The importance of Australian standards in the plumbing and drainage industry

 

The WA construction boom is well and truly over, with a significant decrease in the size of the WA construction market in the last 2 years. This of course has an impact on business sustainability – the darker implications of which are the potential for many businesses to consider potentially unsafe cost-cutting measures.

Dramatic cutting of costs (Value Engineering) to get projects over the line means businesses may feel pressure to use products that don’t conform to industry standards. This jeopardises not only the end user, but also the integrity of the local industry as a whole. 

Australian industry standard AS/NZS 3500 details the types of materials and products that can be used in all plumbing and drainage installations nationally. The updated 2015 version of AS/NZS 3500 commenced on 1 May 2016.  The updated standard was drafted in order to meet the Australian Building Codes Board’s protocols for standards referenced in the National Construction Code, Volume 3 (the Plumbing Code of Australia).

Every plumbing or drainage product must satisfy AS/NZS 3500.  

Separately, and in addition, the WaterMark certification scheme ATS 5200 requires mandatory certification of certain types of plumbing and drainage products. Not all plumbing products must get a Watermark certification under ATS 5200 – it really depends on the use and where they are being installed, but they must be ‘fit for purpose’ which includes compliance the relevant standards and certifications.

It’s the responsibility of manufacturers and distributors to only include products in their range that conform to their relevant specifications. These standards and certifications ensure that everyone working under the Plumbing Code of Australia, is constructing and working with products that are fit for their intended purpose and safe for use in Australian water supply, sewerage, plumbing and drainage installations.

A specific example is sanitary plumbing and drainage products which is covered by Section 2 of AS/NZS 3500.  A sanitary drainage system is pipes, fittings and apparatus used to collect and convey the discharge from a sanitary plumbing system, together with discharge from fixtures directly connected to a drain, to a sewer.

This standard states that the permitted materials to use for sanitary drainage system must only be constructed from one of the following:

  1. Stainless steel or galvanised steel
  2. Copper or copper alloy
  3. Plastic including glass filament reinforced thermosetting plastics (GRP) and fibre-reinforced concrete (FRP)
  4. Vitrified clay.

AS/NZS3500 details the conditions and restrictions on each of the material types listed above when being used in a sanitary drainage system.  For example, this standard details when types 304 and 316 for stainless steel can be used.

Compliance with the WaterMark Scheme is also important because failures in plumbing systems can compromise public health and safety and result in property damage, disease and injury.

Insurance companies may not cover claims where non-compliant products have been installed in contravention of AS/NZS 3500 or without an Australian WaterMark Certificate. This could lead to a financial nightmare for individuals and businesses alike.

The bottom line for plumbers, builders and specifiers is that if a product does not conform to the Australian Standards and the WaterMark Certification Scheme (when required), it cannot be used.  If installed then it will need to be removed and replaced with compliant products which ends up being a much greater cost to the people involved.

Despite these risks some suppliers are selling products made from non-permitted materials in the shower, bathroom and balcony drainage systems which do not comply with AS/NZS 3500 and in some cases are not Watermark certified.

Stainless steel continues to be a preferred material for sanitary drainage systems due to its durability and resistance to corrosion, heat, staining and rust.  Stainless steel offers value for money over the long term, being easy to fabricate, highly resistant and, of great importance to the end user, aesthetically pleasing.