The future is modular
There has been a significant increase in the use of Modular electrical installation systems across a diverse range of applications. Mark Redfern, managing director at Wieland Electric, examines the reasons behind this growth in popularity s and the benefits that modularity offers.
Modular electrical installation systems have become firmly established as a medium for the distribution of lighting and power circuits, with cutting edge manufacturing techniques and materials offering a factory produced, assembled and tested wiring system that is reliable, flexible, robust and sustainable, reducing installation times by up to 75 per cent.
The concept behind a modular installation is simple – from a pre-approved design a manufacturer produces and tests a system in a quality controlled environment, providing a complete installation from the respective distribution board to the furthest point of a circuit. Virtually any installation, regardless of size and complexity, can utilise this technology, with components delivered to site and simply connected together in a complete ‘plug and play’ installation. It vastly reduces, and in many cases eliminates, the need for on-site electrical connections and offers advantages in terms of installation time, health and safety and increased margins.
Furthermore, installation schedules can be completed with greater predictability and by reducing work on-site there is far less risk as a result of improperly configured assemblies and installer variability. Many of the leading modular installation solutions are pre-tested, ensuring that all connections perform to standard performance criteria.
Pre-fabricated wiring requires more advance design and planning, usually starting with a site survey but off-plan if drawings can be used if sufficiently accurate. An evaluation of the design and electrical requirements of the scheme must be made, measurements taken of the lengths of cables required including the number of home runs needed, and a timetable for delivery agreed. There are different power delivery solutions that can be used to come up with the perfect bespoke system, for example, power may be fed through the floor and/or ceiling.
The clear advantage of a modular installation system becomes clear during the second-fix stage, when the rapid speed of connection is indisputable and the time saved has been shown to outweigh the initial cost of the system. Project managers then have the flexibility to free up personnel more quickly to tackle other work and, with electrical contractors under increased time pressures and facing penalties for work going over time, a modular system can make a massive difference. Additional time savings can also be achieved by making use of other innovative product developments, such as a flat cable connection system that combines a busbar and cable into one product. These use a safe tap-off adaptor with a piercing contact that eliminates the cutting and stripping of cable.
There is also a substantial sustainability argument in favour of modular installation systems. Despite the current economic climate, the pressures on project costs have not diminished the appeal of green installation methods. Clients expect to see progress in the development of ever smarter buildings and modularity has a massive part to play in achieving this objective.
A modular installation system does away with on-site cutting and fabrication, eliminating wastage and improving health and safety. There is also less packaging and what there is will often be re-usable, so the cost of waste removal from a site will be avoided. Exact quantity ordering also means that materials are not over supplied and waste is therefore reduced, while components can be packed and labelled on a room, zone, floor or even building basis.
On-site storage is increasingly an issue – the popularity of the just in time inventory practice means that customers are increasingly demanding materials to be delivered to a site immediately before they need to be used. Precise programming enables just in time delivery of materials and equipment and, in addition, it can be scheduled to keep pace with the progress of the installation and adjusted to accommodate any changes. Just as importantly, if a large proportion of any work can be scheduled to take place at a time of the contractor’s choosing, it is more efficient than sending personnel to site at a time dictated solely by a construction programme.
Modular installation systems are growing in popularity and much of the construction industry has embraced modularity as the most sensible way to approach larger projects. The rewards are the triple benefits of faster project turnaround, greater environmental and operational efficiencies and financial savings, with even the most complex installations completed more quickly and efficiently than ever before. The future is undoubtedly modular.