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Grate expectations: Innovations in drainage


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Adequate drainage is one of the essential components to the success of any construction site — from hospitals to apartment buildings or office blocks. Helping water to flow correctly — whether this is from rain, irrigation, or plumbing — is crucial to avoiding large-scale damage to buildings.

You can’t have drains without water, and water is a necessity for any healthy landscape and its distribution, the core function to any plumbing system.

You can’t have drains without water, and water is a necessity for any healthy landscape and its distribution — the core function to any plumbing system. However, knowing how to distribute and control water properly will prevent drainage incidents could potentially turn into disasters for new or existing properties.

According to a recent survey conducted by insurance provider NRMA carried out in 2015, 59 per cent of respondents experienced a household ‘emergency’ necessitating third-party intervention, such as a plumber, that year,. Of these emergencies, blocked drains was ranked the second most common.

Jobsite ANZ spoke with Troy Creighton, Managing Director of Stormtech, to find out more about the role drains play in construction. Stormtech, a family business started in 1989, provides award-winning drainage solutions across a number of industries including residential, commercial, aged-care, pools and more.

Don’t Let your Project go Down the Drain

According to Creighton, uncontrolled ingress of water, both exterior and interior, is one of the most common forms of building damage.

“The damage can range from weakened foundations through to ceiling, wall, and floor damage,” he says. “It can also directly impact the health of occupants due to mould and microbial growth from constantly damp or wet areas.”

In spite of the risk involved in neglecting drainage care and installation, Creighton believes it is still seen mostly as a secondary consideration. One way to combat this is to have builders and project managers push prime cost items, such as shower channels, threshold drains, or linear balcony drains, earlier than is the current practice.

“This would mean that they are chosen even before footings, slab on ground, and other structural areas are designed to accept the finished floor requirements. Often no allowance is made to fit a level threshold with a footing in the way,” Creighton explains.

Some technical aspects must be prioritised for the success of the drainage project, too. Creighton also highlights the importance of sizing risers correctly and not compromising on fall, or slope, towards showers.

“Inadequate fall in the shower forces a step up into the bathroom, which is not only aesthetically bad but also a trip hazard and will cause at a minimum some painful stubbed toes,” Creighton notes.

In 2010, there were changes to the Australians Standards per which builders and designers must abide by strict waterproofing compliance measures. These ensure interior spaces are protected from unwanted water incursions.

“Interestingly, in Australia, although we use many advanced building methods and materials, we allow the selection and supply of the floor waste to be left until the last couple of weeks of the job (at the time of tiling). This means that the product selected often won’t fit in the area required and can change the entire drainage design, resulting in delay and increased cost,” says Creighton.

It is this type of shortcut that can lead to long-term pain — one of the many reasons adherence to the Standards is so crucial in the planning phases for drainage.

Innovation in Drainage Materials

Creighton says that the materials used in drainage have remained largely unchanged for the past few decades. Instead, innovation is coming from the way the materials are used.

“At Stormtech, we take a lead because we select responsibly-sourced, sustainable materials."

“At Stormtech, we take a lead because we select responsibly-sourced, sustainable materials. Unfortunately, there has been a push in downgrading quality materials to reduce cost. Aluminium channels, although non-compliant, are also currently being used at great risk to the occupants,” says Creighton.

Managing water and drainage is an ongoing challenge, requiring compliance and continued maintenance. With the correct planning, materials, installation and aftercare, buildings and communities can be free from the erosion and other defects caused from standing water.

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