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They all convey water from point A to point B, they all have a level of structural capacity, and they all can be buried.  So, all pipes must be equal, right?  It would be nice to say yes, but that is simply not the case.  Often times many different types of pipe materials can be used for the same application, however, that doesn’t mean that it is the best pipe for the project.  Whether it be cost, time, contractor preference, or just a lack of suitable submittal evidence, frequently an engineer’s design intent can be pushed to the back of the line.  But where should you draw the line?

An engineer’s reputation is his or her highest form of decoration.  With that honor, you may be able to acquire that next project, retain the business of major developers, or even become the preferred firm of a municipality.  While all of these entities are worried about cost, you have one major thing in common, reputation.  Standing behind your design should be more important than saving the owner a minimal percentage, but the proof is in the pudding. 

Evaluating and costing out multiple options early in the design phase will ensure that you don’t have to do the “saving” later.  Not only will you ensure you’re providing the best engineering solution for your client, but that it’s the best product for the best cost.  Enlisting the help of both manufacturers and a group of contractors can help you fully vet the material cost as well as the installation cost of different products.  While pipe A may cost the owner 10% less to purchase, it may cost them 50% more to install.  Looking at the full picture before making your design decisions can save multitudes for the project budget.  Once you make that decision, you have to be willing to defend that honor for the sake of the project.

As you know by now, there are many different types of pipe materials and applications:

  • Flexible type
  • Rigid type
  • Metal material
  • Concrete material
  • Plastic material
  • Gravity applications
  • Pressure applications

Each pipe can have a different purpose, different design methodology, and different characteristics as to why it is manufactured.  When specifying a product, ensuring the project specification meets the project needs is the most important part, but why stop there.  If you specify pipe A, you should get pipe A in its best possible form.  Manufacturers often times write product specification solely to meet the characteristics of their own product, yet ensuring that those characteristics meet the highest level of industry standards is the key factor.  Industry standards from ASTM, AASHTO, FHWA, AREMA and other product evaluation agencies have been written for a reason.  In writing a product specification for your project, make sure to include the highest level of industry standards first.  If a certain manufacturer is willing to go above and beyond, then you can include those attributes as well.

In the end, as an engineer you have been selected to do a job to the best of your abilities.  Your reputation and future depend on it, as well as the futures of many others.  Owners, contractors, and manufacturers all depend on your expertise and design.  They expect that what they’ve bought, installed, or manufactured is being used correctly and is going to have the life expectancy that is required for the project.  As a Civil Site Solutions manufacturer, Contech has the utmost respect for your expertise.  We hope that on your next project, you do too!

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