On the surface, both plastic and polymer concrete drainage channels would appear very similar and do the same jobs equally well – so why stock both? Rob King of ACO looks at the latest generation of channel technologies and reveals that there is clear and growing commercial sense for the existence of both.
The growth in popularity for what are now called ‘domestic’ channel drainage systems has been substantial over the past five years. This is down to their ease of use – none of the complex or multiple falls demanded by point gully systems are needed – their versatility, their performance and their high quality installed finish.
But the market conditions too have developed. The refurbishment, redevelopment and landscaping sectors have all grown and diversified and the conventional application envelope for such systems is constantly being extended outside residential use into more traditional commercial arenas. The result for merchants stocking both plastic and polymer concrete channels is that sales have risen across the board and, crucially, in equal part.
The explanation for this, to date, has been straightforward. Traditional groundworkers and contractors have grown up with polymer concrete and have tended to stick with materials that they are familiar with, whereas new, smaller contractors and the DIY markets have developed around use of the plastic channels. But as the market has matured and awareness grown of wider material choice, the clear line of this simple segmentation has begun to blur. Add to this the fact that many plastic and polymer concrete channels now have equal load performances and the sales proposition for one over the other would appear to be less apparent.
But the opposite is actually the case. As the overall market has expanded and diversified, so the range of applications – and the specific performance and installation conditions that these bring with them – has greatly increased, placing greater demands on the installed drainage system. Now, rather than familiarity and tradition being the grounds for material choice, it is the end-use that should dictate whether plastic or polymer concrete is the best selection.
The latest generation of channel systems reflect this. Changes in fabrication techniques and material technology are now extending their versatility and in-situ performance so that they are optimised to each application. Combined with subtle design ‘evolutions’ in specific areas and the case for each material, in clearly defined situations, is now stronger then ever.
Design through Hexperience
Last month saw ACO launch its new plastic domestic channel system ACO HexDrain® - the successor to the popular ACO DriveDrain®. Even easier to install and lighter weight, its superior strength and rigidity is derived from HexTechnology™ - a unique moulding technique that surrounds and supports the channel with interlinked hollow hexagonal sections.
Being one of nature’s strongest structures, the hexagonal shapes provide exceptional rigidity and load-bearing qualities to the point where our design team has been able to dedicate all the used material to improving overall strength. The result is a total channel weight below 2kg per metre - with its standard grating - and a Load Class rating of A15 which is fully certified and CE marked.
Its structure and performance has been tailored specifically for pedestrian areas such as paths, patios and landscaped areas; driveways with occasional traffic and cycle paths. Combined with its two grating options - metallic effect plastic and galvanised steel - the installed system provides an excellent aesthetic finish for even the most sensitive domestic setting.
Significant enhancements have also been made in the way the product is handled and installed. In stock, the supplied gratings are kept seated within the channels by a series of four mating protrusions on each side which provide a soft ‘click-fit’. Many plastic channels have a grating retention system, but these tend to cause problems when installed as any slight flex in the channel wall results in the grating being held too firmly for it to be removed when cleaning is required. The HexDrain ‘softer’ hold completely eradicates this problem. There is also a series of ten tabs that protrude from the base of the channel which keep the shipped lengths in place on the delivery pallet, keeping the stock neat for display and preventing any damage in transit.
On site, there is no need for paper installation guides as full instructions and diagrams have been moulded into the base of each channel. There is also a new series of eight ‘anti-shunt’ pinnacles on the horizontal shelf that holds the grating. These mate with the underside of the grating and prevent any lateral movement once installed, maintaining a perfect, ‘gap-free’ finish and removing any potential pedestrian or traffic hazard.
The inherent strength of polymer concrete, which sees it being used in a variety of tough highway environments, means that it has the capability of being exploited to extend the versatility of a conventional domestic channel. This is exactly what ACO has achieved with the latest version of RainDrain. Called ACO RainDrain Plus™ and launched this month, the new system has had the structure of its channel extensively re-designed so that it can be used for both Load Class A and B applications by simply selecting the appropriate grating.
The channel’s galvanised steel grating achieves a fully certified A15 rating, making it suitable for all pedestrian areas and driveways. But by switching to the new cast iron grating, the load performance increases to B125 – ideal for public pedestrian precincts, static vehicle loadings and private car parks.
By building in this flexibility it then becomes a much simpler task to alter the use of the surrounding land as none of the drainage infrastructure has to be changed. This is a real benefit for areas which may need to be altered to accommodate higher vehicle loads as land is re-developed.
There is a new, bar-less locking system for the gratings which makes cleaning and flushing much easier and the profile within the channel itself has been modified to increase flow rate and promote self-cleaning. A new sealant groove has also been introduced at the ends of each 1 metre section to allow a watertight installation to be easily created.
Rob King is Technical Product Manager at ACO Technologies.