Money for nothing and your pipes for free
With scrap metal prices soaring, the number of thefts from construction sites has increased dramatically over the past few years. The problem has got so bad that it seems nothing is safe, with letter boxes, roof slates and road signs all being stolen to melt down and ship abroad.
The material price of copper has more than doubled over the past three years and metal pipes waiting on site to be installed, or pipes that have already been fixed, all carry the risk of being stolen by gangs. In fact it has become so serious a recent television programme has shown that police task forces have been set up to tackle the problem. However it’s not just building sites that are victims. For example, copper cable thefts from Yorkshire’s railway have soared over the last eight months to become British Transport Police’s biggest challenge after terrorism.
A new solution
But the risk of theft is not the only pitfall when it comes to specifying copper and metal piping. With the constant rise in price of copper, specifiers and contractors have been keen to look at alternative options that offer a more cost-effective solution. The exceptional price increases in copper now means that the difference in price between copper and plastic is minimal. But as the labour cost to install plastic can be a third of metal alternatives, when looking at the overall installed figures, plastics offer a more affordable option.
Independent cost comparisons are available to the market. The BSRIA Innovative M&E Installations ACT5/2000 Datasheet 5.3, compares using thermoplastic pipework with traditional screwed steel pipe and clearly demonstrates the significant savings plastic pipework can offer over traditional methods. The study shows that overall installation cost can be reduced by as much as 43% over traditional methods, coupled with a 60% reduction in labour time.
Over recent years plastics have seen a greater market share in the building services market and this is set to rise even further. Our sales over the past two years would indicate that once people try plastics and realise the full range of benefits that they offer, they become committed users. Plastic systems are easy to joint, with many systems being solvent welded, offering a quick and secure means of producing high integrity welded joints that will remain leak-free throughout the lifetime of the system. Comparing the lightweight material and fast reliable jointing methods, plastic pipework can significantly reduce installation time. This is a big advantage for contractors, who can incur penalty causes for over-running on the completion time of projects. Plastic systems boast high performance qualities, ensuring the system retains optimum performance levels, but requires minimal maintenance throughout its lifetime. Plastic materials are totally resistant to corrosion and also boast exceptional impact strength, making them more resistant to damage than many metal alternatives.
The level of savings that can be made vary from project to project depending on the individual development including the desired system, application and the size and type of the building. As part of its technical support service, Durapipe UK offers a cost comparison analysis to all specifiers and contractors considering plastic systems that can demonstrate the exact installation time and cost for that specific job if it was completed in plastic compared with a metal alternative.
Several companies take advantage of this service as it means they can make an informed decision that can be justified to the end-client, or in some instances, make a case for changing the original specification. One such client is Rushmoor Mechanical Services who specified specialist hot and cold water pipework system, Friatherm, and chilled water pipework, Durapipe SuperFLO, for three different projects after trialling a range of plastic pipework alternatives.
Dave Smith, Managing Director for Rushmoor Mechanical Services, said: “The price of copper and steel is constantly increasing, and the time from tender to starting a project can sometimes be two years, which means you have to endure significant price rises if you specify it. Also, due to the higher cost, theft of metal from building sites is increasing too. Plastic pipework is therefore an excellent alternative.
“We found that Friatherm was the easiest system to use – no specialist tools are required during installation, and the solvent welding procedure facilitates jointing without the need for hot works permits. Furthermore, some alternative systems require the lifting of heavy tools, which isn’t very compatible with health and safety regulations, whereas Friatherm is light and easy to move around site.”
Make the switch
With thefts of copper and metal piping high, now may be the time to think about switching to a product that is a less attractive choice for thieves. Price is always going to be an important factor in product specification, but it should not be the primary or sole consideration, and whole life costings need to be considered as well as initial material costs. By ensuring the needs of the customer are fully understood and addressed at the specification stage, a pipework system can be installed to offer the best performance over its lifetime, ultimately reducing whole lifecycle costs.