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Exposed Plumbing

Exposed Plumbing advantages thanks to 3D Modeling!

How to create an exposed plumbing system without breaking walls and floors. Advantages, disadvantages, ideas and operational methods.

Have you ever considered proposing to your client the realization of an exposed plumbing system?

Exposed plumbing systems offer significant advantages when considering the possibility of creating a new system without demolitions, dust, and noise. Additionally, with small adjustments to materials and positioning, exposed pipes can become a true style statement. Let’s explore all the advantages and some tips for optimizing the project.

Exposed plumbing system examples

Exposed plumbing system examples

Exposed Plumbing System: Advantages

An exposed plumbing system refers to a hydraulic system where pipes, fittings and other components are installed outside the walls or structural elements of a building, making them visible. This installation type contrasts with the traditional concealed plumbing system, where pipes are embedded in walls or floors and, therefore, not visible.

Why opt for an exposed plumbing system?

There are several reasons, including:

  • No wall interventions: Installation does not require modifications to the masonry structure. The primary and most evident benefit of this decision lies in the limited invasiveness of the installation process. Opting for visible pipe installation eliminates the need for wall or floor traces. This implies a faster and less impactful intervention, causing fewer inconveniences (dust, noise, debris, etc.);
  • Preservation of original walls: This can be crucial, especially in historical buildings, with walls that you want to keep intact or on which it is difficult to make traces (stone walls, etc.);
  • More affordable costs: Another advantage is cost reduction, both for installation, as mentioned earlier, avoiding extensive masonry work and for accessories if an industrial style is desired. Faucets of this kind have lower costs compared to those commonly used in bathrooms;
  • Simplified maintenance: Who has never faced leakage issues? Stains of humidity appearing on the wall or ceiling and the subsequent need for interventions, with demolitions, to identify the origin of the leak. If pipes are visible, leaks are equally visible, making periodic maintenance easier and preventing unpleasant surprises. With an exposed system, inspecting and maintaining pipes is easier since they are easily detectable and accessible. This can reduce maintenance costs in the long run and avoid tedious demolitions or invasive work in case of leaks, failures, maintenance interventions, etc.;
  • Decorative option: Opting for visible pipes involves carefully choosing the type of pipe, avoiding those made of plastic, which are less aesthetic. You can choose between steel and copper; the former is more discreet, while the latter is more distinctive and decorative. Copper will undergo color changes caused by steam and water, but this is part of the aesthetic and beauty of this material;
  • Adaptability to different styles: The exposed pipe solution offers practical and economic advantages and can also be aesthetically pleasing. But does it fit all styles? It certainly lends itself well to industrial-inspired interiors that value intentionally exposed and unfinished materials. With the right adjustments, exposed pipes can seamlessly integrate into a classic bathroom with a vaguely retro inspiration;
  • Flexibility in modifications: In case of changes or updates to the existing system, it is easier to intervene with the creation of a system with visible pipes. This can be particularly useful in already inhabited spaces, where traces are to be avoided, or if work is to be done economically in service areas where aesthetics may be considered negligible (storage rooms, service bathrooms, garage, etc.) or in case of frequent layout changes (commercial spaces, etc.).
Exposed plumbing system examples

Exposed plumbing system examples

It is, therefore, a versatile choice, perhaps still uncommon, but one that could soon win us over with its practicality and unexpected aesthetic value. Besides the choice of material, what matters is the arrangement of the pipes. If the goal is to make the exposed system the focal point of our bathroom, avoid hiding it behind furniture and sanitary fixtures; otherwise, it may risk a decadent and neglected effect.

Disadvantages of Exposed Plumbing System

As we have seen, choosing an exposed plumbing system can be advantageous in various aspects.

Exposed plumbing system examples

Exposed plumbing system examples

However, there are also some disadvantages to consider, including:

  • Unpleasant aesthetics: Industrial aesthetics are not appreciated by everyone and may not be suitable for all architectural contexts;
  • Exposure to physical damage: Exposed pipes are more exposed to physical damage or vandalism compared to concealed ones;
  • Design attention: In addition to system sizing, design will require considerations related to the arrangement of pipes. For optimal results, pipes should not be arranged haphazardly, and the relationship with furnishings (to avoid overlaps and interferences) and the precise path that the pipes will follow must be evaluated.

Designing an Exposed Plumbing System

To design an exposed plumbing system, the use of a 3D BIM and MEP tool can be a valuable support. The reasons are many, including:

  • Realistic visualization: A 3D BIM software allows you to create detailed three-dimensional models of the exposed plumbing system. This realistic visualization provides a clear understanding of how the installation will integrate with the surrounding environment, allowing the evaluation of its aesthetic appearance and the arrangement of components;
  • Error prevention: 3D modeling allows the identification and correction of potential errors or conflicts in the design before physical installation takes place. This reduces the risk of problems during the construction phase, saving time and resources;
  • Layout optimization: With 3D software, you can experiment with different design solutions, layouts and configurations of system elements. This allows optimizing the layout to maximize efficiency, improve accessibility for maintenance and ensure a pleasing distribution of components;
  • Flow analysis: 3D software can simulate fluid flows through the system, helping identify potential accumulation points or low-pressure areas. This analysis contributes to improving the system’s design to ensure optimal flow and uniform water distribution;
  • Facilitated collaboration: BIM models (exported in open and non-proprietary formats like IFC) they can be easily shared with other team members, clients, suppliers or other professionals involved in the project. This facilitates collaboration and communication, allowing all stakeholders to have a clear and shared view of the design;
  • Client presentations: 3D models can be used to effectively present the project to clients or stakeholders (renders, virtual tours, video presentations, etc.). Realistic representations help communicate the final appearance of the system clearly and gather feedback during the design phase to avoid changes during construction;
  • Adaptability ease: During the design process, it is easy to make any changes to the 3D model to respond to new needs or requirements. This flexibility allows testing different solutions before settling on a final design;
  • Cost and time estimation: By leveraging the automation features of BIM software, precise estimates of construction times and costs can be automatically obtained from the project model.

If you think that designing an exposed plumbing system may intrigue your client, try making the hypothesis more convincing by leveraging the advantages we discussed in this article and with the help of renders or virtual visits in the 3D model.