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Plugging the leaks in Dubai's plumbing designs

Plumbing experts explain how plumbing design is aiding sustainability

Planning and preparation are crucial in retrofit projects.
Planning and preparation are crucial in retrofit projects.

Dubai has set itself a target of retrofitting 30,000 existing buildings and cutting its energy consumption by 30% by 2030 which will be administered by Etihad ESCO (Energy Services Company).

This is no mean feat in itself and work on existing or historical buildings often presents challenges with structural constraints, limited access of damaging the building and designs that do not incorporate adequate space for modern HVAC systems.

There are many reasons why an existing or historic building may require a new heating or cooling system. The owners may wish to update an old boiler system with more modern heating pumps or chillers to increase the system’s capacity or efficiency, the pipe sizes within a system may need to be altered to increase flow, or the system in place is so worn out that it becomes a threat to the building’s integrity. 

All of these instances require working with an existing piping system. Compatibility of the two systems is not always guaranteed, posing a real challenge to engineers and installers.

Problems caused by confined spaces, working around existing structures and limited site accessibility often result in an even bigger challenge. But more critical is the risk of damage to the building.

Planning and preparation are crucial in retrofit projects where many factors concerning the building’s preservation need to be taken into account.

Specifying the right pipe joining method from the start can help to overcome most of these challenges and can result in a swift installation and material handling. Using today’s modern design technologies such as 3D modelling and walk-throughs brings along numerous advantages.

Not only will the design be more accurate, solving issues like pipe collisions at an early design stage, but it will also enhance onsite material handling.

Simon Ouellette, an engineering manager at Vitaulic, a manufacturer of pipe joining systems, says that for the refurbishment of HVAC systems in old building, grooved mechanical piping systems are a reliable alternative to welding and flanging.

“They provide a smaller footprint and a greater ease of prefabrication, improving onsite material handling. This flame-free joining method helps to minimise the risks due to the ease and speed of installation, enhances onsite safety and reduces system downtime during unscheduled or day-to-day maintenance,” he says.

“When refurbishing old buildings, it is also common to be faced with unforeseen events, such as the discovery of asbestos in the building’s structure, causing massive project delays and these can even result in missing the project deadline.

"Because of the speed of installation a mechanical grooved system provides, installing such a system can help to recover lost time,” he adds.

“Furthermore, when mechanical pipe joining systems combine with the right project management and design services, such as BIM, software solutions and bag-and-tag, they can provide a complete solution to transform and modernise the process of refurbishing HVAC systems.”

Sanitary and piping systems manufacturer Geberit says its high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes are more durable and eco-efficient than PVC ones.

“It is a false economy to try to cut costs with the use of sub-standard products that require constant maintenance and/or early renovations,” says Louise Pitt, marketing & CRM manager, of Geberit.

“During tough times people like to take shortcuts or sacrifice quality or lower service levels. From a Geberit standpoint we always kept true to our high standards and our technical consultants in the market really make a difference at the customer front against competition.”

A growing demand for sustainable buildings in the region is a trend that Geberit is responding to. Last month it was reported that Dubai urban planners have completed a blueprint for the city to house 9.5 million people – more than four times its current population.

The municipality is also moving ahead with its plans for Desert Rose – a new, sustainable city planned to be built in Dubai that will house up to 160,000 people.

“The need to design and build sustainable human dwellings has now forced architects into thinking beyond geometry, to solutions that are not only aesthetically pleasing in the classical sense but are also environmentally conscious,” says Pitt.

“With topics like fire safety, water saving and environmental sustainability, Geberit is a proven leader. We do everything possible as manufacturers to use natural resources with care and thereby help to protect the environment.

"This begins with the research and development of our products and extends to daily use and responsible recycling.”

Mohammad Tabrez, a project manager at Sensaire, says indoor water use is another area where plumbing engineers can have a positive impact.

“When we want clean, fresh water at home, all of us have to do is turn on a faucet. On average our direct indoor water use adds up to about 60 gallons a day per person and 35% of it is through the faucets, the rest is consumed through washing machines, toilets and house hold leaks,” he says.

According to the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) a basin faucet requires just 8 psi pressure to supply approximately 3gpm of water, a ½” sink requires 5 psi to supply 4.5gpm of water. However, it is important to select a faucet to function properly at the defined pressure.

“This can be achieved by using individual flow/pressure control devices in order to ensure that each fixture get the minimum required pressure/flow but not more than a certain limit,” says Tabrez.

“While it is quite evident that it will add up to the project cost but it will not only save money on the huge water bills in the long run but also conserve water for a sustainable development.”

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