Jeffrey Martin
Associate Partner
SYSKA Hennessy Group, Chicago

Addressing occupant comfort and safety has been a challenge since the construction of the first high-rise buildings, especially as they relate to the design and construction of MEP systems. From thermal comfort and indoor air quality complaints, poor lighting, acoustic privacy, elevator wait time, and reliable life safety systems, today’s tall building occupants face a myriad of challenges affecting not only their physical health, but also their psychological wellbeing.

Often the demands of tenants, building owners, facility operators, and building designers/builders present competing demands that increasingly must be addressed by the building infrastructure. Tenant requirements for agile space layouts, redundancy, accessibility, and wireless connectivity put further emphasis on the supporting MEP systems. Changing business needs such as densification and amenity-rich office space also present additional challenges for old and new buildings alike.

Issues are explored that are faced by building occupants within the context of today’s modern workplace, segueing into a discussion of how effective MEP systems can work to provide an improved environment. MEP engineers must consider space air distribution, acoustics, coordination of components in open ceilings, lighting controls, and power distribution while respecting the architecture. Infrastructure must be adaptable as newer technologies like smart building controls and integrated audiovisual systems are increasingly utilized. Several case studies and real-life project challenges and associated lessons learned will showcase how a thoughtful and holistic MEP design approach can address these competing demands in both new and existing buildings. Well-deployed MEP infrastructure will contribute to employee satisfaction, comfort, retention, and health.