How to prepare for drainage construction

Drainage construction has traditionally been quite disruptive. In the past, to install new sewers and water mains, you had to excavate the entire length of the pipeline, lay the pipework itself, and fill in the trench.

While this is still sometimes necessary, in most cases trenchless drainage construction is now a valid alternative, with a lot less disruption to the land, and often a lot less expense as a result.

 

What is trenchless drain construction?

As the name suggests, trenchless drain construction allows new drains and other pipelines to be installed without the need to dig an open trench.

Instead of excavating the route of the pipeline from surface level above, directional drilling equipment is used that can steer along the route underground, drilling horizontally from point A to point B, without breaking the surface at any other point.

This even enables pipes to be laid beneath roads or under riverbeds, where it would previously have been very difficult, if not impossible to gain suitable access to excavate using open-cut methods.

 

How to prepare for trenchless drainage construction

Because of the minimal disruption caused by trenchless construction, there’s also relatively little preparatory work required, and we can help you to understand what needs doing on your site.

For example, if you have records of existing pipework along the planned route, or you know other utilities are present, this is useful to know – but again, we can survey for all these things too.

 

Types of trenchless technology

It’s important to know what you want to achieve. Do you want a stronger pipe, a wider or narrower diameter, or are you installing a completely new drain by drilling through solid earth?

Depending on the intended outcome, it may be necessary to use different technology:

  • Cured-in-place pipe for minor repairs
  • Pipe bursting to increase diameter
  • Directional drilling for brand new pipelines

We may recommend open-cut drainage installation in some locations too, especially if there will be a gutter or grating installed directly over the pipe at surface level.

 

Find out more

If you would like to know more about trenchless technology or conventional open-cut drainage installation, please contact us today on 0151 2360707 and we’ll be happy to help with any enquiries.

We can guide you through the complete process from start to finish, so if you’re really not sure what you need, you can put your faith in us to recommend the best solution – either open-cut or trenchless – based on a survey of your specific premises.

The importance of soil compaction testing

Soil compaction testing is a way to measure how much a quantity of soil can be compressed into a smaller space.

Compaction is a natural process in which the solid part of soil settles into the air spaces in between, but it depends on several factors, such as the forces exerted on the soil.

Over time, soil compaction leads to a denser material – you can see this easily when you water a freshly potted plant and the soil level in the pot drops significantly.

Because of the changes in volume, strength and permeability, soil compaction testing is an important process that should not be neglected during any engineering or construction work.

 

What are the risks of soil compaction?

Loose soil can compact significantly, especially when placed under substantial pressure from above, or after becoming waterlogged and then drying out.

This can cause the level of the land to drop, leading to subsidence and other issues. This is not only a risk to buildings, but can also lead to other surfaces becoming uneven, such as driveways, pavements and car parks.

In the immediate term, there is also a risk to vehicles and machinery attempting to move over loose soil during construction work, and potentially sinking into the ground as it compacts.

 

What are the benefits of soil compaction?

Compacted soil is more solid and less porous. This can have benefits in many applications, making a firmer surface to build on and reducing the risk of subsidence in the future.

For large engineering works, compacted soil allows firm foundations, especially on very large structures like dams, bridges and man-made embankments.

However, very compacted soil can have implications for drainage as it is less porous, as well as aesthetic landscaping like lawns, flowerbeds and shrubberies, as plants may find it more difficult to put down roots.

 

How to test soil compaction

There is complex science behind soil compaction, as there’s a ‘goldilocks’ level of water content that maximises the compressibility of the earth – enough to lubricate the dry particles, but not enough to resist them packing together.

Soil compaction testing typically involves taking a sample of earth and adding water to it, then measuring the weight of soil that can be compacted into a fixed volume at that level of moisture content.

The process is repeated several times with different amounts of water, and the results plotted to find the optimum moisture level for the soil.

If you would like to know more or you have a site where you need soil compaction testing to be carried out, contact hebs Group today on 0151 2360707 and we will be happy to help.

Engineering and construction trends in the hospitality industry 2021

The past year has been challenging for many sectors, but hospitality was especially hard hit by COVID-19 and as we move towards the main summer months of 2021, many venues are only just starting to open back up with limited capacity.

Engineering and construction have also had to adapt to new methods of working, with a focus on reducing the number of employees in close proximity and avoiding enclosed areas as much as possible throughout the pandemic.

However, there are signs of optimism with vaccinations rolling out and infection rates falling. As the UK moves towards herd immunity, the economy is already showing signs of bouncing back strong, with high demand for hospitality venues that are able to operate.

 

Domestic demand

We’re looking at another summer of staycations, this time due to travel restrictions rather than economic issues – and that means there is potentially more money to be made than during previous staycation seasons.

Hoteliers should look to create self-contained units wherever possible, with holidaymakers able to stay within their bubble, rather than needing to access shared bathrooms, toilets and other facilities.

Ventilation is also important as we look to live with the novel Coronavirus long-term, so HVAC systems should be inspected, improved and updated where necessary to keep clean air circulating.

 

International tourism

The medium-term future of international tourism into the UK is unclear, as countries have yet to decide on their respective COVID passport rules, and free movement of tourists is far from assured during the coming years.

As international travel resumes, hospitality operators ranging from hoteliers to restaurateurs can target the upper end of the market with well-appointed premises that offer a taste of luxury that many travellers will be craving after 12 months spent at home.

It may also be wise for hotels and guest houses located near airports to ready themselves for any tourists who need somewhere to quarantine – including those who have to extend their stay at short notice.

 

Casual hospitality

The casual hospitality sector, including pubs and restaurants, is starting to see brighter times ahead, with outdoor service already open to the public once again.

Early indications are that demand will be high from consumers who have spent a year sat at home – and who already associate emergence from lockdown with 2020’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Although indoor service will soon also be possible, many customers may continue to prefer the natural ventilation of an outdoor table, so venues should continue to invest in outdoor heating as well as indoor HVAC systems, to optimise both areas for COVID-secure service.

Whatever type of hospitality establishment you operate, hebs Group are here to help with the recovery – please get in touch without delay if you’d like to make an enquiry by calling 0151 2360707.

Commercial property maintenance checklist

Commercial property maintenance is an ongoing task – you never know when you’ll discover a blocked drain or burst pipe. But with a sensible schedule and pre-emptive action, you can avoid expensive downtime and keep the costs of repair work to a minimum.

In order to do this, it’s good practice to have a commercial property maintenance checklist in place. That can include a list of the various parts of your premises that you need to inspect, as well as how often to inspect them.

Some elements need more frequent inspection than others, and you should also be prepared for extra ad hoc inspections after adverse weather, or if you notice signs of damage such as a leak or missing roof tiles.

 

What goes on a commercial property maintenance checklist?

A commercial property maintenance checklist can be divided into several sections, to group together common issues and elements that can be inspected at the same time.

Some examples of groups you might want to include on your checklist are:

  • Building Fabric
  • Drainage and Pipework
  • HVAC Equipment
  • Roofing (inc. Guttering)
  • Utilities (Gas/Electric/Water)

There’s some crossover here – a blocked gutter can be classed as a roofing issue and a drainage issue – so place each issue where it makes the most sense for your own needs.

 

How often to check commercial premises

Some commercial premises maintenance can be continuous – for example, you might make it part of your daily routine to look up at the roof for signs of damage, or to make sure your drains are free-flowing.

As mentioned above, you should also be ready to check for damage following extreme weather, especially in winter when it’s likely there will be heavy rain and sub-zero temperatures (although damage should be repaired as soon as possible at any time of year).

For planned maintenance, decide whether to inspect fixtures and fittings monthly, quarterly or annually. There’s no fixed rules on this – you can inspect some elements more often than others, and more frequently in winter, if you want.

 

Call in the experts

If you’ve found damage that needs to be repaired, or you’d like to leave the inspection itself to the experts, call hebs Group on 0151 2360707 and we can arrange a visit by our engineers.

We are happy to arrange scheduled inspections and maintenance for all your building fabric, HVAC, utilities and drainage, plus any other fixtures and fittings you’d like to include.

hebs Flowtech cupboard repair and maintenance in Ashton

Reports of cutbacks are not usually welcome, but at Ashton-under-Lyne Ambulance Station a set of cupboards were no longer needed – and hebs Flowtech helped to make history of them with our cupboard repair and maintenance services.

Our team attended to dismantle the parts of the cupboards that were no longer needed, freeing up useful floor space and providing much easier access to the ambulance station’s windows.

We left one cupboard where it was, and cut back the worktop over it to match. This means the staff at the station still have some storage space, but aren’t missing out on a major amount of floor space too.

The training room is now much more open, which will help immediately with social distancing during the remainder of the Coronavirus pandemic, as well as making the room more usable for the long term too.

 

What we did

You might associate Flowtech with drainpipes and gutters, especially if you’ve read most of our past case studies and seen the work we do.

But the Flowtech team can do much more than just clear blocked drains. To complete work on this job, we:

  • Dismantled and removed cupboards that were no longer needed
  • Cut back the excess worktop to fit the remaining cupboard
  • Added safety trim to the remaining worktop edge
  • Hoovered and cleaned exposed PVC

  

We’re proud to support our customers by providing a highly responsive service to carry out all kinds of maintenance and repair work, including these kinds of alterations.

Your premises should give you what you need from them – and if your needs have changed, your premises should change too.

If you’re stuck working around old built-in cupboards that you no longer need, call Flowtech on 0151 2360707 and we’re bound to be able to help get things up to date for you.

 

How we work

Flowtech’s commitment is to you, our customer. We will work with minimum disruption to your day, especially if you need us to carry out the work while you are open for business.

We work with ambulance stations and other emergency services facilities across the north-west, and we understand the unique pressures you face, and the need for 24/7 operations.

By avoiding any interruption to your services, we ensure you can continue to fulfil your duties to local residents.

We’ll even clean up after ourselves so that when we leave, you can go back to using your space for meetings, training or general office work, without delay.

What to know about foul and surface water drainage systems

Where does water go when it leaves your premises? You might think it all ends up in the sewer, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s important to understand the difference between foul water and surface water, and the drainage systems that carry both.

Let’s start with two simple definitions:

  • Foul water is wastewater from kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms. It may be contaminated by human waste, soap, laundry detergent and other materials.
  • Surface water is rain that falls on your premises and drains away, including run-off from flat surfaces like car parks, paths and driveways, as well as water collected by gutters and drainpipes.

Surface water is usually relatively clean, and there’s no reason why it can’t be released into a nearby stream or river to reduce pressure on the sewer system.

The difference between foul and surface water is quite obvious – and there should be big differences in the way foul and surface water drainage systems deal with them too.

 

What’s the difference between foul and surface water drainage systems?

We’ve already mentioned that surface water is safe to release into a local waterway, whereas foul water should only be released into the sewers, where it can be transported to a nearby sewage treatment facility.

The two types of water should be kept completely separate at all times, so the difference between foul and surface water drainage systems is that they are essentially two completely separate pipelines from your premises to the appropriate destination.

Foul water is also generated in specific places: a kitchen, a bathroom or a utility room in most cases. You know where it is coming from and can run a pipeline accordingly.

Surface water is a little more complex. It falls uniformly across your premises, including your rooftops, hard standings and grassy areas.

While some can be left to soak away naturally, surface water drainage systems include ways to collect the water into one place, such as gutters, drainpipes and floor-level gulleys.

 

Call in the experts

If you need work carrying out on your foul and surface water drainage systems, it’s best left to the experts, to make sure your foul water drainage does not contaminate your surface water run-off.

Call hebs Flowtech on 0151 2360707 for all drainage services. We can fix blocked drains and broken pipes, as well as many more tasks, and we’ll clean up after ourselves when we’re done. Whatever you’re facing, we’re here to help.

BT ISDN Switch Off: The evolution of telecommunication

The great BT ISDN Switch Off is gathering pace as we move towards the end of analogue telecommunications in the UK in 2025.

By that time, all telephone lines supplied by BT, as well as many other UK telecoms providers, will be all-IP and serviced via a broadband connection, rather than the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

The move is part of an industry-wide effort to transition all UK telecommunications equipment to digital lines, and a reflection of the changing way in which business and consumers already make calls.

“VoIP, Skype, WhatsApp and more lately the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams are being increasingly used to communicate,” BT said in July 2020.

“These new apps offer converged telephony, better quality, HD voice and many other additional features. And as we look ahead to the Internet of Things, this will help bring a seamless integration between devices and networks.”

 

What does this mean for customers?

The aim is to minimise any negative impact on customers, although as analogue lines are switched off, domestic users will need to connect their telephone via their modem instead of directly to the telephone socket on their wall.

For business users, there are more implications. The PSTN switch-off includes ISDN lines, which provide combined voice and high-speed internet services, and were installed in many business premises and homes before ADSL became available.

After 2025, businesses will need to move to an alternative technology. Some ‘Special Services‘ equipment that requires a telephone line may also stop working, including:

  • Fire alarms
  • Security alarms
  • Personal alarms (e.g. fall detectors for the elderly)

While some equipment may be compatible with all-IP connections after an upgrade (or simply by connecting it via a modem instead of directly to the wall), older devices may need to be replaced.

 

How to get ready for ISDN switch-off day

If you have any concerns about your telephony equipment or ISDN lines, contact hebs Group today on 0151 2360707 and our telecoms team can help you decide what you need to do about it.

We can install IP telephone lines where required and make sure your broadband connection is sufficient to carry your data and voice traffic without any problems.

Business users are more likely to have unique needs and you may have relatively old infrastructure in place that has not needed updating until now.

We can get everything up to date for you, so there is no risk of business interruption when Openreach flick the ‘off’ switch in the coming years.

 

How can civil engineers adapt to climate change in 2021?

Climate change is a challenge across all sectors, and civil engineering is no exception. At the same time, we are in an exciting period for civil engineers, who play a critical role in responding to those same challenges.

The Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE) has made 2021 its year to focus on “the latest thinking, developments and big questions around climate change and its impact on the built environment”.

It adds: “We already have the questions. We just need the answers.”

The agenda for 2021 covers four main areas:

  • De-carbonising the economy
  • Providing water security even as the population increases
  • Making the economy, society and environment genuinely sustainable
  • Using technology to do more with existing assets, especially in cities

Better drainage systems for flood water are also a significant priority, as the ICE says “it’s time to think, not sink”.

 

Treating climate change as a business risk

Civil engineers are in a unique position to help in the battle against climate change. But until the war is won, climate change poses a business risk to civil engineers, just as it does to businesses in other industries.

The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommends that businesses should consider the financial impact of climate change, including a scenario where global temperatures rise by 2C or less.

Other reporting requirements are already in place for environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, and civil engineers should of course comply with any mandatory reporting.

 

What can civil engineers do in 2021?

Cutting carbon emissions is a good start, but as far back as 2017, the ICE warned that civil engineers must be prepared to do more.

Geoff Darch, editor of a themed issue of the institution’s Engineering Sustainability journal, called on civil engineers to innovate and put in place flexible systems that can continue to adapt in the future.

He again warned of the risks from excess water during severe storms, and the need for sustainable drainage systems in urban areas.

While extreme storms may be relatively rare, they are likely to become more common as the warming atmosphere contains more energy – so civil engineers should make it a priority to prepare for this without delay.

The global shutdown of 2020 put a halt to a lot of non-essential engineering work. Now it’s time to reboot the system, and there’s no better moment to adapt and adopt truly sustainable working practices, not only in civil engineering but across the economy as a whole.

Get in touch with hebs on 0151 2360707 for more information about al of our services and civil engineering capabilities.

Factors that affect indoor air quality

Indoor air quality has always been a concern in healthcare settings and controlled industrial environments (e.g. ‘clean rooms’) but the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the threat of indoor air contaminants.

That can include viruses and bacteria, but also other irritants like dust and pet hair, and potentially harmful gases like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone.

But what are the main factors that affect indoor air quality? There are three main groups of risks – and not all of them derive from inside the building.

In this article we’ll take a look at the three major factors that affect indoor air quality, and break them down into some specific sources of contaminants.

 

Indoor

Indoor activities can have a direct impact on the quality of the air in the room, and this is especially true in sealed environments, such as interior rooms with no windows or artificial ventilation.

Some examples of indoor sources of air contamination include:

  • Human activity (personal hygiene, smoking)
  • Maintenance work (new carpet/furniture, pest control and redecoration)
  • Cleaning (surface sprays, agitated dust, artificial odours)
  • Equipment (e.g. toner particles from printers and photocopiers)
  • Leaks and spills of liquids
  • Number of people in the room (especially if very high)
  • Temperature/humidity – see HVAC Systems below

Behavioural change and best practice can mitigate some risks, but in any indoor environment you should monitor air quality for any dangerous deviations, even where HVAC systems are used to improve ventilation.

 

Outdoor

It’s quite possible for activities outside the premises to have an impact on indoor air quality, especially around main entrances and open windows. This is one reason why designated smoking areas are not immediately adjacent to entrances and exits.

Other risks in this category include:

  • Airborne contaminations (pollen, vehicle exhaust particles, other air pollutants)
  • Nearby emissions (delivery/loading bays, waste disposal activities)
  • Building exhaust emissions that re-enter the premises
  • Mould and mildew from stagnant water (Legionella risk)
  • Soil gas (e.g. from pesticides or underground storage tanks)

Always monitor air quality around entries and any large windows that are routinely opened, to highlight risks arising due to nearby outdoor activity, especially persistent activity that creates an ongoing threat.

 

HVAC Systems

Finally, HVAC systems are intended to improve the comfort and safety of occupants, but when poorly maintained they can lead to a variety of indoor air pollution risks:

  • Poor distribution of fresh air around building
  • Transported dust from inside ventilation ducts
  • Poorly maintained filters in need of cleaning or replacing
  • Biological risks from poorly cleaned ducts and humidifiers

Again this last risk raises the chance of a Legionella outbreak, in the presence of stagnant water and moist dirty surfaces, and HVAC systems should not be overlooked in the pursuit of clean, dry indoor air.

 

Find out more about how you can improve the indoor air quality of your property with a HVAC system by giving The hebs team a call on 0151 2360707.

Maintain your drains for Spring

As we move towards the Spring months, it’s one of the most important times of the year to maintain your drains.

The Winter brings some of the worst weather conditions overall, but Spring can bring a sudden spike in rainfall, as the warmer air can hold more moisture.

Because of this, February is usually quite dry in colder years, while March often stands out as unusually wet compared to the surrounding months.

This is compounded by delays to building maintenance in the inclement Winter months – so if you’ve been thinking “I’ll wait until the weather improves” now is the time to get any blocked or slow-flowing drains cleared out.

 

What are the risks for blocked drains in Spring?

Springtime poses several different risks for blocked drains, including the heavier rainfall totals mentioned above, and delayed maintenance to unblock drains in Winter.

Some other threats to look out for include:

  • Any remaining blockages due to fallen leaves in the previous Autumn
  • Sludgy deposits left behind by Winter grit/salt or thawing snow/slush
  • Larger detritus dropped into drains and gutters on windy Winter days

You may simply not have noticed your drains are clogged, due to staying indoors in bad weather, or poor visibility on dark and foggy days.

With more hours of daylight to use in the Spring months, take the opportunity to give your drains a good inspection – or call out the hebs Flowtech team on 0151 2360707 to take care of it for you.

 

What if my drains are blocked?

A blocked drain can be a big problem in terms of flooding and damp masonry, but it’s a relatively easy issue to fix.

The hebs Flowtech team use cutting-edge technology to reach the drain or gutter, whether it’s at roof level or below ground, and remove any solid debris that’s blocking it.

Usually there will be some sludge clogging the pipe or gutter too, and we use high-powered jets to blast this away without damaging the drain itself.

We pride ourselves on a job well done, which is why in our case studies you’ll see all kinds of gleaming grates, grids and gutters, drains and downpipes, which we always aim to leave looking as good as new.

 

Don’t delay drain maintenance

Nobody knows when the next downpour is coming, so if you think you have a drainage problem, don’t delay in calling us out to take a look.

It’s likely to take just a few hours of drain maintenance to get things flowing freely again – compared with a potentially costly repair to masonry due to damp problems caused by overflowing rainwater.