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Services

The green issues concerning services are mainly to do with materials in terms of their 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)

PVC insulation

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.

Building Regulations

The Building Regulations cover services mainly in the following Approved documents:

see also the Domestic Services Compliance Guide

2 comments to Services

  • ALAN WOOD

    I WAS WONDERING IF YOU ARE DOING ANYMORE SCHEMES LIKE THE SELF BUILD PROJECT FINISHED IN BRIGHTON. I HAVE 30 YEARS IN CONSTRUCTION IN ALL PROJECTS FROM NEW BUILD HOUSES,OFFICE BLOCKS, FLATS TO ECO BUILDS AND STONE ROUND HOUSES ETC, THAT IS A PART TO MY WORK HISTORY AT PRESENT TIME. AND I WILL BE MADE HOMELESS IN ONE MONTH TIME.

    AMWOOD

  • Robert Jensen

    I like your site, which a friend linked me to. I have some comments:

    Under the heading “PVC insulation”, you wrote “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.”

    That is true, but I suspect that hazardous vapours could be given off simply at high temperatures, i. e. without actual fire (ignition) with flame. That’s the bad news. Some good news is surely that in the UK there are codes and standards designed to reduce risks: as Wikipedia states “There are a number of specific national practices, habits and traditions associated with electrical wiring in the United Kingdom … (the “Wiring Regulations”) … … ” So there is guidance – most of it regarding the required thickness (area of cross-section in square millimetres)) of the metal part of the wiring (the conductor) needed for the power (Watts) being transmitted through the wiring. Power = Potential difference (expressed in Volts) x current (expressed in amperes i. e. amps. (Sorry if this is obvious – I obviously don’t know who will read this!

    Some more bad news is that if wiring is covered by thermal (as opposed to just electrical) insulation, then higher temperatures will inevitably be reached: I think that this follows inevitably from the “heating effect of an electric current” which I studied at school(in the previous millennium!). The heat generated by the electric current needs to escape to the external environment if heating is to be avoided. And higher temperatures would tend to occur if one put thermal loft insulation where it covers electrical wiring – such as when placing or adding fibreglass or other insulation in a loft or attic.

    To avoid this, one could divert the wiring – e.g. by lengthening it so that it was outside the thermal insulation, e. g. by inserting one or more extra sections (with suitable joins). Or divert wiring from being in the roof space to being inside the rooms of the house (I am not sure if this is acceptable). The downside of lengthening is that one would use up more conducting metal (typically copper) and more electrical insulation (typically PVC).

    All design is surely a compromise. If anyone wishes to discuss this, they can email me at jensen800@yahoo.com My name is Robert Andrew Jensen, I am an “Environmental Engineer” and I live in the UK (you should be able to find me on LinkedIn. Please give any email a suitable subject line so that it does not go into my spam folder. Best wishes, Robert

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