Design West Engineering is a full-service mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineering consulting firm based in San Bernardino, California. Established in 2000, the firm specializes in mechanical, electrical and telecommunication engineering applications and energy efficiency projects for a wide range of building sectors, including education, medical, civic, residential and commercial.
To facilitate a new level of project collaboration with their architectural clients and structural engineers, Design West adopted Revit MEP software in early 2007. The firm has completed construction documentation on 12 major projects using Revit MEP. For its clients using Revit Architecture, Design West produces all of its construction documents with Revit MEP.
Some of the firm’s notable projects include the new SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND California, the City of Avalon Civic Center (Catalina Island, California), Omri & Boni Restaurant (Palm Desert, California) and Providence Holy Cross Medical Center (Mission Hills, California). In addition to Revit MEP, the firm also uses AutoCAD MEP and Autodesk Buzzsaw.
Reseller: Microdesk, Inc. (Irvine, CA)
SEA LIFE at LEGOLAND, Carlsbad, California
Project: The new SEA LIFE Aquarium, opening in the summer of 2008 and located adjacent to LEGOLAND California, is the 29th SEA LIFE center around the world and the first in North America. More than a standard aquarium, SEA LIFE provides an educational, interactive dynamic to visitors and features a 175,000 gallon ocean display with a 35-foot-long acrylic ocean tunnel that allows guests to “walk through” the tank. The two-story aquarium structure also includes a freshwater stream, a children's maze, a harbor animals area, a toddler water play zone, a sea horse display area, a ray tank, a nature discovery center, as well as an educational theater and restaurant.
The project was on a fast-track construction schedule with no room for delays or design errors. Project construction started in November 2007 for an August 2008 opening. The whole park is very heavily themed for its young visitors—extensively decorated with specialty lighting to showcase the displays. Any exposed building systems such as ductwork or piping needed to be artistically incorporated into an overall decorative scheme for the aquarium. As a result, the theme artists and specialty lighting engineers needed to visualize the overall appearance of the facility throughout the design process. In addition, the MEP systems needed to be carefully coordinated with the aquarium equipment and decorative features.
The use of the entire Revit platform on this project was critical for coordinating the design and providing the efficiencies needed to meet the project schedule. The major design groups on the project—Design West, a UK-based architect, a California-based architect, and California-based structural engineer—used Revit MEP, Revit Architecture, and Revit Structure respectively and routinely shared their 3D design models with each other to facilitate cross-discipline design coordination and clash detection. By adopting a BIM approach, this international extended design team (which also included an aquarium design specialist based in Germany and the theming consultants based in the UK) was able to coordinate design updates and stay on schedule.
In addition, early in the design process, the project architect combined all of the discipline-specific Revit models to produce design visualizations for the theming artists—especially interior elevation drawings for every wall throughout the aquarium. These drawings were needed to speed the production of a decoration plan that incorporated exposed ductwork, pipes and steel. In turn, those hand-painted decoration plans were used by Design West in their detailed design phase, to ensure that the exposed mechanical systems were hidden in darkened corners of the facility or behind the aquarium’s decorative elements.
Coachella Valley Middle/High School, Indio, California
Project: Design is underway on this new educational facility for the Coachella Valley Unified School District. Scheduled for occupancy in the fall of 2011, this facility will house approximately 3700 middle school and high school students. The facility will be comprised of nine structures and includes 104 classrooms in two buildings, an administrative building, two gymnasiums with basketball courts, an outdoor swimming pool with a changing facility, and an outdoor stadium with two concession facilities.
The campus is being designed to achieve as many points as possible towards Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS)—a sustainable design rating system created specifically to address California K-12 schools. As such, the entire campus design will be rigorously analyzed to increase its energy performance. Like the SEA LIFE project, the entire Revit platform is being used on this project and the Design West team is using Revit MEP and the architect’s Revit Architecture model in conjunction with energy analysis software from Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES) to optimize building energy performance early in the design phase of the project.
BIM Experience: The tight integration between Revit and IES software—and the use of the aggregated building model that includes both the architectural and MEP designs—is allowing the Design West engineers to perform building analysis directly from their Revit design environment. A large portion of the target CHPS points are related to energy efficiency, so the mechanical design—which features a non-traditional displacement ventilation cooling system—must be analyzed in the context of how the building envelope is constructed, including windows, walls, roofs, etc. For that type of whole-building analysis, it is crucial to have a well-defined, physically accurate model.
For example, the Design West’s engineers need to properly account for daylighting and its effects on the heating, cooling and lighting requirements for individual spaces in the facility. The desert climate of Coachella Valley makes it particularly important to balance the desire to bring light into the classroom with the need to keep heat out. An accurate Revit model integrated with the IES analysis tools will greatly simplify this daylighting analysis and allow the Design West engineers to properly size the cooling system and to design the control systems for internal lights—enabling dynamic adjustments of the building’s energy management system and the automatic shut off lights near windows when they’re not needed.