Bringing Home Olympic Gold Since 1976
Olympic project teams seek out grooved mechanical piping systems for speed, strength and reliability
The Olympic Games are a time of national and global pride. They gather athletes, fans and officials in world-class cities to compete, celebrate and partake in history-making sporting events. This convergence of the athletic world doesn’t come together easily or without thoughtful planning. It takes multiple committees, numerous public and private partnerships and a host city ready to hit the ground running. These groups need to work together to plan, build, renovate and upgrade their facilities and infrastructure to successfully meet the needs for the athletic events and the influx of people from around the globe.
Plans begin before a city has even been chosen to host the Olympics. Cities compete against one another to gain global recognition and receive an infusion of capital projects to boost their local economy. Cities hope to show the world the beauty of their country, showcase their engineering prowess and prove that they are a world-class city worthy of the international spotlight. Once selected, however, the grandeur of the event comes with many challenges for the host city.
Since the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) put in place a master schedule to ease the development and construction projects needed for the event. The schedule provides a general timeline for the completion of new projects and for facility upgrades to keep plans on task. Housing accommodations, media venues, Olympic-worthy stadiums, athletic fields and pristine aquatic facilities often must be built or upgraded to meet the needs of the thousands of attending athletes, visitors, fans and members of the media.
For example, the development process for the 2012 London Olympic Games began in 2005. Watchful eyes and global scrutiny fell on the developers of the Olympic Village. Tight deadlines, development and construction were not their only concerns. The modern Olympic Games must endure 21st-century challenges that include politics, tight budgets and providing security against potential terror attacks.
With the event creating an obvious deadline, facility planning and construction faces a significant time crunch. Facilities must be built in record time to be ready for testing, training and, most importantly, for the illustrious opening ceremonies. Time is critical on Olympic builds, so reducing work hours wherever possible is essential. Victaulic has supplied mechanical pipe-joining systems to Olympic structures since the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The combination of Victaulic grooved piping systems’ simplicity of installation, elimination of hotworks and ability to construct in any weather condition helps offer a dramatic reduction in the construction schedule.
It’s important to maximize efficiencies to save on manpower. This can be done in a number of ways, including the often-overlooked areas of pre-planning, material handling and onsite field services that can quickly add up to create significant time savings.
Piping systems account for as little as five percent of total installed costs on a project. In many cases, little thought is given to the fact that piping installation can eat up more than 30 percent of all man-hours in the field. A number of challenges can occur during construction, including labor shortages, hot work permit delays, lengthy weld times, welding rework and weather delays. Any of these can break the compressed project schedule.
When Sydney needed to construct a new 100,000-seat stadium for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, time was of the essence. Delays in construction were simply unacceptable. To compress the build time, the Olympic project team selected Victaulic grooved piping systems for the stadium’s hot water, chilled water and fire protection systems. The fast, flexible and dependable piping systems helped reduce project calendar days for the premiere athletic venue.
“Man-hours are key. Everyone is looking for any edge they can get to reduce man-hours and shorten the schedule,” said John Rutt, director of the construction piping services division at Victaulic.
Trimming man-hours is possible by pre-planning, taking advantage of jobsite inventory coordination, project management services and by seeking flexible and efficient construction solutions.
“Manufacturers offer a whole range of value-added services that can have a significant impact on shortening schedules and reducing costs,” said Rutt. “By taking advantage of these services, engineers, contractors and EPCs can gain the competitive advantage they need to bring compressed project schedules in on time and on budget.”
For example, the Vancouver Convention Center, one of the largest convention centers in Canada, needed to triple its available space so it could serve as the international broadcasting center for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. On-time completion of this expansion project was paramount, given the magnitude of the event, combined with the tight schedule and desire to design to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold standards. Mechanical contractor Fred Welsh Ltd. employed 3-D modeling technology to understand the complexity of the steel structure and designed a Victaulic grooved piping system that would accommodate a wide variety of loads and seismic movement.
Joining the 18-inch (457-mm) chilled and condenser water pipes was simplified by using the complete line of Victaulic advanced groove system (AGS) couplings, valves and fittings for the HVAC system, which utilizes the harbor’s seawater to heat and cool the building. Featuring a two-piece housing design and only two bolts, AGS couplings significantly improved productivity on the job compared to welding or flanging and enabled the contractor to prefabricate large-diameter headers on the mechanical room floor. This saved countless hours and helped meet the strict deadline.
In addition, Victaulic’s commitment to environmental responsibility complemented the building’s LEED Gold design, since all its products are made from natural and recycled resources, and its grooved joining method helps eliminate waste, emissions and noise during construction and installation.
Making it possible
Olympic projects often seem to strive for the impossible: to create world-class, groundbreaking structures in very short periods of time. With the help of continuous research and development, Victaulic’s systems were helpful in building many iconic Olympic structures on tight schedules, as standard grooved couplings install five times faster than welded joints and three times faster than flanged. In addition, patented, installation-ready couplings can be installed in less than half the time of standard couplings; they also reduce material handling. This allows contractors to better manage labor risk by optimizing their crew sizes and decreasing required man-hours.
The International Broadcasting Center in Athens, Greece, is a case in point. It was the center of the broadcasting operations and responsible for sending the official international signal that would reach 2.5 billion people via 200 stations located around the planet. It was the first building to be handed over to the Olympic committee prior to the start of the games in 2004. Failure to complete this project on time would have been a major blow to the Olympic Committee and to all contractors involved. The project team met its deadline by using efficient building solutions and working closely with experts, suppliers and manufacturers.
More than a dozen new facilities, including the International Broadcasting Center, had to be completed on an extremely short schedule. In addition to fast installation, the grooved piping systems helped ease the seismic concerns for engineers working on the Athens Olympics. Victaulic piping systems offer superior performance under seismic conditions and accommodate piping system movement such as thermal expansion and contraction, deflection and settlement.
Along with seismic conditions and system movement, many Olympic structures present unique design challenges that piping systems must accommodate. In Beijing, the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games were held in the National Stadium, which was nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest” for its unique architecture. The design of the 100,000-seat stadium posed significant challenges to designers and contractors. Project contractors and members of the Beijing Olympic Committee specified Victaulic mechanical pipe-joining systems for the stadium’s HVAC system because of their ease of installation and alignment. The flexible couplings allowed HVAC pipes to be installed at unique angles and meet the various deflection requirements of the stadium.
Victaulic systems also played a role in improving seismic stability and protecting the stadium’s piping system from wind- and weather-related occurrences and earth movements, which are common in China. The flexible couplings enable the pipework to move with the building, as well as to expand and contract with thermal changes.
Flexible couplings were also important in helping construct London’s Wembley Stadium. The 90,000-seat venue with sliding roof served as the largest host of the soccer tournament at this summer’s games. In order to accommodate the retractable roof design, the project team required an innovative piping solution capable of handling changes in temperature. The Victaulic grooved system was chosen for chilled, condenser and heating water lines due to its good performance with thermal expansion and contraction capabilities and allowance for building movement. The use of flexible couplings enabled the team to design the piping to follow the curvature of the stadium.
Building for the future
Building green and leaving the smallest possible carbon footprint isn’t the only benefit of using mechanical pipe-joining solutions manufactured from natural and recycled resources. Easy maintenance, future expansion and demountability were key reasons for the selection of grooved piping systems for 2012 London Olympic facilities.
Many Olympic venues have to be deconstructed or altered dramatically after the games to ensure workable, profitable venues to meet UK requirements that facilities meet the future needs of the citizens of London. For example, the London Olympic village dormitories will be modified and transformed into apartments after the 2012 Summer Olympics, improving the economic viability of the project.
For decades, Olympic contractors have sought Victaulic grooved systems to help build some of the world’s most iconic Olympic facilities in record time. The systems also were chosen to help reduce long-term maintenance, ease seismic and thermal concerns, provide reliability and meet demanding design challenges so countries can welcome the world with confidence.