Sustainable construction

Nov 03, 2006

Frank Jones believes that sustainable construction is one of the major challenges and therefore opportunities that currently face European pipe technology. As director of the Pipes Group for the British Plastics Federation, and vice president of TEPPFA his message is clear.

Starting out as a public health engineer, Frank Jones since then worked for many years in the plastic pipe industry. He represents the sector on a wide national and European level. He draws his definition of sustainable construction from Gro Harlem Brundtland, a Norwegian politician, diplomat and physician who is an international leader in sustainable development. She says: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Sustainable construction touches a plethora of issues, products and processes. The bottom line for Frank Jones is 'Don’t pass anything onto the kids!' Having said that, he insists that we all do our homework.
"Sustainable construction is about everything we do as an industry and how our products are installed and perform now and at the end of life cycle and even after being recycled. That means for example, what goes into the air, soil and water and what comes back in the form of infiltration and public opinion."
Strategic issues

"The main arguments for promoting responsibility in the field of sustainable construction are well known:
  • European regulation
  • European certification
  • European enlargement
  • Best practice
  • Differentiation
  • Reputational management

Reach is probably one of the most immediate strategic issues facing our industry. The fact that our manufacturing process is already highly controlled and measured with all the supply chain efficiencies that go with it, means that we shall adapt if necessary and benefit from the changes."
Certification, Frank explains, presents another set of circumstances. "CE marking will be introduced within the next 18 months. Any manufacturer of building products that is covered by the Construction Product Directive (CPD) will be obliged to mark those products with the CE marking. Whereas the practice will not be legally required in the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden or Finland, its introduction will not give any guarantee of quality. It is simply a declaration that the product is fit for its intended use when incorporated into the structure."
"If we are to maintain a profile that relates to sustainable construction, we must press home the importance of our individual Third party quality marks. They alone show that the product has the good performance for the application expected by the customer. They are third party controlled and certified."
"As a body, TEPPFA is well aware of these short comings and is advising pipe makers in new EU member countries to focus on third party quality marks as well as CE marking."
Durable standards

Standards are another area where Frank Jones is confident that sustainable construction will be important. He points to the latest draft standard in Structured Wall Pipes and the fact that minimum pass levels in the Water Industry Specification of WIS 4-35-01 which adopts recognised European test methods have been agreed with the UK Water Industry as being appropriate for sewer applications.
Laboratory based research on exhumed pipe sections has in fact confirmed the durability of these pipes after many years of use. Having been measured for their structural and oxidative stability, there was only minimal or no loss of the material’s ability to resist slow crack growth or oxidation after use and aging.
The longest field time scales were over 50 years for a PVC-U pressure pipe installed in Germany. In this case, following LTHS testing of the exhumed pipe, the author concluded: "…under realistic conditions in Bitterfield of 12 - 20°C and 4 – 5 bar, it may be assumed that another 100 years of safe operation could be expected."
On a related note, Frank also underlines the work carried out by TEPPFA to adopt common testing standards such as mechanical testing, impact strength, temperature, pressure and chemical resistance.

On the subject of recycling, Frank is more pragmatic. "By recycling, we are not only acting in a sustainable way but we are producing products that fit the sustainable construction agenda. The only problem is that our products perform too well and for too long in the ground. In the UK, last year we collected 800 tonnes of old pvc pipe for recycling. We recycle considerably more plastic pipe and fittings taken from in-house rework material. Both sources of waste are turned into useful sustainable pipe products. Moreover, our progress in achieving European targets is impressive and by 2010 we shall be recycling significant volumes."
But it is the range of sustainable products that Frank Jones believes will communicate more than anything else the credentials of the pipe industry.
"Compared to traditional pipe makers, our ever growing list of sustainable products is differentiating us. Our industry has an innovative power to create completely new solutions for the sustainable construction market. Squeeze and folding trenchless technology, stormwater collection and management systems, super-cooling and geothermal environments, more robust, more flexible, more pressure resistant pipes… The list continues and may well embrace aqua fore technology and grey water."
Frank Jones believes that the industry’s association with sustainable construction will add to its reputational assets. "The goodwill that we are generating is a resource for the future which is most definitely plastic!"

This article was first published in Pipe Tech Review, the Pipe Technology News from TEPPFA.



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