The use of prefabrication has a long history in the UK construction industry and is currently a popular trend worldwide. Prefabrication is associated with modular and offsite construction which makes the whole construction process simpler and more efficient.

What Is Prefabrication?

Prefabricating pipework consists of all the actions associated with making pipework components at a remote and better-suited location.

Once the pipework is ready, it is transported to the final construction site where workers finish the construction by assembling the prebuilt components.

The Benefits of Prefabricated Pipework

Eliminating On-site Challenges

Prefabrication provides a solution to several significant issues associated with managing construction sites. Firstly, it removes the need for the continuous transportation of materials to the site and minimizes the number of machines and equipment required. This in turn contributes to a decrease in costs for the construction process and reduces the time needed to finish the project.

Secondly, prefabricating pipework results in the on-site installer having minimal cutting and jointing to do, thus systems are ready for testing and commissioning sooner. The consequence of this is that fewer people are needed on site, less waste needs to be removed and errors and damage to services by different trades are minimised. As fusion jointing of larger diameter pipes is technically more difficult than smaller pipes, it makes sense to complete as many of these joints as possible under ideal conditions in the factory, as opposed to doing it on site.

Off-site construction also means that there is no interruption or shut-down of pre-existing operations. Furthermore, construction is not affected by the vagaries of the on-site climate conditions.

There are many advantages in prefabricating pipework away from a construction site in a location which is designed to create the perfect conditions for manufacture.

Quality Assurance and Ease of Process

Modules can be manufactured to a uniform quality as a result of having a controlled manufacturing environment and processes for specific standards. Specialist expertise can be assembled into one weather-resistant factory where multiple quality checks can take place. Off-site manufacture also means early testing, commissioning and project assurances.

An example of a typical off-site pipework process is when pipe spools are fabricated from raw pipes and pipe fittings such as elbows, flanges and tees in the fabrication shops. Raw pipes are cut to the required sizes and then transferred with pipe fittings to a fitting table, where some of the components are temporarily connected. The resulting sub-assembly continues with a welding operation which permanently connects the assembly together before it is returned to the fitting table and gets fitted with other spool components.

In the factory it is possible to roll fit and weld pipes meaning that the main pipe can be turned by a rolling machine enabling the fitter or the welder to perform their operations without having to change positions. Minimising the number of fitting and welding positions is one of the goals of a pipe spool fabrication sequencing.

Pipe spools are often flanged to facilitate the connection to other spools. The fabrication of these spools is normally performed by specialists equipped with the required infrastructure.

The specialist fabricators work under a defined set of quality management criteria to ensure the accuracy of fabrication in order to achieve the proper fit on site and to maintain the required technical parameters defined by the client.

Quality of the work is easier to manage and maintain in a controlled environment. High accuracies on specified tolerances will avoid rework on site.

Prefabricated pipework will also eliminate the need for fabrication and testing equipment to be acquired by the on-site contractor. Radiography, PMI, MPI, Ultrasonic tests, Hydro tests can all be performed better and more effectively in controlled environments.

Prefabrication is also the perfect answer to skill and labour shortages. Contractors do not have to mobilise a significant work force for the fabrication of spools on site.

Prefabrication is especially attractive in buildings in which design is repetitive, such as flats, hotels, hospitals, schools, student accommodation, military barracks and prisons. Prefabricated assemblies also work well for risers and plant rooms. Moreover, prefabricated piping assemblies is often a viable option for retro-fitting as part of a major building refurbishment project.

Reducing Costs

An important aspect of modular construction is that it can be tailored for any budget. Material suppliers offer bulk discounts to prefabrication manufacturers and this reduces the project cost. Despite the faster construction time which results from using modules there are also savings in construction costs. There is also greater predictability with pricing prefabricated pipework, because labour and material elements are priced into the delivered assemblies.

Improved Safety

As a result of the fact that manufacturing is taking place in the controlled environment of a factory there is reduced problems with moisture, environmental hazards and dirt. Workers are not exposed to health risks associated with working in adverse weather conditions and there are reduced risks of accidents. Injuries to workers can be prevented by employing strict factory procedures. Safety risks are also reduced for plant personnel as a result of fewer on-site hours.

A Greener Solution

Prefabricated pipework modules are also energy efficient. Construction in a factory ensures that any extra materials are easily recycled in-house rather than being sent as waste to a landfill site.

With the rapidly growing popularity of offsite construction, there is a powerful case for the factory fabrication of piping & plumbing assemblies for both, modern methods of construction, and fast-tracking traditional building projects. Among its many benefits, pipework prefabrication significantly cuts costs and offers a level of quality assurance that is difficult to match with conventional onsite piping. In summary, prefabricating pipework makes a valuable contribution to improving efficiency in the construction industry.

Get Started with Therma-Mech

To learn more about pre-fab pipework, simply get in touch with our expert team here at Therma-Mech. From initial designs to installation and ongoing support, we can help you get the most out of any electrical or mechanical engineering services.

See more: The Ultimate Guide to District Cooling