• Mary Harris

Top 10 Two-Week Killers


Sometimes silent terrors sneak up on projects and kill the timeline. These are the two-week killers.


1. Background Changes

These silent killers seem innocuous. "Oh, we are just moving this wall to the other side." But in design land, this could affect receptacles, ducts, lights or pipes and may require calculations to be updated. Background changes may require several days time to update drawings.


Director of Operations Phil Brock explains, "The MEP design is specifically crafted to work within the building layout we are given, and the different systems are coordinated to work with each other. Changes to a layout can create a domino effect that invalidates much of the MEP design that has been worked out. Depending on the size and scope of a particular project, layout adjustments can add hours and even days of work and supervision.


This is why we limit the development of the drawings in each deliverable. Schematic Design drawings are a 30-35% set that does not flesh out the piping, lighting and ducting systems. This tends to be the most likely time in a process that a building layout will be adjusted."


2. Lights

You may think lights are just for ambiance, but they are an important part of calculations and design. Having your lighting selections determined at the beginning of a project will keep delays away. Engineers will need to light specifications to determine lighting levels for code at the paths of egress. They also will be able to help make sure your lights are compatible with different dimming types, your project passes the energy code, and that the lighting colors are similar. (See what parts of lighting design PermitZIP includes in our One Fee Promise.)


3. Equipment Selections

When opening a restaurant or brewery, equipment selections are a must-have. This also applies to any other project types that have specific equipment that need connections. The cut sheets will tell the team all the needed connections for electrical and plumbing. Working with a kitchen designer is highly recommended.


Brock states, "Much like the building layout, the systems we design are meant to cater to specific equipment. For instance, if a steam convection oven is introduced last minute, it could send a ripple through the whole project. The water pressure requirement could result in the need for a domestic water booster pump. Where will that go? Can the electrical service handle the oven and the booster pump we need now? What kind of drain piping are we using? A steam convection oven will melt PVC. Does it require a hood? If it does, the entire HVAC solution that has been developed is basically useless. As you can see, these changes aren’t just adding time to the design process, but making a huge impact on the construction budget. We aren’t just protecting our schedule. We’re making sure that you have a fully coordinated system that works."


4. Site Plans

Site plans are needed for all new construction, and generally any time there's a change to the land use. Engineers need site plans to coordinate any electrical connections, such as lighting and signs. And also to show where the utilities enter the property. Civil plans are also vital. If they exist, we need to have them so that we can coordinate. The timing is odd because Civil is basically the first step and foundation of the project, but MEP can impact that foundation.


5. Coordination Issues

Don't get stuck in the coordination web. Having a team at the beginning that includes your architect, engineers and general contractors at the design table, will keep many coordination issues from causing delays. A great design team will be able to hash out issues like space for ductwork, and space needed for utility equipment early in the process.


6. RCP

A reflected ceiling plan, also known as an RCP, is a view of the room from above and through the ceiling. This plan is usually provided by the architect but not always.

Having the RCP is vital as it shows the engineer ceiling types, lighting layouts, sprinklers, smoke detectors and other items that are needed in the ceiling for coordination of ducts, diffusers, exhaust fans, etc. If there is not an RCP available, it could cause delays in coordination between disciplines and the architect.


7. Electrical Utility Coordination

A major timeline interrupter to any project requiring electrical service upgrades or changes is coordinating with the utility provider.


In the majority of our markets, this is Dominion Energy. A Dominion or utility work order should be started as soon as possible. This will assign an engineer from Dominion to your project and allow our engineers to coordinate property visits and ensure Dominion metering & service requirements are met per The Blue Book.


After the work order is started, the utility company requires that the engineer provide a load letter. This shows the utility company how much load we are expecting the new service to have. The utility company uses this information to determine the available fault current (the maximum current available if there is a short circuit that could cause an arc flash). This allows us to make sure that the equipment is rated properly and can handle an interruption. The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), requires that we provide the fault current letter from the utility with the drawings before they will issue for permit.


Learn more about the process to obtain a Dominion work order here.


8. HVAC Budget

Many times when we sit down at a schematic design meeting, the conversation about HVAC can be a timeline killer. Budget should be talked about early in the process. This killer has been outlined in depth by our Mechanical Engineer in a previous blog post.


9. Expectations

Expectations from clients, architects, and contractors can cause the timeline to halt. Determining realistic and focused expectations early on in the process is crucial. Our project managers will help set these expectations when the project begins with surveys & kick-off meetings. They can walk clients through our process, scope, and our typical deliverables. As the process continues our team communicates at each step of the process and makes it clear what is needed to move forward.


10. Flow Test/Invert

According to Brock, "The flow test is something you could roll the dice on, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If we don’t get that data from you, we will show a minimum design pressure that is needed for your system to function. That will not impact the actual pressure that is available. And if the available pressure is insufficient, you won’t be able to wash a dish at the same time someone flushes a toilet. Booster pumps are a real expense, but it’s much more expensive to install one after occupancy than to just rough it in in the first place. There are some situations where insufficient water pressure will prevent you from getting CO (Certificate of Occupancy). An example would be a fire suppression system on a kitchen hood that has a specific pressure requirement. If you can’t provide that minimum pressure, your doors will stay closed until a pump has been installed."


Want to learn more about our process? Check out these other articles that explain more about the PermitZIP way or book a meeting with our sales team!


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