Stainless steel water pipes cut costs and reduce waste

Stainless steel water pipes cut costs and reduce waste


Lightweight stainless steel construction permits easy and simple lifting of pipe into place, 5 metres off the floor. (Top) Two men easily connect 6-metre lengths of pipe using relatively simple equipment. In addition, there is no need to clean the ends of the grooved pipe. Stainless steel sub-assemblies and pre-fabricated and curved, mitered sections avoid the need for complex fittings and connections. (Below) Smaller diameter copper pipes deliver water to various washrooms and concession stands. Stainless steel piping has been used in Detroit's Veterans Administration Hospital since 1993. Incoming potable water is pumped through 500-mm-diameter, schedule 10 pipe, made of S30403 stainless steel. The lines are insulated to prevent condensation.


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Nickel magazine, Jun. 01 -- It might take a few years, but stainless steel pipe could become as common in North American domestic water systems as it is currently in Japan or Germany. Penetration of stainless into the North American market is off to a good start with the completion of one such application at a high-profile venue in Detroit, Michigan.

The venue is a new, US$300-million stadium called Ford Field, which is being built by the Ford family, owners of the hometown "Lions" of the National Football League.

A total of 600 metres of S30403 stainless steel pipe -- 300 millimetres (mm) in diameter and with a wall thickness of 4.57 mm -- has been suspended from the concrete ceiling around the entire stadium perimeter. The grooved ends of the pipe were connected using mechanical couplings and smaller-diameter copper pipes deliver potable water from the main stainless pipe to various washrooms and concession stands around the stadium.

The pipe was manufactured by Felker Brothers and distributed by Bertsch, a USFlow Company.

W. J. O'Neil Company (WJO), a mechanical contractor, won a US$25-million contract to fabricate and install all the plumbing, waste and heating systems for the stadium, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2002 football season.

The decision to use stainless was based almost entirely on economics, according to Robert Gazda, General Manager of WJO. Although material costs were some 20% higher than if galvanized carbon steel pipe had been used, significant savings in fabrication and installation were realized as a result of opting for stainless.

The excellent corrosion resistance of stainless steel allowed thinner wall thicknesses to be used than other competitive materials, resulting in several factors that helped to reduce installation costs. Considerable weight savings per metre of pipe were realized, as well a greater ease in the handling, lifting and installation of long sections of pipe. WJO was able to install sections up to six metres long.

For the operators of the sports facility, the main advantage of stainless steel is that the lines need to be flushed only occasionally, whereas, if galvanized pipe had been used, more frequent flushing would have been required to remove the zinc corrosion products (zinc carbonate and sulphate) that inevitably develop. This means less labour will be required for flushing and less water will be wasted, an important consideration in a city where water supply costs have gone up by 30% in the past year.

Since stainless has never been used in a domestic water system in Michigan, no state engineering standard existed prior to this installation. It is not surprising, then that the City of Detroit put up some resistance. However, recent NiDI Water Workshop presentations in the region in the fall of 2000, and experience gained from the use of stainless steel cold water piping at the Veterans Hospital in Detroit, where 500-mm-diameter stainless steel pipe was installed in 1993 under Federal standards, helped convince city officials to accept the use of stainless steel at Ford Field.

Reflecting on WJO's success in developing an economical way to fabricate and install the stainless pipe, Gazda says, "I'm sure there will be a whole lot more jobs after this one.