skip to Main Content
Reflections On Horrific MEP Spec’s

Reflections on Horrific MEP Spec’s

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 131).

As this is my last post this year. I have been reflecting on my 2017 experiences and the thought I cannot shake is how horrific many MEP specifications are and the consequential additional client costs they generate.

Specifications are important, legal documents that define required project outcomes. They impact costs and quality. However many are so poorly written or out of date that a contractor can “drive a bus” through them.

Clients need to understand the reality of MEP life on large commercial projects, which is:

  • Never enough time or real talent
  • Copy and paste, 1990’s generic specifications  
  • 95% of design effort goes into drawings and calculations
  • Low consequences to MEP design firms for errors and omissions 
  • RFI’s are design KPI’s
  • Contractors are incentivized to game the specifications and cut corners due to low consequences  

If you do not believe me, review the project contingency budget spend because, that is where errors and omissions are funded. I would move some of that budget to manage the design process closely.

The only way to impact this IMHO, is for clients to detail in their appointment documents that the following are included in MEP specifications:


  • Standards and codes for the country the project is located in. Do not include every possible standard and code to “cover your ass”.
  • PLEASE detail the design and performance testing standards for smoke controls systems, particularly staircase pressurizations systems. 
  • Green building certification level with detailed breakdown of design team and construction team responsibilities. 
  • Exact schedule of equipment that requires Factory Acceptance Testing plus required attendees and reporting. 
  • Exact level of electrical equipment & systems testing plus who does it.
  • Exact level of integrated systems testing plus who does it.
  • A detailed “Cause & Effects’ matrix for life safety and mission critical systems be produced by the design team.
  • A detailed systems controls sequence of opeartion produced by the design team.
  • Required BMS graphics. 
  • Independent, 3rd party building enclosure testing requirements (if required) plus reference standards with clear pass / fail criteria.
  • Independent, 3rd party ductwork leakage testing requirements plus reference standards broken down by system with clear pass / fail criteria.
  • Independent, 3rd party CHW & HTG systems pipework flushing and dosing plus reference standards broken down by system with clear pass / fail criteria.
  • Independent, certified 3rd party Commissioning as a performance and compliance check.  
  • Independent, certified 3rd party Commissioning Verification (if required), employed by the owner or owners representative e.g the project management firm, NOT the contractors. 
  • Specialist, 3rd party “Technically” written, systems based MEP O&M Manuals with a draft delivery date, 3 months prior to substantial completion. 
  • Keep paper copies of final O&M Manuals to maximum of three. Go digital if possible. 
  • Specialist, 3rd party digital O&M Manual solution (if required) with a draft delivery date, 3 months prior to substantial completion.
  • Electronic document management requirements or system.
  • Exact schedule of equipment and systems that require user training. 


I have personally witnessed this year, each one of the points above cause the owner extra cost and result in poor outcomes. Why? Because the MEP specifications where outdated, inadequate and unenforceable.

Specifications must be precise with zero ambiguity. To quote Bradley Cooper’s character in War Dogs, MEP consultants, DO YOUR JOB!

For everyone that has read my rambling thoughts this year, I sincerely thank you for supporting my self therapy and wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2018.

Edifice Complex Podcast
Podcast on YouTube:
Podcast on Facebook:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top