When it comes to buried stormwater transfer, there are two main options available: plastic stormwater pipes and reinforced concrete (RCP) stormwater pipes.
Steel reinforced concrete pipes have been used in Australia for more than a hundred years, while high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are relatively new innovations. Which one do you choose?
Determining what matters most is the first step. “Life span” is frequently cited as the determining factor when it comes to choosing materials in the construction industry, but it’s not the only reason to use a particular product.
Other factors must also be considered, such as system consistency (for example, using concrete in an already concrete system rather than introducing a new incompatible material), soil condition, material strength, weight, load bearing and maintenance issues, as well as environmental factors such as the likelihood of earthquakes and sustainability concerns.
Ultimately, there are positives and negatives to each material, so it is important to understand the basic profile of each to reach an informed decision.
Benefits of Plastic Stormwater Pipes
There are two main kinds of plastic used in stormwater piping – high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – however, they share a similar profile, so for the purpose of this blog we will discuss them together.
Plastic ticks many boxes when it comes to stormwater piping: long lifespan, lightweight, excellent variety of lengths and sizes, ease of transport, few joints and connection points.
Fewer joints and connection points is a boon when it comes to earthquake prone areas, since this makes plastic pipes less vulnerable to leaks and breaking.
In 2011, New Zealand installed exclusively Poly-vinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polyethylene pipe materials, in an effort to limit the damage wrought by future earthquakes.
Where ease of transport, loading and unloading are of high value, plastic may be your preferred material, too. However, the lightness of plastic has its own drawbacks. Namely: it requires careful installation to reach its full structural strength. Ultimately, plastic is not as strong as concrete, so consideration must be given to how much weight will be applied from above.
Finally, plastic is not very heat tolerant. Exposed to high heat, plastic can warp or bend.
Benefits of Reinforced Steel Concrete Stormwater Pipes
Reinforced concrete pipes (RCP) have been the material of choice by civil engineers and contractors for many decades. RCP ticks one of the biggest boxes in the construction industry: lifespan. RCP can last for a century and typically requires very little maintenance.
The major drawbacks of using RCP rather than plastic is its weight and installation requirements. It is simply not as easy to transport hugely heavy concrete components. Added to this, if installation is rushed or not done properly, concrete pipes can break. On the upside, once they’re in the ground, they are incredibly resilient.
RCP also arrives on site with full structural strength. RCP is incredibly strong and can withstand considerable weight from above. However, the combined strength and durability of RCP forms part of why RCP has a higher upfront cost, as compared to plastic.
However, it’s possible to overlook these drawbacks if you consider the environmental benefits. Concrete is made from 90% natural materials, which are infinitely recyclable. The steel reinforcement is also made of recycled steel, and along with its long lifespan, RCP makes the most sustainable use of all of its components. Concrete also has a lower energy footprint than plastic, especially when locally sourced materials are used in the manufacturing process.
In conclusion, despite the existence of good-quality alternatives, RCP is still considered the “gold standard” in stormwater piping solutions.
Civilcast Stormwater Piping Solutions
Civilcast supplies concrete pipes in accordance with Australian standards, suitable for stormwater and sewer applications. We are Sydney Water accredited and Quality Assured to ISO9001. We provide a dedicated yard for stock and distribution of reinforced concrete pipe coupled with trustworthy industry experience and service excellence.
Contact us to discuss our stormwater pipe solutions.