Keep tower block residents safely in their homes with live stack replacement

If a tower block under housing association or local authority control was built more than half a century ago, one of the major potential problems it faces is the existing drainage systems, says  Ed Swift, National Sales Manager (Public Sector) for Polypipe Building Services…

This is particularly true in structures where the original cast-iron drainage systems have not been replaced and will be entering their sixth decade of service.

Local authorities in the UK have responsibility for approximately 4,500 tower blocks and the refurbishment programmes often deal with aesthetic elements - while internal systems may be hiding a multitude of problems.

Some of the problems may include underground leaks; split, rusting, corroded pipes and internal blockages. A lot of these issues can remain hidden from residents and building managers - until the system fails.

Ed Swift advises on tower block drainage – and, right, Millbrook

A failing drainage stack can cause sanitation issues that affect the health and wellbeing of residents and can mean the unpleasant (and expensive) last resort of rehoming residents while the work is carried out.

It’s extremely important that checks are carried out on these systems to avoid the problem old drainage stacks cause. One way old drainage stacks can be replaced is with live stack replacement which can be used to reduces the average time needed to complete the project. More importantly, this causes only minimal disruption for the residents as they can remain in their homes.

Nearly 300 high-rise buildings have used Polypipe's live stack replacement drainage service

Through live stack replacement, an existing drainage system can then be replaced section by section, floor by floor, without having to disturb the majority of residents in a building at any one time. This is the huge advantage of live stack replacement for both the residents and property owners/facilities managers.

Polypipe Building Services has been working with local authorities and contractors to develop a method that helps project managers to scope out the required resources and labour requirements before work begins.

The Live Stack Replacement service offered by Polypipe and conducted by trained installers is a combination of planning and offsite manufacturing that allows drainage systems to be replaced in parts.

Polypipe’s replacement service has been used on nearly 300 high-rise buildings across the UK. A great example of the service in action is the Millbrook Tower in Southampton.

Millbrook Tower is more than 50 years old and stands at 240ft. The building, owned by Southampton City Council (SCC), had a cast-iron drainage system that had started to rust and fail, causing excessive leaking in the 144 flats.

SCC chose to work with a manufacturer specialising in offsite production of building components. The team from the council was able to complete the installation work across all of its 144 flats 40 per cent faster than the average time needed. (do we have a timeframe it was completed in? feels like the sentence is missing this ending).

As much of the assembly of the replacement drainage system was carried out in factory conditions and then delivered to site, the installation process could be completed much quicker than when assembling loose products onsite and the residents of Millbrook Tower were able to remain in their properties, as the installation process could be completed much quicker than when assembling loose products onsite.

Jim Simpkins, Housing Refurbishment Project Manager for Southampton City Council, said: “Millbrook Tower has been standing for 50 years and the drainage systems in place were not functioning as well as required.

“Polypipe gave our team expert advice with the specification, manufacture and installation of replacement drainage stacks from start to finish.”

With up to 4,500 tower blocks to maintain –  early diagnosis of drainage concerns combined with live stack replacement is the optimal solution for social landlords to keep residents at home while completing vital work.

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