5 Reasons to Choose a Technology Consultant Over Traditional MEP

5 Reasons to Choose a Technology Consultant Over Traditional MEP

Designing technology systems for modern facilities is now a monumental responsibility on construction projects. This is because of the explosive growth in network-based devices across industries. In the past, design leaders relied on MEP firms with ancillary Technology design services (MEP+T) for their technology systems design. Now that these systems are so advanced and interdependent, owners and architects are engaging with specialized technology consultants (like HSJ) to plan, design, engineer, and manage the construction of these mission-critical systems. Let’s take a look at five reasons why a technology consultant is in your best interest over a MEP+T firm. Read till the end and you’ll find a “must-ask” list of questions to use during your evaluation process – no matter who you choose to work with.

1.  Solving Problems with Thought Leadership

Most MEP+T firms will build what you ask them to build but your true operational problems may go unresolved if the right questions aren’t asked while designs are being developed. This leads to disappointments with system functionality, usability, and scalability as well as possible code violations.

A technology consultant will lead you to the best solution to achieve your vision and then make sure any integration dependencies are thoroughly coordinated. As a leading design and engineering consultant, HSJ strives for a “best-balance” approach to system design. This approach increases efficiency, lowers costs and reduces risks throughout your project. Great technology consultants listen to your problem then determine the most user friendly and cost-effective way to solve it.

“We ensure your existing standards are met while enabling you to think big and create experiences that are beyond the status quo and limitations of a MEP”  

– Steve Jones, President, HSJ

2. Integrated Systems + Thorough Coordination

MEP+T firms have a wide-spanning scope of services they provide on each project. Commonly, the “T” becomes an afterthought as engineering and construction teams focus on the building systems required for basic occupancy. Once technology is addressed down the road, integration is harder to achieve because the infrastructure required for it was not adequately addressed up front.

Working directly with an owner or architect from the beginning, technology consultants ensure your systems are thoughtfully planned for and then systematically coordinated with other disciplines throughout the design process. This approach eliminates the added project costs associated with coordination breakdowns between interdependent systems like access control, door hardware, and structured cabling. HSJ’s team of certified experts operate in the latest 2D/3D design tools to deliver thoroughly coordinated drawings/models for Division 08 Openings, Division 27 Telecommunications, and Division 28 Electronic Safety & Security.

The table shown below breaks down how the design, engineering, and oversight levels for a few common technology/security scope areas differ between an MEP+T firm and technology consultants like HSJ.

Scope AreaMEP+T will…HSJ (Technology Consultant) will…
Telecommunications Rooms• Ask where to set up the communications room

• Ask what you would like in the room

• Place icons on drawing
• Review proposed space for BICSI compliance

• Coordinate with client/owner IS teams for rack sizes and orientation

• Provide detailed design of racks, pathways, and proposed equipment

• Provide air control recommendations

• Provide material recommendations (i.e. floor material)

• Coordinate design dependencies for other low-voltage systems

• Oversee installation, inspect for accuracy, punch list contractor, review as-builts
Wireless Access Point• Ask where you would like a wireless access point

• Place icon on drawing

• Generally specify power and communication materials and pathway to be field determined by construction workers
• Review entire building area/section requiring wireless coverage

• Review equipment plans and building materials that network design must account for to ensure reliable connectivity in all areas of facility

• Perform survey and provide client with heat maps illustrating current and anticipated wireless coverage

• Provide detailed design drawings showing wireless access point, surface type, mount type, and installation requirements

• Oversee installation, inspect for accuracy, punch list contractor, review as-builts
Surveillance• Ask where you want cameras placed

• Ask what type of camera you want

• Place icon on drawing

• Generally specify power and communication materials and cabling pathways to be field determined by construction workers
• Establish camera coverage requirements throughout facility and surrounding perimeter areas

• Determine where cameras are to be incorporated into aesthetics (hidden) and where they will be more prominent to increase territoriality (noticeable)

• Provide product alternatives for different camera types and functions based on security standards/preferences

• Account for any integrations and A.I. use cases

• Coordinate with client/owner IS teams for bandwidth/capacity requirements

• Provide detail on design drawings showing surface type, mount type, and installation instructions

• Provide narrative for commissioning procedure

• Oversee installation, inspect for accuracy, punch list contractor, review as-builts
Access Control / Doors & Hardware• Ask where you want the access control device

• Ask what kind of access control device you want

• Place icon on drawing

• Generally specify power and communication materials and pathway to be field determined by construction workers

• Utilizes third party for door and hardware specifications that are not thoroughly coordinated with access control and security requirements
• Meet with end users to understand where access needs to be restricted

• Provide fully coordinated door and hardware specifications that match security and access control requirements 

• Provide detail on design drawings showing surface type, mount type, 3D integrated door detail, and installation requirements

• Ensure ADA and NFPA 80/101 and compliance

• Review product alternatives available to improve security and operational efficiency

• Coordinate with client/owner IS teams for bandwidth/capacity requirements

• Provide narrative for integrated functions and commissioning procedures

• Oversee installation, inspect for accuracy, punch list contractor, review as-builts

3. Leverage Depth of Knowledge

Due to their traditionally wide scope of services on a project, most MEP+T firms deploy a more general approach to each specialty within their project scopes. Due to the rapid expansion of network based systems, this generalized approach often leads to technology budget oversights and design integration gaps that translate to costly change orders and intrusive late-stage rework by the contractor.

Alternatively, onboarding a specialized technology consultant gives you access to the latest planning, design, engineering, and construction administration methods throughout the project life cycle. This proactive approach allows best practices, product standards, and code compliance to be addressed by certified technology experts. The result is stable, secure, and scalable technology and security systems designed and engineered right – the first time.

4.  Technology Consultant Availability

Executives at an MEP+T firm have a tough job. They need to recruit, staff and manage specialists within each of their firm’s disciplines and also allocate these resources accordingly across many ongoing projects. This often leads to thinly spread project teams and the insertion of “multi-functional” specialists to fill gaps. This not only dilutes specialists across the many ongoing operations, but also limits their availability to react to special requirements and unforeseen challenges.

At a technology consultancy, one dedicated team gives your project the attention necessary for it to be a success. The specialized team of certified technology and security experts provides strategic guidance from the onset of the project through commissioning. This includes efforts like gathering client/stakeholder requirements, building accurate budgets, creating detailed drawings, thoroughly coordinating designs, assisting with regulatory reviews and rapidly responding to project activities (RFIs, submittals, contractor CORs, inspections, etc.). This proactive and holistic approach reduces project delays and eliminates project risks.

5.  The Value Supports the Price

You’ll find that MEP+T companies bid their technology package on projects at a lower price than specialized technology consultants because they are able to spread the technology design costs over their full suite of MEP fees. This low price comes with a much greater risk of change orders and project delays that end up driving up total project costs and busting budgets. These change orders and delays typically stem from missed owner’s requirements and code compliance issues that could have been avoided or accounted for in the planning and design stages of the project.

As a technology consultant, HSJ takes a different approach to delivering value on projects. We design and specify systems that are reliable, user friendly, secure, scalable and compliant for occupancy the first time. Then, we serve as a constant resource during construction to ensure contractor and subcontractor RFIs and submittals are reviewed and processed in an expert and timely manner. This keeps projects running smoothly and gives you expert input on any design deviations, de-scope and value engineering decisions. By adopting this approach, owner’s requirements and operational needs are met, project risks are reduced, and HSJ’s fees are offset by the dollars saved on the overall project costs.

“Their [HSJ’s] attention to detail in construction drawings has saved us thousands of dollars on every project. They get it when it comes to the complicated integration of building systems today. In the beginning, I used them for doors, hardware, and access control. Today they design all of our data infrastructure, security systems, access control, and provide specifications for all of our doors and hardware.”

– Nelson Roque, Director of Facilities, Nemours Children’s Health Systems, Florida

In conclusion, MEP+T companies often ask you what you want, create your project and hand it off to a contractor. Many times, they even have to involve technology consultants late in the project to clean up missed requirements and compliance issues. 

Alternatively, technology consultants like HSJ are involved in the entire project lifecycle thoughtfully soliciting user requirements then creating error-free, coordinated, scalable, and compliant system designs that deliver on their intended benefits securely and reliably.

Finally, whichever approach you decide to take on your next project, it is critical to ask the right questions during your evaluation process. Here are the top questions we recommend you get answered in detail so you can make the best decision for your business:

  1. What specific relatable technology projects has the firm worked on? How did it go?
  2. How do you collect requirements from owners/users? How do you turn those requirements into your technology system design?
  3. Who is going to be the system team lead and/or the discipline leads? What are their qualifications? Are they available during your required time frame? (Note: Don’t fall for the bait & switch!)
  4. What level of detail do you design to? What is left up to interpretation in the field? What drawings and specs do you incorporate from your vendors and suppliers?
  5. How do you budget for infrastructure and technology on a project? What level of budget detail are you able to provide? 

Please contact us to learn more about HSJ or to get an estimate on your project.

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