Laying Pipes in a High-Rise

Residential plumbing isn’t always just about homes: there are apartment buildings that require adequate plumbing and sometimes installing pipes in that situation can be very challenging. This situation presents issues surrounding how to ensure all floors have equal water pressure, how to make sure all floors have equal distribution of water, how to save water, how to most efficiently get the water to the upper floors when gravity is working against it and so on. Here are some things to consider when laying pipes in a high-rise building.

Pressure Reducing Valves

These are usually only installed on the first few floors because as water moves up the pressure will drop naturally thanks to gravity, but these might not actually be needed with a system that matches the needs of the building accurately. They come in different quality levels, like most products, however a lot of buildings don’t use the highest quality in an effort to save time and money. What this means is that they wear down quicker, they have a lot more leaks and will experience significant pressure differentials.

Pressure Ratings

Pipes have different categories with regards to the amount of pressure they can withstand, and a high-rise building’s water system should take into account these various types of pipes and determine which are appropriate for this building. The system designed should be looking at the minimum pressure needed for the fixtures on the highest floor of the building and then ensure that at least the pressure is maintained, especially during peak hours like 7 – 9 am and 5 – 7 pm. However, they also need to consider the maximum pressure amount for the fixtures on the lower floors. The ultimate goal is to ensure the fixtures on the top floor have enough pressure and those on the bottom floors don’t have too much so that the water is distributed equally among all floors in the building.


Most high-rise buildings have full time, or at least part time, maintenance staff. It is really important that these staff have experience and training in the problems of plumbing with high-rise buildings. If the owner cannot hire full time staff with this experience it is strongly recommended to outsource the tasks to a company with experience who can monitor the water system and recommend maintenance before the issue becomes too big. If staff don’t have proper training and attempt to fix a problem they can actually make it worse and end up causing bigger problems.


While, in theory, it is water in and water out what some forget to account for is that with drainage comes a considerable amount of air in the pipes. What’s more is that not all pipes will drain vertically; some, due to design or even lack of space, will drain horizontally but when that happens the rate of drainage significantly decreases so design should take that into consideration when working on the architecture of the building and to make sure everything will drain properly and safely from the building.

Fire Protection

It is a building code that all high-rises must have a working sprinkler system on all floors. These systems are effective in preventing damage and saving lives but the number of sprinklers needed, location and coverage are all dependent on building size. In addition to that, high-rise buildings often have a dedicated pump for just that system to ensure the right amount of pressure and flow is provided when the system is needed. It’s important when designing a water system for a high-rise to keep this system in mind when placing equipment and thinking about the required allotted space.

 High-rise buildings are home to many people, and they are very common in large cities where living space is harder to find. High-rises come with their own unique set of challenges when it comes to designing a water system where all residents get equal water distribution both in temperature and amount, and one that meets all building code. When gravity is working against the design, accurate pressure and flow is pivotal to ensure all residents are happy and their fixtures work the same.

Laying Commercial Pipes

Commercial buildings have very different needs in terms of utilities than houses do: often they use more electricity and water, or require the output of the systems to be different. When completing commercial renovations it’s important to know how this project is different from a residential one, and where it is the same.

Talk to a Professional

You know your business, and you’re very good at it. Plumbers know plumbing: they’re licensed, complete projects like this one all the time and can ensure your water supply system is completely up to code. When you decide to complete a renovation to your business it’s important to talk to a plumber right away as he or she will be able to assess the whole project, explain how their work fits in with other contractors work and when they will need to complete work by.

Have a Plan

Sometimes it isn’t enough to tell your contactors to take this and make it that: you need to know exactly what you want done. Some contractors will be able to take your vision and work with it, but most will want your input so have a plan: know when you want things done by, how you want them done, what kind of communication you want along the project, whether your contactors have discretionary spending, etc. Especially when it comes to laying new commercial pipes you need to be sure the plan and the timeline are in place so that you can coordinate the other contractors, or they can work in conjunction with each other.

Shut off the Water

In order for your plumber to remove the old pipes and start installing new ones the water has to be off. In this case it’s really important to know how the water supply to your business works: is it just one shut off, or can you shut off sections via a manifold system? This is something your plumber can do for you but if you’re concerned about time and want the plumber to start right away you could do this before the work even starts.

Follow the Code

Professional plumbers know that when completing any work everything has to be up to code. If this doesn’t happen you, as a business owner, could be in a lot of trouble. Do your own research and make sure you understand some of the building code so that you know the right questions to ask of your plumber.

A major commercial project is a big investment, and it means time your business is going to be closed to accommodate for the renovations. Make sure you have everything in place before work starts and be prepared for surprises, have a contingency plan where possible.

Making sure your plumber is licensed, insured and has a reputable business with experience laying commercial pipes can save you a lot of time and headache in the future, should anything go wrong.

Laying Pipes Underwater

 Pipes aren’t just underground – there’s a number of reasons pipes would need to be installed in or across bodies of water. However, paying pipes underwater poses several challenges for companies to install. There are different ways to install pipes underwater to ensure they are successful, don’t leak and will last for a long time.

Tow-In Pipelines

These pipelines are suspended in water via buoy and a tugboat, or two, will drag them into place. Once they are in the proper location the buoys will be flooded with water, or otherwise released, and the pipe will then sink to the floor of the body of water. This kind of installation can happen when the pipeline is above the water (surface tow), submerged in the water (mid-depth tow), already close to the bottom of the water (off-bottom tow) or it could be dragged along the floor of the body of water (bottom tow). The first three will work for all varieties of water, however a bottom tow is usually only used when the water is shallow and the floor is soft and flat so that no damage will be done to the pipe during installation.

S-Lay Pipelines

For this kind of installation, the pipe is slowly pushed off the back of a ship or boat while it moved forward in the water. The pipe will naturally curve downward through the water as the boat deploys more and more of it, and this will be done until the pipe reaches a pre-determined touchdown point which is usually the destination, or the floor of the body of water.

With this kind of installation it’s very important to ensure proper tension is used. If there’s too much tension on the pipe it could buckle or be damaged during installation, causing leaks or even breaking while still in use. An S-Lay installation can be used in water that is up to 6,500 feet deep, and can be installed at a rate of 4 miles per day.

 J-Lay Pipelines

While recognizing some of the major disadvantages to using a S-Lay Pipeline, the J-Lay is very appealing. This kind of pipeline puts less stress on the pipe by inserting the line into the water in an almost completely vertical position. The pipe will be lifted – usually via tall tower – off the back of a boat or ship and then inserted into the water. This pipe will only curve once – at the bottom of the water – unlike an S-Lay which has a double curvature and thus more chances for pressure, tension or breakage. Once it has hit the bottom of the water, it will take on the shape of the letter J which is what it was named for.

Since there is less tension and stress on this kind of pipeline it works in waters much deeper than an S-Lay would allow for, and it can withstand strong underwater motion or currents.

 Installing underwater pipelines is much different than ones underground because can create various pressure points, pipes weigh different amounts in water vs. on land and bodies of water can generally unpredictable. However, if the right kind of underwater pipeline is selected then it should last for many years and will be able to fulfill what is required of it. Regular maintenance, or even replacing sections of pipe, may be needed if the pipe is going to be use for a long period of time but as long as the installation is done accurately and maintenance is performed there won’t be any leaks or sections breaking prematurely.