Kebs backs use of plastic water pipes in construction

The cost of constructing houses is set to go down after quality regulator certified the use of plastic water pipes.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) says they are safer and more durable than metal pipes.

Most houses in the country have fitted steel pipes for water systems but Kebs has warned they corrode easily hence increasing the chances of contamination.
Of late, some new buildings have resorted to using regulator-recommended plastic pipes.

The certification of plastic pipes as ideal for plumbing comes at a time when the cost of steel and metal pipes is set to go up following an increase in the price of raw materials in the international market.

The price of billet, a form of long steel, commonly used in construction, has risen more than 40 per cent to above the $450-a-tonne since end of March and analysts say the increasing cost of steel is likely to result in low demand by property developers.

“In the long run, plastic water pipes are economical because they will last more than 100 years, but you will have to replace steel or metal pipes after every 20 years, as is happening in South Africa now” says Mr Mike Osry, a water systems consultant with Hultec, a supplier of integrated PVC pipe rubber seals and thrust restraint pipe in South Africa.

Using plastic pipes would cut the cost of house water pipe system fittings by half, Kebs said on Thursday and urged architects, planners and constructors to recommend it.

The quality regulator says tests on steel and metal pipes have proved they are responsible for most cases of water contamination. “Steel pipes corrode and wear out easily; this causes water contamination” Kebs director of testing Mr Joel Kioko told a meeting of investors and pipe manufacturers in Nairobi on Thursday.

“It is hard to find plastic pipe jamming or sticking because of rust or corrosion. The smooth surface of plastic pipes allows it to keep its condition for many years while metal pipes are bound to scale and corrode over a period of time,” said Mr Kioko.

Kebs certification could herald major changes in the real estate that has over the years relied on steel or metal pipe systems.

“Plastic pipes are cheaper than steel or metal pipes. People constructing houses now would reduce costs by over 50 per cent if they used plastic pipes which are now available in the market,” says Mr Nihal Shah, a manufacturer of plastic pipes.

Mr Shah says plastic manufacturers are set to benefit from Kebs nod as they are looking at increased orders.

Manufacturers of plastic items have been blamed for environmental pollution and have been hit by 120 per cent duty so as to discourage production inn efforts to have a cleaner surrounding.

Most southern Africa countries including Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, said Mr Osry, have started uprooting steel and metal water pipes installed more than 20 years ago because they have aged and are not reliable, says water systems consultant in South Africa.

“South Africa has discovered that plastic pipes could last more than 100 years while the metal pipes cannot last more than 50 years. It is economical in the long run to use plastic pipes for your water systems,” he said.

Two years ago, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers raised an alarm over what it termed as an influx of substandard water pipes and tubes. KAM said the pipes originated from China and India and blamed Kebs, saying it was not conducting tests on the imports.

But Arthur Spore, a representative of manufacturers of plastic pipes at the Kebs plastics technical committee, says producers must adhere to strict quality.

Poorly built pipes could easily burst under heavy liquid pressure and that this could cause structural damage to any construction, Mr Spore said.

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