Sustainability & Vitrified Clay PipeSMaRT Certified


Vitrified Clay Pipe for Asset ManagementThe Member Companies of NCPI are the first infrastructure products to be certified under the third party audited system of MTS .  The Vitrified Clay Pipe manufacturers of NCPI have achieved GOLD certification under the SMaRT (Sustainable Material Rating Technology) system.

Sustainability doesn't hinge on one characteristic or a small part of the products overall life cycle as some seem to think.  Claims of "sustainable manufacturing" only consider a limited window of the product's total environmental impact.  When the full impact of "cradle to grave" effects on the planet are considered, no sewer pipe product can meet the environmental standard set by vitrified clay pipe. 

Greenwashing - A term merging the concepts of "green" (environmentally sound) and "whitewashing" (to conceal or gloss over wrongdoing). Greenwashing is any form of marketing or public relations that links a corporate, political, religious or nonprofit organization to a positive association with environmental issues for an unsustainable product, service, or practice.

- The Dictionary of Sustainable Management  (

There is a lot of greenwashing going on right now.  You can't turn the corner or the page without running into a product that's labeled "Green."  Sustainable design has become the newest buzzword for many Engineers.  But what makes a product Sustainable?  Some competitive pipe manufacturers are making amazing claims about their "green" products.

To which we can only say:  "REALLY?"

Cradle - The Raw Materials

Clay pipe products are made from various types of shale and clay, which are the natural decomposition product of stone.  It is an abundant, naturally occurring group of materials found all over the country. Deep burried sewer pipe installation All we add is a little water.

Manufacture of the Product

Compression and heat are added to the raw materials to convert them into a chemically inert ceramic.  There is zero waste generated in the manufacture of clay pipe and total Embodied Energy has been shown to be roughly half that of the manufacture of other materials.  For more information about energy studies from both the United States and Europe, please contact the National Clay Pipe Institute at or 262-742-2904.

Service Life

Of course, lifecycle and durability are a critically important component of the actual environmental, economic and social impact of any product.  This has always been one of the strongest arguments for specifying clay pipe.  While some manufacturers make wild claims about the theoretically possible lifecycle of their products, only clay pipe has a demonstrated performance history on which it can be judged.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers assumes a one hundred year service life for VCP while the Canadian National Research Council/Institute for Construction Research estimates that service life at 132 years.  We believe these estimates are very conservative.  Terry Martin, Seattle Public Utilities, projected an expected service life of the clay pipe in his system at between 300 and 400 years in a paper presented at the ASCE Pipelines Conference in 2008.

Grave - End of Life Issues

Vitrified Clay Pipe is as close to permanent as any material can be for gravity sewer applications.  Due to its long lifecycle, the fact that it is chemically inert and it does not change over time, there are no long-term disposal or decay concerns.

Other pipe products present varying concerns, the most troubling of which is the disposal issues surrounding thermoplastic pipe.  Today we know that plastic pipe release hazardous chemicals into groundwater when they are buried.  With its relatively short usage history, there is some question about whether we have all the data needed to make informed, environmentally sound decisions about using thermoplastic pipe.

In the end, it's not easy being Sustainable.  While many materials make green claims, Vitrified Clay Pipe is, and always has been, the most environmentally friendly and sustainable product available.