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The UK’s concrete and cement industry has announced an ambitious carbon programme with a target to become ‘Carbon Negative’ by 2050. In this blog, we explore how the new roadmap can affect the industry. We also answer the main questions on the precast concrete drainage sector and ‘Net Zero Carbon’.

In June, the cement and concrete sector, through industry body UK Concrete, announced new plans to introduce an industry framework and roadmap to deliver a ‘net negative’ carbon target by 2050. The roadmap is expected to include a very wide range of measures and technologies addressing energy efficiency, fuel switching, low-carbon cement alternatives and Carbon Capture, Usage & Storage (CCUS). This is the most ambitious initiative to date by the sector and is expected to be a main gamechanger for the UK’s effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The precast concrete drainage sector is part of this initiative. All our member companies, as members of British Precast, UK Concrete and the Mineral Products Association (MPA), will automatically commit to the new target and the roadmap. This would not only address our direct emissions but would also include upstream emissions from our supply chain partners.

Following the announcement, we would expect a wide range of questions on how the precast drainage sector will achieve this objective. In this article, we answer some of the main questions on the true carbon footprint of precast drainage, why this roadmap is ground- breaking, how it could be done and what makes us confident that a “Beyond Net Zero” target is achievable.

What is the true current carbon footprint of a concrete pipe?
Based on the last Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) we published, the carbon footprint of an unreinforced concrete pipe was around 145 kg CO 2 e/t. This is also the figure currently shown in the latest issue of the ICE Database as derived from our 2017 EPD (2016 data). However, since then, the carbon footprint of a concrete pipe has dropped in the last four years. This is mainly due to reductions in energy consumption across precast factories, a drop in waste to landfills, an increase in green electricity use by some members of BPDA, a sharp drop in the carbon footprint of Portland Cement, and the general decarbonisation of the electricity grid since 2016 (from around 0.45 to 0.28 kg CO2e/kWh). We believe that a further 6-8% reduction was achieved between 2016 to 2019, taking our pre Covid-19 carbon footprint to around 134-136 kg CO2e/t. These numbers do not include reinforcement and rebar, which has also seen significant reductions since 2016 due to decarbonation efforts by the main suppliers (who are all local).

Will the precast drainage sector publish a new EPD?
BPDA’s current EPD is set to expire in 2022. Following the publication of EN 15804 +A2 in late 2019, British Precast started work on a revision based on the new standard with the intention of renewing all precast products’ EPDs, including the one for concrete pipes.

Is it possible to reach ‘Carbon Negative’ or even ‘Net Zero’?
For concrete, it is definitely possible. Net-Zero Carbon concrete is already being sold in the UK today. But achieving this at industry level will require some time as there will be a need to address a wide range of emission sources. The main advantage for the concrete industry is that its entire supply chain is local. All our member companies and their cement and reinforcing steel suppliers, hauliers and customers are UK based, and all of them support HM Government’s drive for Net Zero Carbon by 2050. UK Concrete’s new Roadmap came after sufficient consultation with those supply chain partners. There is a very good understanding of the likely decarbonisation route for all emission sources across the supply chain. Some of these routes, such as fuel switching, will require investment over a number of years. Others, such as green transport, CCUS and modern low-carbon cements, will require innovation. But the overall framework and plan is clear, and the industry understands what needs to be done.

Will there be any intermediary targets to 2030 or 2040?
The concrete industry is currently working on details of the roadmap, which will include some industry targets to 2030 and beyond. Concrete pipe manufacturers, in specific, are exploring a wide range of options at shop floor level to further lower their carbon footprint. We are also looking at savings beyond the factory gate: By reducing the carbon footprint of entire built solutions and talking with designers/ contractors to improve products’ designs, product handling and installation on site. We also believe that Circular Economy can unlock significant whole-life carbon savings if embraced by asset operators within the drainage, sewerage and highway sectors.

Why should the industry believe any figures or footprints published by the precast drainage sector?
Scheme-based EPDs, verified to EN 15804, offer the highest level of carbon footprinting scrutiny and transparency. In Scheme-based EPDs, all footprinting calculations are verified by 3 rd parties using strict rules set by expert committees employed through independent schemes. The number of independent parties involved in developing, auditing and assessing an EPD makes it extremely difficult to introduce any shortcuts, tricks or means to hide carbon emissions. Moreover, the fact that our supply chain is 100% local means that the raw materials data we use is representative and accurate.
It is important to understand that not all generic carbon footprint values used in the construction industry are based on such levels of scrutiny.

When should we see the new concrete carbon roadmap or any new precast drainage strategies or plans?
BPDA is currently finalising a major study assessing Whole-life carbon for concrete pipe installations compared to those using lightweight alternatives. We think it will be one of the most detailed and comparative assessments carried out to date on the overall GHG impacts of drainage and sewerage pipe installations. We tried to align the study as much as possible to EN 15978, using help from authors of the ICE Database, Circular Ecology, and other experts. The precast drainage sector is also working on its own carbon initiative, which should support the overall cement & concrete carbon roadmap.



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In April this year, Water UK published its latest sewers adoption Design & Construction Guide (DCG), introducing for the first-time new requirements for the adoption of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), including attenuation tanks. In this blog, we briefly explore the main implications in terms of open areas and surface-level car park fires and how different types of underground attenuation tanks can be affected by fire.

Every year in the UK, over 100,000 cars (around 300 a day) go up in flames. Thankfully, loss of life, livelihood and homes are usually rare with such incidents. However, the damage caused by such fires is not restricted to vehicles, vegetation or other assets visible above ground. There is potential for devastating loss if such fires find their way into the underground drainage and stormwater attenuation systems built under roads, lawns, squares and surface-level car parks. A vehicle fire can generate heat reaching well over 815°C with flames reaching up to 3 metres or more. In a surface-level car park a fire can spread reaching several parked vehicles, either through flames or spilled burning fuels such as diesel. Any tank structures under such car parks will be affected, either through the burning liquid fuel reaching the tanks through drains and vents, or through the extreme heat from ground level.

When such fires occur, underground drainage pipes and attenuation tanks can suffer significant damage, especially if such systems are made of flammable materials such as Polypropylene (PP), Polyvinyl Chloride (such as uPVC) or High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE). If such pipes and tanks burn, they can add further fuel to the fire. If they melt under heat, they may lead to the partial or total collapse of the space above ground. A temperature rise to 65-105°C could be sufficient for PP to soften and start experiencing deformation and loss of structural integrity. Concrete pipes and attenuation tanks behave differently. In such case as concrete can withstand high temperatures and will remain intact throughout such fire incidents. Using precast attenuation tanks wouldn’t only prevent further spread of fire but would also reduce the cost of any clean-up or rebuild (if needed).

In the next few years, it is expected that hundreds (or thousands) of attenuation tanks and pipeline systems will be installed under car parks, squares and lawns across England. The possibility of car park or vegetation fires reaching or affecting these underground attenuation tanks cannot be ruled out. As there are no adoption requirements or Non- Statutory standards on resistance to fire, it is up to the contractor/ developer/ asset operator to decide whether attenuation tanks’ fire resistance should be considered. Given the poor fire performance of PP and uPVC, is it really wise to specify attenuation tanks made of such materials near roads, or under lawns and car parks?

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European Parliament decision to ban high lead (Pb) content in recycled uPVC may have implications on the UK’s stormwater and drainage sectors

On the 12 th February, the European Parliament voted down a proposal by the European Commission that would have allowed post-consumer un-plasticised polyvinyl chloride (uPVC) waste with 2% lead (Pb) content (20 times higher than the current threshold) to be recycled and used in certain applications. This ruling may have a significant impact on the drainage, sewerage and stormwater management sectors in the UK.

The European Parliament’s vote will not have any direct impact on precast concrete drainage products. But many products used on-site in conjunction with precast concrete chambers and soakaways, such as recycled PVC pipes and geocellular tanks, may be affected.

Heavy metals such as Lead (Pb) were traditionally employed as heat stabilisers in PVC products. However, lead (pb) was then identified as a toxic substance which can cause significant health damage, including irreversible neurological damage. This has led the industry to completely phase out the use of lead (Pb) in Europe by 2015. European virgin uPVC products today, including PVC pipes and geocellular tanks (stormwater crates), use different types of stabilisers (e.g. calcium based) with very little or no toxicity. However, this has left hundreds of thousands of tonnes of old post-consumer uPVC (window frames, etc) with significantly high proportion of lead (Pb) and other ‘legacy additives’ exceeding 2% of the product’s mass. Current rules restrict lead (Pb) content to 0.1% only.

The European Commission has originally proposed derogations (exemptions) to allow a higher lead (Pb) threshold in post-consumer recycled uPVC of up to 2%. Such post-consumer uPVC waste would then be usable in a limited number of applications. One option was to use it in sewerage pipe walls provided that the recycled core is protected by layers of virgin uPVC. Another area of potential application would have been geocellular tanks (stormwater crates) as the newly released European Standards for geocellular tanks (EN 17150- EN 17152) allow for recycled PVC to be used. The European Commission’s amendments were met by resistance from some NGOs, researchers and academics, leading to a wide campaign ahead of the vote. The EU parliamentary Environment Committee, which voted weeks earlier to reject the proposals, suggested that the amendments would violate the REACH Directive and would pose a risk to public health.

Despite UK’s exit from the EU last month, European Parliament decisions are still legally binding during the current transitional period. Contractors, specifiers, builders’ merchants and developers are strongly advised to re-assess their options following the European Parliament vote and talk to their suppliers about the presence of lead (Pb) and other legacy additives in any recycled uPVC drainage or stormwater products they use.

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BPDA has released a new video demonstrating how the use of concrete pipes can lead to significant cost savings due to the nature of bedding used to install the pipes compared to flexible lightweight alternatives.

The 2 minutes long video explains how bedding arrangements work for rigid and flexible pipes: Lightweight flexible pipes are generally installed with a full surround of imported granular material (a bedding arrangement known as Bedding Class S). Rigid pipes such as concrete can be installed with significantly less granular material using bedding arrangements as Bedding Classes B and F. Flexible pipes performance seems so dependent on installation, and so vulnerable to defects, that the newly revised pipeline structural design standard, BS 9295, is expected to recommend supervision during installation and use of single-size, self-compacting, granular to limit deformation and damage to these pipes. The video also identifies further cost savings associated with the delivery of granular material to construction sites and any possible removal of muck-away and trench arisings from site. For more information on cost savings, please visit our BPDA’s Material Cost Calculator webpage:


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Jetting is a critical part of operations to clear sewer blockages but care must be taken to avoid damage from high pressure hoses. With a change in British Standards BS 5911 expected to introduce mandatory tests to concrete pipes, the sector must adapt to this new reality

With an increasing number of sewer blockages caused by fat, wet wipes and other ‘unflushables’, the need for high pressure jetting to clear them is more prevalent than ever.

The rise of the fatberg – an impenetrable build-up of fat and non-biodegradable products – is a result of modern lifestyles. Diets have changed to be oilier and more people are flushing products that the sewer system was not designed to deal with, wet wipes being the biggest culprits.

According to Water UK, the trade association representing UK water companies , there are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages annually, costing water companies £100 million every year to clear them.

While public awareness has grown significantly, thanks to better education and high profile campaigns from the water utilities, the problem, particularly in densely populated cities, is unlikely to go away completely. This means sewer jetting will always have a vital part to play.

But with high pressure sewer jetting, comes another risk – pipes splitting and leaking, leading to environmental damage and potentially serious pollution. To reduce this risk, a Code of Practice giving guidance on the safe use of high pressure jetting equipment was published by the Water Research Council in 2001. This was followed up with a second edition in 2005, which set out a maximum jetting pressure for pipeline materials, varying from 1500psi (103 bar), 2600psi (179 bar) for plastic and up to 5000psi (345 bar) for concrete and clay pipelines.

So, it is acknowledged that concrete pipes are likely to withstand higher pressure than plastic, with the European standards for management and control of operational activities in drain and sewer systems EN 14654-1 (becoming EN 14654-3 after 2019) stating: “Maximum working pressures to avoid damage will vary according to the material of the pipe, condition of the pipe and type of nozzle.”

The issue is reviewed regularly, with changes to the British Standard BS 5911 for concrete pipes and ancilliary concrete products expected next year, which will introduce mandatory jetting resistance tests to concrete pipes.

As fatberg numbers increase in the UK, the sewerage pipeline sector sector needs to adapt to this new reality and explore the introduction of robust test regimes for high pressure water jetting. New test regimes can offer assurance that every concrete pipe manufactured in the UK is robust enough to undertake the level of high-pressure jetting normally needed to remove fatbergs.

Drainage contractor Lanes for Drains agreed more resistant pipes were needed in the fight against FOG.

A spokesman said: “Our teams conform to all regulations when jetting pipes but there is still always a risk of damage. Protecting the environment is a priority for us and we fully support any measure that allows us to continue to clear sewer blockages effectively, while further reducing any risk of pipe damage. However, as with everything, education is key and people need to stop abusing the drains and sewers. That’s why we have created Unblocktober, the world’s first awareness month to educate people and get them to change their habits and reduce the need to clear blockages in the first instance.”

Safe jetting limits
There has been an understanding for some time within the drains management sector that, in general, a water jetting pressure of 3,500 to 4,000psi (241 to 276 bar) is capable of breaking through blockages caused by fat and other debris.. In theory, the best practice guidance in the Code of Practice ensures that damage to pipes due to jetting is avoided. However, such risk of damage always exists.

The code advises that the pipe material needs to be identified before starting any clearance operations. There are no guarantees advice will always be followed, especially when faced with major blockages, where water jetting pressures as high as 3,000 to 4000psi (206 to 276 bar) are sometimes needed.

Some water companies realise such risk and have policies in place to ensure that the sewers they are to adopt meet specific standards and are less prone to damage.

Thames Water requires air tests for certain types of pipe to ensure that no damage was caused by jetting before adoption. Developers are recommended to consider non-polymeric components in areas where sewer air testing is expected to be hard to undertake.

Anglian Water requires adopted sewer pipes to be able to withstand 4,000psi (276 bar) jetting pressure.

Where to find the standards
BPDA keeps a keen eye on national and international standards – this ensures that our members’ customers receive the best quality products which are compliant to all relevant standards.

All British and European standards can be found here https://shop.bsigroup.com

Sewers for Adoption guidance and water industry standards can be downloaded here https://www.water.org.uk/publications

The Sewer Pipes and Resistance to Jetting factsheet is available here
https://www.precastdrainage.co.uk/uploads/downloads/GeneralJettingFactsheetIII_002.pdf [BOX OUT]

For more information on Unblocktober, go to www.Unblocktober.org


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As the construction industry embraces whole-life models for carbon consumption in projects and products, a forthcoming BPDA study should demonstrate a huge benefit in concrete pipe selection, says Matthew Butcher, sustainability & product association executive, British Precast.

The UK government’s push for net zero carbon by 2050 will see the developers of infrastructure projects paying much closer attention to the carbon impact of their choices of materials. The BPDA’s membership is committed to not only lowering the carbon impact of its product, but also assisting decision-makers by comparing the whole life carbon impact of concrete pipes with their plastic equivalent.

The climate emergency has come to the forefront of international public consciousness through a mixture of alarming scientific reports and public protests such as the School Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures – widely dubbed ‘the final call’. [1]

Industry must go above and beyond to answer this call from the climate scientists and the civil engineering sector is one of many within the built environment to formally declare its intention to tackle the climate emergency. Civil engineering practices in the UK are being asked to commit to a range of pledges linked to low carbon sustainable construction.

Set out by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) these include an accelerated shift to low embodied carbon materials in all works as well as design principles that enable the UK to become a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. Critically the declaration includes a focus on wholelife carbon assessment, including recognition of the important role extending the life of infrastructure will play in carbon reduction. [2]

Two pledges in particular send a strong message to the civils sector to ensure that carbon assessments of products and projects are robust and verifiable. These are:

  • To include, as part of the basic scope of all our work, lifecycle costing, whole-life carbon modelling and post-construction evaluation in order to optimise and reduce embodied, operational and user carbon and other resources
  • To evaluate all new projects against the need to contribute positively to society and enhanced wellbeing, while simultaneously averting climate breakdown and encourage our clients to adopt this holistic approach using PAS2080 to reinforce sound decision-making.

The approach set out in the PAS2080:2016 standard for Carbon Management in Infrastructure seeks to identify the total carbon, that is the sum of carbon consumed across all the lifecycle stages of an asset. This is to avoid making a carbon reduction in one lifecycle stage which leads to an increase in carbon in a later lifecycle stage and therefore to a net increase in whole-life carbon.

The example given by guidance from both the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is that specifiers should make sure that using low carbon materials to reduce capital carbon during installation does not lead to more carbon from material replacements during the operational stage. [3]

The BPDA is already actively engaged in producing resources to facilitate decision-making around whole-life carbon and will, in due course, publish a study comparing the cradle-to-grave global warming potential of concrete and plastic drainage systems.

A whole-life carbon focus is important because some plastic pipe studies may have under-reported the true level of embodied carbon emissions in their assessments by not taking account of multiple greenhouse gases or not including all lifecycle stages.

On a limited lifecycle stage assessment of drainage systems it is possible to omit important impacts further into the asset’s lifespan or linked to the product’s installation. Much like the famous Indian parable where six blind men describe an elephant from touching one feature of the animal, studies that look solely at cradle-to-gate carbon emissions or at single emission sources like transportation can miss the big picture.

The BPDA study was guided by the European standards EN 15978 Environmental Impact Assessment of Buildings and EN 15804 Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). This is important because PAS2080:2016 notes that data consistent with the modular lifecycle assessment (LCA) approach and principles set out in EN 15978 and EN 15804 should be used in a comparison like the one the BPDA is undertaking.

It should be noted that the comparisons carried out by BPDA are not entirely compliant with the standards described because of a lack of verifiably compliant plastic pipe data. The data for the concrete pipes used in this study is however based on the externally verified EN 15804 EPD and calculator. BPDA would be prepared to produce a full set of compliant data if the plastic industry were to do so.

In 2017, the BPDA published an EPD for 1m of DN600 precast concrete pipe with class B bedding. This was an Association declaration using primary data from member companies, covering all lifecycle stages from A1 to C4.

Once published, the BPDA’s new carbon report is set to show that at the majority of pipe diameters, and with plastic pipe ring stiffnesses and resin sources evaluated, installed concrete pipes have a lower carbon impact.

For large diameter pipes the difference is the most marked, with the carbon impact of 4kN/m2 DN2100 plastic pipes as much as 55% higher than that of a concrete equivalent. When the full lifecycle in taken into consideration the BPDA believe that the carbon impact of a plastic pipeline could be more than double the carbon impact of a concrete pipe. This is primarily due to the longer service life of concrete pipes.

Concrete’s extended service life, which is more than double that of plastic pipes in many cases, removes the need for replacements within the assets design life. Its durability also extends past the design life, reducing risks associated with current projected 800-year service life requirements of UK water assets. [4]

Selecting concrete pipes also reduces bedding requirements, which in turn lowers the amount of imported granular bedding material required for installation. This not only reduces the carbon impact of transporting and quarrying the bedding material, but also increases the material efficiency of the development. The use of plastic has the opposite effect as oil-based products are non-renewable.

Conducting an LCA study of this type not only aids in product comparisons but also allows the sector to perform hotspot analysis. This analysis allows the industry to focus sustainability efforts and bring down the lifecycle carbon of our products.

The ultimate goal being the design and installation of net zero carbon pipelines.

Use of Portland cement replacement products is one area where the UK concrete is already ahead of global trends. Recent media reports suggest that global cement production is responsible for 7-8% of global CO2 emissions, in the UK this is only 1.5% of UK emissions.

The Concrete Centre’s This is Concrete – Ten Years, Ten Insights (2018) publication highlighted that countless innovations have achieved a 28% reduction in the embodied carbon of concrete since 1990. The precast concrete sector specifically has reduced CO2 emissions per tonne by 12.1% since 2012 and is on course to meet its 2020 targets for carbon reduction.

[1] IPPC. Special Report. Global Warming of 1.5°C. www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
[2] ICE. UK Civil Engineers Declare Climate & Biodiversity Emergency www.civilengineersdeclare.com
[3] RICS. Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment, 2017
[4] Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Water for life: white paper, 2011

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The revised standard for structural design of buried pipelines will soon bring methods into line with contemporary design practice. Marshalls CPM’s director of technical & engineering, Mark Flavell, who represented BPDA on the drafting committee, explains the importance of this update.

At the end of November 2019 a revised version of British Standard BS 9295:2010 Guide to the structural design of buried pipelines will be released. The new BSI document will include all relevant design information for all types of buried pipelines, which was previously split across two different standards.

Standards for buried pipelines make it possible to demonstrate that a pipeline is structurally sound, especially when it passes under a highway or motorway. Adopting authorities require uniform documentation, that is understood by all parties, to confirm the infrastructure is fit for purpose and can take the traffic load.

Currently BS EN 1295-1:1997 details the UK nationally established method of design for rigid concrete pipelines, while BS 9295:2010 gives further information on the structural design of buried pipelines under various conditions of loading using the established UK method.

When BS EN 1295-1 came up for its five-year review, BSI’s Management Committee for Wastewater Standards gave a mandate to revise and it was decided to withdraw the method of design from this standard and revise BS 9295 to include all the detailed design method together with the guidance on its use.

BS 9295:2019 will be the key standard for anyone in the construction industry that designs or builds drains, sewage systems and underground pipes. Revision of the standard has provided a suitable opportunity to review various shortcomings in current UK design methods which have arisen due to changes in the nature of pipelines over the period since those methods were originally published. In the case of concrete pipelines, this is over 50 years.

The revised standard consolidates and updates the various documents that together describe the UK method and brings practice into line with contemporary design methods. Alignment with the European Eurocode standards for structural design was also considered wherever practical.

The timing of the publication of the revised standard is of particular importance because the HA 40/01 Determination of pipe and bedding combinations for drainage works from the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) is also being revised and will be redrafted around BS 9295:2019.

One of the principal changes to the documentation will be to ensure that traffic loading used is consistent with British and European standard BS EN 1991-2 Traffic Loads on Bridges. This will align pipeline design with design requirements for all other buried structures. It is also consistent with the vertical test loads for manhole cover slabs as specified in BS 5911-3:2014.

The revised standard places more emphasis on consideration of the wide-trench formula for pipe design. Using wide-trench principles increases potential load on pipelines, however higher bedding factors have been introduced for designs using wide-trench design. Narrow-trench design is still permissible where the designer has sufficient knowledge of the installation conditions to make a well-informed decision on trench width.

Narrow trench design has been used by the Industry for many years without any concerns being raised regarding the structural integrity of concrete pipelines. This demonstrates the robust structure of concrete pipes and the conservative nature of design methods. However, the standard steers designers towards wide-trench as ideally a maximum permissible trench-width should be stated.

Two new tables are included in the revised standard – one for updated bedding factors and one detailing permitted installation cover depths for both narrow and wide trench applications.

A limit state design (LSD) method is introduced for concrete pipelines which means they can be designed to withstand all actions likely to occur during their design life and remain fit-for- use, with an appropriate level of reliability for each limit state.

A limit state is a condition beyond which a structure no longer fulfils the relevant design criteria. The condition may refer to loading or other actions on the structure, while the criteria refer to structural integrity, durability or other design requirements.

The procedure requires both an ‘ultimate’ and ‘serviceability’ bedding factor to be calculated and appropriate bedding factor assigned. All Eurocode European standards are based on the LSD concept in conjunction with a partial safety factor method.

Finally, an annex to the section gives typical examples of pipeline designs covering various design situations. This includes a comparison of wide-trench and narrow-trench design for the same diameter pipe and reinforced and unreinforced scenarios.

In summary, the new standard brings methods into line with current design practice while aligning with Eurocodes, introducing LSD and making trench-width a primary consideration. With release of the revised DMRB in 2020, the UK will have a joined-up contemporary approach to buried pipeline design.

Structural Design Calculator update planned

BPDA plans to bring its own Structural Design Calculator app for pipe design into line with the new standard in early 2020. The Calculator, which is available from any app store, simplifies concrete pipeline design calculations.

It offers all the basic values including external design loads and bedding factors and takes into account the pipe crushing strength. It then offers advice on what type of bedding to use. The calculated load, which is the total load a concrete pipe in a trench is required to sustain, is used in the design formula.



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British Precast, the federation trade body which includes BPDA and a number of other precast concrete product associations, issued a Press Release on Monday 2nd September about precast drainage products placed in the UK market without any visible proof of conformity to relevant provisions of British standards or sufficient Declaration of Performance as required by relevant European Standards. The press release can be found here: https://www.precastdrainage.co.uk/news/UK-industry-uncovers-imports-of-unverified-concrete-products

The products in question include manhole rings, seating rings and gully risers. British Precast found units of these products without any visible proof of conformity to BS 5911-3 and/ or sufficient Declaration of Performance in accordance with EN 1917 and the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). Proof of conformity to any standard, whether European or British, can only be assured through some form of third-party certification such as BSI’s own Kitemark or an equivalent certification system. British Precast feels that the precast drainage sector has a responsibility to demonstrate that their products are safe and fit for purpose. Clients of the sector too have a requirement to ensure that the products they use meet their specification and whatever industry standard they need to comply to (e.g. Sewers for Adoption, CESWI, etc).

Below, we answer some of the main questions associated with that press release:

What are the main standards for precast pipeline products?

The main European standards for precast concrete pipeline products are EN 1916 and EN 1917:

  • EN 1916: Covers concrete pipes and fittings
  • EN 1917: Covers concrete manholes and inspection chambers

There are also complementary national British Standards for these products, which offer more details on geometrical requirements, concrete mix, structural characteristics and production specifications. The main standards include:

  • BS 5911-1: Covers concrete pipes and ancillary products
  • BS 5911-3: Covers concrete manholes, soakaways and ancillary products such as cover slabs, seating rings and corbels.
  • BS 5911-4: Covers inspection chambers
  • BS 5911-6: Covers gullies.

Not all precast drainage products conforming to EN 1916/ EN 1917 will automatically conform to BS 5911-1/ 5911-3. For example, concrete pipes can be manufactured to Strength Class 90 and seating rings can be produced with DC-1 concrete exposure class. These may comply to EN 1916/ EN 1917 and could be in use in a number of countries across Europe. But pipes and seating rings with such specifications cannot be manufactured under BS 5911: BS 5911-1 is restricted to Class 120 pipes and BS 5911-3 only makes reference to concrete manufactured to design chemical specifications higher than DC-1.

What do industry standards say?

  • Sewers for Adoption: SfA notes that ‘Precast concrete (in reference to Manholes) shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3” and “Precast concrete slabs and cover frame seating rings shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3”. SfA also notes that “Additional quality assurance requirements, including Third Party Certification, may be sought by the Undertaker” and offers Kitemarking as an example.
  • CESWI (7 th edition): Clause 2.98 notes that “Precast concrete slabs and cover frame seating rings shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3”. Clause 2.101 also noted that “Precast concrete manhole and soakaway units of circular cross-section shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3”.
  • Highway England’s Manual of Contract Documents for Highways (Vol 1. Series 500): Clause 507 (sub-clauses 4 and 5) note that precast chambers, cover slabs and inverts “shall comply with BS 5911-3”.

Is it legal to produce and sell such products?

For a number of regulated construction products, covered by harmonised European product standards, CE Marking is mandatory. The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) includes requirements for some construction products to have CE marking and to be accompanied by a declaration of performance (DoP) and other information if it is to be placed on the market in the European Economic Area. Most precast concrete pipeline products used and sold in the UK (pipes, manholes, cover slabs, benching rings and other ancillary products) are covered by this requirement. Conformity to British standard BS 5911-3 is not a legal requirement. However, in projects where some industry standards such as ‘Sewers for Adoption’ and CESWI form part of a water company or public authority contract, there might be a restriction set in specification for such precast drainage products to conform to relevant provisions of BS 5911 (Parts 1 to 6) and be third party verified in accordance with the requirements of that standard.

What is the main message?

The main message from the press release is as follows:

  • Manufacturers of precast drainage products need to ensure that their Declarations of Performance and CE Marks are in order and made visibly available, either on products or the manufacturer’s website. This is a legal requirement that manufacturers need to achieve in order to protect users, third parties and comply with the CPR.
  • Manufacturers and merchants are encouraged to seek third party certification if they intend to sell to specific markets where an undertaker (under Sewers for Adoption or any other industry standard) may require such certification as proof of conformity to relevant provisions of BS 5911-3. The Kitemark is one example of such certification.
  • Undertakers and clients need to understand that not all precast concrete drainage products are the same. In cases where no third-party verification is available, more scrutiny may be needed to ensure that a precast drainage product actually meet the project’s specification.


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Advances in production techniques for precast manholes offer multiple advantages for the construction sector. Innovations championed by BPDA

members mean manhole installation can be completed in about an hour, with a much higher success rate when compared with traditional techniques.

Precast manhole systems are easier to install, but they also improve onsite safety and raise the bar on quality and performance as well as lowering costs and reducing waste to landfill. To help contractors deliver best practice on-site, BPDA has now produced a handy guide to installation.

The Pocket Guide to Installing Concrete Manholes can be downloaded from the BPDA website as a PDF or is available as a printed document. It lists seven simple steps to successful precast manhole installation (with minimum 125mm wall thickness) and the full version can be found at https://www.precastdrainage.co.uk/uploads/downloads/manhole_guide_interactive.pdf


Design flexibility

Precast concrete manhole systems are suitable for a wide-range of pipe connections and can be retrofitted without complete replacement of the chamber. The systems comprise a precast concrete base unit with channel and benching and predetermined combinations of flexible and watertight inlet(s) and outlet. Base units and chamber rings are made with thick strong walls and lifting points, eliminating the need for a concrete or granular surround unless specifically required by the client. High-performance seals and extra-thick chamber walls ensure long-term watertightness and durability. The excavation is backfilled sooner than with traditional techniques, minimising the health and safety risks associated with open excavations, and there is less need for work in confined spaces, which also lessens risk to workers. By reducing project time, overall costs are also brought down.

Sourcing constituent parts from local suppliers and a rise in the use of recycled materials keeps embodied carbon impact to a minimum. Production techniques for precast manhole systems continue to advance and the use of modern logistics ensures excellent and consistent product quality and reliable service.

In summary the seven steps are:

  1. Safety

Safety must always be the first priority for any construction project and all site activities must be preceded by an appropriate risk assessment. Typical activities include vehicle offloading, movement of components, excavation, backfilling and the lifting and positioning of components.

  1. Preparation

Excavate a trench of appropriate dimensions to accommodate the manhole structure. The trench must allow sufficient working space outside the chamber for access and backfilling to the required specification, taking into account the ground conditions, depth of excavation and any other relevant factors. The heights of the manhole components supplied by the manufacturers are nominal, so it is beneficial to measure the units prior to installation in order to assist with obtaining the required height of the completed chamber.

  1. Installing the precast manhole base

Prior to lowering into the trench, the precast base unit may be pre-fitted with a lubricated outlet if required. A plastomeric sealing strip/elastomeric seal is used to form a waterproof joint between units. It may be fitted before lifting into position or after

each unit has been individually placed. Concrete to concrete contact between units must be avoided.


Place the base unit onto the prepared granular bed and mate the stub pipe with the installed outlet pipe. Check the base position for alignment, level and inverts. Note that precast bases have an inbuilt fall across the main channel and can be installed level.

  1. Fitting the chamber rings

Make sure that the joints are clean and free from foreign objects before fitting the next chamber ring unit. The plastomeric sealing strip/elastomeric seal should already be in place on the installed unit and ready to receive the next chamber ring unit. Repeat with further ring units until the chamber has been constructed to the required height. Ensure that the steps are correctly aligned.

  1. Fitting the cover slab

Place the cover slab directly on the last chamber ring with the access opening lined-up with the steps. Apply slight pressure onto the cover slab using suitable protection, such as timber, to seal the chamber.

  1. Backfilling

When using wide-wall precast concrete manhole chamber rings, the excavated soil can be returned as backfill unless an alternative arrangement is specified by the client. Compact the backfill soil as specified in the design.

  1. Operation and maintenance

Precast concrete manhole base systems are strong and durable and eliminate the risk of inconsistent quality from site-based operations. They are designed to remain watertight and maintain their structural integrity for over 120 years.



Fact Zone: Concrete Manholes

Up until the 2000s concrete manhole construction has required manhole bases to be constructed onsite from ready-mixed concrete. This required the channels, connections and benching to be constructed in confined spaces with works often carried out in wet and hostile conditions. Additional external contractors were required to supply and pour the concrete and the process for each installation would take several hours due to routine logistical and operational challenges. Furthermore, construction was not always successful. In 2011, a revision of Part 3 of BS 5911, the main standard for precast concrete manholes, introduced a new type of precast manhole system. This comprised a factory-made precast base with elastomeric or plastomeric seals on all joints and connections to ensure permanent watertightness.





Posted by & filed under Pipes & Manholes.

A report into Sweden’s water and wastewater networks anticipates a long-life for the next generation of pipes. The authors of Sustainable water and wastewater pipe systems of the future, which has been published by the Swedish Water & Wastewater Association (SWWA), argue that the networks currently being installed should have an operational life of at least 100 years and that pipes laid from 2020 should have an operational lifetime of 100-150 years.


The report also argues that the current renewal rate needs to increase by 40% to maintain the current condition of the network. However, when renewal is carried out, it should be done to such a standard that the new pipes have an average operational lifetime of 100-150 years.


Concrete pipes account for 69% of the waste- and storm water pipelines in four of the main water utilities – NSVA (six southern municipalities), Kretslopp och vatten (Gothenburg), VA Syd (Malmö) and Höganäs. This is representative of the country as a whole, though some have been rehabilitated or replaced in the 10 years since this figure was calculated.


A survey in Malmö found that many concrete pipes are still operating successfully 100 years after installation. Unreinforced concrete pipes manufactured in Sweden today are generally 150-1000mm diameter, with the larger reinforced concrete pipes coming in at 400-3000mm. The main method for condition assessment of gravity sewer lines is CCTV, particularly for assessment of pre-stressed steel reinforcement pipes.


Concrete pipes laid in the 1940s generally have a shorter life of 50-100 years due to the shortage of cement during the Second World War and its substitution with finely ground limestone filler. They currently require replacement. It was during the 1960s and 1970s that most concrete pipes were installed and, given a pipe-life of 100 years, a major replacement programme will be required around 2050.


The various causes of deterioration of underground concrete pipes are already fairly well known. Sulphuric acid attacks from the hydrogen sulphide (H2S) in sewage can reduce the thickness of concrete, especially where the sewage flow slows down or becomes stationary.


Increasing durability

The durability of concrete pipes can be improved in a number of ways and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining is common in Sweden. Resistance to acid and sulphate degradation can be improved by mixing a number of alternative binding agents into the concrete, particularly a ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) such as Alfarör, which uses a 15% slag mix and fly ash.


Some of the older pipes in Sweden are believed to have been made using 100% Portland cement. In the UK almost all concrete pipes are manufactured to exposure class DC-4, which includes 30% fly ash or GGBS to 70% Portland cement.


Other additives, such as limestone filler or polymers, can be effective, as can a number of surface treatment methods including internal centrifugal spraying.


Recent innovations include mixing bactericidal additives, such as a cationic polymer, into fresh concrete. The polymer is particularly effective in binding and rendering H2S bacteria, while avoiding harm to other bacteria. It has been used successfully in North America since 1996 and became available to the Swedish market in 2010.


In parts of the world where bacterially-induced H2S formation appears as a result of exposure to an optimum temperature of around 30°C, calcium aluminate cements such as Ciment Fondu Lafarge are used. They have greater chemical resistance than most Portland cement and are used for both the manufacture of concrete pipes and also as cement mortar insulation.


Further Research

The report’s authors recommend that more research is undertaken on how to prevent, control and forecast the degradation of concrete in ageing sewer pipe systems. Particular regard needs to be paid to developing innovative non-destructive methods for condition assessment and online surveying, which can provide valuable data to support maintenance planning and prevent unexpected disruption to operations.


New non-destructive techniques and sensors need to be developed, along with forecasting tools that can enable proactive maintenance and minimise leaks, bursts and network failure. For concrete sewerage this involves the generation of a model for pipe degradation based on the key factors of H2S, temperature, soil movement, reinforcement and corrosion.


Selected information translated from the SWWA’s report The Sustainable Water Management System of the Future (Framtidens hållbara VA-ledningssystem, 2018). Authors: Helena Mårtensson, Annika Malm, Bror Sederholm Jan-Henrik Sällström, Jan Trägårdh (original article published at the Summer issue of the BPDA Newsletter).