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Aiming for gold

On 8 August 2008, the eyes of the world will be on China as the games of the 29th Olympiad begin.


The design of one of the largest, the National Stadium, has meant unusual MEP solutions. We find out how the plumbing system has been achieved.

On 8 August 2008, the eyes of the world will be on China as the games of the 29th Olympiad begin in Beijing. This historic event in the cultural and sporting history of China will be centred on the impressive and visionary new National Stadium.

Behind the scenes, while the athletes were striving to reduce their best times, the MEP specialists had the same aim.

The systems and installation methods were chosen for quality and efficiency, with the plumbing solution a prime example, having increased seismic stability and saved on-site installation time.

Stadium design

Fondly dubbed the 'Bird's Nest' due to its unusual architecture, the National Stadium will be able to seat up to 100,000 spectators. It is due to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, along with numerous football and track and field events during the Olympics.

As billions of people watch the Beijing Olympics, they will witness one of the most advanced, world class stadiums come to life.

The Olympics are ushering in a new era in Chinese construction history and nothing symbolises this better than the Bird's Nest, with its dramatic visual impact and stylistic cues that blend modern steel construction with forms found in nature.

Designing and building the Bird's Nest was a great challenge to the engineers, architects and contractors involved, as both the stadium's operating systems and construction are unique.

The core building systems had to perfectly match the design symmetry and visual look of the stadium, while providing high quality, efficient operations to match the Beijing Olympics' environmentally-friendly theme.

The basic components of the core building infrastructure include the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (hvac) system, which in the Bird's Nest required a customised and flexible piping and joint solution.

The pipework system had to meet the irregular structural requirements imposed by the architectural design and stringent safety regulations to account for seismic, wind and other natural geological and weather-related occurrences.

In addition, the constrained timeline imposed on the massive project required an easy to implement pipework solution to meet tough and unmovable deadlines.

Pipework solution

The Beijing Olympic National Stadium's architectural design has been achieved by using tubular crossing steel beams that give the impression of a strong, modern and natural structure.

The design required an hvac infrastructure based on a pipework system that was flexible and simple to install at the required angles.

To meet these needs, the Beijing Olympic Committee and the project's primary contractors chose Victaulic's jointed piping solution for the stadium.

The Victaulic grooved joint system consists of a housing coupling, a bolt, a nut and a gasket.

This customisable pipework solution provides flexible couplings, so the hvac pipes could be installed at any of the different angles to meet the various deflection requirements of the Bird's Nest.

Earthquakes are common, but rarely major in Beijing and the surrounding area and to cope with these the National Stadium, like most buildings in the Chinese capital, had to be reinforced to withstand serious seismic movements without significant damage.

The Victaulic pipework system enables an infrastructure solution that moves with the building to reduce damage and protect vital services during earthquakes.

The special gasket in Victaulic's grooved joint is responsible for the system's ability to move with the building. The gasket is designed to expand and contract as the pipe's temperature changes in order to stop leaks.

It joins two sections of pipe, allowing them to move dynamically as the stadium moves in order to reduce damage and keep the hvac system operating.

The joint is held together by pressure from the system's slot and coupling design, which holds the sections tight regardless of movement in any direction to maximise structural protection.

System installation

MEP contractors on the National Stadium worked under the guidance of Victaulic engineers to easily and quickly install the pipework system.

The process involved first rolling and cutting grooves at both ends of the pipe, then using a wrench to engage the coupling and screw in the bolts and nuts to complete the installation.

This highly flexible design has allowed workers to install and adjust the piping system in the Bird's Nest's extremely narrow and irregular conduit environment.

Safety and green procedures were also implemented to prevent fire, power or gas leakage hazards and reduce polluting gas and liquid spills during installation.

With rigid deadlines in place, building the stadium needed solutions that could reduce labour and time on-site. The Victaulic grooved joint solution required up to 50% less time to install than welding or flange set-ups that need professional training for local workers.

Victaulic also supplied its Construction Piping Services (CPS) solution to enable further time savings. CPS is used to provide three-dimensional drawings of the pipework joint system, analyse the system needs and help engineers to calculate the required work hours and manpower more accurately.

This has helped the contractors to manage and control the work more effectively to ensure timely completion of this highly visible and important public project.

Pipework preparation

By determining the man-hours that each pipe section of a project will cost, differing methods of installation can be compared for cost-effectiveness as well as installation speed.

Three-dimensional drawings and cost analysis that compare the product and man-hour costs of installing grooved-end and welded products have been used by the engineers on all the Olympic jobs they have been involved in to date.

This service, provided by the Construction Piping Services (CPS) division at Victaulic, proved valuable on the Beijing National Stadium where the hvac layout gave the project team leaders the ability to accommodate the design within the symmetry of the architectural plans.

The Victaulic CPS man-hour comparison of the Beijing National Stadium demonstrated the best pipework layout including all joints and dimensions, plus the man-hours needed to install the job, compared to welded pipe options.

With rigid deadlines in place, the construction team needed solutions that could reduce manpower and times costs, while still meeting the demands of the building's design.

By combining the Victaulic grooved joining solution - that takes up to 50% less time to install than welding or flanged systems - with the pre-planning services offered by the CPS team, the job ran to schedule, ready for the highly visible public opening in August.


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