FACTA Case Study
Fabricated access covers, or manhole covers as they are commonly referred to, are so inconspicuous to go completely unnoticed to all but building contractors, civil engineers or other specialists. However, just like many other unobtrusive items surrounding us daily, these products perform a vital function.
Considering that virtually every product currently in use in the construction industry is subject to rigorous tests and has to comply with national and international standards, it may seem surprising that fabricated access covers below 1sq m escape specific regulations. True to form, an access cover's individual component (for example its metal frame) has to comply with precise standards, but not the assembled product itself.
However, in 1994 an association was formed 'to foster and partake in research and technical development of fabricated access covers, promote and maintain a high quality and performance within fabricated access covers and co-operate with other organisations in fostering wider & correct use of fabricated covers'. These are only some of the key objectives of FACTA, the Fabricated Access Covers Trade Association; a remarkable achievement nonetheless for an association with just over a dozen members (though some of them are well known international companies such as ACO Building Drainage).
FACTA has indeed been exemplary in providing a uniform standard of grading access covers in accordance with the loading requirements of a specific location. For example, a class FACTA D access cover has to withstand a loading of 11 Tonnes per wheel (GLW - gross laden vehicle weight with slow moving vehicle and recommended for heavy duty industrial areas), as opposed to a class FACTA AA, which could only bear a 1.5 Tonnes per wheel load and is therefore more suitable for private car transit areas and driveways.
The list of specifications produced by FACTA is laudably comprehensive and with such rigorous technical requirements it's no surprise that only the best engineered fabricated access covers can pass muster and be graded accordingly.
One such product is ACO's Alucover. This recessed aluminium cover provides a high quality and lightweight solution, with an integrated grit seal and 4-point corner locking. Its precision manufacture ensures minimal gap between frame and cover, making it the ideal choice for environments such as retail areas, or public transport terminals. As expected from a FACTA member, all Alucovers are graded by load class, ranging from FACTA AAA (up to 10 Tonnes GLW) to FACTA B, up to 44 Tonnes.
Fabweld Steel Products, a company with over 20 years' experience in the design and manufacture of access covers and related drainage products, distributes the Alucover system in the UK. This fiercely independent and innovative company offers specialist advice, design and installation to local governments, architects and consultants. With its own CAD department, Fabweld can offer customers load simulation without expensive test samples. The company has also enjoyed a long standing partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, participating in a Knowledge Transfer scheme that has created tremendous synergy in the area of product innovation.
Some of Fabweld's most recent installations include the Welsh Assembly offices, Manchester Metro and Caerphilly County Council. Richard Hilton, Managing Direction of Fabweld explains, "Aesthetically pleasing and robust access covers are a must in many commercial applications. Unlike the competition, the Alucover product is readily available as a stock item, so no long lead times. Outstanding value for money and ease of application, together with a fabrication which is designed to integrate seamlessly with the flooring surface in question, make Alucover a leader in this field." He adds, "The combination of Fabweld's know-how, backed by ACO's excellent manufacture and FACTA's endorsement makes Alucover the number 1 product in its range, not just in the UK but across the whole of Europe too."