When we talk about MEP design we refer to all aspects of management, design and maintenance of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; in fact, the acronym MEP derives from English and stands for Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing. This part is often underestimated, but like an iceberg, what you see of a fountain is only a small part of the whole, underneath there is a hidden world – the real amount of work – what outsiders struggle to see and which we commonly call MEP design.
MEP design is the crucial aspect of any construction project, because it ensures the efficient, reliable and safe functionality of a building or structure. MEP systems represent the neural system of a fountain or a water feature: in addition to aesthetics and design, there is a dense network made up of pipes and electrical and mechanical components, which determine functionality, sustainability and therefore success.
On a practical level, the MEP technical drawing is the tool through which the designer shows how to create or to modify the plant part of a fountain. This type of design is an effective communication tool for expressing and demonstrating all the characteristics and dimensions of each part of the system in a simple way, inserting it into the surrounding context to give a complete vision of the project. To be effective, MEP engineering drawing must be:
- clear and easy to read;
- complete, sectioned according to one or more planes;
- unambiguous interpretation.
The design of the MEP systems of a fountain develops as follows:
- Hydraulic and mechanical design, which provides for the definition of the fountain water supply and delivery and return systems. Furthermore, the pump/s required for the movement and filtration of the water is defined;
- Electrical design, which includes the entire electrical power supply system of the fountain, which must guarantee the safety of users, the power supply of pumps, lighting and all other electrical components;
- Production of technical drawings detailing all components of the MEP systems of the fountain, including material specifications, tolerances and safety measures necessary to ensure the correct installation and operation of the fountain.
However, before starting to design and draw a fountain, it is necessary to consider some “preparatory” steps that are essential for the final definition of the MEP system of the work, which are:
- Detailed analysis of the site where the fountain will be installed. This part evaluates the context considering factors such as the climate, the position with respect to the surrounding buildings or streets, the presence of natural elements (trees and meadows) and the availability of water and energy;
- Definition of the design. Based on the site analysis, the designer defines and proposes to the user the design of the fountain, but also the type of water features and the position of the nozzles;
- Development of a preliminary functional scheme, through a first draft with 2D drawings of the network of plants (such as the water movement and recirculation system, the filtration plant and the automatic panel for the control and automatic balancing of the chemistry for water treatment), of the electrical components and of the architectural structural part;
- Concept phase, in which the sound/geometric/aesthetic feasibility is evaluated through the production of sketches, renderings and photo insertions, but also by evaluating any references to other projects to visualize the general effect of the product as a whole or to justify the use of some materials;
- Definitive and executive phases, thanks to which we enter into the details of each part of the project, through calculations and sizing, taking into consideration possible constraints or particular conformations, finally arriving at technical solutions to improve the aesthetics and functionality of the project. In any case, you never give up on aesthetics or the final effect that the water feature and the architectural design as a whole must have. This phase develops through an initial creation of in-depth 2D drawings, followed by 3D drawings for modelling.
There are a few basic engineering drawing principles that designers need to keep in mind when designing plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems:
- Choosing the right materials and the right equipment, which must be durable, guaranteed and performing;
- Use technologies to improve and maximize energy efficiency, reduce operating costs and improve safety;
- Fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations, such as the CEI 61-69, the CEI 34-36, the CEI 64-8 (and many others).
In conclusion, MEP design is an essential part of ensuring that fountains operate efficiently, while minimizing operating and especially maintenance costs. Without proper design, fountains risk having functional, safety or aesthetic problems that can compromise their beauty and sustainability.