At Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, we know that the first item on everybody's Value Engineering (VE) checklist is Cast Iron Soil Pipe (CISP) to PVC for drain, waste and vent applications. We make both plumbing systems, and believe that the right material should be used for every application. But, under financial pressure, things can get tricky in the VE process. That's what happened with one of the largest building projects in recent NCAA history, the Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State University (OSU).
In 2011, two years after it opened, a break in a plastic drain pipe was found. An inspection of the rest of the system revealed fifteen other breaks. The football team was forced to abandon the facility for five months while contractors jackhammered through finished concrete floors to fix the problems.
Litigation was eventually settled in February 2015, for $700,000. The biggest portion of the settlement ($400,000) was paid by the firm that did the architectural, engineering and design work. The water heater manufacturer agreed to pay $125,000 of the settlement. Properly functioning temperature and pressure relief valves, which are standard on all water heaters or boilers, will discharge water up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit — 60 degrees higher than the 140 degree limit on PVC. Sadly, avoidable mistakes like these are more common than they should be.
PVC can be used successfully below ground, but it requires careful installation and soil prep per ASTM D2321. Also, PVC has specific temperature and hanger spacing requirements. In addition, it requires extra care and attention in plenum spaces and in fire wall penetrations.
To make sure that the particulars and intricacies of this choice aren't confusing, we have prepared a downloadable brochure and handy checklist. The brochure covers the benefits of both systems, and the checklist is a simple yes/no form to help you understand the full ramifications of a PVC versus CISP VE decision.
What happened at OSU was an avoidable tragedy. With a proper and thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of PVC and CISP for your plumbing application, you can greatly reduce the chance of anything like this happening to you.
*Please note: Information for this case study was found in published media reports and public records.