Strategies for a Safe Integration of Water-Bearing MEP Systems in Prefabricated CLT Room Modules


  • Michael Monsberger Institute of Construction Management and Economics
  • Gerhard Schickhofer Institute of Timber Engineering and Wood Technology
  • Anna-Katharina Magg Institute of Construction Management and Economics
  • Konstantin Ganster Institute of Timber Engineering and Wood Technology
  • Markus Neumayer Institute of Electrical Measurement and Measurement Signal Processing, Graz University of Technology, Austria
  • Thomas Bretterklieber Kaufmann Bausysteme GmbH, Austria
  • Christian Kaufmann Institute of Construction Management and Economics



The market for modular buildings based on prefabricated room modules made of cross-laminated timber (CLT) is rapidly growing in Europe. Short construction times combined with high construction quality due to prefabrication are highly attractive features of this construction method. While structural design aspects have been steadily improved, only little attention has been paid to mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems so far. However, the integration of water-bearing pipes and surface seals must be done with great care, since a permanent exposure of the timber construction to moisture caused by leaks may result in biological degradation of the wooden structure. The risk of moisture damage can be reduced by decreasing the length of horizontal piping by means of intelligent pipe routing. In addition, sensor technology can be used to detect water leaks in critical areas where other measures fail to provide sufficient protection. Both aspects are addressed in this paper. First, the results of an analysis of nine completed construction projects based on CLT modules including hotels, student residences, nursing homes, and health care centers are presented. The projects were used to identify the current state of practice regarding the design of CLT room modules with respect to the integration of MEP installations. In a next step, general strategies for a safe integration of MEP installations in timber buildings are outlined. A bathroom layout with optimized pipe routing based on three individual shafts is chosen to show the application of these strategies. The approach enables a considerable reduction of horizontal pipe length while maintaining the functional and architectural requirements of the room module. Finally, a new planar sensor for detecting water leaks is presented. The results were developed in the research project SensGT and will lead to standardized solutions for a safe integration of MEP installations in CLT room modules.