Is Your Mechanical & Electrical Installation Being Managed Properly?

The modern-day construction site will have any number of agencies and companies working on it, including:

Civil Engineers, Grounds Workers, Structural Engineers, Builders, Ventilation Installers, Electrical Engineers, Plumbers, Telecomms Installers, BMS Installers, Damp Proofers, Glazers, Roofers, Carpenters, Security System Installers, Fire Engineers, the list goes on.

With this many companies on site there is a very high potential for things going wrong and a project ending up being over budget, late and of poor quality.

Even on small projects missing out a vital element at the start could lead to major problems later. Of these the client should be particularly concerned with the mechanical and electrical elements, as getting these wrong could lead to:

  • Poor levels of lighting that frustrate the end user.
  • Inadequate ventilation that could increase sickness and absence.
  • Complicated and inefficient building control systems leading to higher running costs.
  • Dangerous electrical fit outs leaving risks of electrocution.
  • Defective drainage leading to blockages and terrible smells in the building.
  • Deficient fire equipment that leaves the building at risk of burning down.

Each of these scenarios could be very costly, not just financially but also causing personal injury.

Project Management

Project Management is a mixture of skill, experience and training bringing together all the elements in a new build or refurbishment so that everyone works seamlessly together with efficiency and purpose. The aim of the Project Manager is to deliver the project on time, on budget and to the correct quality. The day-to-day project management of a project requires the careful tracking of these elements to ensure the aim is met:

(a) Programme
To forecast the project, progress a programme is required, this is normally shown through a Gant chart and there are various computer software programmes that help with this aspect. A good programme will show when each resource, be it manpower or equipment, is required and for how long.

(b) Quality Plan
This is designed to show when and where checks and testing are required on the project. For example, underground pipework should be tested for air tightness before it is covered over to avoid it being dug up again to make repairs. A Quality Plan will show a forecast of site visits, inspections and test results along with the required standards.

(c) Cost Plan
To track the financial aspect of the project a Cost Plan is required that shows the expected expenditure broken down into bills paid, bills expected and invoices waiting to be paid. This should always be up to date and will be matched against expected milestone payments from the client.

Where a project has mechanical and electrical elements these three documents are vital but understanding these is even more important.

Managing Time

The key to managing time for the mechanical and electrical works is knowing the sequence of work required. Lots of Project Managers in the construction industry are former bricklayers, carpenters or site managers and most of them know very little about the mechanical or electrical installations that they are overseeing. Project Managers with a background in plumbing or electrical works are fully aware of the sequence of work required and will therefore know that a gas tightness test is required before a boiler can be commissioned for example.

A good detailed M&E delivery programme will overlap the work of each contractor to ensure quick delivery but not to the extent that trades are getting in each other’s way. By dividing the site up in to smaller areas each can work concurrently whilst having their own space. The programme will be constantly updated as works progress quicker or more slowly than expected.

Managing Quality

Ensuring that each trade is delivering his work to the required standard is a constant and ongoing process throughout the delivery of the installation. Giving the installer a deadline to meet is great however he must not do this at the expense of quality.

Time must be given to allow for testing of each element and for any remedial works that may be required. A good Quality Plan will show when testing is to be completed, a time span for getting results back and a time span for remedial work.

The installer must also be aware of the standards he must meet so setting these out early in the installation is vital. It’s no good turning up half way through and instructing that a large part of it needs striping out as this will lead to long delays and frustration.

Managing Cost

Knowledge of the cost of M&E equipment is vital to be able to constantly track the cost of the installation. It’s no good paying premium prices for less than adequate equipment and an experienced M&E engineer will know where this has or could happen. In some cases, the cost of the equipment far out ways the cost of the labour to install it so ensuring the correct price is paid for equipment is very important. Once installed the cost of commissioning must also be considered as well as any additional warranties/ technical support that is required. For example, even a simple BMS system will require yearly support contracts from the moment it is installed.

To allow the project to progress at speed a good system of tracking variations and on-site changes is required. A good Project Manager will be well versed in the use of Variation Orders and Site Instructions but these are only good when the technical reason for the change is required is correct. There are countless examples of non-technical people on site signing off changes that are not technically correct or lead to unsafe installations, therefore it is vital that only M&E trained personnel approve M&E changes.

A good Cost Plan can easily be made irrelevant by poor control of on-site changes so the Cost Plan must be constantly updated to reflect these. Cost Plans should be reviewed and agreed with the client to ensure their approval and ownership throughout the project. It’s no good showing the client that you’re over budget at the commissioning stage when the costs have risen constantly from the start.

Good M&E Project Management

As the client, you should take special consideration and measures to ensure the site has good M&E Project Management to avoid the scenarios listed above. Good M&E Project Management will give you a constant stream of feedback and information (not just a weekly report with nice pictures in). You should not be presented with a list of excuses, a blame culture or delays in receiving data.

You should be looking for a clear programme from the start that shows sensible delivery times, an overview of where and when resources are required and concurrent activity for efficient time delivery.

You should be able to see the dates of planned site visits, the proposed dates for testing of each system as well as time frames of getting test results back and any remedial works.

From the start, you should also be able to see when the milestone payments are expected, when the long lead items are purchased and any labour down time (e.g. holidays). There must also be a robust system for variations and on-site changes.

If you would like to find out more about how BEM Services can provide M&E Project Management, then contact us by calling 0115 7788227 or email info@bem-services.co.uk