By Jeff Ortman, PE
Executive Vice President
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Technology (MEPT) design engineering may not seem like the most fascinating career to those outside our industry. If you’ve ever been in a conversation with people who have “exciting” jobs, you might be familiar with that feeling of not having much to contribute about your own career. That happened to me once at a get-together with friends; the firefighter described a car wreck he responded to, the lawyer talked about her closing argument in a criminal case, my architect friend explained how the open flow concept improves dynamics between multi-generational interactions – but I found myself quiet throughout most of the conversation. How can stories about laying out ductwork, designing sanitary piping, performing foot-candle lighting calculations and coordinating cable tray pathways compare?
Since then, I’ve spent some time thinking more about what it is we do at HAWA, why we do it and how our systems affect those who use them. Commercial construction is a 10 to 15 billion-dollar industry each year, and, on average, 33 percent of a project’s construction budget is associated with the MEPT trades. As stewards of our client’s construction dollars, we are charged with creating value. The team at HAWA establishes performance goals and evaluates systems because we are responsible for a lot of capital dollars – over $100 million last year in MEPT costs alone. In addition, the costs of MEPT systems are not finished after they have been designed, constructed and commissioned. The maintenance and operational costs are significant and must be a design consideration.
We design living, breathing systems that first need to be brought to life, set up for success and made to perform efficiently for our clients. These systems are the last to be installed and must integrate with the rest of the building. If they don’t function, the buildings we’re designing are literally unusable; a project is not complete until the MEPT systems are functional. Hospitals, schools and office buildings need our systems operational in order to serve their intended purposes for our community.
The more I thought about the various projects we’ve worked on, the more I realized what a beneficial and essential role we play in the industry – and society, as well.
People are educated in buildings. People are healed in buildings. People are protected in buildings. They celebrate, communicate and support their families in buildings. Buildings energize, comfort and connect people. The inhabitants may not be fully aware of the life-saving fire protection systems running through their schools and offices, the critical emergency/standby power systems that keeps their hospitals functioning in the event of a disaster, or the plumbing systems that provide access to clean water, but we know that our role in creating these systems is an invaluable one.
At HAWA, we take pride in being part of the construction industry and recognize that the systems we design have a large and meaningful impact on the building’s performance, operational cost and occupancy satisfaction.