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Specifiers warm to metal alternatives

The spiralling cost of metals makes the allure of plastic pipe more apparent. But Durapipe's Mitchell Holmes believes the true savings are found beyond the initial outlay and come from plastic's long-term benefits
Specifiers warm to metal alternatives
METAL systems have traditionally been the material of choice for many working in the construction industry. But the specification of plastic pipework has increased in recent years as specifiers and end-users realise the benefits.

Plastics now represent around 15% of all pipework installations in building services. This is set to continue rising at a steady pace.
Sales indicate that contractors and specifiers are now considering less traditional materials. Once people try plastics they are often converted.

The price of copper has more than doubled in the past three years. The difference in price between copper and plastic is now minimal. But, as the labour cost to install plastic can be a third of metal alternatives, plastics can be much cheaper overall.

Independent cost comparisons are available to help specifiers and contractors determine the most appropriate product for them.
The BSRIA Innovative M&E Installations ACT5/2000 Datasheet 5.3 compares the cost of thermoplastic pipework with traditional screwed steel pipe.

It demonstrates that there are savings to be made from using plastic. The study shows that overall installation cost can be reduced by as much as 43%, coupled with a 60% reduction in labour time.

Whole-life costs

When considering pipework for chilled water systems or air conditioning, plastics offer advantages to installers and end-users during the installation and the lifetime of the product. At half the weight of copper and one sixth the weight of steel pipework, plastic systems are easier to handle on site.

Plastic systems are easy to joint, with many systems being solvent welded. This offers a quick and secure means of producing high-integrity welded joints that remain leak-free throughout the lifetime of the system. These two factors can reduce installation time.
The ongoing performance capabilities of the system are equally important. The reliable containment and efficient movement of fluid in pipes is crucial to every air-conditioning system. Plastic systems retain optimum performance levels but require minimal maintenance throughout the lifetime of the system.

Price comparison

Plastic materials are totally resistant to corrosion from both the precipitation of condensate on the outer surface of the pipe to many of the aqueous solutions used by air-conditioning systems. This reduces repair and replacement needs throughout the system's lifetime. Plastic pipework also has high impact strength making it more resistant to damage than many metal alternatives.

The savings that can be made vary from project to project depending on the individual development including the type of system, its application and the size and type of building. As part of its technical support service, plastic-pipe maker Durapipe offers a cost comparison analysis to all specifiers and contractors considering plastic systems.
Price is always an important factor in product specification, but it should not be the primary consideration. Whole-life costings need to be considered as well as initial material costs. By ensuring the needs of the customer are understood and addressed at the specification stage, a pipework system can be installed to offer the best performance over its lifetime, ultimately reducing whole-life costs.

1 January 2008


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