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The Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, wrote “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. Whether you are involved with the design, installation or the manufacture of pipe materials, the key ingredient to a successful project is communication.  Poor communication, or worse, no communication, can be a project's downfall. The best way to ensure excellent project communication is to have a preconstruction meeting.

But why have a preconstruction meeting for pipe? Engineers have been designing various types of pipe for hundreds of years, while contractors have been installing it for hundreds of years. What needs to be discussed?  It’s fair to say that all stake holders (owner, engineer, contractor and manufacturer) want a successful project. Taking the time a week prior to installation to cover key items will save time, and money, by recognizing and mitigating any issues before they arise.


  1. When should the preconstruction meeting take place?

It’s best to hold the actual meeting no more than a week prior to the start of actual installation. This way the information is still fresh in every ones minds. This time frame also allows all the primary players time to adjust to new and changing information.

Generally speaking, a preconstruction meeting should take place under the following conditions:

  • If it’s the engineers first time designing the pipe material or the contractors first time installing the pipe material.
  • If the pipe material is new to the geographic area.
  • If the project has joint tightness requirements.
  • If the pipe material requires any special backfill or other installation techniques i.e. flowable fill, thrust blocks, backfill type, etc
  • Relining or rehabilitation of existing pipelines
  • If the pipe is being used in a non-standard application

Many of these items should be also covered in the design phase of the project. This makes sure that the owner and engineer feel comfortable using and designing with the pipe material, the contractor has the information to properly bid the installation and the material supplier has the information to quote the desired material.  However, holding the preconstruction meeting assures that any items which have inadvertently slipped through the cracks are addressed early in the construction phase. This minimizes wasted head scratching time on site.

  1. Who should attend?

The key players are the project owner, engineers, contractor and material supplier. Other entities to be considered are the QA/QC engineer, geotechnical engineer, backfill supplier and any affected sub-contractors.  Ideally the attendees from each entity will be:


  • Project Manager
  • Design Engineer, if different from the Project Manager
  • QA/QC or Site Monitor


  • Project Manager
  • Estimator, if different from the Project Manager
  • Site Superintendent
  • Crew Superintendent

Pipe Supplier

  • Technical Representative
  • Sales person, if different from the Technical Representative

Every company uses different titles for different roles.  The primary concern is to make sure that all the required information makes its way to all the people who affect the pipe’s successful installation.

  1. What should be discussed?

The meeting is generally led by the pipe material supplier because they will review their recommendations based on their design assumptions and experience with the pipe material.  That being said, the best preconstruction meetings are open forums rather than presentations.  Everyone should feel free to ask questions, bring unforeseen issues to light, and add input based from their previous experiences.

Each pipe preconstruction meeting should review the following at a minimum:

Submittal package and drawing review

  • Many pipe installations require items like manholes, manhole lids, ladders, vents, pressure relief valves, etc.  Review what the pipe supplier is supplying and what they are not.
  • some pipe manufacturers provide on-site QA/QC, others do not.  Who is on site ensuring a successful installation?

Pipe material delivery timeframes

  • Suppliers availability should be reconciled with the contractors on-site requirements.
  • Which pipe is needed on-site first?
  • How is it being delivered (nested, address, type of delivery vehicle, etc)?

Backfill and installation

  • Items like pipe size, material pipe, fittings, height of cover and live loads all may affect the recommended backfill type and method.
  • What type of backfill material is recommended?
  • What are the compaction requirements?
  • Are there compaction equipment limitations?
  • Are there special requirements like lift heights or balanced loading considerations?
  • Are bell holes necessary?
  • Are there alignment and separation requirements?
  • How and when will any welding or joint restraints be completed?
  • Who is providing connections to existing lines or lines that cannot be pre-manufactured, and how are they doing it?
  • If the pipe is flexible, what amount of deflection is allowable and what does acceptable deflection look like?

Much of this information will have been transferred during the bidding phase of the project, and it may seem that getting together to review it is not required.  Considerations like permitting, material availability, weather, miscommunication and other projects can easily change many project aspects.  Identifying these discrepancies early is the key to effectively addressing them.

it is also helpful for the pipe material supplier to provide a deliverable covering all the above mentioned information for each participant.  The deliverable should also contain all the pertinent parties’ contact information and project role.  This way the correct person can be contacted first if an issue arises.

A successful preconstruction meeting will help bring all the project stake holders together to discuss how to successfully complete the project.  It will identify any discrepancies between each stake holder early enough to address them effectively and economically.  It also provides a map of the stakeholders should a later issue on the jobsite arise.  In the end, early communication is always the key to a successful project.   

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