Engineering Change

by RaeAnne Marsh

Southland Engineering launched recently from its parent Southland Industries, one of the nation’s largest MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) building systems experts, with a vision to bring an integrated approach to a discipline that traditionally operates in siloes. By looking at all the elements of project — from efficiency in the construction process by designing for the construction as well as the final function, to operational cost management of long-term use and maintenance — Southland Engineering’s goal is “connected solutions” to serve building owners in all aspects of their building’s lifecycle. And by designing for the construction as well as the final function, it adds efficiency to the construction process.

“We’re not just starting an engineering firm; we are re-engineering the profession as a whole,” explains Michael McLaughlin, executive vice president. “Owners should expect engineers to create solutions that not only solve the technical challenges but also contribute to solving the cost, construction, operation and maintenance challenges simultaneously.” According to the Lean Construction Institute, only 30 percent of capital projects meet building owner expectations on budget and delivery date when using a traditional engineering firm model. McLaughlin notes that, although a project may start with a set target budget, influence of other parties induces changes that add to the cost and require redesign — and all that impacts the construction schedule, which further affects the cost. “Our engineering teams are equipped to tackle these issues and enhance the building process from start to finish.”

To illustrate the concept, McLaughlin shares examples of completed projects.

An NFL stadium needed a way to cool the air temperature for the attending crowd. Whereas computation fluid dynamics would typically suggest the solution be 12-foot-diameter ductwork, installed across the field and 300 feet above field level, Southland Engineering proposed using a ring-style construction above the seating. “It saved them millions of dollars, and improved the job safety for those doing the installation,” McLaughlin says.

For a manufacturing project, the temperature of the tools was a factor and chillers were being used to manage the temperature. “But that temperature was close to what we could do by evaporative cooling,” McLaughlin relates. “That decision saved $35 million in construction costs and eight months’ time.”

In another case, laying out the systems to get water where it needed to be, McLaughlin says they discussed the project with the team in the fabrication shop, who designed it with standardized pieces and created it off-site of the building project “so it was ready when it was needed.”

Southland Engineering’s lobby — which won a design award — expresses the firm’s collaborative nature in its openness and circular design. And while the building houses the different disciplines in their own space, they can easily come together for projects at hand.

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