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Building Products July 2017

DRAINAGE, PLUMBING AND WATER SUPPLY COPPER PROVES ITS METTLE The advantages of copper as a pipework material have never been more important as engineers and designers strive to meet ever more exacting performance and environmental specifications. Dan Wild discusses its many valuable properties and, in particular, how this ‘noble’ metal can help combat infections. 66 BUILDING PRODUCTS | JULY 2017 non-profit making ECRI Institute, whose guidance is looked to by more than 5,000 healthcare organisations worldwide, listed anti-microbial copper as ‘one of its Top 10 Technologies to Watch’. Of course, proper water hygiene continues to be absolutely essential with EN608 taking over from BS6700 as the applicable industry standard covering ‘specifications for installations inside buildings conveying water for human consumption’. This makes copper an essential material to specify at the design stage of a new drinking water system or a refurbishment. As a general rule for potable water, keep cold water cold and hot water hot. Up to 20°C bacteria Uses for copper can be traced back thousands of years, to the Bronze age and beyond. It was the first metal to be cast into a shape, in around 4,000 years BC. Today it’s no less important, playing a key role in helping specifiers and M & E contractors enhance a building’s technological footprint while still achieving high performance and cost goals. As a noble metal it resists corrosion and compares favourably to steel and iron. It is highly resistant to extremes of temperature, whether those be highs or lows and in the case of a fire (its melting point is 1,085°C) its non-flammable capabilities mean copper tube and fittings will not burn or give off toxic fumes. Copper also performs well in terms of its linear thermal expansion – or lack of it. Where the temperature rises by 30°C copper pipework will expand by just 5mm over 10m. While marginally bettered by steel (4mm), it matches stainless steel, is better than aluminium (7mm) and comprehensively outperforms PE (Polyethylene) (54mm) and PVC (60mm). A distinctive additional benefit of copper is its anti-microbial properties, which often makes it a must when specifying plumbing solutions in healthcare and medical environments, or in community-focused situations where water hygiene is a concern. It attacks a wide range of bacteria, including the potentially deadly legionella, and helps prevent a multitude of pseudomonas infections such as ‘swimmer’s ear’. Direct interaction between the surface of the copper and the bacterial outer membrane causes it to rupture. As a result, the bacterium loses vital nutrients and water and dies. This relatively newly-discovered biocidal effect of copper and copper alloys is recognised by several major scientific bodies. In 2014 the independent


Building Products July 2017
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