Drainage solutions manufacturer Hepworth Drainage has seen a surge of interest in its clay drainage range despite relatively weak markets for the drainage industry as a whole and a historic trend in which clay was seen as a declining market. Initiatives taken by the company have played a major role in clay’s reversal of fortune. Saeed Alavi, Managing Director outlines some of the key factors which have led to this turnaround.
Explains Saeed: "We have seen a gradual decline in clay drainage sales over the past couple of decades as plastic drainage has gained an increasing share of the market. Faced with this trend we have analysed the reasons behind it and reassessed our approach to the market. As a supplier of both clay and plastics we firmly believe there is a place for both materials, yet recognise that clay has unique benefits which mean that it is definitely more appropriate in some circumstances and can offer cost and environmental benefits in many others.
"We have also noted the growing interest in, and commitment to, sustainability throughout the construction market. Given that clay drainage is made from a natural material which can be bedded with less, and in some cases no, primary aggregate this issue is becoming a key factor in the increasing strength of clay sales" explains Saeed.
Examples of clay drainage being used on the basis of its sustainability are becoming more and more prevalent. One such example is a National Trust development of 710 houses which is currently under construction. The site is the first large scale development which is being built using sustainable materials and construction practices wherever possible, and aims to minimise waste and energy consumption.
Saeed comments "Clay was selected as the most appropriate drainage product as a natural material with a life expectancy of well over 100 years. Other factors were also considered such as recyclability, and the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes and installation – in all of which clay came out on top."
Clay is not just winning when the environmental factors are important. The inherent rigid strength of the product and its resistance to jetting damage and deformation are also very significant when trying to understand why clay is gaining ground.
States Saeed "Several water companies have recognised the risks involved when installing structured wall plastic pipes. As much of the strength derives from the compacted bedding material, pipes must be installed correctly to ensure the system is not subject to deformation, which can lead to the pipe collapsing over time. Increasingly water companies are putting in place improved testing requirements to ensure that where structured wall products are used, they are installed correctly. In the light of this many contractors have chosen to minimise their risk and have turned back to clay for piece of mind. The renewed interest in clay can also be attributed to the efforts of the clay manufacturers in helping to educate specifiers and contractors in both the long term and installation benefits of the product. Hepworth Drainage restructured its sales force to ensure that specifiers and contractors had access to dedicated teams for technical and product advice to help them reduce risk and value-engineer their sites. Through this initiative, and supporting collateral such as the company's much renowned "complete guide to drainage" and tailored website, Hepworth has built strong relationships with key players in the market.
Says Saeed, "we work in partnership with contractors, specifiers and clients and through this approach we have won many major projects."
Hepworth clay can be found in high profile jobs such as Heathrow Terminal 5, Wembley Stadium, Arsenal’s new football ground and the MOD SLAM project to name just a few. Clay drainage seems to be well and truly back on the map and, as the drive for sustainability continues to grow, the improving trend in sales seems set to continue.
In summary Saeed comments, "we see a bright future for clay, but we cannot become complacent. As a manufacturer, we must continue to deliver quality products and service to our customers and be determined to retain our strong presence and reputation in the market."