Prefabrication is often relied upon in modern construction projects to increase efficiency, reduce time and lower costs. The practice of assembling components in a factory or other manufacturing location, then transporting complete assemblies or sub-assemblies to the construction site for final completion has been used in the building industry for some time now.

While a great deal of attention in construction focuses on the off-site assembly benefits of larger prefabricated steel and concrete structures, today, mechanical and electrical contractors are also finding new ways to increase efficiency, speed up construction, improve health and safety, and lower costs through prefabrication techniques. ­

When customers are looking for comprehensive and reliable climate control and effortless operations, building HVAC infrastructure offsite means that workers can be on building sites for less time, thereby avoiding site costs, potential safety concerns, and common construction disruptions such as overcoming space and access challenges.

Assembling offsite also means contractors have more autonomy over time control and can work to specification with concentrated accuracy, eliminating the traditional need to conduct multiple reworks and trial fit-offs.

We looked at a progressive example of this via a prefabrication construction model used at the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Andrew N. Liveris Building. UQ has always looked to solve the challenges that matter most. The 11-storey Andrew N. Liveris Building will be the new heart of chemical engineering at UQ, a nerve centre for their students and researchers to solve the world’s greatest challenges in sustainable energy such as safer water, smarter resource management, healthier populations, and secure food and agriculture.

Now in the final stages of construction, the building will house ABB’s ACH580-01 HVAC drives to operate and control a range of HVAC components including air handling and climate control in facilities such as the student learning centre, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a pilot hall, which will showcase fundamentals of processes used across energy, water, bioengineering, metals, mining, and petroleum industries.

Queensland-based electromechanical contractor Versatech Electrical, one of the contractors engaged on the project used an innovative offsite prefabrication process for preassembled panels of ABB HVAC drives.

Versatech owner Beau Sandall said, “There were a number of additional benefits gained through the offsite assembly. We pre-wired and assembled the ABB drives on frames in our factory ready for transport to site. This was a much easier form of construction, in a safer environment, which saved us both time and costs compared with the usual assembly on site.”

Several frames were constructed for the project, featuring 8-12 ABB ACH580-01 HVAC drives per frame. “We significantly reduced our fit-off time on site with each frame,” Sandall said. “We’ve been using ABB drives on all our projects for years. They are just very easy and quick to set up.”

ABB Authorised Value Provider Control Logic supplied the HVAC drives for this project.

“There are many features in the ABB ACH580 drive that help our customers. There are simple wizards that make setup easy. You can backup and transfer parameters between drives using the standard control panel. There’s even a free Drivetune mobile app that allows you to connect, configure and operate the drive via the optional Bluetooth control panel. This ability to remotely commission the drive offers greater flexibility when compared to traditional methods, where it may have been a 2-person, onsite job,” Control Logic’s Michael Walker said.

“The ability to record and store the commissioned parameters using these complimentary product tools also gives my customers long term security and traceability,” he added.