Guest Expert: Why Self Builders Are Lost Without M&E Consultants

Monday, February 5, 2018

Trevor Fuller mechanical and electrical consultant

Trevor Fuller, a Director at Con-Serv Ltd, has been leading a team of building services consultants since 2001. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, he has developed a reputation for quality and detail in commercial construction, which led to him becoming a go-to expert for M&E in high end residential developments.

M&E is short for mechanical and electrical services, which includes heating, ventilation, air conditioning, hot and cold water, drainage, power distribution, lighting and controls, fire alarms, AV installation – basically, everything that goes into a building to make it work.

It’s not the most glamorous part of house building, but you’ll definitely notice if you move in and the water is running cold or your lights won’t turn on. It’s the job of M&E Consultants, such as myself, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The long and short of what we do is we produce M&E designs that show exactly where all the plumbing, wiring, vents, equipment, plant rooms and so on are routed and located in the house. This requires close collaboration with the client, the architect and the contractors.

We make sure you get what you want, for the price you want

The most common dangers in a self-build are rapidly inflating costs and delays. This can happen because you realise that you need something you hadn’t originally planned for or because the plumber shows up and tells you that the walls are too thin for the pipework you’ve planned.

By having an M&E Consultant on board, you can lock in all your services and what they’ll cost upfront, saving you from any surprises along the way.

The first thing we do when we join a project is talk to you about what services you want in the house and what level of performance you expect. Some people just want basic central heating, hot water and light switches. Others want zoned underfloor heating, smart lighting controls, internet-connected CCTV and elaborate, house-wide AV systems.

By talking to an M&E Consultant, you’re fully informed on all your options and can discuss what works best within your lifestyle and budget with someone who knows all the pros and cons of each and every service and piece of equipment. This way you won’t, for example, realise halfway through the project that you do actually want air conditioning, sending you and the rest of the team back to the drawing board.

Once you’ve finalised your plans, we take your shopping list, figure out how it will work in the architect’s designs, then add up the costs. If anything’s not quite how you want it, we’ll fine tune the designs and the price tag down to the decimal.

This level of detail can be a lot for you to take in before a single brick has been laid, but having everything agreed up front gives you price certainty and reduces the risk of unexpected delays once building begins.

We keep track of the fine details

For smaller projects, the architect or contractor might be able to design the M&E services themselves but, in high end residential, the complexity and quality of the designs means they often need to turn to a specialist.

Our work doesn’t end once we’ve drawn up the designs. We then have to make sure that those designs are followed once work starts on site. This requires regular site visits and meetings with the contractors to keep things on track and get ahead of any problems.

This isn’t a process of showing up and stamping our feet. Whilst it’s important our instructions are followed, our relationship with the contractor is collaborative, and we learn just as much from them as they do from us.

It’s years of this back-and-forth that has given us the knowledge of what is and isn’t practical or feasible – the most fine-tuned design can look great on paper but it’s useless if the contractor can’t actually build it.

Earl's Court Mews kitchenThis kitchen might look simple, but achieving such an elegant finish requires intricate M&E designs and weeks or more of planning.

We get everything up and running for when you move in

Along with setting up all the M&E services in your home, we also need to make sure the utilities will be up and running well ahead of time so that we can iron out any kinks and – most importantly – get everything switched on for the big day when you move in.

We do this by assessing your requirements for the electric, gas and water supplies and contacting the utility providers, to ensure your incoming services have the appropriate capacity to meet your home’s demands. This often takes longer than you might expect and leaving it too late is one of the many mistakes typical in self builds.

Of course, no matter how careful we are, sometimes things just don’t work. If you do find something isn’t working correctly when you move in, well-designed M&E services make it much easier to troubleshoot problems and fix them instead of hopelessly digging around in the walls.

We keep everything invisible

I could write in great depth about the intricacies of M&E design but, ultimately, what clients care about is that hot water pours out when they turn on a tap and that lights turn on when they flick a switch.

M&E design is at its best when it’s invisible. We make sure not to overburden clients with details that aren’t important to them. All we need to know is what you want, and you can leave it to us to make it happen.

One of the nightmares self builders (especially first-timers) face is the unexpected complexity of what goes into making a home work. Instead of driving yourself insane trying to make sense of cabling, pipework and plant rooms, leave it to the people that do it for a living.

If you have any questions about M&E services and the work we do, feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected].