MEP Engineering 101: What You Need to Know

This article is part of our new Onsite Insight series, where we focus on content to help the construction industry modernize their operating practices in order to improve safety, schedule predictability and ultimately profit.

Have you ever felt too hot or too cold in a building? These temperature issues often stem from the work of MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) engineers. In a recent interview, our CEO Todd* talks with Lucy, a Mechanical Engineer fromSyska, to help General Contractors understand the basics. The interview explains the MEP engineering role in making buildings comfortable and functional. The following is a summary of their conversation, be sure to check out thefull interview here. *Todd is a former MEP Engineer too!

What is MEP Engineering?

MEP engineering is crucial for building design, and has three main disciplines:

Mechanical (M)

Heating, cooling, ventilation, refrigeration, and building automation systems.

Electrical (E)

Power distribution, lighting, data/communication, fire alarm, and security systems.

Plumbing (P)

Water supply, drainage, sewage, gas distribution, and fire protection.

There are of course additional subsystems. Be sure to  subscribe for future videos.

  • Fire Protection (FP): Fire sprinkler systems, smoke control, and fire suppression.
  • Renewable Energy (RE): Solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage systems.
  • Building Automation Systems (BAS): Controls and automation for HVAC, lighting, and security systems.
  • Telecommunications (T): Structured cabling, data networks, and communication systems.
  • Sustainability (S): Energy management, green building technologies, and waste management.

Despite its critical role, Todd and Lucy point out that MEP engineering often goes unnoticed. That said, in most cases, a good MEP design should be discrete in delivering a building's comfort, functionality and safety.

Collaboration with Architects and Contractors

Lucy discusses her work with architects and contractors, stressing the need for understanding and teamwork. Noting the needs of MEP are vital for a building's operation. She also highlights that experienced MEP contractors are key to successful projects.

The Role of an MEP Engineer

MEP engineers are involved throughout the construction process, often working for many years on designs, ensuring the building meets the client's expectations. They plan solutions, coordinate with stakeholders, and manage decisions to create efficient and comfortable buildings.

Mechanical Engineering Design: Where to Begin?

Lucy highlights the importance of integrated design, starting with building orientation, shading, and natural ventilation. Optimizing these elements reduces the need for extensive mechanical systems. Modern software helps balance daylighting and solar gains, aiding in better building design.

Understanding HVAC

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) is a major part of MEP engineering:


Calculating steady-state loss through the building’s facade, taking into account items like glazing, insulation and external temperatures.


This ensures a minimum amount of fresh air for building occupants, which has become even more critical post-COVID.

Air Conditioning

This involves a more complex calculation of internal heat gains from equipment, lights, and people, as well as external solar gains through windows.

The Importance of Central Plant Design

Central plant design involves choosing heating and cooling methods like steam, gas, or electric systems. With decarbonization efforts, Lucy discusses hybrid solutions that balance cost and efficiency, preparing buildings for future electric systems.

Communication and Collaboration in Construction

Lucy emphasizes the importance of face-to-face communication with mechanical subcontractors. Tools like BIM (Building Information Modeling) have greatly improved communication and coordination in the design and construction process.

The Challenges of Commissioning

Commissioning, the final phase before a building is operational, is often rushed. Lucy shares that inadequate commissioning time leads to delays. She advocates for better planning and realistic scheduling to ensure MEP systems are properly tested and set up.

Lucy’s interview sheds light on MEP engineering's crucial role in building design and construction. From initial planning to final commissioning, MEP engineers ensure buildings are comfortable, efficient, and sustainable.

Check out the video for more insights and to watch the full interview. Stay tuned for more content expanding on the E&P in MEP! If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to our blog for more educational content!