that building information modeling (BIM) is now the de facto basis for nonresidential construction in the U.S.

A recent survey of commercial general contractors (GCs), construction managers, and specialty trades reveals 89% of construction professionals use BIM on at least some projects;  47% on at least half their projects.

Many reasons explain the technology’s ascendency over the last 50 years, not the least being that it’s a better way to build. A majority of AEC professionals say BIM:

  • Reduces rework (76%)
  • Improves budget and cost controls (66%)
  • Shortens project cycle time (55%)

Even COVID-19 may play a role in the quickening pace of BIM acceptance. The last nine months of 2020 accelerated tech adoption in the construction trades the equivalent of three years, according to the latest annual State of Construction Tech report by JLL. Today there’s even talk of a national mandate for the use of BIM technology on all government construction projects.

However, a federal push isn’t necessary. Building owners and AEC professionals have already signaled their vote through a growing reliance on BIM software tools such as AutoCAD, Revit, BricksCAD, SketchUp, Navisworks, among many others. 

For many in the trades, the decision to go all-in on a BIM-enabled workflow is moving rapidly from a maybe-someday argument to something far more persuasive: The contract requires it.

89% of construction professionals use  BIM on at least some projects.

MEP Contractors

Against this rising digital-first backdrop is an army of specialty contractors in the mechanical, electric and plumbing (MEP) trades.  Some determinedly embrace the new normal. Others continue to weigh their cost-benefit options against familiar, albeit fading, analog measurement practices.

Take layout. It’s not getting any easier for MEP layout teams to capture distances and angles for hanger, anchor, sleeve, box, pipework, cable trays and other building-service components, especially with today’s curved, nonlinear building designs. The demands of prefabricated assemblies also require tolerances that push traditional measuring tools such as the tape measure, string and theodolite to extremes.

The chances of error can be high. Is the theodolite level? The tape measure steady? Is that really the best reference point? Does the string mimic the curve? Even a minor measurement flub can echo downstream in unexpected ways. Small wonder construction budgets and insurance policies typically anticipate measurement errors and omissions.

Playbook Basics

BIM technology is not a cure-all. Rework must always be anticipated at various points in the project life cycle. It’s the nature of construction.

A growing body of evidence clearly shows BIM technology offers project stakeholders a new order of construction precision and understanding, starting with unprecedented data and visualization collaboration across all trades.

This playbook focuses on MEP delivery and its central place in a BIM ecosystem. We’ll explore how MEP contractors respond to the digital workplace. What’s their experience? How has it transformed their workflow? What should be considered when evaluating a digital measurement tool?