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 emfsThe Electromotive force. This is the electrical force developed around wires (such as mains wiring) carrying high voltages. The force dies off rapidly with the distance from the cables. See more in Electrics 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.
The Building RegulationsThese are the mass of regulations that cover safety, health, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency etc. in the way buildings are constructed. Not to be confused with Planning consent (which is more to do with whether you can put up the building in the first place) cover services mainly in the following Approved documents Approved documents are detailed publications which come under the English Building Regulations. They are based on tried and tested methods of building and if you follow them you are assured of complying with the Regs. The equivalents for Scotland are the Technical Handbook, for Wales: the Approved documents (Wales), and for N.I. the Technical Booklets:
- F – Ventilation (England)
- G – Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency (England)
- H – Drainage and waste disposal (England)
- J – Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems (England)
- L1A – Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings (England)
- L1B – Conservation of fuel and power in existing dwellings (England)
see also the Domestic Services Compliance Guide