The role of stormwater management in resilient infrastructure projects


Exploring thermoplastic pipes: the intersection of resilience and durability

Climate change, pollution and more frequent storms over 50 and 100 years are wreaking havoc in the United States. Now more than ever, resilient infrastructure is crucial for forward-looking communities. Federal decision-makers generally focus their efforts on visible structures, such as roads and bridges. However, it is the underground infrastructure – what we cannot see and often take for granted – that plays a central role in the day-to-day performance of these visible structures. Stormwater management systems are an integral part of buried infrastructure because they allow visible infrastructure to be resilient. These systems must be a critical topic for states, cities and municipalities seeking more resilient infrastructure.

We don’t need to look any further than the impact of Hurricane Ida on New York City. September 3 New York Times article read, “Indeed, always more powerful tropical storms – including Hurricane Sandy, almost a decade ago – have offered officials repeated warning signs that the city’s aging infrastructure and subways are vulnerable to severe weather conditions caused by climate change. The city experienced record rainfall, eclipsing Ida’s torrential rains when Hurricane Henri hit the east coast.

The current state of significant change represents a chance for evolution towards smarter and more flexible engineering. Now is the time to think differently about the options available for stormwater management, including thermoplastic pipes.

Thermoplastic tubing is designed for the if, ready for the when.

Many infrastructure products tout “resilience”, each with a different definition of the term. What is the real definition, according to the experts?

the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) defines resilience as the

“The ability to mitigate risks and all significant risks and to quickly recover and restore essential services with minimal damage to public safety and health, the economy and national security”.

the Transportation Research CouncilThe sub-committee of resilient and sustainable underground structures of the TRB AFF70 (2) defines resilience as the

“The ability to prepare and plan, absorb, adapt, recover or adapt more successfully to actual or potential adverse events depending on the importance of the site. Relevant considerations for buried structures include the ability to persevere in the face of unexpected events such as earthquakes, extreme weather conditions, vehicle overloading, higher foundation settlement, and non-critical failing features such as surface drainage. .

Simply put, resilience is the ability to anticipate, endure, and recover quickly from a disruptive event. True resilience is more than endurance and rigidity. Truly resilient materials outwit both catastrophic events and daily stressors that impact stormwater management infrastructure.

Infrastructure must be designed for the catastrophic “if”

In 2020, there were 22 catastrophic weather and climate events with losses exceeding $ 1 billion in the United States alone. The search for the National Meteorological Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that such catastrophic events, such as earthquakes, floods and forest fires, will only increase in frequency. Back in New York, a May 2021 Report mayor’s office predicted that the city would “experience an increase in ‘extreme precipitation events’ during this century, including a possible 25% increase in annual precipitation and a substantial increase in the number of days with more than one inch of rain. “

Stormwater management systems of the future must be resilient enough to survive and, in the event of catastrophic failure, recover quickly, and the solution may not be what has been used (and failed) before.

Corrugated Plastic Drainage Pipe provides a proven solution for stormwater management that sits squarely at the intersection of resilience and durability.

Consider geographic areas where there is recurring land movement or conditions that increase the likelihood of soil displacement. Flexible systems are less likely than rigid structures to sustain damage during seismic activity, earthquake, or any type of earth movement. The flexibility of the plastic pipe allows it to move with the earth without breaking. And no pipe of any material can prevent degradation at wildfire temperatures – often around 800 ° C. Even if the pipe appears unharmed, trained professionals should assess the actual damage to the drainage systems. The appearance of stability is not true resilience.

Earthquakes, forest fires and floods have a huge impact on infrastructure, often depriving the community of its quality of life. Communities must recover quickly from these events to restore vital services, including adequate drainage. High-density polyethylene and polypropylene (or thermoplastic) pipes help communities meet this challenge. Thermoplastic pipes require 66% less truck loads, which means less congestion on the job site and lower greenhouse gas emissions. This coupled with the lighter weight, leads to less risk of injury during installation. Plastic pipes can help bring a community back to “normal” three times faster.

The Resilience of Heaven, California

The 2018 “campfire” was the deadliest wildfire in California history. The city of Paradise lost 81 citizens and 95% of its structures and suffered damage of over $ 10 billion. The fire literally brought the city back to square one.

Engineers who helped rebuild Paradise recognized the opportunity to mitigate future risks and ensure excellent drainage infrastructure performance, as well as get the city back on its feet faster. Paradise’s stormwater management system has been rebuilt with thermoplastic pipes with engineers relying on its resilient performance.

The infrastructure must be ready for day-to-day when

Extreme events make the news far more often than the average pothole. But emergency repairs caused by everyday problems like potholes, caused by leaky joints, are more common than their catastrophic counterparts and can wear down a community’s infrastructure faster. Tight joints in the storm water system eliminate the root cause of these daily problems and mitigate the risk of emergency repairs.

Uninformed thought might believe that concrete has a much lower environmental impact than plastic. But the data does not confirm this. Due to its lower mass, plastic pipe has 59% less greenhouse gas emissions per unit length. The carbon footprint of plastic pipes is further reduced by converting half a billion pounds of recycled plastic each year into new plastic pipes, which are fully recyclable at the end of their 100-year lifespan.

Resilience of champions

Choosing reliability shouldn’t be all about familiarity. Thermoplastic pipes work when it matters most: The reliable performance of plastic withstands both daily stressors and increasingly frequent events over 100 years with minimal maintenance. Thermoplastic pipes help communities recover quickly from catastrophic events. Infrastructure engineering must evolve from the rigidity of old-fashioned thinking to smarter and more flexible engineering and the real resilience of new approaches.


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