The Need for Hygienic, High-Performance Pipework

Plumbing and heating pipework is fundamental to building projects, so contractors and specifiers are spoilt for choice on which solution is right for them. With this in mind, Franz Huelle, Head of Technical at REHAU Building Solutions, provides guidance on the different materials currently available in the market.

Plumbing and heating pipework has greatly advanced since the first terracotta pipes were developed around 1700BC. We have progressed from lead pipes, which were banned over 40 years ago due to health concerns, to the copper and brass solutions that are often used by specifiers and contractors today.

Yet with contractors and specifiers under constant pressure to deliver high-quality builds to tightening budgets and deadlines, innovation has continued around pipework technology. Solutions are now expected that meet hygiene regulations and provide exceptional system performance while remaining cost-effective and easy-to-install, meaning additional materials are being considered more than ever.

Pipework priorities

When it comes to the modern building project there are a variety of challenges contractors and specifiers must contend with around plumbing and heating solutions. Firstly, strict budgeting means material costs must be kept to a minimum. As a consequence of these streamlined costs, margins for error and waste are now even smaller, especially when it comes to high-value developments.

However, the need to meet end-users’ high standards when it comes to plumbing and heating systems remains the same. As such, contractors and specifiers require solutions that allow them to provide a safe supply of hot and drinking water, even as installation windows shrink. This also necessitates that any prospective solution is cost-effective and easy to install, especially on builds where multiple trades are working alongside each other while contending with tightening deadlines.

Keeping water supplies safe

Hygiene concerns around heating and plumbing systems are as important as ever. While lead stands out for its contaminating effect on drinking water, more recent findings have put other metallic pipework materials under the spotlight.

Specifically, UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) has found connections between other metallic fittings and elevated concentrations of metallic ions in drinking water supplies. But while BS 6920 governs the use of non-metallic compounds in pipework, no such standard exists for metallic compounds, despite contamination risks. Furthermore, unlike with non-metallic compounds, there is not a system or methodology to reliably test long-term leaching from metallic fittings.

Though the 4MS Group – an initiative between the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany to harmonise drinking water requirements – has developed criteria to establish guidelines surrounding correct use of metallic plumbing components in contact with drinking water, meeting them is currently optional. So, while the 4MS Group has a ‘Common Composition List’ detailing metals and alloys compliant with BS EN 15664 and therefore suitable for heating and plumbing systems, levels of protection cannot be guaranteed.

Also, the candidate list for Annex XIV under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations now includes lead. Referred to by some as the REACH Authorisation List, Annex XIV details materials deemed a Substance of Very High Concern that should no longer be available on the market or used after a given date, expect with specific authorisation.

In the midst of a global pandemic, when hygiene and safe water supplies are being prioritised more than ever on building materials, contaminant-free systems are more important than ever. This, combined with regular concerns around flexibility, ease of installation and performance, may inspire contractors and specifiers to look beyond copper and brass pipework.

MLCP – meeting multiple needs

By using multilayer composite pipework (MLCP) made from polymer, plumbing and heating installations can meet these differing needs and priorities. MLCP solutions, such as RAUTITAN Stabil from REHAU, use less connections, saving time and money during installation while reducing the potential for leaks across the system. The system also uses a patented three-step jointing system that requires no time-consuming hot works to further assist contractors.

Additionally, thanks to its Everloc compression sleeve technology, RAUTITAN also eliminates the need for deburring and calibrating pipes. A simple visual inspection is enough to verify a proper connection ahead of pressure testing, saving further time and allowing contractors to quickly install pipework to tight project deadlines.

RAUTITAN’s status as a lightweight and flexible solution also makes it suitable for plumbing connections on a wide variety of residential and commercial projects, as it can be used for installations through the floor, skirting board, or wall, depending on what is required. The fact it is also available with space-saving stainless steel heating pipe manifolds also makes it a solution well-suited to compact areas.

Finally, unlike its copper or brass counterparts, polymer MLCP solutions such as RAUTITAN do not experience corrosion, and do not leach harmful substances into water supplies. As well as this, RAUTITAN has cavity-free impermeable joints to eliminate risk of microbial contamination, and its smooth surface prevent deposits forming, further improving the system’s hygiene.

For more information about RAUTITAN Stabil, the MLCP solution from REHAU, visit


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