Portugal – Land of Wine, Cod Fish and Trench Drain

I have had a visit to Portugal on my “bucket list” for some time now.  Previously, I had visited Spain. On those occasions, I left feeling a sense of wonder.  The rich history, dusty castles, classic art and fine foods all left me with a greater appreciation of the Old World and helped me mature in my outlook on life.  So, when I was asked to consider working on a large trench drain job on top of the Four Seasons Hotel in Lisbon, I jumped at the chance to go.


Lisbon – The City Built on Seven Hills

Portugal, along with Spain, helps to make up the Iberian Peninsula.  The country has miles of coast line.  Codfish, sardines (big ones) and squid (with ink) are the locally favorite foods.  The rolling landscape is dissected by rivers and streams and dotted with vineyards.  Ancient architecture can be seen in the countryside and crowded streetscapes.   And, on those crowded streetscapes are miles of trench drain.

portugaltrench drain, streetscape drainage, sidewalk drains, road drainsDuring my visit to Portugal, I started in the northern town of Porto.  I had opportunities to visit the towns of Viana Do Castelo, Braga, Fatima, and Guimaraes as we ventured through the north of the county.  We ended our trip in Lisbon and the immediate communities to the south of Tejo River.

The trench drain in Portugal, and in Europe on the whole, consists of non-sloped channel body and a top grating that is rated for the proper traffic load.  It is my understanding that pre-sloped channel systems are available but rarely used, possibly due to all the sloping landscape.  Additionally, installation chairs or channel suspension hardware are not commonplace as they are in the market across the Atlantic Ocean.

The infrastructure within the cities, large or small, is impervious to rainwater.  The stone sidewalks and roadways are artistically designed.  The stone textures, colors and patterns work together to build a comfortable aesthetic that contributes to the allure of the country.  If dining at one of the many cafés or restaurants in Portugal, the sidewalk tables are choice seating on days of good weather and an important extension to their business.

It is precisely in these highly mosaic sidewalks and cobbled roads that linear drainage seems to have an advantage.  Quite often, trench drains will line the edge of a street.  In pedestrian-only walkways, you may see trench drain running down the middle of the path.  The shallow design of this type of drain allows them to be installed without disturbing much of the surrounding streetscape.  With a properly engineered top grating (or grill), the trench drain will provide a conduit for storm water to flow and making the surface hazard free.

Seven Drains for when it Rains

Below is a collection of photos from Portugal of trench drains from various manufacturers.  See how many of the manufacturers you recognize.

ACO – Of course, you are going to see ACO in Portugal.  They are the largest in the world.  I guess I was surprised how much of their product was in Portugal.  ACO is a German company and the market leader of trench drain in Europe and the United States.

aco street drain, street drains ACO

Their drains were commonly seen in large municipal projects.  Much of the product used on the streets included a “D” or “F” class loading frame and grate system.  Bolt down grates seemed to be the most effective.  ACO’s Quick-lock grating attachment feature was often found to be the source of missing grates and the cause of dysfunctional drains.

At the Apparition shrine in Fatima, stainless steel ACO grating covered the complex for kilometers.

stainless aco drain, stainless steel courtyard grates, stainless ACO grating

Alfa-Drain – Don’t confuse this with Alfa Channel from MultiDrain, here in the United States.  As best as I can tell, Alfa-Drain is a French product from a company called PolyAlfa (?).  They seem to have some relationship with ACO of Germany.  Maybe they are a licensee.  When I searched the website they had listed on the grating, I got a big run-around.  I finally came to a website www.polyalfa.fr, which might be their site.  However, there is not much information available to research here.

Poly-Alfa drain, sidewalk trench drain, drains in cobblestone, sidewalk drainage

Benito – I had never seen the Benito product prior to this visit.  They are a Spanish company based in Barcelona.  As the grating says, their website is www.Benito.com.  They have lighting, streetscape furniture and playground equipment, as well as drain covers.  The company was founded many years ago as a foundry.  Their drainage products cover an impressive array.  Trench drains are available in 4 sizes.  But, get this.  They have modular trench drain channel bodies in ductile iron and polyethylene.  That is unique!!

Benito-Drain-Portugal, ductile iron trench bodies, iron trench drain

Hauraton – Ahhh!  Another German trench drain manufacturer.  Go visit their website www.hauraton.com.  They are legit!  From what I gather, they are the original architects of modular, polymer concrete trench drain as we know it.  They started by building troughs for agriculture applications back in the 1950’s and applied polymer concrete after learning about the technology seen in Italy.  It’s an interesting story I’d like to discuss with them.

polymer concrete drains, drains in sidewalks, sidewalk trench drain, hauraton drains

Poly – I had a hard time finding this trench drain.  I had to contact Polycon (www.polyconeurope.co.uk) with the photograph and ask them for assistance.  Apparently, there was a product called Polychannel system (or formerly Polybau) by a company called Wavin, made in the UK.  This product is now gone but drains are still in the ground.  I liked the individual frame that each of the ductile iron grates had.   Now, Wavin has a new product line that is manufactured by MEA of Germany.  There website is www.wavin.co.uk.

Polychannel drain, Wavin trench drain, roadway drains,

Stora – This product is produced in Belgium.  Their website is www.stora-drain.eu.  They are part of the BSI Group which makes plastic pipe, cast iron grates and fiberglass covers.  They are another manufacturer, in the line of manufacturers, which make 100 mm and 200 mm wide trench drain products for the European Union.  I don’t have much to say about these guys.  I remember seeing them more in northern Spain.

BSI Group drains, Stora drains, courtyard trench drains, sidewalk drains,

Ulma – This Company, located in the Basque County of Northern Spain, manufactures building facades, ventilation systems and drainage products for the architectural market.  Their website is www.Ulmaarchitectural.com.   I visited this company is the past.  They have state of the art products and manufacturing.  Their product line has recently been introduced to the US Market where Trench Drain Systems is helping to promote their product in key markets.

Ulma trench drain, sidewalk trench drain, iron grates, architectural grating, decorative grates, sidewalk drains

The seven trench drain manufacturers I highlighted had products that all looked very similar in design.  The European Union has led to this standardization, which isn’t a bad thing.  This same standardization has made its way over to the United States.  Companies like ACO and MEA have brought their products to the US Market and made the meter long channel (40 inches) the norm.  Other domestic companies, like Zurn and ABT, have continued on this design pattern and make channels in increments of 1 and 2 meters.

There is a counter-culture in the US trench drain market, however.  A few drain manufactures use the good ol’ English units of measure rather than the metric system.  Along with all the foundries, which make all drainage grates in 2 foot lengths, companies like Polycast (Hubbell), NDS and Watts lead an effort to keep American trench drain in increments of 2 and 4 feet lengths.  Other home-spun drain companies, like MultiDrain and Zurn, have some of their wider drain that are made available in 8 foot lengths.  Trench Drain Systems, in an effort to promote American-made products, has leaned toward providing products based on English units.  We do, however, recognize the contribution that Europe has been to the drainage market and provide metric based products when specified.

For more product information, contact Trench Drain Systems at www.TrenchDrainSystems.com or call 610-638-1221 for personal assistance.