Today in New York City, depending on the project size, location, and pre-existing conditions, new modern structures can be completed in six months to a year. In a city as diverse as NYC, the focus is on improvements that work with the city’s conditions and cost awareness for reusing space and cooperative multiple spaces for high rise development. For all the effort in planning, one thing is certain: delays due to unforeseen conditions on location and the project structure. Accomplishing the project requires clear communication of the final goal, resilient project management, and measured scheduling of the construction process timeline. All of these elements are critical to managing construction variables requiring necessary changes or revisions to the plan. That's where the MEP Engineer comes into play.
Before starting any work on construction, whether the project is business to business, working as a team member with other trades, or a direct relationship with a consumer, a discussion on the approved plans and the overall design style and structure needs to happen. From an engineering and architectural standpoint, the paper design and drawings are outstanding, and the construction challenge is building a compliant working form of the vision. Read on to learn more about the complete building process timeline and how the MEP Engineer -- and the rest of the team -- helps produce a safe, working structure.
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Determining Your MEP Engineering Needs
The first priorities are the drawings and designs to determine the need for permits and contractors. This normally takes anywhere from three weeks to three months before any physical work is started. Like all engineering projects, timing is everything. If the planning stages for design started in the winter, and paperwork submissions get approved by spring, building may continue through summer and fall. A great MEP Engineer will be responsive and quick to answer any questions or determinants the project may need answered before moving forward. They'll also listen to you and work with you to effectively achieve your goals.
Next is assembling the trades, contractors, and workers to complete the project on time. Selecting the right team that’s experienced and knowledgeable of the location, the style of buildings and how to make the best use of the budget always makes a difference. Building code violations for commercial or public structures can be costly to the builder, and although NYC is noted for being a city that doesn’t sleep, it’s not necessarily true in some parts of the city where noise requirements are strictly enforced for each construction site. It's no secret a single code can shift schedules and construction phases.
MEP Engineering Building Blocks
NYC has a long history below its city; new and renovated construction sites have unearthed some unusual items. The first month of construction usually requires an assessment for grading with attention to specific time schedules for clearing the lot and planning the build. One day to one month is needed for grading preparation before setting the foundation forms into the ground.
This first block of time appears to be simple; just follow the blueprints to the exact dimensions for moving dirt from high to the low areas during excavation, leveling the site for building. In reality, it’s more complicated because the site needs to be staged in pile locations, hauling roads, storage locations, parking areas, and the building layout points. Planning includes existing landscapes, items to stay or to be removed due to land changes, and repercussion. For example, removing a 100 year old tree stump leaves an unnatural hole, and simply filling it with new soil that’s not packed solid may have consequences in the future.
As the ground gets graded and leveled, it's ready for the foundation to be poured. In most cases, with enough workers and good weather, it takes about one to three weeks -- possibly longer -- to allow the concrete to set. This isn’t an area for hurried schedules; the values and thickness of the concrete will vary, taking more time to set depending on the building specifications. Today, technology has presented some modern changes in construction, affecting the costs, introducing new benefits of using concrete core columns as the primary load carrier compared to steel frame cores. Concrete is known for its reinforcement characteristic adding a new benefit to the constructed core. Office buildings are being built with fewer columns to the open floor designs, allowing property owners to make the most use of prime square footage. Renovations are also taking advantage of the open space design concept, yet steel is still being used in some areas due to its ability to span the distance. A helpful, trustworthy MEP Engineer will be able to help make the best, most efficient decisions for your project without over-engineering.
Now it’s time to start building the infrastructure of the building with plates and floor joists to hold sub flooring before the framing starts. At this point, dry weather is a blessing for at least one month on new and renovation construction build sites. Roof materials start to arrive, and within the month, there’s covering overhead so the workers can begin the next two to three months installing interiors from HVAC, plumbing, and wiring.
These jobs are done by specialists and experts in the area; they know the local regulations, saving time with access to quality materials approved by NYC on this phase of construction. If you’ve ever seen any type of construction, you’ve seen several trades working on the site at the same time. There’s a reason for this: all of these interiors have to work concurrently without any interference down the road when operating within the building. The electrical panels are configured to support the expected load before the walls are closed, eliminating delays and additional cost to tear out and replace. Safety codes are intended to prevent and protect, and the NYC updated sprinkler and fire alarm codes apply to multiple dwellings and commercial facilities. A reputable MEP engineer can design proper sprinkler and fire systems to ensure your building isn't delayed due to NYC code issues. They love a challenge, as well as working with others, so you should have no issues with successful project collaboration.
There’s a push for energy savings today with the price of electricity, and in NYC, some buildings are required to be Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings or sustainable using less water and energy. The goal is to save money and reduce the environmental effect by using low water flow fixtures, motion sensors for controlling lighting, and recycled materials without deferring quality. Modern builders are also using energy recovery systems to recycle air with advanced ventilation techniques. The idea of energy savings isn’t new; NYC and trades have taken to sustaining LEED, reducing operational costs over time and environment impacts. Prior to the influence of LEED, passive houses were built and renovated in NYC using less energy to maintain temperature controls without active heating or cooling systems.
An MEP Engineer will walk through shoring up the walls and enclosing the insulation, electrical, and mechanical systems to get ready for drywall. Finished carpentry can take about two to three months, preparing the walls and ceilings for the final covers of paint or wallpaper. It’s taken a quarter of a century to evolve drywall into the quality material used today. It still has a few precautions because it can be damaged easily, and it’s absorbent to moisture, making it the perfect environment for mold or mildew.
The finishing touches for plumbing, appliances, and fixtures, along with wring plates or programmable sensors, complete the engineering design details. The personal aspects of paint, decorations, and floor covering become part of the final interior design phase, along with upgrades of molding and baseboards, window treatments, and doors taking two to four weeks.
Careful consideration should be given to upgrades; they do add value and project cost, but decorative items have nothing to do with the quality of the construction. The key to project value is incorporating the upgrades within the construction budget without subjecting the structure to dramatic changes. An MEP Engineer will help keep your project on time and on budget, so make sure to go to them with any questions or concerns you may have.
- Before starting any work on construction, a discussion on the approved plans and the overall design style and structure needs to happen.
- When determining your MEP engineering needs, focus on permits & contractors, as well as the rest of the team required to complete a successful project. You want a team that's experienced and knowledgeable of the location and building style, and one that's most efficient with your budget.
- When building in NYC, make sure you're conscious of the fact that the city has some unusual items. The first month of construction usually requires an assessment for grading with attention to specific time schedules for clearing the lot and planning the build.
- Structure scheduling and the building of the infrastructure of the building is done by specialists and experts in the area; they know the local regulations, saving time with access to quality materials approved by NYC on this phase of construction.
What do you look for in an MEP Engineer? What types of projects have they helped you complete? Comment below to let us know! And if your next project focuses on building or remodeling your office space, make sure to gain some insight into the process by reading our free Office Spaces Infographic.
Editors Note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.