Q&A: Material usage for construction projects

Q&A: Material usage for construction projects

We speak to Smithers expert Julien Loste about using plastics and rubbers in construction projects; the challenges faced, key considerations and the testing processes involved to mitigate risk and ensure safety and suitability.

What materials are typically used in construction projects?

There will be hundreds of materials utilised in construction projects, depending on the requirements of the component or structure. The obvious ones are concrete, metals and glass, but plastics and rubbers are also widely used in installations such as cladding, pipe systems and paints.

What are the key considerations for materials intended for use in construction projects?

A prime consideration is compatibility; is the material durable enough to withstand the elements it will face and the requirements of  its end-use environment over its entire service life?

How are these factors typically assessed and quantified?

Following a material selection exercise a range of physical tests will help characterise the material, and determine whether it’s suitable for use in a construction environment.

What common products and projects do Smithers work on?

As plastics and rubber specialists, the range of projects we’re commissioned to work on varies widely – from plastic pipe systems toplastic glazing panels. We’re capable of assessing everything from small samples sent to us for expert analysis and investigation, to making on-site assessments.

Our expert team can provide support across the product development chain; from design through to failure or even technical dispute resolution investigations.

What are the common causes of failure for materials intended for use in construction projects?

The consequences of a failure within this industry can have widespread ramifications; from small scale failures in the home to potentially catastrophic installation failures with significant damage and financial loss. As an example, our previous experience in pipe system failure investigations for this sector shows that they originate from a number of sources, typically:

  • Manufacturing e.g. faults in the original pipe or fittings
  • Workmanship e.g. faulty installation / engineering
  • Environmental e.g. contamination effects or solvent cement effects
  • Operational e.g. system operating outside of design criteria, in either storage or post installation.

The performance of many plastic and rubber materials depends on the environmental conditions of its end-use environment; these will affect the long term behavior of the material and influence product life. It’s therefore critical to consider long term properties – and account for the expected environmental factors – at the design stage of a construction project.

Find out more about how Smithers can support your construction projects.