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Gas supplied in plastic pipes cut off

The gas supply to 25 affordable apartments was switched off last month after it was discovered that the pipes carrying gas to the homes were made from plastic in an apparent breach of the gas safety and Building Regulations.

According to an investigation conducted by Northern Gas Network (NGN), the emergency service provider called in to investigate a gas leak at the Iceworks development in Leeds, the pipes were made from polyethylene tube (32mm MDPE).

NGN said this was in contravention of Building Regulations and the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (Regulation 5(2)), which states that internal gas pipework must be made from metal. The gas was ordered off until the Urban Edge Group, the developer, replaces the pipework.

Darren Smith, Urban Edge commercial director, maintains that the building was constructed in accordance with the regulations. He said the gas installation had been designed and specified by m&e consultants from Studio Nine and the gas works undertaken by a Corgi-registered installer.

H&V News understands that in March 2006 Leeds Local Authority Building Control and Building Life Plans Insurance signed off the development as being “…constructed in accordance with the design and current regulations at the time of the construction”.

“We have investigated with our consultant and subcontractor to determine why the gas pipes were installed in 32mm MDPE,” Mr Smith continued. “It was our consultant’s understanding of the regulations that gas installations deemed to be “external” can be installed using this material.

“The installations at the Iceworks were considered to be external as the risers for the gas pipes are on the external façade of the building with one hour separation between them and the apartments with the risers being vented top and bottom in accordance with the regulations.”

Yorkshire Housing, the apartment owner, said: “We do have a certificate from Leeds LABC stating that the development meets Building Regulations. What you have to realise is that this is not a straightforward case of non-compliance.

“The materials used for the gas-carrying parts were specified by the m&e design team, who believed they were complying with Building Regulations. This was approved early on in the project.

“The design team argues that because the plastic gas carrying pipes were placed in a fireproof duct, they met Building Regulations. The m&e designer still maintains that this is still the case, since the duct will burn for four hours before imploding and the received wisdom is that any fire would be discovered by then.”

Corgi said: “The Gas Safety Regulations prohibit non-metallic pipework from being installed inside buildings, unless within a metallic sheath, constructed to prevent the risk of gas escaping into the building if the pipe should fail – for example, in the event of a fire.”