There are few things we’ve come to expect from the streets of our everyday lives.
Sidewalks and asphalt are the initial no-brainers, as is lighting and the occasional safety sign. But another aspect of common streets, drainage pipes, is something that’s just as vital yet can often be overlooked. That’s understandable: drainage pipes fall under the “out of sight, out of mind” category until flooding occurs and its need goes before all others.
Still, that’s exactly why pipes are so impressive. When done right, pipes make our lives run smoothly — it’s only when disaster strikes that we realize how much we depend on them. Advanced Drainage Systems has recognized this need for more than 40 years, and its products have supported almost every corner of our infrastructure. From buildings to agriculture, ADS has distinguished itself as a worldwide leader in the construction and installation of reliable piping. Currently, it’s responsible for more than six billion feet of pipe across the world.
Through the decades, ADS has made advancements to pipes that have made them stronger, larger, and more sustainable. And as the country’s infrastructure faces universal calls for repair, ADS has long been fighting for improvements. In other words, it is committed to doing what we have come to expect from drainage pipes now and in the future: to eventually be so universally effective that we rely on them without giving it much thought at all.
Wash it down
Every four years, 28 civil engineers from across America come together to file the seminal but colloquial-sounding “Infrastructure Report Card.” In it, the engineers comprehensively detail the current status of the country’s 16 major infrastructure systems: from the condition of dams to the funding of bridges, to the resilience of roads, and so on. Each category and its corresponding conditions are graded on a school-like scale of A through F.
So, what did America’s infrastructure score overall? A disappointing D+, which was explained by adjectives like “deterioration,” “end of service life,” and “strong risk of failure.” And since many of the systems being judged in this report card are intertwined with pipes — like roads, waste, and drinking water — then that’s reason for alarm. So here’s another question: why aren’t we more worried?
This goes back to our “out of sight, out of mind” habit of thinking about pipes. A 2016 report in the Harvard Political Review about the country’s eyebrow-raising infrastructure points to this problem first, stating that it’s easy to take smooth operations for granted until things go wrong. The report mainly discusses water drains, and how resulting issues of busted or leaking pipes can lead to waste, contamination, and many funds spent on repairs. “The decay is single-handedly attributable to decades — even centuries — of inadequate and largely mismanaged infrastructure investments,” writer Nick Danby says.
Forty years ago, long before the infrastructure report card appeared in 1988, ADS was already thinking beyond America’s historical pipes. The company introduced corrugated high-density polyethylene pipe (HDPE) in 1966, a plastic formation with a smooth interior, and it proved to be a more durable alternative to the previous choices of steel and concrete. ADS had a pipe that could withstand the weight of being placed underground for a longer period of time, even though it was lighter than the alternatives. It also did a better job of fighting against corrosion and took up less space. Basically, it was a winner. And soon, entire industries got the word: agriculture, construction, mining, forestry, and recreational companies throughout the country started using ADS products.
Such innovation did not stop there, and in fact, the company experienced double-digit growth in the last two decades of the 20th century. In the 1980s, ADS unveiled plastic pipes with larger diameters, smoother interiors, and grain aeration capabilities. This had sweeping positive effects on the storm, sewage, storage, and agricultural needs by allowing for a higher capacity and a better flow of items through its systems. In the following years, advancements in engineering have only increased the company’s innovations. Polymers have made it so ADS can produce pipes ranging from three to 60 inches in diameter, alongside specific fittings, so that the aforementioned variety of industries it continues to serve can always find the products they need.
These days, customers and companies all know the attributes of plastics, but ADS applied those strengths to piping long before they were seen as standards. Because of that foresight, it is now the largest and most experienced manufacturer of corrugated polyethylene pipes worldwide.
Here’s our final question: where does ADS go from here? It has dozens of distribution centers and manufacturing plants across the country, and a headquarters in Ohio. Given America’s infrastructure report card grade, it has every intention to continue its mission stateside. But ADS isn’t only thinking about the pipes in its backyard, as important as they may be. It’s also thinking about its global impact, too.
Go through the system
When it comes to phrases like “environmentally friendly” and “carbon footprint” it seems like those terms have only entered our lexicon in the last several years. But regardless of how you want to refer to it, ADS has been looking out for Mother Nature long before it was a widespread concern. The engineered plastic pipes the company promoted in the 1960s are now even easier products to produce, making them strong replacements for yesteryear’s crumbling infrastructure.
The U.S. Green Building Council grants new buildings with an L.E.E.D. certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) when they meet explicit standards of sustainability. Such conditions include environmental site development, energy and water efficiency, and sustainable materials, in which ADS products are uniquely able to achieve. The company is currently working across multiple commercial and private projects — from existing and new-build buildings to suburban neighborhoods — to supply its cost-effective, environmental, and durable piping throughout the country. Sure, the infrastructure report card won’t be improved by one company alone, but since ADS works across numerous industries, this work will have a lasting impact.
Furthermore, corrugated polyethylene pipes have been more durable and cheaper to install than steel and metal for decades, and yet the shift hadn’t become universal until recently. ADS has created distribution alliances that have allowed for its innovations to be transported throughout the world, touching almost every country on the planet. The alliances bring these pipes to areas where agriculture is a vital part of everyday life, as well as where construction booms need to be built with reliable materials.
It’s difficult to stress the importance of pipes when they work best behind the scenes. Thankfully, ADS has ensured our peace of mind over the years with innovative products that have everyone’s best interest at their core. As the country continues to have a conversation about our crumbling infrastructure, ADS will be a resounding leader in asking the right questions and working toward worthwhile answers. Because even if piping works best under the radar, its future success is something that deserves our full attention.
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