The Future of Safe and Sustainable MEP Design
No matter the industry, change is inevitable. In 2022, the rate of change has accelerated dramatically due to rising interest rates and economic uncertainty. Current and future organizations will now be faced with the need to strategize long-term growth and sustainability as well as adhere to stricter regulations with improved safety measures to compete on the global stage. As a result, safe and sustainable MEP designs must be taken into consideration for each new and existing project taking place in 2022.
MEP Market on the Rise
According to the latest “United States (US) MEP Services Market – Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2022 – 2027),” the U.S. MEP Services Market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.15% during the forecast period 2022 to 2027.
The increased demand for MEP services in 2022 has been driven by new construction as well as retrofits and renovations.
The concept of sustainability is continuing to gain momentum, as well. According to the EPA, electricity generation in the US accounts for 40% of the total energy consumption. “Major energy-consuming sections are HVAC systems at 35% of the total building energy, lighting at 11%, appliances, such as refrigerators, water heaters, and freezers at 18%, and the remaining is shared among various other electronics. This is where MEP service providers become vital in developing robust designs that enable consumers to reduce cost.”
Sustainable MEP Designs to Offset Increased Costs
The pandemic increased awareness of certain requirements to help prevent the spread of viral COVID-19 particles, such as improved ventilation layout and higher ventilation rates as well as more efficient filtering and disinfection methods. While these safety measures were necessary in 2020 and 2021, they also increased energy consumption.
Sustainable MEP designs can help offset those additional costs and help make other building systems more efficient as we look forward to the future. The global community is seeing increasing benefits from back-to-basics initiatives meant to increase building sustainability. MEP engineers are leading the way. Sustainable building design results in a reduced overall environmental impact from large-scale construction projects.
Smart Building Trends in 2022
Technological advances in 2022 are helping MEP engineers develop better hardware and plan energy alternatives more efficiently. The BIM (Building Information Modeling) process can also help aid sustainability workflows, so builders are better able to manage maintenance and reduce carbon footprints using the natural advantages of a worksite.
Wind, solar and geothermal energy sources are all being used to improve sustainability workflows in 2022. Daylight harvesting and geothermal heating, in particular, can reduce energy consumption and also keep maintenance costs down.
Efficient MEP systems have lower maintenance, which results in reduced operational costs. MEP systems should ideally be developed with materials, equipment, and components that require minimal water, energy, or toxic chemicals for maintenance.
5 Green Building Certifications
Green building certifications can be helpful in the push toward sustainable MEP designs by assessing a new project or current building’s performance from a sustainability and environmental perspective. If you’re making changes to your space due to the pandemic, here are just a few of the green building certifications programs to help you save in the long-run:
1. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
LEED is developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is one of the largest certification systems used around the world. It is for all building types and all building phases, including new construction, interior fit outs, operations and maintenance and core and shell. LEED focuses on the environmental and social dimensions of sustainability, notably:
- Water and energy efficiency
- CO2 emission reduction
- Promoting a healthy and comfortable indoor climate
- Renewable building materials.
Those pursuing a LEED certification for their project can earn points for various green building strategies across several categories. A project earns one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum, based on the number of points achieved.
2. Green Building Initiative Green Globes
Green Globes is a construction rating system that supports a variety of new construction projects, renovations and interiors for existing building types. It was designed to allow building owners and managers to select which sustainability features best fit their program and occupant needs. Projects that meet at least 35% of the 1,000 applicable points earn a Green Globes certification.
3. LBC (Living Building Challenge)
The Living Building Challenge (LBC) by the International Living Future Institute, focuses on the relationship between impact and effort for new construction, renovations, existing building types and urban areas.
The challenge has seven principles with a few that focus specifically on environmental sustainability: location, water, energy, health, materials, heritage, and beauty.
To achieve the LBC certification, buildings must:
- Generate more energy than they use
- Capture and treat a certain quantity of water on site
- Be constructed with eco-friendly materials.
The WELL Building Standard is considered the leading tool for advancing health and wellbeing of the users in a building. The concept is grounded in a body of medical research that explores the connection between the buildings, where people spend more than 90% of their time, and the health and wellness of its occupants.
The new standard, WELLv2, features ten concepts comprised with distinct health intents:
WELL v2 operates on a points-based system, with a total of 110 points available to each project. Projects must achieve all preconditions as well as a certain number of points to earn different levels of certification:
- WELL Silver Certification: 50 points.
- WELL Gold Certification: 60 points.
- WELL Platinum Certification: 80 points.
5. WELL Health-Safety Rating
Focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans, the WELL Health-Safety Rating is for all new and existing building and facility types. It focuses on six main health-safety themes, including:
- Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures
- Emergency Preparedness Programs
- Health Service Resources Air and Water Quality Management
- Stakeholder Engagement & Communication
Better Preservation in MEP Design
Immediate action is needed to ensure the Western United States is preserve its water supply. In January 2022, the California State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation urging Californians to step up their water conservation efforts. The latest MEP designs reflect these conservation efforts, using water preservation as a strategy to control the environmental impact of new construction.
As a best practice, MEP engineers are now recommending low-flow fixtures, which bring down water consumption by 40%. Some green buildings are also being designed with greywater systems used for irrigation and toilet flushing. Stormwater management is also used to retain water and put it back into the ground to water the landscape. Proper stormwater management can greatly reduce the environmental impact of new buildings by relying on the resources already found in nature.
Safe and Sustainable MEP Design Services – How KMB Can Help
KMB Design Group has extensive experience incorporating safe and sustainable MEP designs for projects of all complexities. Whether it’s performing energy usage analysis to identify opportunities for energy conservation, incorporating sustainable designs for LEED requirements, or improving air ventilation systems to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne contagious diseases, KMB can help.