In the same way that an Architect designs a building’s walls, roof, windows, and finishes, an MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) Engineer is responsible for creating the optimal configuration of building systems. We design these systems specific to each project based on the building’s desired function and occupant needs, and to provide efficient and reliable operation throughout the life of the building. For each system and component, there are hundreds of possible product options, sizes, and configurations that must be optimized through Code analysis and engineering calculations. These final designs must then be communicated to the Contactors via clear and accurate drawings and specifications to ensure everything is installed as designed.
For many small projects, especially residential projects, the Code permits a licensed contractor to design and install mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems without signed and sealed Engineering documents. However, when projects get too big, the complexity of the systems increases or an Owner simply wants to be confident that they are getting exactly what is best for their building, it makes the most sense to involve a Professional Engineering team. At CSEI we have assisted on projects from $500 to $25 million and everything in between. At the end of the day, a Professional Engineer’s role is to provide expertise and peace of mind, which can be needed on any size project.
For new construction, typically a project will start with an Architect or with a Construction Management team. A major decision for an Owner will be the delivery method of construction such as design-build, design-bid-build, or Construction Manager and this will determine who is best to begin a project with. For renovation work, the Owner may want to contact an Architect (who would subcontract other consultants such as MEP Engineer, Structural Engineer, Civil, etc.). Alternatively, if the project involves a specific trade (such as an HVAC replacement or lighting upgrades), it would most likely make sense to directly contract the Professional that specializes in that discipline. If you have a project and you aren’t sure where to start, we’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
The design and construction timeline can vary greatly depending on project size and complexity. Our design time for a medium size renovation may be two months with 6 months of construction, but larger new construction projects with additional permitting and site needs may require several years to complete. A project’s timeline is often a very critical constraint and we recommend that it be discussed and established with the design team as early as possible.
No, we specialize only in Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire Protection. However, we have great relationships with many of the area’s Architecture and Engineering firms as well as the many Construction Managers, General Contractors, and Subcontractors. Each of these partners has unique specialties and styles that we have learned over many years of collaboration. If you need help deciding where to turn, we would be happy to help you find the right fit for your project.
As with project schedule, a project’s cost can vary widely even on seemingly similar projects. Our best recommendation is to establish your budget with your design or contracting team at the outset, to provide them with a guide for making design decisions. Each designer will be attempting to optimize between appearance, efficiency, functionality, reliability, and longevity, but it is critical that the budget is protected at every step.
No, we do not actually install or construct any systems. We provide the design documents necessary for your Contractor to obtain a permit and complete the construction. Following design, though, CSEI does provide what is called Construction Administration services, which includes review of the Contractor’s work for accuracy, reviewing budget and costs as the construction progresses, and ultimately serving as your advocate throughout the process to ensure that everything is built as designed and that you get what you have paid for.
Absolutely. Very often we are consulted to perform an investigation or audit of a problem or complaint about an existing system, such as high humidity, nuisance power issues, or poor air quality. Many times, the root cause is not clear or is actually a combination of many factors. Our role, in this case, is to evaluate all of the “symptoms” and diagnose the cause and provide various solution options.
Yes. On average, about 70% of a building’s energy usage is associated with HVAC and lighting. That makes upgrading these systems the most direct way to increase overall building efficiency and lower energy costs. Increasing building insulation and/or upgrading your windows can also help with these efforts, but if accurate calculations are not performed to confirm HVAC system sizing, you could actually end up using more energy and having your system fail sooner as a result of oversizing. It is important to involve a professional in any energy efficiency upgrade to ensure all of a building’s systems are coordinated and the maximum benefit is achieved.