Concrete pipe has an extensive track record of performance. The first recorded concrete pipe sanitary sewer in North America was installed in 1842 in New York. But rigid pipes have been in service worldwide since 4000 BC.
Since 1842, concrete pipe has been a staple of North American construction. Because concrete pipe is such an established product, we can say with confidence that properly designed concrete sewers and culverts will perform for the design life of the project. On the other hand, competing products can only speculate what their longevity might be, due to their short service history.
When compared to other piping materials, concrete has superior impact and fire resistance. Concrete pipe is also not susceptible to long-term creep or UV degradation, problems characteristic of plastic pipes.
In addition to the superior physical properties of the material, concrete pipe is stiffer and has more inherent strength than flexible pipes such as PVC, HDPE and CSP. Due to their reliance on the surrounding soil to carry the majority of the load, flexible pipes are more prone to stresses and failures, during and after installation, and can be adversely affected by excavations close by.
The graph below shows service lives, independently determined by the National Research Council of Canada, for many gravity pipe materials. Concrete pipe has the longest service life. In fact, the Cloaca Maxima (Ancient Rome’s famous sewer system), was created around 600 BC. Parts of this civil engineering wonder are still in use today, over 2600 years later. Not many products can claim to have such a proven track record of durability.