The green issues concerning services are mainly to do with materials in terms of their embodied energythe total amount of energy it takes to make a material (or a building). See more on embodied energy, their manufacture and their reusability / recyclability. Also the question of dangerous emfs keeps resurfacing.
A wide range of normal domestic services have question marks hanging over them
- water supply pipes – traditional lead ones are associated with lead poisoning.
- microbore heating circuits usually require more energy consuming pumps
- PVC waste pipe is not recyclable (although it is likely that they soon will be)
- electric cables are usually insulated with PVC – possible pollution problems from fire as well as manufacture and disposal.
- electric cabling may produce dangerously high emfs
- electric circuits may have high stand-by currents
- water tanks and plumbing generally can harbour legionella
However there are also some rather complicated questions about ‘future proofing’ of services and the ecological impact of having to constantly replace pipes, wires etc to keep apace of new technological developments. This is a tricky subject because studying the past does not necessarily predict the future except inasmuch as that people have constantly underestimated the degree and speed of change which is likely to occur. There are strong arguments for grouping all the services, particularly plumbing, into a service duct
Water supply pipe
With existing houses built before 1970 or so there may be a lead supply pipe connecting to the house and it might be poisoning the water. See the Drinking Water Inspectorate web site
Current practise for new buildings is to use 25mm or 32mm HDPE plastic pipe (with a barrier layer if the ground is contaminated such as on some brown field sites)
The problems with PVC are compounded in the case of insulation on electrical wiring because if the wires overheat and cause the PVC to ignite then hazardous fumes can be given off. The alternative is to use low smoke halogen free (LSHF) cable.