In building design where every square foot comes at an increasingly higher cost, space is a premium. Owners and Developers want to maximize usable space, leaving building systems designers to fight for every inch they can get. When it comes to MEP systems, mechanical usually ends up taking up the most space due to the sheer size of the equipment needed to keep the building conditioned. This often leaves electrical engineers scrambling for space to locate panels and transformers. It is a sort of quiet struggle, a battle of sorts, that has raged on for decades. A struggle no project is immune to.
But with practice comes experience, and with experience comes insight. Here are a three simple things Electrical Engineers and Designers can do early on in the project to help ensure the space they need is there, even when "there" may not be defined yet.
1. Arm the Architect
REVIT is a powerful tool. Early on in a design project, even before Architectural backgrounds are available. Electrical Engineers and Designers can generate conceptual layouts for electrical spaces. These concepts should include room dimensions, orientations, the number, size, and swing of needed doors, required louvres for ventilation, etc. Additionally, the conceptual room plans should also include equipment layouts, showing panel locations, types (recessed/surface mount), switchgear locations, and other equipment that will be potentially needed for the building.
Arming the Architect with qualitative and quantitative information of this sort, provides them with something tangible that they can use early on as they work to develop the initial floorplans and programmatic design for spaces. It also helps to put a contextual size parameter to a system that for the most part is largely out-of-sight, out-of mind.
2. Get on the "M" Train
Don't forget that your Mechanical counterpart is also fighting for space. Knowing the types of systems they are planning for early on, and the approximate size of that equipment, will help you understand the potential spaces they will be asking for within the building. Often times, panels and transformers can be located in shared spaces with some of this equipment, which ultimately will reduce the amount of dedicated electrical space needed for the project.
3. Defend the Flag
One thing that is true in any project.... communication is key to success. Providing the Architect with conceptual space needs up front, and understanding the mechanical space needs, is a good start but it isn't enough. The only way to make sure electrical space requirements don't get lost in the shuffle is to keep those conversations going. Provide updates to required space needs as the design progresses. Be aware of other systems and adjacent spaces, and how they impact constructibility for electrical systems, such as conduit routing and piping. Keep conflicting systems out of your space, such as water and drainage lines. Plant your flag(s) and defend them.