Isometric 3-D Renderings, Installation-Ready Couplings Save Labor

July 23, 2014
Victaulic’s Construction Piping Services developed isometric 3-D renderings to identify pad, equipment, and overall piping layouts and provide prefabrication support.

In operation for more than 180 years, Fort Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kan., is the oldest active U.S. Army post west of Washington, D.C. As part of campuswide renovations, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned major changes to Building 120, which houses the Combined Arms Research Library, high-tech classrooms, a conference center, and an auditorium.

Early in the process, 3-D isometric drawings identified how best to route and stack overhead pipes.

Renovations to the three-story, 220,000-sq-ft building included demolition of the interior of the entire third floor, as well as replacement of the restrooms on all floors. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the project was the replacement of the HVAC system with a hybrid geo-exchange system featuring 240 500-ft-deep geothermal wells. The system was designed to achieve 40-percent energy savings compared with a building built to ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2001, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

With $8 million for mechanical upgrades, Olathe, Kan.-based Environmental Mechanical Contractors Inc. (EMC) had 540 calendar days from notice to complete mechanical construction. For drawing and coordination of the mechanical room, EMC partnered with Victaulic and the company’s Construction Piping Services (CPS) department. At EMC’s request, the Victaulic CPS team developed isometric 3-D renderings to identify pad, equipment, and overall piping layouts and provide prefabrication support.

The 3-D drawings helped to minimize rework and increase efficiency by identifying problems early in the process instead of later on the job site. The team refined pipe routing in the drawings to ensure it was economical and practical with proper clearance for installation and maintenance. This was especially helpful in making accommodations for the new geothermal water system. The concise isometric drawings allowed the team to avoid conflict and changes during installation while providing uniform guidelines that put control of the job into EMC’s hands.

“The isometrics changed the way EMC communicated,” Marcus Howell of EMC, senior project manager on the Fort Leavenworth project, said. “It gave our team a clear picture of how the finished job would look and allowed us to accelerate project collaboration and efficiency in real time. It also minimized the potential for miscommunication by eliminating the need to use our own imagination to interpret the plans.”

The drawings also facilitated the separation of piping systems into isometric and section views and enabled development of accurate bills of material. This saved substantial time and money. EMC roll-grooved and prefabricated the pipe at its headquarters. The team used detailed cut sheets from CPS for pipe fabrication. EMC shipped materials in pre-assembled lengths to the job site for final assembly. Additional grooved products and accessories were delivered bagged and tagged with location and date information for maximum coordination, helping EMC to increase speed of installation and reduce material handling.

Laying out the mechanical-room piping in 3-D allowed space constraints to be addressed. Four-inch pipes were used to connect the distribution piping and heat pumps for the 640-ton geothermal heating and cooling system, while pipe 12 in. and under was used for connections off of the chilled-, hot-, condenser-, and geothermal-water lines in the mechanical room. Connecting to the underground heat exchange, the geothermal-water piping was as large as the other systems in the mechanical room. This required EMC to find more space for the new system, which meant stacking pipes overhead. At the pumps, CPS tightly stacked Victaulic triple-service valves to avoid the need for flexible connectors while still providing flexibility and vibration attenuation.

In the mechanical room, EMC relied primarily on Victaulic couplings featuring proprietary installation-ready technology for piping up to 8 in. in diameter. These couplings can be installed in less than half the time of standard grooved couplings and up to five times faster than welded piping.

“We picked up a 30-percent labor savings from fabrication to install because of the isometric drawings and Victaulic installation-ready couplings,” Howell said. “We are huge fans of these new couplings. Victaulic standard grooved couplings are fast and easy to use, but these are even more so. We’d use them for everything, if we could, and we’re excited that they’re available for 10- and 12-in. sizes now as well.”

Use of grooved mechanical systems is inherently safer than welding, as there is no hot work or risk of arch flash and fire hazards. EMC was able to eliminate non-productive time associated with fire watch, which added to its control over the installation schedule and increased productivity on site.

“We use Victaulic on every project we can because we know the value they bring in helping us deliver a successful job,” Howell said. “After working with the Victaulic CPS team on the Fort Leavenworth project, our people were really sold on it, so now we also use Victaulic drawing services on large mechanical rooms when we can.”

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