In the Pipeline
By Mitalee Kurdekar
Traditionally, plumbing has been regarded as a low importance segment of construction activity. However, it has now assumed high importance in terms of modern-day construction design. Architects and developers, with the support of professional Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) consultants, are taking a keen interest in the design and execution of plumbing solutions across projects. This shift has happened primarily because stakeholders within the construction space see a lot of value addition in this activity, besides the fact that it helps from an environment perspective, in terms of ensuring compliance with sustainability guidelines.
In fact, earlier, any complaints with regard to the plumbing network in the form of leakages, choke-ups etc. led to issues for users and owners of buildings or construction sites, albeit at a later stage. These issues were heightened because, in many cases, such plumbing networks were hidden or concealed for aesthetic reasons, while the workforce available was not adequately trained to deal with major issues. Thankfully, the scenario is fast changing. With the involvement of professionals like MEP consultants and the availability of advanced techniques like Building Information Modelling (BIM), architects and developers are not only addressing any probable plumbing issues, upfront; but are also paying close attention to sustainability needs in terms of water saving, energy saving, recycling of waste water and energy etc.
Fresh Flow of Trends
Elaborating on these new developments that are being witnessed within the Indian construction space, Atul Jain, joint MD, Jain Irrigation Systems, says, “One of the important trends that I have seen in the building construction space over the last couple of years, and one that we will see improving further with RERA coming into the picture now, is the importance given to those input materials of construction that are not visible. An example is the Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) items, which quite frankly are extremely critical. Another trend that has really picked up well is the focus on and the involvement of specialists to do certain jobs, like structural architects, interior architects, MEP consultants, relevant contractors, etc. In the past, this was something seen extensively in major cities alone, but now seems to have trickled down to the tier-II and tier-III cities. These should do well to improve the quality orientation of the building construction industry.”
Shabbir Kanchwala, senior VP, K Raheja Corp, informs of the challenges faced in terms of plumbing solutions employed for commercial versus residential buildings. He explains, “There is a vast difference in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. Plumbing too requires a different methodology during implementation. In commercial projects, the plumbing procedure is more complex, and also needs to cater to a larger number of users. Commercial plumbing includes STP, HVAC, chilled water system, site sewer lines, and lift stations, which requires a certain skill-set and complex industrial equipment. On the other hand, residential plumbing tends to encounter repetitive variations of similar issues, which are more feasible to address.”
Another trend is the involvement of specialists to do certain jobs, like MEP consultants, etc.
A spokesperson from Kalpataru offers another perspective, while stating, “Every component in the system is designed considering the fact that commercial buildings are maintained by professional facility management staff, and the whole building itself is generating revenue for its owners, whereas residential buildings need more robust and simpler pumping systems, which have low operations & maintenance costs for the residents.”
Evolving with Technology
Providing a customer perspective, Vivek Joshi, executive president, JP Infra Mumbai, suggests that the Indian market is evolving fast. “Evolution, in terms of piping material, CP sanitary fittings, accessories, novelty and automation, has been remarkable and continuous,” he points out.
“There is an abundance of new plumbing technology available in the market however there needs to be more awareness amongst end-users and consultants. Furthermore, timely service and maintenance of repair work of fixtures needs to be addressed by the supplier to enhance the plumbing solutions in India,” stresses Kanchwala.
As a prominent manufacturer in the space of piping and accessories, Nitin Kulkarni, president – sales and marketing, Finolex Industries, highlights newer applications and products that customers are showing a preference for. He proclaims, “People have realised the importance of selecting the right product for the right application, and hence there is a shift seen from conventional GI pipes to PVC pipes. Yet another example of changing preferences is that instead of using regular PVC pipes, customers now prefer using CPVC pipes for hot water. Also, for non-pressurised domestic applications, usage of SWR pipes is now well recognised. Customers use casing and column pipes depending on the depth of the water table and soil strata.”
We have introduced BIM and look forward to incorporating these for seamless designs of MEP services.
While MEP consultants help architects and developers select good plumbing solutions, the importance of technological inputs being brought in by manufacturers of plumbing input materials, sanitary products and waste management systems, cannot be denied. Jain proudly declares, “We have been in the plastic piping space for almost four decades, and have predominantly offered products to the agriculture and infrastructure sector. Plumbing-related piping systems for buildings is something that we have ventured into as recently as 2015. Holistically speaking, we have been doing solar water heating systems for hot water plumbing supply into homes/hotels/organisations/institutions for almost two decades now. We have also been among the leading companies in the country to provide 24×7 potable water supply to home projects in multiple towns.”
As earlier mentioned, the involvement of MEP consultants as professionals providing valuable inputs is largely acknowledged to be a connector between manufacturers, architects and the user-developers. These consultants, who are engaged right from the design stage, help is utilising technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) to map out plumbing systems and their linkages to other critical systems.
“Generally, in large-sized projects, architects are involved in the complete design of the project and then MEP consultants pitch in for the complete MEP design and its installation. In most mega projects, MEP consultants play a pivotal role in the overall plumbing design and installation. This approach helps in taking care of structural and operational criticality, and safety of the project,” confirms Kulkarni.
Kanchwala says, “At K Raheja Corp, we strive to expose our potential and existing customers to the best services and construction. Our sales team provides us with the valuable feedback received from the customers, basis which we finalise the plumbing fixtures in the building. We have recently introduced BIM in our projects and look forward to incorporating these for seamless designs of MEP services.”
People have realised the importance of selecting the right product for the right application.
The Kalpataru spokesperson states, “We have been using BIM for design and planning of MEP services since the past five years on most of our projects. BIM is a tool which enables us to visualise the complete building with all its systems and elements. Clashes, if any, are identified at the design stage saving us valuable time and money. We intend to go 100% on BIM for the entire end-to-end design and execution of our projects.”
The spokesperson further confesses, “Our in-house team of architects and interior designers do a thorough study of all possible fixture layouts and choose the one that makes best use of the available space. However, we are mindful of the fact that a discerning customer would like to customise his bathroom according to his/her tastes. So, we use connectors/adaptors which allow the customer to change to new fittings within the apartment to their taste and liking.”
The Sustainability Angle
Like many other technological interventions, the latest plumbing solutions are designed in a way that ecological considerations and sustainability targets are keenly addressed by the products/systems that get implemented. The aim is to reduce water consumption in many cases that can result in less water transportation and thereby reduce energy usage. In mega projects, this means a lot in terms of supporting the ecology and reducing carbon footprint.
Explaining K Raheja Corp’s take on the matter, Kanchwala supplies, “There has been an increased focus on eco-friendly designs and operations with respect to plumbing solutions in India. We construct only green buildings, and hence focus on environmental-friendly practices right from the planning and designing stage, with emphasis on water-saving parameters. We also conduct metering of the water usage with respect to the reuse of STP water in landscapes, the quantity of water recycled through STP and the domestic water consumed. Our constructions comprise of installing water-efficient fixtures, dual pipe line drainage system, recycling of waste water and reusing for horticulture & flushing. We place great importance on the plumbing material used to ensure that they are durable and leakage-free.”
Evolution, in terms of piping material, CP sanitary fittings, accessories, etc., has been continuous.
The spokesperson from Kalpataru suggests, “There is an increasing focus on eco-friendly and eco-sensitive solutions. Reduce, reuse and recycle are the three key elements of sustainable design. We use smart systems which actively monitor plumbing infrastructure, avoid wastages and facilitate the overall robustness of the system.”
Kulkarni claims, “Finolex has always been committed to environmental safety by adopting the latest state-of-the-art technology, resulting in zero effluent discharge in manufacturing of both PVC resin and pipes & fittings in Ratnagiri. Our products like ASTM CPVC pipes and fittings are lead-free. Further, Finolex’s FlowguardPlus CPVC is a green building material, as it comprises 67% petro-based substance and 33% naturally-found substances like salt. Also, it is 100% recyclable.”
Jain sums up the ecology commitment well, when he says, “Everything that Jain Irrigation Systems have done and will continue to do, be it in the space of agriculture, water infrastructure or building construction, will be in line with our vision: To leave this world better than you found it.”
Overall, the industry seems intent on bettering its portfolio for the construction segment, and so far, they are cruising along towards that goal.