By Antonios Kountouriotis and Robert Attwell.

Our integrated approach to the delivery of M&E services is designed to deliver the best possible results. Using Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) adds value at every stage of the design and build process, by identifying opportunities for standardisation of components and / or processes. It brings the principles, experience and successes of the manufacturing industry to construction – with all the associated benefits in terms of reducing cost and waste, while increasing quality and efficiency. (Read more about DfMA here)

M&E systems fit naturally with DfMA. Many processes and components are already standard. No-one would think of designing a sprinkler valve from scratch for every project, for example, and the use of pre-fabricated modules in risers for vertical service distribution in buildings is a technique widely in use. DfMA is not, therefore, a revolutionary concept for M&E services. What we do is make DfMA a priority, a driving principle.

M&E in construction

DfMA combines off-site manufacture with on-site assembly, using precision in pre-fabrication to drive on-site efficiency in both installation and operation. Standardisation of M&E parts and equipment leads to efficiencies of scale in both procurement and manufacture, and efficiencies of labour in the application on site of simple, safe, repeated, standard tasks.

We apply the principles of DfMA to every M&E building services project we work on, regardless of scale or sector. We look beyond the usual to find efficiency and deliver increased value by taking a fresh look at existing M&E design approaches – and improving on them.

M&E consultancy and engineering

Bryden Wood is an integrated company. Our M&E engineers work alongside architects and other disciplines in highly collaborative project teams, from the earliest stages and through projects, meaning that M&E building services are never an afterthought or an add-on. DfMA works best with tight coordination between disciplines – standardisation and innovation do not recognise traditional professional boundaries and value comes in many forms.

We know from extensive experience as M&E consultants and engineers that an integrated approach brings the best results.

Our approach to DfMA has delivered proven results in our M&E services work on data centres, laboratories and pharmaceutical facilities.

M&E systems and the platform approach to DfMA

Our platform approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (P-DfMA) takes DfMA even further. P-DfMA identifies commonality across entire sectors in the built environment to define the ‘kit of parts’ of components and processes that we can use to deliver a wide variety of built assets. (You can read more about P-DfMA here).


The step change achievable with P-DfMA is in bringing the benefits of standardisation across all services and to the entire building – and adding value at every stage. P-DfMA sees the project as a whole, understanding the positive and negative effect of each design decision on as many other aspects of the project as possible; seeking shared efficiencies between all elements of the building. This is unlike traditional design and build, where a project is often more like a linear series of separate tasks, where consequences can be passed down the chain.

So unlike in standard construction, M&E system requirements – initial and on-going – are factored in from the start, in minute detail, as an integral part of the design. We include routing and fixings in the design of the fabric of the building, with precision, so as to minimise on-site adjustment and facilitate installation. We maximise the use of off-site pre-fabrication, and share elements across M&E services as much as is practicable.
This approach means that, for M&E services, as well as across the whole project, we reduce cost, time, materials and waste, while increasing quality, worker safety and overall efficiency.

It is Bryden Wood’s integrated approach – where our M&E team forms a core part of the project team – that makes this possible.

M&E design at the Forge: a working example

The Forge, a commercial office development with Landsec in central London, is the first major building to use P-DfMA from building design to delivery. The benefits of P-DfMA are showing in many areas of the project, but not least in the installation of M&E building services, in RIBA stage 5.

The Forge is designed as open-plan office space, with exposed services and soffit. It is also designed to be zero carbon in both construction and operation. Our M&E design challenge was to look at the entire office environment and standardise the design of the M&E systems to deliver outstanding performance, while controlling costs and ensuring that the exposed services were aesthetically appealing as well.

Driving value in M&E building services at the Forge

Our solution was to use a small variety of repeatable elements. Across the entire project, we have minimised the variety of types and sizes of equipment and distribution modules. This is to ensure repeatability, without compromising the performance of the building, both in terms of energy consumption and user comfort. Doing this allows us to combine efficiency of performance with economies of scale on buying, for example, larger quantities of single gauge of pipe.

For ease of installation, we use pre-wired electrical products wherever possible. Fan and pipe modules are fabricated off-site, designed for simple connection on site.

We pre-cast a pattern of fixing points into the soffit, so that there would be no drilling into the soffit onsite – avoiding working at height, dirt, noise and the risk of drilling into the steel rebar within the concrete. The pattern of the fixing points caters to full range of M&E service elements, according to size and purpose: some are attached to unistrut, some are on frames or drop rods, and some are fixed directly to the soffit. But in order to keep fixings and supports to a minimum, fixing requirements for all M&E services are considered in coordination and designed to be shared between modules / equipment. They are also pre-attached offsite wherever possible, ready to fix to the pre-cast points.

Pre-assembled pipe modules massively reduce the amount of working at height required. Pipework is assembled in its frame off-site. The frame then serves as its support for transport purposes, and allows for stacking of multiple units. The small number of extra supports required during transportation to avoid damaging of services, are returned to the factory and re-used for subsequent deliveries.

The modules are installed to their pre-cast fixing points and the pipes joined together using crimped connections – a quick and simple process that requires no welding. To make things simpler still, the exact number and size of couplings needed for each module are provided in a box taped to the side.

Further benefits to logistics and on-site processes with innovative M&E design

Delivering pipework pre-assembled and ready for installation makes transport and on-site logistics much more efficient. There is no requirement for on-site storage of parts, preparation, cutting, assembly or waste disposal. All of this is particularly important on a constrained site in central London.

At the Forge, we have over 40 riser modules, over 800 fan coil and pipe modules, and over 1300 comflor panels to contain the cabling and sprinkler pipework. This represents approx. 90%. of modules and just 10% of onsite installations, which means a smaller team of operatives on site, working more efficiently.

Consistency and precision of design, fabrication and installation means the exposed M&E services are symmetrical, aligned and in repeated patterns. The services are, for once, making a positive contribution to the aesthetic of the building.

The story of M&E and P-DfMA at the Forge is one of coordination not compromise between the different elements of the design, construction and operation of this ground-breaking building. As mentioned, by including M&E engineers within the integrated project team from the very earliest stages, and throughout, we achieve significant benefits.

While the Forge is the first of its kind and setting new standards, the underlying DfMA principles underpin all our M&E design work at Bryden Wood.

DfMA adds exceptional value for our M&E clients.