Case Study – When Aquatherm pipes fail; replacement of piping systems within large industrial sitesCat McCarthy
What is Aquatherm and why does it fail?
Aquatherm is a German plumbing invention of the 1980’s, and is a fusiotherm® polypropylene pipe system for both potable water and heating. The product had a reputable for reliability in its homeland, before being imported to Australia. It’s reputation is becoming tarnished due to its unreliability and cost of replacement. In July 2019, an American jail required $23.5 million USD to repair an extensive Aquatherm system which was under a decade old. Also in 2019, a group of Engineers hypothesized that there are three common vulnerabilities when it comes to using the Aquatherm product; how the product is clamped, the temperature of the potable water and the chemistry of the water. If all three vulnerabilities were present, Aquatherm was destined to fail.
Our industrial chemical manufacturing client in Laverton North experienced the perfect storm of Aquatherm vulnerabilities. Various leaks appeared in the administration building, costing our client tens of thousands of dollars to repair each year. Throughout the administration building there was over 500 metres of Aquatherm installed between the domestic cold water service and flow and return hot water systems. The hot water units are stored on the roof with one of the units failing, giving inconsistent water to all outlets.
Industrial plumbing maintenance project scope
The scope of the project wasn’t as simple as replacing pipework; a chemical laboratory on site must remain operational 24 hours per day/7 days per week. The administration building also houses site lockers/change rooms and shower blocks that must remain operational due to the high hazard chemicals on site. The site has an excess of 300 staff members and as a safety requirement all staff members also need to shower and change at the completion of every shift. The chemical manufacturing plant operations 3 separate shifts per day and there is a continuous flow of staff in all operational areas. There was also no known location of all isolation valves for the building, with no isolation valve schedule created by the previous plumbing contractor. Existing and additional services added over time were tangled around existing pipework, with no clarity for future scheduled plumbing maintenance to occur.
Aquatherm replacement project
To ensure there were no future plumbing concerns due to the unreliable Aquatherm product, the ensure network of Aquatherm was to be replaced with copper pipework and fittings. The McCarthy Plumbing Group team could only work within small windows of time with the mains water shut off (and drained) with new pipework installed due to the constant requirements of safety shower availability.
A plan was drawn up to install temporary pipework throughout the building to ensure minimal disruption to any services within. This posed challenges around both not disrupting water supply, and making the temporary pipework fit within the already congested ceiling voids and service risers.
An unexpected issue was discovered within the temporary installations; our plumbing team found the existing Aquatherm hot water piping runs had been installed inefficiently with dead ends and unnecessarily long runs from the flow and return network, creating a long wait time for the end user to receive hot water. This caused a large amount of wastewater while the factory workers waited for their showers to get to a warm shower temperature.
Hot water unit relocation
Following the successful installation of the temporary lines, we shifted focus to craning in 2 new hot water units on the 3rd floor roof of the administrative building. The final stage was to install the riser pipework from ground floor to the roof hot water units, and also to the time critical areas of laboratories and site showers/changerooms. Each section was commissioned while completed and hot water units were turned on with circulation pumps completing the installation.
Post pipework completion, we installed valve tags on all unearthed isolation valves and backflow devices, and created an isolation valve schedule to ensure the scheduled plumbing maintenance is now managed effectively.
Effective pipework reduces water consumption
Since the completion of the removal of the ineffective Aquatherm pipework, it has been reported the shower wait times are down significantly, and by increasing the efficiency of the pipework runs we estimate to have saved our client 6,000L of wasted water each month from factory workers waiting for their water to heat up at each shift change.
If your commercial or industrial premises requires the repair or removal of Aquatherm pipework, or you wish to discuss scheduled plumbing maintenance plans, please call today on 03 9931 0905 and we can organize a site visit and discuss your options.