Pipe Material Considerations in Infrastructure Design

Association of Construction and Development
February 18, 2013 — 1,577 views  

Any building or home is incomplete without a piping system in place. Piping is needed for the supply of water as well as for disposing waste water away from the structure. The material selection for piping is of prime importance. Improper material can lead to hazardous effects on public health and on the environment. It can easily reduce the life of the piping system and due to this, the buildings may need repair or replacement of piping systems often. It may increase the overall cost as well.

Characteristics of Good Piping Systems

A good piping system should be cost-effective and should provide a long-term assurance with its reliability. It needs to be versatile in nature. It should have no damaging impact on the environment, on the safety of drinking water, and on the public health. The pipes also have to be of high quality, and should be resistant to corrosion.

Durability and Reliability of Piping Systems

The pipes have to be tough in construction and functioning. Hence, the pipe material should also be sturdy. They have to be leak-proof, as leaks induce expenditures through repairs. The pipes need to be corrosion resistant and should not conduct electricity. The system should not be adversely affected by soft or hard water, changes in pH levels, and by chemical constituents present in both domestic and industrial water.

The piping system should be resistant to scale buildup, tuberculation, and pitting. The internal surface of the pipes has to be smooth and deposit-free. This would also reduce the buildup of bacteria and maintain high flow efficiency, reducing the pumping requirements and eliminating the need for cleaning. The pipes have to be flexible, should withstand surges in pressure or shock, and should be impact resistant.

Maintaining Water Quality

The pipes installed should not hinder the quality of the water in any way. It should not impart any taste or odor to the flowing water. The pipes have to be of low thermal conductivity to help maintain uniform water temperature. The pipes need to be of approved quality, passing the top-level quality standards accepted worldwide and certified to the highest degree. The intrusion of heavy metals into the pipe water can have devastating effects. Thus, the piping systems should be in all respects resistant to such intrusions.

Thermal Resistance

The pipes should not expand or contract with respect to temperature. They must be able to withstand relatively high temperature fluctuations. The expansions and contractions can be reduced by using expansion joints or offset piping arrangements.

Resistance to Water Hammer Effect

Water hammer effect is a phenomenon that can be observed when a flow stop valve is suddenly operated to stop a fast-flowing surge of water. It can be identified by banging or thumping inside the pipes resulting in loud sounds and echoes. Due to this hammering pressure surge, the shock waves travel back against the flow causing vibrations, noise, and sometimes even extreme damage to the pipes.

Selection of material in order to minimize the effect of water hammer in pipes is a very crucial parameter. Some materials have relatively smaller response to the hammering effect and are advised to be installed in scenarios normally leading to water hammer effect.

Fire and Other Considerations

Fire safety measures are an important part of infrastructure design. Therefore, the materials selected for the piping systems should be highly resistant to fire instances. PVC is a good example of one such material. The cost of supporting materials which are fire retardants should also be considered duly. Usually the pipes are slightly isolated from fire as they are embedded within the walls of the building.

Association of Construction and Development


Any building or home is incomplete without a piping system in place. This article describes the reliability and characteristics of a good piping system.