Examining the relevance of MEP software used in the US, UK and Australia for building construction, with a brief list of features that HVAC, fire, electricity and plumbing software services entail.
MEP design is one of the unsung heroes in the construction world. Much like set design for theatre, MEP design is crafted behind the scenes and its crew remains primarily invisible to the majority of people it benefits, but its effects are widely experienced, especially when things go wrong. MEP design is an umbrella term for the design of mechanical, electrical, plumbing & fire systems in a building, or MEP building systems, and it is vitally important for design decision-making, accurate documentation, seamless performance and cost-estimation, planning and operations. Effective MEP design requires effective software and qualified design engineering professionals to utilise their experience and specialist software for optimum results. Increasingly, these professionals are found as MEP consultants in India. To better understand the importance of software in MEP design, we take a look at available MEP design services and suitable software options for those services.
Design services in construction, especially MEP engineering design, must take into account client needs, sustainability needs, architectural design and structural factors, as well as commercial aspects. This is no different for MEP design. MEP design services involve offering a choice of solutions within a specific deadline to building design professionals. They include electrical design, electrical drawings, HVAC system, duct and distribution design, mechanical pipe design for low temperature and high temperature water design, plumbing design and fire system. These services can be created for concept, schematic, design development, tender and construction stages. For lighting design, and particularly for lux level calculations, DIALux is a popular tool, while trends indicate Camel software is preferred for calculating air conditioning loads.
AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, Inventor and 3D Max are software options that support MEP design. Others include country-specific and services-specific software tools. The more popular choices in the UK, US and Australia include the following:
In the UK, Hevacomp, FHC and Amtech (with DIALux) are preferred for HVAC, fire and electrical design, respectively.
In the US, TRACE, Hydracalc and ETAP (with DIALux) are preferred for HVAC, fire and electrical design, respectively.
In Australia, Camel, Hyena and PowerCad (with DIALux) are preferred for HVAC, fire and electrical design, respectively.
Taking a look at some of these tools and their features in detail offers more insight into their uses and benefits:
Specifically created to meet UK standards, Hevacomp mechanical designer software allows design and also analysis of mechanical systems.
- Accurate analysis of building load and energy calculations
- Extensive database
- Comprehensive tools and reports
- Calculates heat loss, radiator sizing, heat gains, shadow analysis, heating and air conditioning energy and summer overheating.
- Integrates with Hevacomp Dynamic Simulator for entire building analysis
TRACE 700 helps compare energy and economic impact of HVAC systems, HVAC equipment.
- Extensive modelling functionality – over 50 airside systems, air and waterside economisers, advanced chiller plant configurations, water-source and central and distributed ground-source systems, VRF and UFAD systems, dedicated outdoor-air systems and optimized control strategies.
- Integration – ASHRAE Standard 90.1 equipment and envelope libraries, gbXML (green build XML) imports, weather files, templates, BIM
Calculates the design heating and cooling loads and associated psychrometrics for air conditioning plants.
- Calculations are based on the AIRAH/IHRACE Application Manual DA9 “Air Conditioning Systems, Load Estimation & Psychrometrics”, which incorporates cooling load estimation techniques and data
- Models a range of system types, including CV Heating and Cooling, CV Face and Bypass VAV with and without reheat, RC Heat Pumps and Evaporative Coolers
- Plant fresh air quantities can be calculated in accordance with AS1668
- Comprehensive range and data checking, with comprehensive consistency check
- Results for cooling, heating and reheat loads, air quantities, VAV turn-down ratios, check figures, selectively or collectively viewed.
- Loads, air quantities, etc, psychrometric chart plots, dynamic graphical display of shadows on walls and windows from overhangs
Mechanical Design Software (Fire):
FHC is an easy-to-use hydraulic calculation and analysis package, specifically designed for the fire protection industry.
- Intuitive interface to build complex hydraulic models, with thousands of pipes
- High speed calculation engines
- Can be used to hydraulically model any type of water-based fire protection system from fire sprinkler systems, water mist, fire hydrants, water monitors, etc.
Hydracalc (hydraulic calculation) software from Hydratec is fully compatible with NFPA 2007 printout requirements.
- Library of pump and backflow device curves
- Backflow loss read automatically off curves based on flow required
- Designate flow schematic reference points or automatically generated
- Automatic remote head location and auto-peaking of a calculation
- Automatic error checking
- Calculates using velocity pressure or total pressure
- Displays and instantly updates calculated flow, pressure and velocity
- Flow schematics for data checking
- Unlimited pipe types and fittings tables
- Integrates with HydraCAD™
Hyena can be used to analyse automatic fire sprinkler systems, fire hydrant and hose reel installations or combined sprinkler, hydrant and/or hose reel systems or any other systems where the discharges can be represented by a k factor and minimum flow.
- Modelling of piping systems as fixed-pressure, town mains water supply or pump
- Input points are automatically assigned as reference nodes to save input
- Selection of piping materials, such as light medium and heavy steel, cast ductile iron and copper piping
- Pipes or nodes can be identified and pipe diameters or lengths can be changed
- Wide range of fittings are provided and can be modified
- Booster pumps and back flow preventers can be included.
- Can determine design point (required flow and head at the input point) given the k factor and minimum discharge of each sprinkler head or hose reel
- Provision is made for gridded layouts to be entered easily with pipe numbers, node numbers, pipe diameters or lengths.
- Sprinkler elevations and row elevation are automatically duplicated in the grid
- Range checks, cross checks and other checks are carried out on all input items
Electrical Design Software:
DIALux helps design, calculate and visualise light in single rooms, whole floors, buildings and outdoor scenes, using electronic luminaire catalogues.
- Light scenes – adjust lighting design for different scenarios
- 3D luminaire models –
- Value graphs
- DWG Import/Export
- Emergency lighting
- Sports facilities
Amtech Office is an electrical software tool with six essential programmes facilitating electrical design, test and inspection, coordination and quick single cable calculations.
- ProDesign 4 – electrical design and calculation
- Protect LV – protection coordination
- FastTest – inspection and testing certificates
- SingleCable – quick single cable calculations to BS 7671
ETAP specialises in analysis, simulation, monitoring, control, optimisation and automation of electrical power systems. ETAP software enables modelling and operations.
- User-defined Dynamic Models – UDM
- UDM libraries
- Wind turbine generator
- Cable capacity sizing – IEC 60092
- System elements
- Short circuit
- Transient stability
- Expanded engineering libraries
- Enhanced modules
PowerCad enables the modelling of complex L.V. distribution networks quickly and accurately.
- Cable voltage drop calculations
- Time/current coordination curves
- Cable thermal stress, cable sizing and conduit sizing
- Fault-loop impedance
- Fault level calculations, arc fault calculations
- Circuit breaker selection
- Harmonic mitigation and analysis
- Power factor correction
- Network resonance
- Substation, standby generator sizing
- Active & passive harmonic filter sizing
- Automatic mains and submains cable selection
- Display load starting current profile
- Light fitting and motor libraries
In general, MEP systems are well known for technical complexities, and so, it is important that engineers are fully involved in the process of MEP design and associated modelling and drafting outputs, i.e. developing mechanical, electrical and plumbing models, as part of the design process. Detailed layouts are developed for MEP components. The drafting process involves creating these detailed layouts for HVAC systems, wiring systems or power distribution systems, fire alarm systems and piping systems. The information created by technicians is used by engineers for creating detailed MEP models, generally from CAD drawings with accurate mechanical, electrical and plumbing information. Revit MEP by Autodesk is a popular choice for modellers, technicians and engineers to execute MEP modelling. In Revit, engineers from one service can coordinate with engineers from other disciplines, resulting in further clarity on design. This kind of clarity ultimately benefits performance, adherence to deadlines and costing.
The allure of AutoCAD and Revit for MEP design involves tools that provide feasible and economically viable designs. These tools develop designs that are customised and within budget. Also, the application of BIM (building information modelling) allows engineers to save project costs overall, speed up the design process and improve the final quality standards of the structure by effecting a reduction in mistakes. AutoCAD and Revit platforms are BIM-compatible, with heating and piping, ventilation, electrical and sprinkler design calculations being completed automatically in sizing, balancing and flow rate. Some of the other features are automatic collision detection, automatic generation of bills of quantity, and easy coordination and cross-referencing. The large product library within BIM software packages means less time and money is spent on drafting and modelling new components for the design process.
Some of the advantages of using BIM in MEP include:
- Manual recalibration not required, as all relevant data is available in the model, and as a result, time, energy and cost savings ensue.
- Reduced risk of iterative errors
- Coordination issues with vendors taken care of in project phase, not on site
- Smooth process results in less time for completion
- Detailed design stage
- Overall structural and architectural design coordination
- Clash detection
- Sizing and specification of chillers, AHUs, ducting and associated piping systems
- Specification for safety and control system
- Coordination with the vendors and client to finalise the equipment and system
- 3D modelling of the entire HVAC system
- Technical support for commissioning and performance testing
Studies in America have shown that complications arising from faulty and ineffective exchange of information between building design software systems have caused up to several billion dollars’ worth of avoidable expense. In light of this, the role of relevant, accurate software used for MEP design and calculations by skilled designers becomes critical. The expertise and experience of qualified yet affordable MEP services from overseas countries, such as MEP consultants in India who are well versed in MEP software, can be successfully tapped to increase profits and ensure prompt and precise delivery of building projects. The importance of software and the right partner in MEP, thus, is of paramount value.