Franke washrooms systems are the experts in commercial washroom and stainless steel healthcare Products, with over 225 years experience in the design, manufacture and supply of stainless steel and composite sanitaryware. This CPD article will give information regarding the suitability of stainless steel for commercial washroom applications and detail the benefits it has over other sanitaryware materials. Information on the sustainability and recyclability of stainless steel with guidance on the selection of grades and product profiles when specifying products for commercial washrooms and healthcare applications. Overview of technologies and products which help reduce the consumption of water and work towards BREEAM and other European standards on water efficiency.
Why Stainless Steel for Commercial Washrooms
There are many qualities stainless steel products can offer that are unique to this material. The majority of stainless steel products are made from material thicknesses between 1.2mm and 2mm, this make for a very durable and robust product with the chances of damage or vandalism is greatly reduced compared to other materials. Although very few fittings are vandal proof, many stainless steel products are designed to be vandal resistant. Products designed for secure or areas prone to vandalism need to incorporate features that shroud the incoming and outgoing pipework, have hidden fixing methods or tamper resistant screws and use the appropriate thickness of material to resist deliberate damage.
Studies have shown that stainless steel retains less bacterial contamination on the surface compared to the other materials, this make stainless steel an ideal material to be used in many Healthcare applications. The combination of chromium and nickel gives stainless steel a higher level of corrosion resistance compared to other metals and the surface of the material have a self-repairing passive oxide layer that prevents corrosion occurring even if the surface is scratched.
The 3 main grades of stainless steel are referred to by EN 10088
Grade 430 = EN Ref 1.4016
Grade 304 = EN Ref 1.4301
Grade 316 = EN Ref 1.4404
430 is the basic grade of stainless steel with a Chromium content of 17%. 430 is magnetic and has the advantage of being a good material to manufacture products from and with a lower cost than other grades but it also has a lower corrosion resistance if in prolonged contact with water.
304 is the most common grade of stainless steel for commercial products. This grade has the addition of Nickel to the basic 430 grade and this gives the material the extra corrosion resistance, 304 is non-magnetic, this grade of material is very versatile from a manufacturing point of view but can still be attacked by strong chemicals or prolonged contact with salt water
316 is the higher grade of stainless steel with added corrosion resistance. This has molybdenum added to the 304 grade structure which gives the material extra corrosion resistance for use in the chemical industry, for example, and makes it suitable for use with salt water in the context of sanitary products.
Environmental and Sustainability
Today environmental issues are an important criteria for material selection, stainless steel objects hardly ever become waste at the end of their useful life, the estimated end of life Recycle ratio is 80 to 90%, steel is the worlds most recycled material and the production and recycling are not separate steps in the life cycle of the material, they are one of the same process. In the UKs manufacturing operations, the recycled content is typically over 90%.
Stainless steel products are designed to have a long life; often spanning over several decades. This long term life generally is the reason for choosing stainless steel in the first place. When stainless steel products reach the end of their useful life this does not mean that the stainless steel is not useful as a recyclable product. The main alloying elements of stainless steel (chromium, nickel and molybdenum) are all highly valuable and can be easily be recovered and separated from other materials.
The most important raw materials used in producing stainless steel are recycled stainless and carbon steels. Together with metals recovered from waste products and by-products of the production process, they enable the recycled content of stainless steel produced to approximately 90%. In addition to recycled steel, alloying elements including iron-containing alloys and other metals such as chromium, nickel and molybdenum are also required.
Stainless steel is fully recyclable and suffers no degradation during reprocessing. Its constituents (including iron, nickel and chromium) can therefore be reused indefinitely in producing new stainless steel. These excellent recycling characteristics mean that stainless steel is well positioned to meet the demands of a future sustainable society.