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  • Writer's pictureHill and Griffith

Concrete Pipe - Its History and Production

(From the Portland Cement Association's web site.The PCA is a powerful and vocal advocate for sustainability, jobs creation, economic growth, infrastructure investment, and overall innovation and excellence in construction throughout the U.S.)

Concrete pipe has a well established history and reputation for being a long lasting, serviceable material. The Cloacae Maxima, built in about 180 B.C. as part of Rome's main sewer system, was constructed mainly of stone masonry and natural cement concrete. More than 2,000 years later, portions of the concrete sewer are still in use.

Modern day concrete sewer systems emerged during the mid-19th century when the public became conscious of the need for sanitation to control the spread of disease. The earliest recorded use of concrete pipe in the United States is a sewer installation built in 1842 at Mohawk, N.Y. Other New England cities followed suit and installed concrete pipelines in the second half of the nineteenth century. Many of these concrete pipelines are still in use today.

Milestones in development include the production of the first reinforced pipe in 1905, the invention of prestressed pipe in the 1930s, and the manufacture of the first steel-cylinder prestressed pipe in 1942.

Sizes can range from four inches up to 17 feet in diameter. Although pipe can be manufactured in a variety of shapes, there are five standard shapes: circular, horizontal elliptical, vertical elliptical, arch, and rectangular. The pipe shape selected for a project depends on the topography of the site, importance of hydraulic and structural efficiency, erosion and deposition in the stream channel, and cost. Most often, the preferred pipe shape is the one that will alter the natural drainage flow the least.

Five Methods of Producing Pipe Made of Concrete

As with all concrete products, the basic materials are portland cement, aggregate, and water. There are five basic methods of producing pipe. Four methods -- centrifugal/spinning, dry cast, packerhead, and tamp-entail using a dry concrete mix. The fifth method, wet casting, uses a high-slump concrete mix. Wet-cast concrete mix usually has a slump less than four inches and is most frequently used for manufacturing large diameter pipe.

These types of pipe serve as a conduit material for irrigation, water supply lines, sanitary sewers, culverts, and storm drains. Culverts, usually made with arch-shaped concrete, are used to carry water under highways in non-urban areas. Storm drain systems for cities and towns are becoming more important as communities become larger and more densely populated. Recent major floods and the resulting damage only emphasize the need for efficient drainage systems.

Subsurface drainage carries away water below the surface of the pavement. This water reduces flow support capacity of the base and subgrade material causing potential damage to roads, airport runways, and building foundations. Many farm fields depend on proper underground drainage for their cultivation. Thousands of square miles of otherwise arid land rely on concrete irrigation pipe to supply water for farmland. Additionally, most of the large cities in the United States a pipe system made of concrete to transport their water supply.

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