Covering the basics
ISE Engineering’s John Certuse patents new piping insulation method.
Attleboro, Mass.-based Insulation Systems and ISE Engineering President John Certuse, P.E., has seen a lot of damage in the field. As a certified fire and explosion investigator, he has seen copious amounts of damage caused by frozen pipes, where a reported $4 billion has been spent in repairs in the last 10 years.
So Certuse did something about it. He developed and patented a new system and method to insulate pipes to protect them from freezing during the winter. Certuse spoke recently with pme about his newly patented pipe insulation method and fire protection engineering among other topics.
pme: How did you come to develop this new technology?
Certuse: I investigate failures of equipment for the insurance industry. One of the areas of investigation we got into a few years back was building damage because of frozen pipes. What became evident was there wasn’t a protocol like fire investigators have with NFPA 921.
In our investigations and working with attorneys, it became evident that occasionally there are issues where pipes aren’t properly insulated. I saw there was poor code direction coupled with a lack of good, reliable products. Rather than look at things from a forensic engineering point of view, I came up with a solution, which is a set of different insulation shapes that accommodate pipes when installed in various places. For example, if you have a pipe that is in an exterior wall, there is now an insulation for that location. There is insulation for attic floors, etc.
In June 2010, I had the first design tested at the National Association of Home Builders Research Center and while I was there, it was suggested I contact people in the fire protection industry because there was a new code requirement that fire sprinkler piping be installed in residential buildings. From that I got in touch with a couple fire sprinkler manufacturers and met with them.
I actually wasn’t going to have it patented, but I met with an attorney and I showed it to him. He’s also an engineer and said that there was commercial merit to this. At that time I decided to have it patented.
pme: What kind of feedback have you received?
Certuse: Coming from forensic engineering and knowing some of the cases regarding liability, I said, “We can’t just make something and put it into the field.” There are instances that have to be demonstrated and memorialized through laboratory testing. That way a laboratory can certify it as being fit for use. We’re going through the process now and testing is going very well.
pme: What are the guiding principles of ISE Engineering?
Certuse: We try to provide non-basis, ethical evaluations of each situation we encounter to give the most reasonable opinion that is founded in solid engineering to the cause of the loss and the fault of it. We use a spectrum of different types of engineers and work with insurance companies, or sometimes we work with attorneys who represent service companies. We may even work with a private citizen to try and address the cause of equipment failures that result in fires, floods, etc.
At our company, we have about 15 employees and an office staff of five. We have various field personnel as well. We do everything for investigations, laboratory analysis and evidence recovery.
pme: How green can fire and freeze protection products get in the future?
Certuse: By having a methodology that coordinates the specific placement of the pipe and standardizes the installation geometry and consistency, you’ll be able to maintain and predict energy and thermal losses better. You’ll be able to maintain green building objectives more closely. By having a standardized system, it’s more consistent and easier to achieve those green goals.
pme: What advice do you have for a young engineer?
Certuse: If you are an engineer coming out of school, I would suggest taking the fundamentals of engineering exam as quickly as possible. After that, remember every day is a learning experience. Involve yourself in continuing education and be self-critical; always try and improve. Get involved with the professional organizations and national associations out there. They’re great meeting places in your area of expertise. Don’t think the day you graduate that school is over.
The whole journey through life is a learning experience and you have to try and enjoy learning new technologies and all things as they come along.