The 600 Pound Gorilla
ACO, a German-based company with manufacturing in Arizona, was the first modular trench drain manufacturer in the North American marketplace and initially found a home for their polymer concrete product line in construction markets that dealt with excavating, concrete placement and general contractors. They are the drainage leaders in the civil market; in both project specification and price. It takes a lot of marketing dollars and foot soldiers to “get the word out” about the ACO product. One of ACO’s claim to fame is popularizing the “integral metal edge” that embellishes their polymer concrete channel.
MEA, also of Germany, previously marketed their polymer concrete trench drain through Josam, a spec plumbing component manufacturer. MEA was the only polymer concrete drain manufacturer in the US market that had a similar channel with the integral metal edge. The relationship between MEA and Josam fell apart in 2018. Since then, MEA has basically been absent from the US market and ACO products have been virtually unchallenged.
Enter in ULMA Architectural. ULMA is a polymer concrete manufacturer based in northern Spain, that is looking to penetrate the US trench drain market dominated by ACO. They have been selling quality drainage products all over the world since 2000. The ULMA product line compares well, and in some cases, exceeds the ACO product offering. Now, ULMA is bringing this product to North America.
ULMA – New Challenger
The breadth of products that ULMA offers is, well, a little breath taking. The products which they manufacturer represent all the modular drain designs that are collectively used around the world, taking in all the various construction practices, not just those common to the United States and Canada. When you view the complete ULMA Architectural offering, you open yourself up to the design possibilities of the whole world. It’s incredible. Some of the product options are discussed below.
Sloping vs. Non-sloped – Europe, Asia and South America don’t utilize pre-sloped channels systems as much as we do in the States. Because of this, ULMA has a large assortment of neutral and cascading (stepped) slope channel drain designs. Though functional, this practice is “foreign” to engineers designing drain systems here in the States. Having said that, ULMA does have sloped systems that function stateside.
Recessed vs. Edge-free Channels – Many locations around the world have a construction practice of paving sidewalks, courtyards and streetscapes with native stone or tile. It looks and feels elegant. In those situations, you may not want to see a channel edge (metal or otherwise) along side of an installed drain that you would get with a recessed channel edge. An edge-free channel allows for a drain channel to be constructed where the grating has tile or paving stone as its border. Edge-free channels are also used when drainage pavers (perforated tile) are laid directly over the channel to form an invisible drainage system.
Channel Edging Options – ULMA offers channels with integral edges made from galvanized steel, stainless steel and ductile iron. Ductile iron edging is usually associated with higher load requirements and bolt-down grating options. Standard polymer concrete recessed edging is available in some models.
Channel Profile – The internal profile of a drainage channel can be an important parameter of the project design. In cases where you have limited depth to excavate, shallow channels are needed. For pre-sloped systems, the V channel is becoming popular and at time replacing the trusty U-shaped channel. Then, there are times you need just a big square box to run utilities or catch a deluge of stormwater. ULMA channels have options for all these scenarios.
Specialty Applications – Slot drains are rising in popularity, as well as heel-proof grating options. ULMA keeps pace with ACO by offering grating options which meet application and load ratings common in practice today. For complete track and field drainage systems, ULMA has the Oculto 10 product line that is designed for safety and performance.
Conversion Chart – Below is a chart that can be used when you want an ULMA equivalent product to one listed by ACO. Not all the ULMA products are included on this list. For the purpose of this comparison, the chart only contains the family of standard drainage products that ACO makes in polymer concrete. Likewise, ACO has other product lines that go beyond polymer concrete and cover a broad range of applications. This conversion chart will help in comparing the two systems.
Are you looking for a kit containing channels, grates and accessories? Visit DrainageKits.com to view selections ULMA drainage solutions!
For assistance in designing or specifying a drainage product for application, let the professionals at Trench Drain Systems help. Our engineering department can assist with layouts and submital packages. Call 610-638-1221 or visit TrenchDrain.com.