Humble Yet Powerful: How Clay Drainage Can Do Wonders for Maintenance and Sustainability

Humble Yet Powerful: How Clay Drainage Can Do Wonders for Maintenance and Sustainability

Rectifying issues with below ground drainage can be a costly and time-consuming affair – particularly when it comes to large commercial developments. But how can such issues be avoided in the first place? Here, Joana Januseviciute, product manager for clayware at Hepworth Clay, explores how using vitrified clay piping systems could be the answer and explains everything facilities managers need to know about this humble yet powerful material.

It goes without saying that facilities managers need all components of their buildings to be reliable and durable, and require minimal upkeep. This is also true when it comes to below ground drainage. Despite being out of sight, it’s important to have an understanding of the systems in place, why they’ve been chosen and what maintenance is required. So, what about clay drainage? Let’s take a look at why these robust systems have been trusted for centuries, how they fit into the modern built environment and the variety of benefits they can bring.

The current climate

The government’s ‘Build Back Better’ campaign introduced following the initial peak of lockdown has been designed to boost the economy and employment, help activity return to pre-lockdown levels, and support with achieving net-zero and sustainability targets.  As a result, developers will need to pay even closer attention to the materials used in their builds – including those used for below ground drainage –  especially when it comes to their sustainability, durability and performance, which have ongoing consequences throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Additionally, new Design and Construction Guidance introduced in April sets out clear, standardised guidelines for foul and surface water sewers across England. This new guidance means that contractors across the country have much more freedom when it comes to selecting the materials for below ground drainage systems, allowing them to explore new techniques, products and designs. The guidance also states that materials and layouts must be selected during the initial stages of the design process, as this is a crucial element to any drainage project and can make a real difference later down the line.

This enhanced freedom of course throws up one important question: which material should be used to ensure long-lasting performance, hassle-free maintenance and compliance with sustainability targets? The answer naturally depends on the specific requirements of a project and also comes down to specifier or contractor preference, but one material that’s stood the test of time in this regard is clay.

The benefits of clay

Longevity and reliability

One of the most important aspects of an underground drainage scheme within commercial developments is how long it will continue to perform. If the most suitable material isn’t selected for the project, the potential costs associated with replacing the piping further down the line can be huge. This would typically be a lot higher for commercial buildings than residential properties due to their size, complexity and further costs that can accrue from possible temporary closures due to repairs.

The risk of extensive remedial works can be avoided by choosing a clay system. This is because clay drainage is extremely durable and reliable with an average lifespan of more than 100 years, with many Victorian systems still in use today.

Any maintenance required can also be completed quickly and easily. For example, Hepworth Clay’s pipes are resistant to high water pressure jetting of 7,500psi, meaning any blockages can be cleared first time. Not only does this reduce maintenance time required, but also provides reassurance that pipes won’t crack during said maintenance, avoiding extensive repairs in the future.

Chemical resistance

Clay piping is the ideal solution when it comes to resistance against chemicals and other possibly hazardous waste. The material’s inert nature means that it can withstand almost all chemicals and compounds that may be found in the ground before development. This is particularly relevant if the commercial building in question is being developed on a brownfield site that may have been previously used for industrial or military purposes, potentially leaving contaminants in the ground.

Eco-friendly manufacturing

With sustainability targets in place across the UK, it’s now more important than ever to make environmentally-conscious changes in construction. As commercial builds are in most cases quite large, complex projects, they can easily have a significant environmental impact. If eco-friendly products aren’t used, this could easily have a negative impact on achieving sustainability credentials for the build.

As large quantities of drainage products, such as piping, are needed for a development, having a supplier or manufacturer onboard that’s committed to environmentally friendly production methods is also a key consideration. For example, at Hepworth Clay, we source our clay from different quarries within just a five mile radius, minimising embodied CO2 impact from transportation. We then use stored rainwater and reclaimed heat to fire the clay – all important steps towards achieving sustainability targets.

The future of clay drainage

With the construction industry ramping up again and regulations being standardised across the country, a wealth of opportunities has been opened up when it comes to drainage materials. This is especially important when it comes to considering key objectives of commercial projects such as sustainability, long-lasting performance, and simple, efficient maintenance. There’s therefore never been a more prominent time to explore the benefits that clay piping can bring.

Hepworth Clay is a brand of Wavin. To find out more about Hepworth Clay’s clay piping solutions, visit:


Humble Yet Powerful: How Clay Drainage Can Do Wonders for Maintenance and Sustainability