Fast-track piping for the real world

Swiss Re
The use of Victaulic’s grooved-end pipe-jointing system in the 40-storey Swiss Re Building enabled a floor of riser pipework to be installed each day.
The rapid installation of pipes on site without welding has a long history — which is just as valid today. DAVID SNODGRASS tells the story.The ever-increasing pressures being placed on plant construction teams has led to more and more off-site preparation work. However, with piping the essential ingredient, what options are there for increased speed?   Pre-planning equals speed in plant construction, and the trend of buying piping and joints ‘bagged and tagged’ so that a Meccano-like set arrives on-site for assembly is increasing in popularity, as is the provision of off-site pre-cut pipe to length. Victaulic, which specialises in grooved-end jointing systems, has seen a dramatic increase in the use of its non-weld systems in the UK over the last few years due to the demand to save even more time on-site. This jointing system has proved so popular that it has been transforming the way that customers manage their projects and the speed of their installations. Design flexibility and installation speed A good example of design flexibility and installation challenges is the Swiss Re HQ, 30 St Mary Axe, in London where grooved-end couplings were used for various water, fire protection and sprinkler systems in the building. This jointing system was chosen by Skanska Rashleigh Weatherfoil for its years of proven joint reliability, as well as its ease and simplicity of installation, which contributed to controlling cost and offered benefits to the installation programme. Due to the variety, size and scale of the pipe systems required for this 40-storey building, couplings up to 450 mm diameter were used to connect the multitude of building-services systems, which included condenser, chilled, low-temperature hot water and boosted cold water. The use of these couplings by Skanska Rashleigh Weatherfoil was essential to its philosophy for a modular system of pre-fabricated risers that could be progressively installed as the structure progressed. This approach enabled a complete floor of riser pipe work to be installed in one day — equivalent to about 250 m of pipework. Design flexibility was again an issue for contractor Drake & Scull Engineering for the construction of the Sun Life building in Bristol. The challenge was how best to install three different piping systems in an underground service tunnel from the energy centre to the main building. Two 350 mm chilled-water pipes (flow and return), two 250 mm LTHW pipes and a 150 mm potable-water main all had to be accommodated. However, the confined space meant that jointing methods requiring heat and generating fumes would make conditions extremely uncomfortable for working in the tunnel. The Victaulic jointing system was chosen for the steel LTHW, chilled-water and potable-water lines due to its ease of installation in confined spaces. This jointing system was used throughout the Sun Life build by Drake & Scull and not only ensured faster installation for the sub contractors, but also enabled them to work with maximum safety and cost effectiveness in extremely confined spaces. Maintenance and longevity Not only are speed of installation and design flexibility issues for today’s project managers, but also there is increasing pressure from plant managers to ensure that easy maintenance and longevity are built into the piping system. With 80 years of experience, Victaulic is well placed to show the viability of non-welded piping joints in even the toughest environments. A case in point is the Vine Lane Thames subway. It was built in 1925, and 24 in Victaulic shouldered couplings were installed in the subway on two large water mains (55 bar). One of London’s first commercially built subways, Vine Lane was originally a foot tunnel under the River Thames Thames banks, but decreased in popularity with the opening of Tower Bridge. A small passenger tramway was built but later de-commissioned, and the tunnel was bought by the London & Hydraulic Power Company (now owned by Mercury Communications). Today these same pipes and couplings still exist to carry water under the Thames in an emergency. Recently, due to the London Bridge City development, Thames Water required the original mains extending. This achieved this by using a large number of 24 in Victaulic couplings alongside the original couplings, already in maintenance-free service for over 67 years! The pressures placed on building and plant construction may be increasing, but accelerated schedules are also an opportunity for project managers to look at alternatives to the traditional time-intensive welded pipe. Off-site cutting and ‘bagging and tagging’ are viable options for time-saving on-site, as well as tried-and-tested engineering methods such as the grooved-end piping system. 80 years on, the essence of Victaulic’s engineering remains the same — providing construction managers with a jointing system that performs as well as welded piping but with built-in flexibility and time-saving installation methods. David Snodgrass is UK and Ireland country manager for Victaulic Ltd, Unit 14, Arlington Business Park, Whittle Way, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2BD.
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