Pipe dreams: The art of effective drainage design

Let’s be honest, if you asked any distributor or chef involved in the development of a new kitchen to pick out their favourite feature, the construction of the drainage system probably wouldn’t rank very highly on the list.

Unfortunately that’s just the way it is.

But if you’re a company like ACO Building Drainage then the basis of a safe and hygienic kitchen is all about getting the floor drainage right from the start. As a producer of everything from gullies and tray channels to grease separators and lifting stations, the Bedfordshire-based manufacturer knows what it is talking about when it comes to drainage.

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Last month, ACO held its first ever full-day conference on the subject, running with the theme that ‘there is more to drainage than meets the eye’.

The event attracted more than 80 delegates from the world of foodservice and environmental health, with a number of pre-eminent speakers taking to the stage to elaborate on matters concerning drainage, food safety, resin floors and foodservice design, all of which remain pertinent to operators of commercial kitchens and food processing facilities.

Those sharing their expertise in hygienic drainage design and fats, oils and grease (FOG) included ACO’s research director Martin Fairley, Campden BRI’s Dr John Holah, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s Geoff Ward and FCSI consultant Duncan Hepburn.

For ACO’s managing director, Andy Buchan, who has spent 20 years in and around the drainage industry, the ongoing challenge is to raise the profile of drainage and get people thinking about the issue more urgently when projects are in their infancy.

“At the end of the day, drainage is a critical component and that is the emphasis that we want to give,” he said. “We are trying to get people to learn, to recognise and to deal with it at the right moment in their projects, not leave it to the last moment or forget about it altogether and just assume that someone else will deal with it.

“There are a lot of people designing kitchens who say, ‘yeah, but we don’t deal with the drainage’, and there are a lot of M&E structural engineers who say, ‘yeah, we just put in what we are told to put in, we don’t really think about the drainage.’ It is this bit in the middle that we are trying to get people to rethink and re-look at.”

As far as ACO is concerned, successful drainage design is a key element of ensuring a hygienic and safe environment in commercial kitchens. After all, commercial kitchens are hazardous environments at the best of times, so when you start introducing wet floors, greasy surfaces and an abundance of cooking and cleaning fluids to the equation you need to be able to deal with those properly.

Taken together, all these factors affect both the food hygiene and health and safety aspects of a commercial kitchen.
As ACO is never tired of stressing, efficient drainage is a fundamental requirement — operationally it helps to prevent accidents and hygienically it is embodied in European Law-EC 852.

“From an ACO point of view we are in the process of listening and learning,” insisted Buchan. “We want to help our clients protect their employees, and certainly we can help with health and safety. We want to help them protect their food and their brand so that they can remain in business. And whilst we might only be a small element of it, we are actually quite an important element.”

While you wouldn’t necessarily expect a company selling drainage solutions to say anything less, that statement certainly harbours plenty of truth when you consider that drainage systems aren’t just there as a means to pour liquids away or clear excess water from the kitchen floor.

Where cold rooms are used, local drainage is required for evaporator condensers to be discharged, while centrally-located box channels will need to be sited in areas where food preparation takes place. Warewashing operations involve the removal of residual food as well as racking, pre-soaking, rinsing and washing stages and, of course, sufficient drainage is always needed in the main production area to remove water being used in or discharged from bratt pans, boiling pans and combination ovens.

With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why ACO is eager to get catering equipment suppliers, designers and installers treating the issue of commercial drainage as more than just an after-thought.

The drain game

The design of the drainage infrastructure for a commercial kitchen will largely depend on the size of the facility and the equipment used, but ACO says that a well-constructed system within a catering production area will normally need to exhibit all of the following:

– Volume capacity sized to cope with appliance discharge
– Debris filter at outlet
– Easily removable non-slip gratings
– Easily removable foul air trap

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