Comment: Selecting the right pipes and fittings

Allister Bold, commercial director, Corys Build Centre, talks about how the construction industry should choose the correct pipes.

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Allister Bold, commercial director, Corys Build Centre.
Allister Bold, commercial director, Corys Build Centre.

The construction industry is a competitive world, often running at razor thin margins. All companies, whether they are big or small, are looking to make savings where possible, but you should not skimp on the quality of plumbing, pipes and fittings. The industry has seen a rise in the cost of construction materials across the board, with Colliers International’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai Construction Cost Benchmarking report suggesting that the average material cost for a building has grown by 3.1% compared to last year. The temptation for the industry is to find ways to remain competitive on price by reducing expenditure. However, the cost of choosing the wrong pipe can often have serious consequences for properties.

Piping systems are at the heart of all buildings and their infrastructure and so it is essential to never compromise on the quality. It is very likely that, if we haven’t had first-hand experience, we know somebody who has suffered from pipe issues such as blockages, water pressure issues or even burst pipes. A 2015 survey of Dubai households indicated that 24% of villa residents had experienced a burst water pipe1. Most of these issues arise with inappropriate selection of material, incorrect installation or improper assembly. Therefore, it is very important that those managing projects ensure strong supervision at the time of installation and purchase the highest quality of products and associated accessories such as solvent cement, rubber rings and tools.

One way to guarantee the quality of material is to choose well-known brands with standardised certificates (BS EN, ASTM or DIN standards). These stamps ensure consistent production with high manufacturing standards, using the best quality raw materials, most advanced machines, premium quality compounds and industry-leading green building technology.

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Leaks and burst pipes occur when the products are wrongly selected or incorrectly installed. It’s essential to not only do the correct calculation but seek expert advice about the products you are purchasing to ensure appropriateness. Calculating for the right type of pipe can ensure an efficient plumbing system. Poor calculation can result in low water pressures, as each pipe has different rates of friction and loss based on its surface. It is also key that each pipe should be appropriate for the purpose. For example, uPVC drainage materials shouldn’t be used for water hotter than 79 degrees – should these pipes be applied in this situation, it could result in serious leakage or burst pipes.

Therefore, education and spreading knowledge of best practice across the UAE construction industry is of critical importance. Backwater flow should be a significant concern to builders and property owners, but many remain unaware of the fact that they can and must protect themselves from backwater. A backwater valve is a backflow prevention device which is used to prevent outbound water from re-entering homes or properties. The valve allows water to exit but closes to prevent backflow into the home. If there is a sudden blockage or heavy rainfall, drainage lines can become overloaded, but having a backwater device will prevent that water flowing back into the home. It will also stop odour and insects from entering the house from the exterior. Without the benefit of such construction expertise, there may continue to be plumbing and piping issues no matter how brilliant the quality of materials used in the installation phases.

So, how should the construction industry choose the correct pipes? For every property there are a few factors to consider before picking a suitable material – corrosion, flow, water pressure, soil characteristics, temperature, sunlight and pipe characteristics. Other considerations should include the availability of products and spares, local case studies, accessible technical assistance and competitive pricing.

For local suppliers, success will be determined by the ability to provide quality service and a wide-range of appropriate products to customers, ensuring and establishing long-lasting business relationships. For customers, investing in quality materials for new constructions and refurbishments is an expense that is worth paying to prevent major issues in the future. The construction industry must use quality materials that are fit for purpose, so that the UAE can continue to live up to its reputation as a place to invest and ensuring its infrastructure matches its incredible vision.

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