Utilizing Innovative Prefabrication at the South Adams County Pellet Softening Project to Drive Results
What did it take for three Weifield crew members to install 3,000+ feet of PVC pipe with various bands and connections on a wall, 27 feet high – in less than a week? It had more than a little to do with an easy concept that many of us understand but few actually do: starting with the end in mind.
Weifield’s Superintendent, Eldar Karokotov – who led our Industrial division’s South Adams County Water & Sanitation District Pellet Softening project in Commerce City, Colorado, has two primary ‘dislikes,’ on any project: 1) doing things piecemeal, and 2) having to go back and do re-work. And so, while he was planning the chemical building pipe work on his project, he did what he always does and tried to picture the end of the phase with the finished installation already in place.
“You have to first picture what you’re going to have, in your mind, and then figure out how to execute each piece or phase,” said Eldar. “When I saw that we’d have to install separate pipes one at a time, that high in the air, I imagined that things would be falling down and that it would take a really long time. So, I envisioned what the final installation would look like and went from there.”
Beginning with the End in Mind: Creating a Master Layout
What Eldar and his crew needed to complete within that chemical building was a 200-foot wall, packed solid with complex PVC piping that needed to be precisely placed around J-boxes and other systems in the wall – and they had a little less than a month in the schedule, to do it. What helped Eldar paint a picture of what the finished installation would look like was Weifield’s Bluebeam software which he used to create a master layout of the entire phase.
“When I was laying it out – I started seeing how we could install everything all at once,” said Eldar. “PVC piping is very light so I imagined us making a table, or jig, where the racks could be pre-configured, everything would be consistent, and then we would snap the pipes into our racks before adhering it to the wall.”
By utilizing the jig platform that held the work in place while they installed things into it –Eldar and his team began building racks on the ground and mounting pipes to the racks in the exact spacing required, before hanging the racks on the wall, in sections, with the utilization of slip couplings.
The truly instrumental portion of this installation was Eldar’s use of these very inexpensive PVC slip couplings (the pieces used to join two sections of PVC pipe of the same size) in order to build a jig and exact conduit/wireway racks. All racks were fabricated to also hold the wireway – and once the first rack was fabricated, the team precisely installed and aligned the second rack, end to end, and then slid the slip coupling to connect the two racks. The measurements in Bluebeam ensured that the fabrication would be precise and everything would coordinate to the installation size, exactly.
“My biggest worry was that we’d built the entire rack and then it wouldn’t fit on the wall,” Eldar said. “So I double- and triple-checked each measurement before prefabricating the racks to avoid any possibility of error – and our installations were mostly exactly correct or within 1/8 of an inch of the plan. We never had to make an adjustment.”
Utilizing Technology and Prefab for Success
According to Eldar, all of the rough-in was located inside the cinder block within the chemical building – and so within Bluebeam, he drew his stub-ups and placed PVC boxes on top of them – and then created a jig schematic that would help guide the work and ensure precise alignment of his piping. He then gave these Bluebeam layouts to the fabrication crew to prefabricate it all.
“I ended up with 90 perfectly prefabbed stub-ups, all consistently sized – and we just had to drop them in,” said Eldar.
The complete racks were then prefabricated and hoisted up on a lift – they slid right up to the J-boxes on the wall and onto pre-drilled anchors, before being glued onto the wall.
“Bluebeam also ensured our predrilled anchor holes were exact,” said Eldar. “Installation went fast because we didn’t need to square and align anything – it was already squared. We put rigid conduit over the racks to keep them really square during installation. Once we were done installing, we strapped everything in and took the rigid out to use again in a different area.”
He added, “We dedicated one room to our jig – and we perfected our method to the point that we could even pre-plan our Schedule 80 PVC pipe installations so that the green lines which the inspectors and owners need to see to quickly identify this type of piping would be exposed and displayed consistently from pipe to pipe, after it was bent.”
In addition to the chemical building prefabrication, the crew laid 8,000 feet of pipe between duct banks (Eldar’s crew prefabbed 100% of these duct banks) and they also BIM-modeled the existing process plant before running several thousands of feet of pipe, inside it.
Enhancing Productivity, Saving Time & Cost, and Promoting Safety [A ‘Henry Ford’ Moment]
Having experienced tremendous time-saving benefits from this process, Eldar and his team are now utilizing the same method to build the other side of the chemical building.
“Timewise, by not having to install one piece of pipe at a time, we went from completing a month-long project in a week. This is all thanks to my amazing team – Chad Petty, Brennan Stahls, Karl Heilman, Daniel Korsch, Raul Perez, Mark Mezentsev, and Sherman Brown; they pre-built and installed everything. Our client and our team were all pretty happy with the results.”
According to Scott Dick, Weifield Industrial General Superintendent, due to Eldar’s vision, the team was able to achieve a 35-40% increase in productivity as compared to traditional installation methods. Weifield’s future installations will model this same methodology in all chemical building projects, moving forward – a type of building included in nearly every active industrial project.
“The amount of time dedicated by Eldar for design and layout paid dividends on installation,” said Scott. “It was an amazing amount of work in a very short time, by a truly talented team. Several of our clients – our GC, Moltz Construction, and our partners at Snyder Electric and Carollo Engineers – initially were a little hesitant about our process but after it was complete, praised our team for our innovative process.”
Said Weifield’s engineering partner, Adam Munoz, of Carollo Engineers: “Weifield created an impressive plan that came together to produce a great time- and cost-saving installation; these two items alone stand on their own, but the major benefit in my mind is safety. A crew working with both their feet and product planted on the ground keeps your workers and all the other trade workers around you at this site in a safer and more productive environment.”
When reviewing our finished product, Adam even said that he was experiencing a ‘Henry Ford moment.’”
“It’s not often you get goosebumps at the end of building an electrical project – but on this project, it absolutely happened. It’s amazing to think that this was even possible,” added Scott.